While many of their films won’t see the light of day in the UK until late February, the deadline for nationwide release in the States is December 31st, which means that the majority of films arriving in the cinemas over the coming months are those that studios believe are worthy of the Academy’s attention. Anything released post that deadline are the films that ended up a disappointment, the type that didn’t meet their original potential, and subsequently slip out on release in the spring dumping ground.
So what are the films we expect will do well this year? What should we expect to dominate the nominations of each Awards ceremony this winter? Well the majority of the films have been seen now, reviewed and reported by journalists at the Toronto and Venice film festivals, so below is an (alphabetical) list of what would appear to be this year’s cream of the crop, the films we should be making the effort to see and the films that will appear on the shortlist come the Oscar nominations in January.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Renner (4 Oscar wins & 12 further nominations between them)
Director: David O Russell (2 Oscar nominations)
David O. Russell is becoming an Academy favourite. Striding off the popularity of The Silver Linings Playbook, he unites that cast with the cast of his previous film The Fighter to create a vast super-cast of hugely popular (and acclaimed) actors. Add to that a film about crime, its period feel and all that 70s glamour – this is sure-fire Oscar-bait.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress , Original Screenplay
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan MacGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis (5 Oscar wins and a further 17 nominations between them)
Director: John Wells
Attach Meryl Streep to any film and it immediately becomes an Oscar contender. Attach her to a film based on a hugely acclaimed play and add the names of several of Hollywood’s biggest actors and this is definitely going to make an appearance in the shortlist. Critics’ buzz appears to be around the performances over the film as whole, but this family-based black-comedy should at least gain Meryl her 18th appearance in the acting categories.
Potential nominations: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin (1 Oscar win and 4 further nomination between them)
Director: Woody Allen (4 Oscar wins and 23 further nominations)
As one of the few films to have been released already in the UK, we can already testify to the quality of this film. Blanchett is one of the few locks for a nomination. She may also easily walk away with the award for her portrayal of the destitute and mentally ill ex-society queen. And with Woody’s recent resurgence with Midnight In Paris, the Academy may well (rightly) shower him with nominations for this film, his finest in years.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Apti (2 wins and 3 further nominations for Hanks)
Director: Paul Greengrass (1 Oscar nomination)
This tense piracy thriller has been received with universal acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Hanks’ performance is being called his best since Forrest Gump and Greengrass has a lot of admirers for steering the Bourne franchise and for United 93.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor & Original Screenplay
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Though the buzz for the film as a whole is dying down, the buzz for McConaughey and Leto’s performances has not. Arguably the front-runners in their respective categories, their performances as, respectively, an AIDS patient-cum-drugs trafficker and a drag queen, have received massive acclaim from the critics.
Potential nominations: Best Actor, Supporting Actor
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney (2 Oscars together, plus 4 further acting nominations for Clooney)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón (2 Oscar nominations)
One of the most popular and acclaimed Hispanic directors around, Cuarón already made waves with Children Of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien, but this year’s sci-fi thriller has made a huge splash with audiences and critics alike. With its enormous success at the box office, it’s reported perfect use of 3D and a very strong central performance from Bullock, this is a front-runner in many categories.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actress and Original Screenplay
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake (1 nomination for Mulligan)
Director: The Coen Brothers (3 Oscars won, plus 4 further nominations)
The Academy LOVE the Coens. Even with a small film like A Serious Man, they still made it into the Best Picture lineup. With a filmography that includes Fargo, The Big Lebowski, True Grit and the Oscar triumph No Country For Old Men, they are sure to win many nominations here. This folk-singer’s quasi biopic is also anchored by a central performance from a relative unknown who could be the breakout star of the year.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Original Screenplay
Starring: Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Mariah Carey, Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack (6 Oscars between them, plus a further 15 acting nominations collectively)
Director: Lee Daniels (1 Oscar nomination)
Just look at that cast list. And watch the trailer. This story about a black White House butler straddling the majority of the twentieth century is the kind of huge sweeping historical epic that the Academy loves. This was also hugely popular at the box office in the US, which will definitely help its cause. And Oprah’s in it – the Academy would just LOVE to give her an award.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk (1 nomination for Dern)
Director: Alexander Payne (1 Oscar win plus 4 further nominations)
Over the last few years there has appeared to be a trend of a film transferring its success from Cannes to the Academy Awards. This year gave Nebraska a very strong showing at the festival and Dern’s performance won him Best Actor. Couple this with Payne’s last films’ success at the Oscars (Sideways, The Descendants) and I’m pretty sure it can at least garner a few nominations.
Potential nominations: Best Actor, Supporting Actress, Picture & Director
Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks (4 Oscar wins, plus 6 further nominations between them)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Hollywood loves films about Hollywood, and a film about Walt Disney and the creation of Mary Poppins is sure to draw attention. Add to that Thompson and Hanks’ Oscar credentials and you’ve got yourself a sure-fire hit.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin (1 Oscar win, plus 4 further nominations between them)
Director: Martin Scorsese (1 Oscar win, plus 7 further nominations)
Though a release date is yet to be wholly finalised, this looks like it will just about make the cut this year. Scorsese’s track record with the Oscars is impeccable, winning awards in nearly all categories for decades. His last Oscar hit Hugo received five awards on the night, showing that since his eventual Best Director win (for The Departed) he is still popular with the Academy. And from the looks of the trailer, Di Caprio delivers a cracking performance as the hedonistic banker.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giammatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt
Director: Steve McQueen
This is the film that critics are asking why it hasn’t been made before. This brutal and realistic depiction of American slavery has received rave reviews from Toronto, citing this as a landmark film. A nomination for McQueen would be the first for a black director, while Fassbender is incredibly overdue recognition from the Academy. At this stage, this could be the film to beat.
Potential nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay