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Fall Calendar Reveals Awards Itinerary and Stealth Contenders

Fall Calendar Reveals Awards Itinerary and Stealth Contenders

The fall festivals and various date shifts bring a new perspective to the coming awards season. We assess the Oscar chances for key films as dates for “Carol” and other films shift and new contenders enter the fray.

Weinstein Co. boasts multiple contenders but will be dealing with the loss of capable COO David Glasser, a seven-year TWC veteran who as the Weinsteins’ lieutenant was deeply involved in the complexities of booking theaters and marketing campaigns amid a challenging landscape. Most TWC execs don’t last that long under such duress; Glasser will assist in the transition through November as the Weinsteins seek his replacement.

September:

“Pawn Sacrifice” (Bleecker Street, September 16), written by UK Oscar-nominee Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things”) and directed by Edward Zwick, stars Tobey Maguire in a comeback bid as American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer who duels for the World championship with Russian Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). Bleecker Street scooped it up after its 2014 Toronto International Film Festival premiere. Zwick is inside the Oscar zone: he directed Oscar contenders “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” and won as producer for “Shakespeare in Love.” 

One of several LGBT movies vying for attention this year, “About Ray” (Weinstein, September 18), formerly titled “Three Generations,” will keep its release date. It stars Elle Fanning as a transgender teen. No festival bookings so far. Recent Oscar-winner Julianne Moore and Ellen Page and Best Actress-winner Cate Blanchett (“Jasmine”) and Rooney Mara play lesbian couples in Lionsgate’s “Freeheld” and TWC’s “Carol” respectively. And Eddie Redmayne stars in Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” as a transsexual woman (Focus Features). The best-reviewed entry of the three is the most likely to score multiple nominations.

READ MORE: Oscar Predictions 2016 Update 

Cannes competition premiere “Sicario” (Lionsgate, September 18 in limited) goes wide September 25. Emily Blunt is strong as a straight FBI agent who is out of her depth when she joins a cross-border government task force run by two men operating outside the law (Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin). Denis Villeneuve’s style-over-content corruption thriller recalls Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” but it’s far more conventional. This brutally violent movie could score at the box office but is too genre-leaning for the Academy.

TriStar’s “The Walk” launches its awards campaign as opening night at the prestigious New York Film Festival on the now-shuffled date of September 26. This dramatic retelling of Philippe Petit’s highwire stunt, the subject of Oscar-winning doc “Man on Wire,” opens September 30 in IMAX after opening and then goes wide October 9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has the physical grace to embody Petit, but will his thick French accent play with audiences? 

October:

Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s ambitiously structured adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s bestseller, “Steve Jobs,” directed by Danny Boyle, opens October 9 following TIFF and NYFF plays and a likely Telluride awards boost. Michael Fassbender stars with Seth Rogen; the movie will need critics’ support as Universal builds its awards campaign. Sorkin won adapted screenplay for “The Social Network.”

A24 has slated an October 16 release for “Frank” director Lenny Abrahamson’s TIFF premiere
Room,” the same day Netflix/Bleecker Street/Landmark opens Cary Fukunaga’s uber-violent African war movie “Beasts of No Nation” day-and-date via a paradigm-shifting hybrid release model that may or may not support an Oscar push. In “Room” Brie Larson finally lands a juicy lead role as a worthy follow-up to her breakout performance in “Short Term 12,” playing a woman locked away in a room for years as she raises her young son. When they finally escape, they confront the real world–and her mother (Joan Allen). A24 is mounting a full-on awards campaign.

Also hitting October 16, from Sony Pictures Classics, is “Zodiac” writer James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut “Truth” starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as his producer, Mary Mapes, whose 2005 memoir “Truth and Duty” serves as the basis for this film. It centers on the firestorm that broke out in September 2004 when the former CBS Evening News anchor made libelous claims that President Bush received special treatment during his Air National Guard tenure in Vietnam. Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss and Dennis Quaid co-star. A national rollout follows a limited release, and a to-be-announced festival berth is also likely.

Weinstein has pushed its chef comedy “Adam Jones,” now titled “Burnt,” starring Bradley Cooper and rising star Alicia Vikander, from October 2 to October 23 wide release. Even though Cooper has been nominated for the Oscar three years running, including Weinstein’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” this move suggests that TWC considers the movie a commercial, rather than awards-worthy, contender. Based on what I saw at the TWC Cannes product preview, they are doing the right thing. 

November:

Weinstein’s primary Oscar candidate, Todd Haynes’ well-reviewed Cannes entry “Carol,” has been bumped up from December 18 to November 20, still in limited release. It boasts two superb Best Actress contenders in Cannes-winner Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, however Weinstein chooses to parlay them, as well as several likely technical nods.

Questions remain:

Will Weinstein Co. give 2015 berths to artful Cannes entry “Macbeth,” starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, or “Tulip Fever,” starring it-girl Alicia Vikander, which played well at the Cannes preview? 

Now that Don Cheadle’s acquisition title “Miles Ahead” is set to close the New York Film Festival, sales rep UTA is searching for a buyer. Will it land a 2015 release?

And there’s an unusual raft of films scheduled for last-possible-minute December 25 release. There’s a serious possibility that some will push off that date to 2016:

Although Twentieth Century Fox has moved Alejandro González Inarritu’s frontier actioner “The Revenant” from limited to wide release on December 25, the overbudget movie, which filmed in the far north in natural light with bearded Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, is still filming under tough conditions in Tierra del Fuego. Will they make that release date? 

Peter Landesman’s heart-tugger “Concussion” stars Will Smith as a South African doctor, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, and Luke Wilson. (Sony, December 25)

Quentin Tarantino’s claustrophobic western “The Hateful Eight,” starring Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, and Kurt Russell, is still in the editing room. (The Weinstein Co., December 25)
David O. Russell ‘s “Joy” stars Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence as the powerhouse behind a business empire; her costars are Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and Édgar Ramirez. Russell likes to futz in the editing room until the last moment. (Fox, December 25)
Oliver Stone’s whistle-blower biopic “Snowden” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson and Timothy Olyphant. (Open Road, December 25)

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