By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 28, 2013 at 1:34PM
With the Oscars now just a memory, the time has come for the final edition of this column (for this season). From the Toronto International Film Festival's unofficial awards season kickoff in September to last weekend's generally underwhelming ceremony, it's been six long months of speculation and anticipation and I'm ready to move on (as I'm sure many of you are as well).
There is one final column before letting awards talk rest in peace until September. It's been an annual tradition at Indiewire (and elsewhere) to take an ignorant stab at the following year well before there's any substantial evidence in its regard (Sundance aside, that is -- where this year it seems "Before Midnight" and to a lesser degree "Fruitvale" are the safest bets for Oscar).
Surprisingly, it's not always a total crapshoot. Last year, I did manage to properly predict 5 of the 9 best picture nominations (7 if you count the alternates), and managed to get nine of the 20 acting nominees. Which probably says more about how extraordinarily predictable this all is than any sort of skill, but still, before this column lies dormant until the fall... let's give it another shot. No one's taking this too seriously. (Right?)
There's certainly plenty to choose from, as 2013 looks to be a diverse and potentially quite fulfilling year for cinema. And one that could make for a pretty starry Oscar race.
One of the men behind this year's
best picture winner "Argo" -- Mr. George Clooney -- could be back in a
big way with three films that all look like they could go over in big ways. He's a producer on this year's Oscar bait of all Oscar baits: Tracy Letts adapting his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play "August: Osage County." The film -- which has the backing of Harvey Weinstein no less -- is about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family and offers juicy roles to a remarkable cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch (who is like every movie in 2013). The only major question mark is its director, John Wells, who has all sorts of Emmys for shows like "ER" but has only made one previous film, the good-but-not-great "The Company Men." But if there's one thing to call a year in advance: It's that Meryl -- playing a drug-addicted woman with cancer -- is getting Oscar nomination #18.
Clooney's even more involved in another star-studded potential frontrunner, "The Monuments Men," which Clooney directs, stars in, co-produces and co-writes. Starting production in Berlin any second now (it's why Clooney -- and his co-star Jean Dujardin -- had beards at the Oscars), the film is a World War II drama (Oscar check!) about a group of folks in charge of saving art from the Nazis in the last days of the war. Sounds like an "Argo"-esque caper, and also happens to feature "Argo" (and "The Artist" -- what an Oscar good luck charm) co-star John Goodman (give him a nomination already), alongside Clooney, Dujardin, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Daniel Craig.
And then there's "Gravity." Alfonso Cuaron's long-awaited 3D space adventure stars Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts stuck in a space after a meteorite shower. Insiders suggest the film could be an extraordinarily impressive feat in both 3D technology and storytelling (if "Monument's Men" is this year's "Argo," this could be this year's "Life of Pi").
Then there's two films starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who arguably just missed out on a best supporting actor nomination this year for "Django Unchained." He's the title character Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (which was actually on the list last year before getting delayed) which also stars Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. But can we really trust Luhrmann after "Australia"? Considerably more consistent is Martin Scorsese, who re-teams with DiCaprio once again in "The Wolf of Wall Street," where Leo plays a stockbroker who falls into drugs and fraud. Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau and Jean Dujardin (again!) join him in one of the closest things to a sure bet we can call from afar. I'd also wager DiCaprio is long overdue for the win and if he's excellent in this (or "Gatsby," but this seems more likely), that Oscar is his.
DiCaprio's "Wolf of Wall Street" co-star Matthew McConaughey also seemed to narrowly miss the cut this year in the best supporting actor race (for "Magic Mike"). He could nab a supporting nod for "Wall Street," but more likely is a nomination for "Dallas Buyer's Club." McConaughey plays real-life Ron Woodruff, a homophobic, heterosexual man diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s who begins smuggling alternative medicine with Rayon, a HIV positive transsexual woman (Jared Leto, a contender himself).
Clearly not looked over this year was Jennifer Lawrence, a second Oscar for whom may seem a bit premature but the actress has two films that could be in the mix again (three if we count "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," but we aren't). And both of them re-team her with her "Silver Linings" co-star Bradley Cooper. The former is Susanne Bier's 1920s-set "Serena," about a married couple (Cooper and Lawrence), trying to pull off a timber empire. They're also both in "Silver Linings" director David O. Russell's as-yet-united Abscam film, alongside Russell's "Fighter" co-stars Amy Adams and Christian Bale. Considering Russell's track record with Oscar lately, it's hard to count that out.
