Oscars: 10 Potential Dark Horses, Plus What Hit & What Didn’t At Telluride & Venice

Oscars: 10 Potential Dark Horses, Plus What Hit & What Didn't At Telluride & Venice
Oscars: 10 Potential Dark Horses, Plus What Hit & What Didn't Telluride & Venice

Time to cast out childish things, ladies and gents. Summer blockbuster season is over, festival season is starting (Telluride‘s done, Venice is ongoing, TIFF starts today), and we get to talk about movies not aimed at children for the next few months, because awards season is kicking off.

Other than the occasional picture from earlier in the year (“Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Boyhood” being the notables this time around), Venice and Telluride traditionally mark the beginning of the festival season, and this year didn’t disappoint, with press hastily battling to tweet about the awards prospects of new movies before mentioning the merits of the movies themselves.

So what caught on and what tripped up? Last year saw Venice kick off with a bravura movie from a Mexican director featuring extended takes by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that went on to huge Oscar success (“Gravity“), and there’s every chance that the trick will repeat this time, as Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s “Birdman” won absolute raves (our own included) on the Lido. The film’s arguably Fox Searchlight‘s biggest hope this year, after their wins with “12 Years A Slave” last time around, and it doesn’t looked like they’ve backed a loser, with the cast, screenplay and direction all gaining plaudits.

Things were a touch more muted when the film landed at Telluride, but only a touch, and perhaps only because some were second-guessing its Oscar prospects. The naysayers suggest that it’s a bit style-over-substance, or that it could be too dark for voters, but we honestly can’t see it missing out on a Best Picture nomination. Actors, the largest voting block, love movies about actors, and this should fit the bill. Michael Keaton looks like a lock for a nod, with Emma Stone and Edward Norton likely to join him. While Lubezki could win his second in a row, Inarritu has to be the early favorite for Best Director. That said, he’s got stiff competition from the likes of Richard Linklater, Angelina Jolie and Christopher Nolan, and won’t be on the awards circuit much, as he’ll be shooting “The Revenant,” which could impact his chances.

Also looking like a potential awards season titan is “The Imitation Game,” The Weinstein Company‘s big hope for this year, which premiered at Telluride before heading to TIFF. The film’s always been thought to be a contender as far as Benedict Cumberbatch‘s performance goes, and that’ll certainly be the case (with Keira Knightley a strong possibility in Supporting too), but the glowing reaction to the film in the mountains looks to make it a likely Best Picture nominee too. Even those who were slightly cooler on the movie, like our reviewer, acknowledge that it’s well put together (it’s likely to make director Morten Tyldum a very hot prospect), but some in Telluride were positively ecstatic, with comparisons to “The King’s Speech” and “Argo“‘s reception there. Expect a minor backlash at TIFF, because that’s always the way, but this’ll likely garner a number of nods.

The last of the big movies to world premiere of late was “Wild,” and that one’s a little harder to call at this point. Reese Witherspoon‘s having a big year, with a producing credit on “Gone Girl” plus three movies hitting theaters, but “Wild” looks to be the meatiest of the roles she has, and as many predicted, it makes her a likely Best Actress nominee. But it was more tepidly received than director Jean-Marc Vallee‘s last film, “Dallas Buyers Club,” and while that proved to be much more than just a performance showcase,”Wild” may not be carried to a Best Picture nod by Witherspoon’s turn (and, to some extent, Laura Dern‘s supporting performance). That said, in a rather masculine year, and this could appeal to female voters in a way that few other movies can match, so it’s got a ways to go yet.

Jon Stewart‘s directorial debut “Rosewater” also premiered to mixed reactions. Tepid reviews landed from the trades in advance of Telluride, but it was more warmly received at the festival. Our guess is that with Open Road, who are pretty much untested with the Oscars, handling the film, it’ll struggle to get awards traction, but Stewart’s the wild card in the mix, he’s likely to be very effective in pushing the movie and its message. Another question mark is “99 HomesRamin Bahrani’s film was very warmly received in Venice and Telluride (much more so than predecessor “At Any Price“), and some pundits are very high on its Oscar chances. We’re not 100% sure yet ourselves, but for now it’s somewhat moot: the film doesn’t yet have a distributor, so may not be in the race at all this year.

