With the Toronto Film Festival currently in full swing, we're officially in Oscar season, with everyone getting out there to predict which movies will get all the love from the Academy this year. But predicting what will get a Best Picture nomination is the easy part-- after all, you have 10 chances to be right! What the truly crazy people do this time of year is predict what will win Best Picture. So, of course, that's exactly what we're going to do.
No, nobody has even seen some potential front-runners like Les Miserables and Lincoln. And none of us have actually seen any of the movies we're choosing. But dammit, we're going to be bold today, and pick the films we think can go all the way to the top. Check out our 5 picks below, then let us know in the comments which film you think has what it takes to win that last prize of Oscar night come next year.
Zero Dark Thirty
Even if Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is the finest film of the year, it will be an uphill struggle to win the big prize because typical Academy politics might not allow for the second Best Picture to be directed by a woman to be from the same woman. Not to mention that the followup to her Oscar winning The Hurt Locker is also written by Mark Boal, and similarly explores the theater of war. Some might say it’s too much history repeating when really it’s just the first few reasons why the film once titled Kill Bin Laden should be a strong contender in the top category.
Bigelow did usurp ‘King of the World’ James Cameron (and his box office monster) to take Best Picture in 2010, and perhaps the true story of the decade-long hunt for the world’s most wanted man can do the same against this year’s early buzzers. Of course, to get buzz, you actually have to start screening, or at least release a trailer, but Zero Dark Thirty still has only shown the one intense (and heavily redacted) tease. It doesn’t matter, Bigelow’s film can sit under the radar for now but the historically significant subject matter combined with the stellar ensemble are going to make a lot of noise once the festival dust settles.
The speed at which Ben Affleck has grown as a filmmaker is rather astounding. Coming seemingly out of nowhere with Gone Baby Gone, he helped bring his star Amy Ryan a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, then matched that success in 2010 with The Town, which earned Jeremy Renner a Best Supporting Actor nod. But 2012 could very well be the year that Affleck picks up the top prize, as it looks like Argo could be serious Best Picture material.
The buzz already surrounding the movie is phenomenal, after premiering at both the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. People went absolutely gaga over it, praising its suspense, humor and performances. But there’s also the fact that it really does suit the Academy’s taste. In addition to being a period piece, it has the added benefit of being based on true events, and even ties into Hollywood history as the whole thing is about a fake film production (it would be more of a total slam dunk if they featured a character with mental/physical disabilities, but nobody's perfect). So long as it doesn’t stir up any stupid controversies along the road, Argo could be the Best Picture frontrunner out of the gate.
Quentin Tarantino has a fickle relationship with Oscar. In 1995, Pulp Fiction scored the coveted Best Picture nod. But though he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that night, 15 years would pass before another Tarantino film was up for Best Picture, a feat Inglourious Basterds managed even with its exploitation influences and willfully graphic violence. Django Unchained promises as much bloodlust and bravado as Basterds, but boasts a cast fronted by Oscar winners to help it all go down smoother.
Jamie Foxx (Ray) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) play a freed slave and his bounty hunter mentor on a quest to rescue the former's wife from an evil plantation owner, played by three-time Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio. Tarantino deserves a special award for bringing back DiCaprio's smile, which apparently retired following Catch Me If You Can. But digging deep into the American South and tapping into the rich vein of the Western genre, this could be the year Tarantino finally hits home hard to the long-seated Academy members and pulls out the win many feel he's deserved since 1995. Like DiCaprio lies out in the trailer: he had their curiosity, now he has their attention.
The Promised Land
Picking a film no one has seen as the Best Picture frontrunner is always a foolhardy decision, but then again, picking against director Gus Van Sant when he’s been given an emotionally charged script and Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt and Hal Holbrook seems equally idiotic. Focus Features was originally planning to release the film sometime in 2013, but after evaluating the material, post-production was rushed in order to get the final product ready for the last week of December. That’ll qualify it for the Oscars, and ideally, begin a steady march toward February domination.
Damon has always been an actor who rises with the quality of his material. Playing an oil executive trying to secure drilling rights should offer him a chance to use his vocal brilliance, and as his principal adversary trying to defend the community, Krasinski should be able to tape into the small town charm he’s perfected on The Office. I’m not ready to guarantee a Best Picture win, but if I have to pick the film most likely to get it done, it’s without question this one.
The Silver Linings Playbook
Buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival has created several Best Picture winners in recent years, like The King's Speech or Slumdog Millionaire, and if there's anything getting that level of attention this year, it's The Silver Linings Playbook. Director David O. Russell's follow-up to the Best Picture nominated The Fighter might seem a little too slight on the surface, a dark comedy about two damaged people building a connection, but everyone who's seen this film says it's home run, and the kind of movie the Academy won't be able to resist.
And with Oscar favorite Jennifer Lawrence in one lead role (some say a lock for a Best Actress nomination), and the charming Bradley Cooper in the other, Silver Linings is getting the kind of buzz for its performance that can lead up to Best Picture-- think of how Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both won Oscars for their work in The Fighter. Two years ago Russell brought the Academy a film they clearly loved, but was caught in the scrum between The Social Network and The King's Speech. Making a movie with tons of festival buzz is a great way to get a Best Picture nomination, but doing it just 2 years after another big hit? That's how you win the whole thing.
Why should Joss Whedon’s The Avengers be in the Best Picture conversation? Because Oscar history has shown us that box office and critical appreciation matter, and the summer blockbuster has both in spades. With $1.5 billion in the worldwide bank, The Avengers easily ranks as the highest-grossing film of 2012, and the third-highest grossing film of all time. Superhero movies make money; that goes without saying. It’s the overwhelmingly positive reviews written for Avengers that have us hoping the Academy takes notice. Whedon’s film boasts a 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 69% positive on the tougher MetaCritic.
Granted, box office success does not guarantee a Best Picture nomination. If that were the case, then Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest would have had legitimate shots at Oscar gold. But films like James Cameron’s Titanic and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King have blazed a trail for money-hoarding blockbusters, and a victory on Oscar night for a comic-book tentpole would be the vote of confidence heard around the world.