Another actor who has multiple ponies in this year's slate is one that hasn't been to the races in a while: Tom Hanks. A constant Oscar presence in the 1990s, Hanks is looking for a return to prominence in 2013, and the potential certainly looks good on paper. In Paul Greengrass's real-life tale "Captain Phillips," Hanks plays the title character, a man held hostage by Somalian pirates. A juicy role only to be outdone by a role made to win an Oscar: playing Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks," the story of the making of "Mary Poppins." Emma Thompson -- herself an Oscar regular in the 1990s -- plays "Poppins" author P.L. Travers (the script suggest hers is actually the more Oscar-bait role).
But beyond potentially being the night of George Clooney, or the night of Leonardo DiCaprio, or the night of Jennifer Lawrence, or the night of Tom Hanks... The 2014 Oscars could also be the night of the princess showdown. Former high school classmates Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman will play Princess Diana and Princess Grace, respectively in Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Diana" and Olivier Dahan's "Grace of Monaco." These are the types of films that could truly go either way, and while both directors have good track records in their native languages (Hirschbiegel with "Downfall" and Dahan with the Oscar-winning "La Vie En Rose"), both have crashed and burned when it came to their English language debuts (Dahan's "My Own Love Song," and Hirschbiegel's "The Invasion," which coincidentally starred Nicole Kidman). But what drama if BFFs Kidman and Watts go head-to-head for playing beloved real -life princesses?
And that's just scratching the surface. A handful of directors who have found their films find best picture nominations on multiple occasions are back with new projects. Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" stars Kate Winslet in her first leading film role since "The Reader" in this adaptation of Joyce Maynard's acclaimed novel; Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" gives Steve Carell a reasonable shot an Oscar nomination as John Du Pont, a schizophrenic millionaire who set up a training camp for the U.S. Olympic wrestling team at his home; Joel and Ethan Coen -- who have seen three of there last four films nominated for best picture -- have "Inside Llewyn Davis"; Alexander Payne is back two years after "The Descendants" earned him his second screenplay Oscar with "Nebraska," which stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte as a father and son (yes -- "Will Forte, Oscar nominee" is an actual near future possibility).
All that I haven't even mentioned Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years a Slave" or Bill Condon's "The Fifth Estate" or Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace" or Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" or Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" or Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" or dozens of other possibilities (but I'm sure I will soon enough). And with five to 10 potential best picture nominees, it's certain less expected films (or films we haven't even heard of yet) could make the cut.
So with that in mind, here are my major category 2014 Oscar predictions, one year in advance (we cheated a bit by doubling up two performances from one actor or actress likely to be in contention... sue us).
August: Osage County
The Monuments Men
Saving Mr. Banks
Twelve Years a Slave
Untitled David O. Russell Film
The Wolf of Wall Street
(Ten Alternates: Before Midnight; ; Inside Llewyn Davis; The Counselor; The Great Gatsby; Fruitvale; Out of the Furnace; The Dallas Buyers Club; Nebraska; Serena; The Fifth Estate)
George Clooney, The Monuments Men
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, Twelve Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
(Ten Alternates: Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher; John Wells, August: Osage County; Spike Jonze, Her; David O. Russell, Unititled David O. Russell Film; Ridley Scott, The Counselor; Richard Linklater, Before Midnight; Jason Reitman, Labor Day; Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis; Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby; Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale)
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Chiewetel Ejoifor, Twelve Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips or Saving Mr. Banks
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street or The Great Gatsby
Matthew McConaughey, The Dallas Buyers Club
Only God Forgives; Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight)*- Can I just say that even a year in advance this category looks like an insane embarrassment of riches
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day
(Ten Alternates: Naomi Watts, Labor Day; Julie Delpy, Before Midnight; Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco; Jessica Chastain, The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Her; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; Jennifer Lawrence, Serena; Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby; Marion Cotillard, Lowlife; Felicity Jones, The Invisible Woman; Rooney Mara, Ain't Them Bodies Saints)
Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Labor Day
Michael Fassbender, Twelve Years a Slave
Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks
John Goodman, The Monument's Men or Inside Llewyn Davis
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
(Ten Alternates: Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club; Javier Bardem, The Counselor; Will Forte, Nebraska; Ewan McGregor, August: Osage County; Bradley Cooper, Untitled David O. Russell Film or The Place Behind The Pines; Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace; Ben Foster, Ain't Them Bodies Saints; Tobey Maguire, The Great Gatsby; Benedict Cumberbatch, August: Osage County; Matthew McConaughey, The Wolf of Wall Street; Sam Rockwell, The Way, Way Back)
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Untitled David O. Russell Film or Her
Cate Blanchett, The Monument's Men
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Catherine Keener, Captain Philips
Margo Martindale, August: Osage County
(Ten Alternates: Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale; Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis; Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher; Jennifer Garner, The Dallas Buyers Club; Kristin Scott Thomas, Only God Forgives; Laura Linney, The Fifth Estate; Cameron Diaz,, The Counselor; Shirley MacLaine, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; Oprah Winfrey, The Butler; Scarlett Johannson, Don Jon's Addiction)