Otherwise, little else at Venice seems like it’s going to figure in, bar a potential documentary nod for “The Look Of Silence,” though we’d wager maybe not until next year. “Manglehorn” seems too experimental, “She’s Funny That Way” too lightweight, and everything else so far too arty and/or foreign. Telluride, meanwhile, saw saw “Madame Bovary” mostly wipe out, and “71” win a lot of fans, but the film is being held until 2015 to avoid conflict with Jack O’Connell‘s turn in “Unbroken.

A number of Cannes films made their U.S. bows too, with “Foxcatcher” getting raves from critics and more muted reception from crowds (there’s some speculation that it could suffer the same fate as “Inside Llewyn Davis” last year, though we have faith it’ll go the distance). “Wild Tales” was a huge word-of-mouth hit, and could make a play in Foreign Language if Argentina picks it, while “Mr. Turner” was predictably well liked. Our perception is that “The Homesman” was better liked by U.S. critics than it was by the Cannes crowd, though it still doesn’t feel like a major prospect to us.

But what of the films that people haven’t even considered as possibilities yet? Every year brings Oscar movies that people can see coming from miles away (“Unbroken” being the biggest example this time around), but ever since “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The King’s Speech” exploded out of Telluride and TIFF to take the major prize (and, further away, “Million Dollar Baby” was added to the season late and also won), people have been prepared for potential surprises that weren’t earmarked months before by prognosticators.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out (see “Hitchcock” a few years ago), but there’s always prospects out there. And so, as we traditionally do to kick off our Oscar-season coverage, we’ve identified ten potential dark horses that, right now, are under the radars of most Oscar pundits, but could end up figuring into the narrative of the next six months or so. Take a look at the picks over the next couple of pages, and let us know if there are unexpected movies you’re tipping for Oscar glory. We’ll be back next week with our first Best Picture chart of the season once the dust begins to settle at TIFF.

10 Potential Oscar Dark Horses

Why It Could Be A Contender: The usual January doldrums, full of rubbish horror movies and catching up on the various Oscar contenders you didn’t already see, should be livened up considerably next year, because Jan 2015 sees the arrival of Michael Mann‘s first film in nearly six years. A thriller about a computer hacker (Chris Hemsworth, rather than some obese 4Chan scumbag) released from prison to aid a joint Chinese/American task force, the film’s January release date has always seemed a little curious, and has long led to speculation that the film would get some kind of limited release run in 2014 to qualify for awards consideration, with those rumors heating up considerably when the film unveiled footage at Comic-Con. Universal went the same route with “Lone Survivor” last year, screening at AFI Fest before a limited roll-out in late December, and Mann’s had more than enough time to finish the film up to go a similar route. Mann’s not always an Oscar juggernaut (“Heat” was shamefully snubbed completely), but “The Insider” was a heavy hitter, and films like “Ali” and “Collateral” picked up a few nods between them, so it might be worth Universal’s while even if the film isn’t a Best Picture contender.
Why It Might Not: The phrase ‘The film unveiled footage at Comic-Con’ is probably the key one here. This feels more “Miami Vice” than “The Insider,” a commercial proposition first and foremost, and one with a particular eye on the Chinese box office. It’s possible that Mann’s turned out something that hews closer to, say, “Traffic” or “Zero Dark Thirty,” and the topicality of the picture might help it feel more important, but as a film revolving around a cyber-terrorist threat, starring Thor, this has an uphill battle to fight, even if it is coming from a beloved auteur. We hope Universal (who will have their hands full with “Unbroken“) do let it out in December, but mainly because we want to see it earlier. If it does figure into the Oscars, it’ll likely be in sound and editing categories, like “Lone Survivor.”

The Cobbler
Why It Could Be A Contender: After the huge success of the McConaissance, and ahead of the ongoing Ryan Reynaissance, will the end of 2014 see the ReSandlerassaince (yeah, we’re still working on that phrase…)? The low-brow comedy king has always been a strong presence when he steps away from his comfort zone, and has two such ventures this fall. In a few days, he figures among the ensemble of Jason Reitman‘s “Men, Women & Children” at TIFF. Later in the same festival he headlines this intriguing proposition, the latest from “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor” director Thomas McCarthy, in which he plays the titular shoe repairman who discovers a magic pair of footwear that lets him see life through the eyes of his customers. McCarthy’s been a continually distinguished voice in the indie world waiting for that big step up, and the stellar cast of this, including Dustin Hoffman and Dan Stevens, will certainly get plenty of attention, and this definitely feels like a better showcase for Sandler on paper than Reitman’s picture (although that’s more high profile right now). “Birdman” and “Grand Budapest Hotel” aside, it’s looking like quite a serious line-up this year Oscar-wise, so the prospect of something more whimsical in the race could be welcome.
Why it Might Not: How much whimsy is the big question. We worry that the premise is more “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” than “Being John Malkovich,” even if we have faith in McCarthy for now (the director, it should maybe be noted, probably has a better awards bet next year with all-star Catholic Church scandal movie “Spotlight.” As for Sandler, even when his more serious movies have been well received, he’s failed to get much awards traction, suggesting that voters are still a little skeptical of him (the double-header could help this year). That a film premieres late in the TIFF line-up can sometimes suggest that it’s a less high-profile, and “The Cobbler” doesn’t land until next Thursday (though that could just be to distance it from Reitman’s film). But most crucially, there’s no U.S. distribution in place, and with most slates looking full, it would need a storming reaction for someone to step up and drop it in the season. And though big hitters Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company have smaller slates than in past years, this may be too much of a headache to get late in the game.

