With yesterday’s announcement of the line-up for the Telluride Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival already underway, it’s time to start taking this Oscar race thing seriously. Every year we look toward the three big Fall film festivals (Venice, Telluride, and Toronto) to give us insight into the upcoming movie awards season. Last year The Descendants was the only Best Picture nominee to premiere at the Fall festivals, but that was a unique situation because 4 of the 9 eventual nominees had already been released theatrically. This year’s Summer releases have left a lot more to be desired and the Best Picture race is currently wide open.
For the sake of brevity, I will not include all of the movies that are possible Foreign Film contenders. Here is my ranked list of films that could potentially emerge as Oscar contenders for the 2012-2013 movie awards season:
1) The Master (Venice, Toronto)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film since the Best Picture nominated There Will Be Blood has technically already premiered at a few surprise screenings on the West Coast. However, this is the first time that real critics and Oscar watchers will have an eye on the movie. This has been my pick for Best Picture since the beginning of the year because of the combination of The Weinstein Company, the increasingly Oscar friendly director, and the phenomenal cast. This is definitely the movie with the biggest hype and the one that will be under the most scrutiny.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), Best Original Screenplay
2) To the Wonder (Venice, Toronto)
It is shocking that notoriously perfectionist director Terence Malick is releasing a second film only one year after his last effort. There will be a lot of buzz around Malick’s new film because he reportedly edited out the performances of several A-list actors. Regardless of the reception, To the Wonder will have critics and fans buzzing. If the word is good, it could carry that buzz all the way to a second consecutive Best Picture nominee for a Malick film.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Rachel McAdams), Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem), Best Original Screenplay
3) Argo (Telluride, Toronto)
Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort puts himself back in front of the camera to play an undercover CIA agent during the Iranian revolution. The film is based on a true story and features an excellent cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, Chris Messina, John Goodman, and Affleck favorite Titus Welliver. It doesn’t play until Toronto, so it will have to out-buzz the early premieres, but it seems like the kind of film that could do it.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Ben Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (?), Best Adapted Screenplay
4) Anna Karenina (Toronto)
After adapting two classic novels with great success at the beginning of his career, Joe Wright returns to his bread and butter. The trailer for Anna Karenina is stunning and it certainly looks like the type of film that could appeal to the older members of the Academy. If the movie lives up to its trailer, it might be the talk of TIFF.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Keira Knightley), Best Supporting Actor (Jude Law), Best Adapted Screenplay
5) Hyde Park on Hudson (Telluride, Toronto)
Two years ago The King’s Speech emerged from the festival racket with the biggest buzz and went on to win Best Picture. Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson looks like it has a lot of the same going for it as Tom Hooper’s Oscar winner. Bill Murray’s performance as FDR along with Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth add that gimmick factor that could elevate the film to major awards success if it gets well-reviewed.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Bill Murray), Best Actress (Laura Linney), Best Supporting Actress (Olivia Colman), Best Original Screenplay
6) Amour (Telluride)
Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winning drama has been described as his most accessible film to date, which could earn it some big points with the Academy. The Telluride Film Festival is the perfect place to test how well it plays because it won’t have as many other films to compete with.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jean-Louis Trintignant), Best Actress (Emanuelle Riva)
7) Cloud Atlas (Toronto)
Andy and Lana Wachowski along with Tom Tykwer bring this science fiction opus set in multiple time periods and dimensions to the Toronto Film Festival. The way I see it there are only two ways this film could go: either it will be a total hit with awards success a la Avatar or a total bust that gets ignored completely. The nearly six-minute trailer has me intrigued, although I’m still not 100% clear what the movie is about.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Hanks)
8) The Impossible (Toronto)
The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona directs this account of a family caught in the Indonesian tsunami of 2004. The film appears to be the type of uplifting “overcoming the odds” story that often finds a place with Academy voters. While it may not make a Best Picture play, expect lots of buzz for the film’s stars.
