News Column

Films show early promise for Oscar nominations

September 13, 2013


Sept. 13--Following the world premiere of "August: Osage County" at the Toronto International Film Festival, it became clear that the Oklahoma-shot movie about family dysfunction on the Pawhuska-area plains will be a likely candidate during the upcoming film-awards season.

Which awards? That remains to be seen, but a few obvious candidacies -- Cate Blanchett as best actress for "Blue Jasmine," Oprah Winfrey as best supporting actress for "The Butler" -- are off and running.

The following 10 films will begin positioning their campaigns, months ahead of the awards being handed out, in the categories of best picture, acting, directing and writing.

There's "August: Osage County," and then there's its top competition:


Why it's a contender: It's based on Tulsa-native Tracy Letts' play, which won multiple Tony Awards on Broadway and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Enough said.

A contender for what: Initial reaction says that Meryl Streep (right) as the family matriarch will be chasing her fourth Oscar. Period. The buzz remains high for Letts' screenplay adaptation of his play, as well as for performances by Julia Roberts (left) and Margo Martindale, and perhaps with Chris Cooper thrown into the mix. Best picture? That may depend on public reaction once the film is released, but actors dominate the Academy membership in voting, and this is an actor's dream ensemble.

Release date: Dec. 25


Why it's a contender: The immediate reaction to this film's world premiere at the Toronto festival has been the most charged of any picture.

A contender for what: Apparently everything for this story based on Solomon Northrup's pre-Civil War ordeal of being a free black man forced into slavery. Best picture, best actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor (left) and best supporting actor for Michael Fassbender (right) are all possibilities and so is best director for Steve McQueen, who's known for his beyond-intense film experiences ("Shame," "Hunger") and perhaps has made something more mainstream here.

Release date: limited release begins Oct. 18


Why it's a contender: It's got George Clooney (right) and an all-star cast including Matt Damon and Bill Murray and John Goodman. It's got Nazis and the U.S. helping to restore peace -- and hundreds of artworks stolen by Hitler's minions -- during World War II.

A contender for what: All categories are on the table, but no one has seen this one yet, and it may end up as more of a crowd-pleaser than an awards-chaser. But the bottom line is that Clooney has been nominated for everything lately -- he produced "Argo," last year's winner -- and on this movie he has options: He's the writer, director, star and producer.

Release date: Dec. 18


Why it's a contender: Directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio You're familiar with their work on Oscar nominees "The Departed," "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," perhaps?

A contender for what: The trailer makes this story of a stockbroker manipulating the market and running a boiler room look like "Wall Street" on steroids, and that makes DiCaprio, Scorsese and the picture look like award candidates. It also looks like an intense, fun film.

Release date: Nov. 15


Why it's a contender: It's a science-fiction movie starring only two actors, playing characters lost in space when their ship crashes into debris. But when those actors are two Oscar winners -- Sandra Bullock (left) and George Clooney -- there's reason to take sci-fi serious.

A contender for what: This one wowed audiences at the Venice Film Festival, with a "This is why you see movies on the big-screen" vibe to its visuals and use of technology to tell a story. Best picture, actress, screenplay and more all seem like possibilities.

Release date: Oct. 4


Why it's a contender: Director David O. Russell is on an Oscar hot streak with his last two films, "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Fighter." His two most recent winners, Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale (right), star alongside his recent nominees, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams.

A contender for what: Sight unseen, the potential is here for multiple award nominations -- especially in the acting categories, as Russell makes performance-driven pictures. This one is focused on the 1970s Abscam scandal and FBI sting operation, with the cast decked out in polyester, so there's every reason to expect the filmmaker's signature of a personal drama mixed with elements of comedy.

Release date: Limited release Dec. 13, wide Dec. 25


Why it's a contender: It's based on the true story of the Somali pirate hijacking of the American cargo ship in 2009 and taking of hostages, including Capt. Richard Phillips, played by Oscar-winner Tom Hanks (second from right)

A contender for what: It's been 13 years since Hanks' last nomination ("Cast Away") and he seems the most likely candidate for this one, but don't count out director Paul Greengrass, an expert at telling such fact-based stories (like his "United 93") and in making thrilling movies (the second and third Jason Bourne pictures).

Release date: Oct. 11


Why it's a contender: Tom Hanks (left) has an even more iconic role in this picture, as he plays Walt Disney circa 1960, supervising the operations of Disneyland while trying to convince author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson)to allow him to make her book "Mary Poppins" into a movie.

A contender for what: Best actor is an obvious aspiration with this one, but apparently the role of Travers, played by fellow Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, may be the larger one.

Release date: limited Dec. 13, expansion Dec. 20


Why it's a contender: Despite this being a black-and-white picture about a singer-songwriter (Oscar Isaac, left) in the middle of the Greenwich Village folk-music scene in the 1960s, it's a Coen Brothers film co-starring Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake

A contender for what: Three of their last four films have been nominated for best picture, so the odds are on their side. This small, sweet picture feels more like the Coen's "A Serious Man" and less like their "No Country for Old Men" and "True Grit."

Release date: limited Dec. 6, expansion Dec. 20


Why it's a contender: Oklahoma's Ron Howard had a hard time convincing investors of the appeal of his gritty, smell-the-exhaust look at the intense 1970s Formula One rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, left) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). That's not a problem anymore.

A contender for what: High-profile Oscars may prove elusive for what some festival pundits are already calling the best racing movie and one of the all-time sports movies, but the Formula One footage is so thrilling that this could end up with multiple technical nominations as well.

Release date: Sept. 27

Michael Smith 918-581-8479


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