Oscar Eye: Predicting The Strongest Contenders In This Year's Awards Race
ON THE HORIZON
Flight. Nobody thought much about this new film from Robert Zemeckis until it was announced as Closing Night presentation at the New York Film Festival. Now it seems possible we've gotten Zemeckis back after years of dabbling in motion-capture animation, and Denzel Washington's lead performance could be a serious Best Actor contender. No one's seen it yet, though, so be cautious for now.
Skyfall. Bond films typically aren't Oscar things, but they're not typically directed by previous Oscar winners like Sam Mendes either. This new installment looks very, very promising, and with The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises both unlikely to make it in for Best Picture consideration, this might be the blockbuster everyone can get behind.
Lincoln. Duh. If you've seen the trailer you know it's got awards written all over it, and even if it doesn't turn out to be stellar, well, Spielberg managed a Best Picture nomination for War Horse. Everyone predicting this to clean up at the Oscars hasn't actually seen it yet, but if you need to get behind a single horse right now, Lincoln is a pretty good bet.
Life of Pi. Like Flight, this giant film from Ang Lee has a prime spot at the New York Film Festival, which suggests greatness along with impressive CGI effects and beloved source material. If the movie works, it could be a huge deal come the holidays.
Killing Them Softly. Recently pushed back to a later release to capitalize on Oscar momentum, the film from Andrew Dominik starring Brad Pitt seems to have big ambitions-- but Cannes reviews were middling, so it's unclear if they'll pan out.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films were all showered with nominations, though few wins until Return of the King. If history repeats itself the first Hobbit installment will be right up there in the mix… but that's only if the movie is good, and if the Academy is feeling as fantasy-friendly as it was a decade ago. A lot of questions we can't answer until we see it.
Les Miserables. A splashy adaptation of a beloved musical, with recent Oscar winner Tom Hooper behind the camera? Check, check and check. Nobody knows yet if Les Miserables is any good, but if it is… look out. The sky's pretty much the limit on this thing.
This Is 40. Judd Apatow has seemed to have his own Broadcast News in him for a while, but we'll see if the highly personal This Is 40 can be it. If it's great, it could be a real dark horse in a field crowded with Big Important Movies-- though Silver Linings could also steal its comedy thunder.
Zero Dark Thirty. A lot of people automatically assume Kathryn Bigelow will waltz up to the Oscars with her Hurt Locker follow-up, but I'm not so sure her action-driven style will work again, even with such meaty material as the SEAL Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden. With a Christmas release date, we have a long time to wait to find out.
Not Fade Away. The third of the big NYFF films to get a release, and the directorial debut of Sopranos creator David Chase… and that's pretty much all we know about it. If it plays well at the festival, we can start considering it a real contender.
Django Unchained. Quentin Tarantino's big, daring slavery revenge tale is being pegged as an Oscar contender because of the success of Inglourious Basterds, but it seems a little early to bet on that, especially with a lot of good competition out there. Whether or not it's good, it could simply be too big or violent for the Academy's taste.
Promised Land. Described as a Capra-esque drama from Gus van Sant, with John Krasinski and Matt Damon in the lead roles, it could be a low-key alternative to the bigger holiday movies, and has a whole lot of promise. But could something so small also get lost in the shuffle?
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