The Gambler
Why It Could Be A Contender: All of the other films on this list are either premiering at a festival, or somewhere else in the world, during 2014, or, like “Blackhat” could be moved up easily. “The Gambler” is slightly different. The Paramount film, a remake of James Toback‘s James Caan vehicle, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson and Jessica Lange, doesn’t yet have a release date, and pundits mostly expect it to skip this season. But after shooting earlier this year, Rupert Wyatt could well be done in time (there was early word that it was planned for an awards season release), and the subject matter, about a gambling-addicted college professor, is ripe for at very least a Best Actor campaign for Mark Wahlberg (plus Larson and Lange, who’ve won plaudits, but no nominations, recently).
Why It Might Not Be: Paramount might not release it in 2014. The studio already has two major contenders this year with Christopher Nolan‘s “Interstellar” and Ava DuVernay‘s “Selma,” and the pair aren’t scheduled to start screening until November and December, too late to back another horse if audiences and critics don’t respond favorably to them. If, like “Foxcatcher” or “Monuments Men” last year, “Selma” slips from 2014 (the film was on a very tight turnaround, only wrapping in the summer), maybe “The Gambler” steps in instead, but for now, the slate’s probably too crowded for it to get its just deserts. That the film doesn’t have a date at all suggests Paramount is still mulling over the possibility, and though a big studio picture doesn’t necessarily need a festival launch, our best guess is that this’ll end up hitting next fall, rather than this one.

The Good Lie
Why It Could Be A Contender: Reese Witherspoon‘s first of two awards hopefuls for this year has already unspooled, with “Wild” premiering at Telluride over the weekend. As we said above, the film itself got a fairly mixed reception, but Witherspoon looks to be a good bet for a nomination. But what if the actress has a better hope for a nod (assuming her “Inherent Vice” supporting turn is too small for recognition)? Witherspoon is also starring in TIFF picture “The Good Lie,” another one based loosely on a true story, in which she plays the unlikely patron of three Sudanese refugees. The film’s directed by “Monseiur Lazhar” helmer Philippe Falardeau, who knows how to connect an audience with this sort of tale, and Witherspoon looks to be in good spiky form in the project, which is arguably more commercial than “Wild” to some degree. With that film not swooned over in every quarter, if Witherspoon’s other picture turns out to be a greater crowd pleaser, this could be the one to go the distance. And who’s to say that the film won’t go with her. The similar-on-the-surface “The Blind Side” got a Best Picture nod along with Sandra Bullock’s win a few years back.
Why It Might Not Be: Well, the ‘Blind Side’ comparison probably hurts more than it helps, as the film looks like virtually a straight-up rip-off in trailers. Furthermore, while “Wild” wasn’t universally loved, Witherspoon’s turn got praise from most quarters, and is probably meatier dramatic fare, complete with emotional breakdowns and voter-friendly nudity. “The Blind Side” also benefited from being a late surprise, while “The Good Lie” hits theaters at the start of October after its TIFF premiere (the same day, oddly, as the Witherspoon-produced “Gone Girl“), so unless it takes light at the box office, this might well be all but forgotten by the time ballots are sent out. In fact, almost the worst case scenario is that Witherspoon campaigns for both and ends up splitting the vote. She’s more likely to get behind one, and we suspect it’ll be “Wild,” especially given that she’s a producer on that film too.

