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For Your Consideration: The 10 Summer Indies That Stand The Best Shot At Oscar Nods

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 21, 2013 at 1:23PM

Roll your eyes if you'd like, but the truth of the matter is that "award season" -- which is less of a season than the half of the year that starts with the Venice Film Festival and ends with the speech of whoever wins best picture the Oscars, is a week away from being more or less upon us. And thus this column -- dormant since Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov completed the latter when they won for "Argo" -- is back to offer a weekly take on the long road to the big O. And yes, it's coming a week before the said Venice Film Festival kicks off with awards season perennial George Clooney in Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," but with good reason: There's actually a few films that were released before awards season kicks off that stand a good chance at staying in the conversation over the next six exhausting months.
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Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"

4. Before Midnight
Like "Fruitvale Station," Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" came out of Sundance with the critical momentum to be a genuine threat in this year's Oscar race. The third film in an unprecedented indie trilogy (that got an adapted screenplay Oscar nod with its predecessor "Before Sunset"), "Midnight" was a huge critical hit, and a decent commercial one. Oscar voters could very well wish to acknowledge what a unique feat this was, though it's shaky as to how significantly they'll end up doing so. 

Best bet for a nomination: Best adapted screenplay for Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater. Just like they got for "Before Sunset," this seems like a fairly sure bet for the film at this point, and in all likelihood its only nomination.

Also possible: Delpy and Hawke give incredible performances, and the film itself is certainly worthy of a best picture nomination. If the mighty crash this fall it's a possibility, but for now all three seem like significant long shots.

5. Mud
Released just prior to summer's official kick-off on the last week of April, we're including Jeff Nichols' "Mud" because it made the vast majority of its $21 million -- the highest gross of any indie so far in 2013 -- in the summer. Certainly the most likely to succeed amidst a crowded field of son-and-father-figure indies that did well this year ("The Place Beyond The Pines," "The Way, Way Back"), "Mud" both made money and scored nearly unanimous praise from critics. But will it be remembered come Oscar time? Jeff Nichols' last film "Take Shelter" appeared very close to receiving a couple nods but in the end came up empty-handed. Will "Mud" suffer the same fate? Maybe. Or maybe not if distributor Roadside revs up a strong enough campaign?

Best bet for a nomination: Matthew McConaughey for best supporting actor. He's fairly being campaigned in that category (with Tye Sherdan as lead), which doesn't clash with the likely heavy push he'll get in lead for "Dallas Buyers Club" (but does potentially clash with his work in "The Wolf of Wall Street"). After snubbing him big last year for "Magic Mike," perhaps the Academy will make up for it by giving McConaughey two nominations.

Also possible: Jeff Nichols' screenplay definitely has a good shot.

"Frances Ha"
IFC "Frances Ha"

6. Frances Ha
Noah Baumbach was nominated for an Oscar back in 2006 for "The Squid and the Whale," and stands perhaps his best chance to follow that up with "Frances Ha," a collaboration with Greta Gerwig that got great reviews and a made a solid $4 million at the box office.

Best bet for a nomination: Best original screenplay is an extremely crowded  category already this year (see "Fruitvale Station," "Blue Jasmine," "Mud," but that would be a way to honor both Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, and a well deserved one.

Also possible: Gerwig's lead performance should definitely get a few notices (an Indie Spirit nomination for sure, a Golden Globe nod in the comedy or musical category maybe), but the Oscars seem out of "Frances Ha"'s reach. Best cinematography is a long shot as well, but would be a well deserved shout out to DP Sam Levy, whose black and white work in the film is gorgeous.

7. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Coming out of Sundance earlier this year, David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" seemed like it had the critical momentum to potentially find its way into awards season, but it's lack of buzz and rather lackluster box office returns so far (it averaged less than $10,000 from its very limited debut weekend) have muted that. But things could turn around if the critics decide to back with their awards in December.  

Best bet for a nomination: Bradford Young's remarkable work on the film won him the cinematography award at Sundance, and it would be worthy of an Oscar nod too. But it's the least likely "best bet" on this list, for sure.

Also possible: Ben Foster is best in show for his supporting work, though Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck offer great work too. But given what looks like very crowded acting races all around, those are very tough propositions to make at this point.

"Twenty Feet From Stardom"
"Twenty Feet From Stardom"

8, 9 & 10. Blackfish, Stories We Tell and Twenty Feet From Stardom
It would be an extraordinary surprise if Oscar's best documentary category failed to nominate at least one of this summer's trio of critical and commercial doc hits: Gabriela Cowperthwaite's killer whale saga "Blackfish," Sarah Polley's family portrait "Stories We Tell" and Morgan Neville's crowd pleasing backup singer doc "Twenty Feet From Stardom." In fact, it seems quite possible all three could make the cut. Though we'll give "Stardom" the edge of the three given said crowd pleasing-ness and its $4 million and counting box office haul.

Best bets for a nomination: Best documentary feature, of course.
Also possible: Nada.

"For Your Consideration" is a weekly column by Indiewire's Senior Writer Peter Knegt. Follow him on Twitter here.


This article is related to: Academy Awards, For Your Consideration, Awards, Mud, Fruitvale Station, Frances Ha, Blue Jasmine, Lee Daniels' The Butler







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