I'm freshly back from the Toronto Film Festival, and ready to start this year's series of Oscar Eye columns with a big confession: I saw almost none of the big awards contenders in Toronto. Call it bad timing or bad luck or both, but I'm heading into this Oscar season with little advance knowledge-- which seems appropriate enough for a season in which it feels like we're still waiting for the biggest contenders to come into view.
But halfway through September, the Oscar race is very much underway, and I'll be checking in weekly between now and the February ceremony for the latest on where things stand, which contenders are doing better than the others, and what you ought to expect when the nominations and the winners are announced. Before we get started with the charts, which will be updated weekly, it's time to look back over what we've seen so far this year, what's coming out of the festivals with strong buzz, and what we're still waiting to get a look at. Let's go over the massive list of potential contenders first, and next week we'll get started with the charts.
Take a look below to check out this year's potential Academy Awards landscape, and join in the comments to start the discussion as we begin the long, long road to the Oscars.
ALREADY OUT THERE
The Avengers. Big a hit as it may be, it probably won't be the first superhero movie to break through in the Best Picture ranks. But effects and sound nominations are practically guaranteed, and with the amount of love Whedon has out there, a screenplay nomination wouldn't be unreasonable either.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. This movie is a far bigger hit than you think it is-- it's made $131 million worldwide-- and hits right to the sweet spot of the older Academy voter demographic. But Fox Searchlight will have to fight hard to help people remember this light movie, and it's unclear if they'll do so with both Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Sessions as stronger contenders.
Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson's early-summer charmer wasn't quite the monster success of its most obvious Oscar comparison, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which last year went from a low-key May release to grossing more than $50 million and a Best Picture nomination. But with impeccable design and a wide-ranging ensemble cast, Moonrise could start popping back up come critic's awards in December-- you can never count Anderson out, at the very least.
Beasts of the Southern Wild. It's the big-hearted indie success story of the summer, a Sundance hit backed by Fox Searchlight, which knows a thing or two about taking small films from Sundance and getting them to Oscar night. Young star Quvenzhane Wallis is a strong contender for a Best Actress nomination, and the film's design, photography and music could all be in the running, as could director Benh Zeitlin and the picture itself. It all depends on how well it lingers once the big fall potentials get out there in the coming weeks.
Brave. You would think Pixar's slot at Best Picture would be guaranteed now that they've made a movie better than Cars 2, but Brave wasn't quite as big a critical smash as it needed to be. A Best Animated Feature nomination is probably guaranteed, but with the likes of ParaNorman and Frankenweenie out there, not likely a win there either.
Magic Mike. Don't laugh! Matthew McConaughey could easily walk away with a Best Supporting Actor nomination, if not win, given what a great year he's having. And with a summer hit this popular, you seriously never know what else is possible.
The Dark Knight Rises. I'm including it here because I think I have to, since it seems very clear Nolan's final Batman film won't be able to make up for the Best Picture nomination The Dark Knight probably deserved. The film didn't get the critical boost it would have needed, and overshadowed by July's theater shootings, it doesn't feel part of the zeitgeist the way the first one did. Technical nominations are very possible, but anything else? I'm betting not.
ParaNorman. One of the most inventively animated films ever, and hopefully that will be enough to push this minor hit into serious Best Animated Feature contention.
The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson's new film is well-received but baffling a lot of people, and without the bigness of There Will Be Blood probably won't be able to sneak him into Best Picture a second time. But Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix tear up the screen. so the acting attention could lead this film in a lot of directions if it continues being a box office hit.