“Love & Mercy”
Why It Could Be A Contender: Thanks to “Ray” and “Walk The Line,” among many others, musical biopics are always closely watched as Oscar season approaches. This year seemed like it had a strong contender in “Get On Up,” which Universal released in a similar slot to the one that director Tate Taylor‘s previous film, “The Help,” was so successful in. But the film landed, despite decent reviews, with a thud, and looks like it won’t be progressing much further in award season, but that doesn’t mean that the genre will be totally absent from this year’s race, because “Love & Mercy” is about to bow at TIFF. The feature directorial debut of producer Bill Pohlad, who knows a thing or two about Oscar season after “The Tree Of Life” and “12 Years A Slave,” it’s a biopic of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson, with Paul Dano and John Cusack (the former overdue for recognition, the latter hoping for a Matthew McConaughey-style comeback) sharing the lead role, and Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti also in the cast. In focusing on Wilson’s mental health issues, it has an important dramatic crux, and we hope the presence of Oren Moverman (“The Messenger“) as a co-writer makes it something less than conventional. The film has a prime first-TIFF-weekend slot, and could well end up making an awards-season splash if Pohlad can pull it off.
Why It Might Not: Simply, it could end up not being very good. This sort of movie has to connect with audiences to get an awards season run, as “Get On Up” just proved, and it could turn out to be either a misjudged vanity project, or too artsy to appeal to voters, however much they love Wilson. It also doesn’t yet have a distributor, though if the film does work, it feels like a Fox Searchlight or a Focus could easily swoop in and give it a run, even if it’s only to push Dano and/or Cusack. Definitely one to keep an eye on, even if it’s under the radars of many right now.

Pawn Sacrifice
Why It Could Be A Contender: A biopic of troubled chess legend Bobby Fischer, centering on the most famous game of his career, at the height of the Cold War? Directed by awards favorite Ed Zwick, who helmed “Glory” and “Blood Diamond,” among others? Penned by Oscar-nominated scribe Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things“)? And with a comeback-ready star in the lead role, in the shape of Tobey Maguire? On paper, “Pawn Sacrifice” seems to be purpose-built for Oscar heat, and could well turn out to be one of the hot tickets when it premieres at TIFF in a few days. Centering on Fischer’s battle against Boris Spassky (played by the long-overdue-for-a-nomination Liev Schrieber), it’s potentially a blend of “A Beautiful Mind” and “Rocky,” but with chess, and should have the behind-the-scenes stuff to make it stand out too, with photography from the great Bradford Young. It’s execution dependent, obviously, but this could be a real surprise if it works.
Why It Might Not: There’s a bit of a rivalry in the darkish-biopic sub-genre this year, with “Foxcatcher,” “Big Eyes,” “The Theory Of Everything” and “The Imitation Game” all mining vaguely similar territorycrucially, all already have distributors and release date. Previous chess movies like “Searching For Bobby Fischer” struggled to find an audience, and though Zwick has a reputation as an Oscar regular, it’s somewhat deceptive. He has a nomination and a win, but both for producing other people’s movies (taking one for “Shakespeare In Love,” plus a nod for “Traffic“). And as quote-unquote baity as his movies can appear, they’ve never been nominated for the top prize, even when, like “Glory” or “Blood Diamond,” they’ve picked up multiple nods in other categories. If the film works, none of this matters, and it feels like it could have the biggest potential of any of these movies, if, and only if, the right distributor steps up (like “The Cobbler,” it’s actually screening late in the festival, hopefully enough critics and buyers stick around that long).

Why It Could Be A Contender: When we saw “Pride” unveil at Cannes back in May, we’ve rarely seen a reaction like it. Matthew Warchus‘ film, which dramatizes the real-life uneasy alliance between a London LGBT group and the Welsh miners they supported during the lengthy strike in the 1980s, blew the roof off the place, landing to laughter, tears, sobs, huge cheers and a ten-minute standing ovation. The film’s a true crowd-pleaser in the spirit of “Brassed Off,” “Billy Elliot” and “The Full Monty,” and certainly deserves to be spoken off in the same breath as those films thanks to smart, witty, sensitive writing and an impeccable ensemble cast. That mini sub-genre of unlikely tear-jerker working-class comedies isn’t always an Oscar force, but when they do take off, like with “The Full Monty”‘s four nominations, they can be something to be reckoned with.”Pride” certainly seems to be made of the right stuff, it’s a warm, accessible and important film, the kind of thing that Oscar hits are made of (especially given the strong contingent of British votersthe ones who got “Philomena” a Best Picture nod last year when so many were counting it out).
Why It Might Not Be: A number of reasons, really. For one, the film’s an unashamed celebration of socialism, solidarity and the labor movement, something that’s an easier sell in more left-leaning Britain than the U.S. That said, one of the few areas where unions still have major power in America is the entertainment industry, so maybe SAG, DGA and especially WGA members for whom the 2007 strike isn’t forgotten, will respond more than we imagine. It also risks being ghettoized as an LGBT movie without the big stars that, say, “Milk” had. More practically, the film’s being released by CBS Films, who, despite a valiant effort, couldn’t get “Inside Llewyn Davis” a nomination. This is in some ways an easier campaign, but does have its own set of challenges, and it doesn’t help that the film’s had a slightly peculiar festival route. It went underseen at Cannes, screening only once at the very end of the festival when many journalists had already skipped town, and though Telluride would have been a perfect place to get this out to U.S. critics, it skipped it and is heading to TIFF, where it could end up being overshadowed by the sheer volume of movies. And “The Imitation Game” already looks like it might end up being the favored pick of the Brit contingent. We’re really rooting for this one, and it’s more than deserving, but it’ll be a hard battle for it to figure in more than the BAFTA race.

Testament Of Youth
Why It Could Be A Contender: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and to mark the occasion, BBC Films and the British Film Institute backed this adaptation of Vera Brittain‘s seminal memoir about her time as a nurse, and her romance with a young soldier, during the conflict. TV helmer James Kent makes his big-screen debut, and Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington lead the cast, with Taron Egerton, Dominic West, Hayley Atwell and Emily Watson backing them up. Ordinarily, a tearjerking romance like this would be a hot prospect for awards watchers, but this hasn’t be on many radars so far, mainly due to a lack of festival appearances, and no U.S. release date. Which is fair enough, but the film’s actually going to get a world premiere at the London Film Festival next month, ahead of a U.K. release in January, putting it firmly in the BAFTA race, and certainly making it a viable Oscar option if someone picks it up (Lionsgate have it in the U.K., and given that they have no other contenders this year, would be a decent bet to enter the race with it). We’ve heard some really good things about how the film turned out, and the anniversary element could end up making it particularly potent.
Why It Might Not: The First World War doesn’t have the same cultural weight in the U.S. as it does in Europe, and pretty much since “All Quiet On The Western Front,” hasn’t been the setting of all that many Oscar-friendly pictures. Furthermore, the British costume drama isn’t the Oscar force that it once was. Films like “The Duchess” and “Anna Karenina” failed to get much traction beyond below-the-line credits, and this doesn’t have the crowd-pleasing elements of something like “The King’s Speechin fact, it’s pretty bleak. And while Vikander (who we hear is superb in the film) and Harington are rising stars, the cast are fairly new faces to Academy voters, which won’t help. Though the film only skipped TIFF because it wasn’t done in time, it means that it won’t get that early festival bump, and while an LFF bow has proven successful in the past (“Frost/Nixon” did well after world premiering in London), last year’s “Saving Mr. Banks” underperformed awards-wise after skipping the U.S. fests and screening first across the pond. Plus, right now, it doesn’t have a distributor. It’s possible that someone could pick it up in the next few weeks, but the late festival bow makes that less likely.

Time Out Of Mind
Why It Might Be A Contender: One of the more unlikely Oscar stories in recent years is “The MessengerOren Moverman‘s modest little drama was underestimated by many back in 2009, not least because small distributor Oscilloscope Pictures were looking after it, but managed to win a nod for Woody Harrelson, and another for the film’s screenplay. Follow-up “Rampart” was too abrasive and divisive to pull off the same trick, but Moverman’s back for a third time (along with his writing credit on “Love & Mercysee above), and “Time Out Of Mind,” starring Richard Gere as a homeless man looking to reconcile with his daughter, seems like it could well end up having prospects. As crowded as the Best Actor race is, there’s always room for a veteran star in an unexpected role, and Gere’s certainly got the right stuff if the reviews come in, having been unlucky to miss out in an equally busy year for his very fine turn in “Arbitrage” a few years back. Crucially, he’s never been nominated, which gives this an immediate narrative, and voters like to reward big names for taking a small indie gig like this. Whether the film itself is able to follow Gere remains to be seen (we suspect not, unless it’s unignorably brilliant), but the actor could definitely be shaking up the race if the film works out.
Why It Might Not: Once again, the film’s currently without distributor, and unless Gere’s immediately identified as an awards contender, probably won’t be rushed into 2014 by anyone. And while it sounds more accessible than “Rampart,” history suggests that the film’s more likely to end up at a smaller distributor than one of the bigger mini-majors with awards muscle. Homelessness also isn’t a particular popular subject with Oscar voters, who potentially would rather look the other way, so this might be a little close to the bone for many. More importantly, it’s yet another tough year in the category: Michael Keaton, Steve Carell and Benedict Cumberbatch already seem all-but locked in, and folks like Eddie Redmayne, Joaquin Phoenix, Jack O’Connell, Ben Affleck, David Oyelowo, Brad Pitt, Timothy Spall, Jake Gyllenhaal and Oscar Isaac are all waiting in the wings too. Against such stiff competition, it may simply be too tricky for Gere to crack the race.