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Naomi Watts), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Holland)
9) The Sapphires (Telluride, Toronto)
I have already mentioned that Harvey Weinstein sang this movie’s praises when it played at the Cannes Film Festival and it is reportedly quite the crowd pleaser. This story of a white musician who coaches an Aboriginal girl group looks old hat, but if it’s as good as everyone is saying it could emerge from the festival as a strong wild card for The Weinstein Company.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Chris O’Dowd)
10) Silver Linings Playbook (Toronto)
David O. Russell became an Oscar darling after his successful 2010 film The Fighter scored nominations in several categories and won both the Supporting awards. His follow-up is more light in tone, but could still earn some awards attention for its stars Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro.
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Adapted Screenplay
11) The Sessions (Toronto)
Already a winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, The Sessions has been getting high praise for its lead performances. The story about a man in an iron lung who hires a sex therapist to simulate an act that he will never actively partake in sounds like a winner to me. Will it maintain the buzz it gathered at Sundance?
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (John Hawkes), Best Actress (Helen Hunt), Best Original Screenplay
12) The Place Beyond the Pines (Toronto)
Derek Cianfrance follows up his award winning 2010 film Blue Valentine with a faster paced action movie about a stunt man who gets into a confrontation with a justice-seeking politician. Cianfrance earned considerable praise for the performances he got out of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling on his last effort and he has the opportunity to repeat his success with another batch of young actors.
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper)
13) Rust and Bone (Telluride, Toronto)
Another film that already played in Cannes to high praise is Jacques Audiard’s drama about the relationship between a crippled killer whale trainer and an underground boxer. There isn’t much Best Picture hope for this film, but the performances have been earning exceptionally high praise overseas.
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Marion Cotillard)
14) Great Expectations (Toronto)
How many classic literature adaptations can you fit into one calendar year? Much like Anna Karenina, Mike Newell’s adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel could be a winner this awards season, because it has a story that is already successful. However, unlike Anna Karenina there is no awards-friendly director and there is a pretty great existing adaptation by David Lean that this new version has to live up to.
Possible Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter), Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Fiennes)
15) Quartet (Toronto)
Dustin Hoffman makes his official directorial debut with this comedy about the lives of retired opera singers. Actors are almost always good at directing other actors and this movie looks like it is chock full of possible nominees in the supporting categories.
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Maggie Smith), Best Supporting Actor (Billy Connolly), Best Supporting Actress (Pauline Collins)
16) Imogene (Toronto)
This comedy about a playwright who stages suicide stars the immensely talented Kristen Wiig. I have no doubt in my mind that Wiig will be nominated for Best Actress at some point in the near future. Will this be the film to get her there?
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Kristen Wiig)
17) Thanks for Sharing (Toronto)
The Kids Are All Right co-writer Stuart Blumberg re-teams with Mark Ruffalo and adds Gwyneth Paltrow for this comedy about sex addiction. I know little about this movie, but the credibility of the cast and director is high enough to keep it on the radar.
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (Mark Ruffal0), Best Actress (Gwyneth Paltrow), Best Supporting Actor (Tim Robbins), Best Original Screenplay
18) The Company You Keep (Venice, Toronto)
Robert Redford’s recent directorial efforts always seem to start the year with buzz and end the year with nothing. Who knows if that will be the case for his thriller The Company You Keep, but with a strong cast and a plot that will certainly resonate in an election year, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Possible Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Susan Sarandon), Best Adapted Screenplay
19) The Hunt (Telluride, Toronto)
Mads Mikkelsen took home the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance as an accused child abuser on the run. It isn’t often that Cannes awards translate to Oscars, but it did last year with Jean Dujardin, so who knows?
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (Mads Mikkelsen)
20) Love is All You Need (Venice, Toronto)
Romantic comedies are typically never on the Academy’s radar, but with Oscar winner Susanne Bier at the helm and Englishman Pierce Brosnan mixed in with the foreign cast, it could get some attention.
Possible Nominations: Best Supporting Actor or Actress
Those are my picks for the films most likely to continue their buzz through this Fall’s awards season. I would also like to note that I highly recommend keeping an open mind for films that are not the usual “Oscar movies.” Movies like No from Pablo Lorrain or Something in the Air from Olivier Assayas are definitely on my radar as must-sees regardless of their awards potential.
What movies do you think will get the most Oscar buzz at festivals this Fall?