Why It Could Be A Contender: Few directors in the modern era have a more successful Oscar run than Stephen Daldry. The theater-director-turned-filmmaker won a Best Director nod for his debut “Billy Elliot,” and his three subsequent filmsThe Hours,” “The Reader” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Closeall picked up Best Picture nods, with Daldry also nominated for all but the last. The director’s back again this year with something of a change of pace, with the Richard Curtis-penned “Trash,” about three kids in the slums of Rio who find themselves on the run. Seemingly a sort of blend of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “City Of God,” and featuring big names Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen and Wagner Moura alongside the young Brazilian leads, we’d initially heard that the film was more of a thriller/adventure, but the recent U.K. trailer certainly seems to be selling it as prestige fare. Daldry’s track record with the Academy is inarguable, and this feels like it could fit that sort of cultural tourism slot that can prove so successful. The film’s ready to go, premiering at the Rio Film Festival in October, and will hit U.K. theaters at the end of January. Universal has the U.S. rights, so they just need to drop it on the calendar and it could become a big player.
Why It Might Not Be: The studio has the bulk of their chips behind “Unbroken,” which will screen late, so even if the film turns out to be a misfire, it would likely be too late for them to course correct and get behind another contender. Furthermore, unless the film ends up with an AFI slot (which is entirely possible), skipping Venice, TIFF, Telluride and NYFF seems to suggest that the studio thinks of the film as a commercial prospect rather than anything else (it’s also telling that they haven’t dated it yet). It could be that they simply don’t know what they have. One shouldn’t forget that a faithless Warner Bros offloaded “Slumdog Millionaire” to Fox Searchlight only to see it win the Best Picture Oscar. But maybe Daldry’s track record has made us assume that this is more awards-friendly than it really is.  Don’t count it out entirely, though.

Also Out There: It’s possible, but distinctly less likely that TIFF pictures like “The Riot Club,” “This Is Where I Leave You,” “The Drop,” “A Little Chaos,” “My Old Lady,” “While We’re Young,” “The Good Kill,” “Miss Julie,” “Black & White,” “The Last Five Years,” “Still Alice,” “Boychoir” and “Welcome To Me” emerge from the festival with awards buzz, so keep an eye on them all. The Weinstein Company‘s “Paddington” seems like a commercial proposition, but who knows what Harvey can spin.

In terms of more surprising prospects, there are a few out there once touted for awards recognition that look unlikely to premiere this side of New Year’s Eve. Producers have confirmed that Werner Herzog‘s “Queen Of The Desert” isn’t done, and wasn’t ready for the festival circuit: expect it in Berlin or Cannes. Similarly, Todd Haynes‘ “Carol” will likely be heading for the Croisette, given its lack of appearance at festivals: its only chance is an AFI premiere and a late addition to the slate, but Cannes is much more likely. A more surprising absence is the Michelle Williams-starring “Suite Francaise,” which shot mid-2013 and should be easily done by now: perhaps the film didn’t work out as hoped, because that seemed like a dead cert for TIFF if nothing else.

Stephen FrearsLance Armstrong biopic is MIA for now, while “Macbeth,” “Woman In Gold,” “Tulip Fever,” “Slow West,” Al Pacino comedy “Imagine” and James Franco/Jonah Hill drama ‘True Story” all skipped the festival circuit they’d probably need for an awards run, so shouldn’t be expected in the race this time, barring a huge surprise. “Ex Machina” is actually set for a U.K. release in January, so could theoretically turn up, but doesn’t feel awards-baity to us, while “Suffragette” once had a British January date too, but was pushed back to September 2015, so we’re likely a year away from seeing that finished. One project getting a release across the pond is Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper reteam “Serena,” but given the quiet nature of the release, its long delays and the toxic buzz, it doesn’t sound like an awards contender to us in the slightest.

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