Spring is in the air. As the warmer weather thaws me out of post-Oscar hibernation, it's time to start looking ahead to next winter in search of potential awards projects that just might tickle the Academy's fancy. I was going to hold of on this ludicrous practice until after the Cannes Film Festival wrapped up, but it's not like that would make my crystal ball any less foggy, so may as well get it over with.
Last year's early predictions turned out to be a typically imprecise 44/96, but believe it or not, that's actually the best I've ever done! Can I improve?
This is the first of five early predictions pieces I'll be posting this month. I'm starting out this week with Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Actress. Next Monday I'll finish off the major categories.
Two titles seem to be topping everybody's lists for the hottest awards tickets next season: Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, and George Clooney's The Monuments Men.
Scorsese came close last year with family charmer Hugo, but I can't be the only one eager to see him return to adult drama, and this tale of corruption and crime amongst the finincial movers and shakers of New York sounds enticing. The Wolf of Wall Street also features a highly anticipated star turn from Leonardo DiCaprio, who, along with Scorsese, is one of the film's producers, and may reap multiple nominations.
The Monuments Men has a baity, prestige premise about art historians working to protect priceless works from the Nazis in occupied France. The combined slants of art preservation and WWII might prove too irresistible for AMPAS. Clooney and co-writer/co-producer Grant Heslov are fresh off a Best Picture win for Argo, and could turn the trick two years running if their script and their starry ensemble got the goods.
Clooney and Heslov are producing another one of this year's prestigious dramas: the film version of Tracy Letts' Tony-winning play August: Osage County. Being handled by Harvey Weinstein – and already generating rumours of quality from not-so-secret screenings – is basically a green light for awards pundits, although with a sophomore director at the helm, we shouldn't assume anything just yet.
Producer extraordinaire Scott Rudin has a couple of titles in play as well, courtesy of the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis and Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips. The former follows a character (Oscar Isaac) exploring the independent music scene of the 1960s, while the latter tells the true story of a cargo ship captain (Tom Hanks) hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.
Hollywood adores movies about itself, and that has put John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks on a lot of prognosticators' radar. The behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney's screen version of P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins books star Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson as Disney and Travers. Hancock ushered The Blind Side to an unlikely Best Picture nomination two years ago. Can he do it again?
My most anticipated film of the year (and I doubt I'm alone on this) is Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, which will finally touch down after years of floating through the cold dark space of distribution limbo. The film could be this year's technical marvel, but its high concept and intimate two-person cast – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock – make it even more tantalizing. Will genre bias hurt it, though?
Rounding out my ten are Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, Jason Reitman's Labor Day, and Ridley Scott's The Counselor. Miller and Reitman have been successful enough in recent years to justify predicting them, but Scott hasn't been in Oscar's good graces in a while. What interests me about that project is the original screenplay by No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy.
So for now, these are the ten I'm predicting:
August: Osage County
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Monuments Men
The Wolf of Wall Street
Saving Mr. Banks
Also consider: Before Midnight, Fruitvale, Nebraska, Twelve Years a Slave; Untitled ABSCAM project
George Clooney, The Monuments Men
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Paul Greengrass, Captain PhillipsBennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Also consider: Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis; John Lee Hancock, Saving Mr. Banks; Jason Reitman, Labor Day; Ridley Scott, The Counselor; John Wells, August: Osage County
Before this past awards season was even wrapped up, Leonardo DiCaprio was plugging his Wolf of Wall Street performance as the best of his career. Never too early to start campaigning, I guess. Add the fact that he hasn't won an Oscar yet to some residual sympathy from his Django snub and he may indeed have a winning formula.
Matthew MacCounaughey is set to have a big year. Coming off glowing reviews in 2012 for Magic Mike, he stars in three of this year's big titles: The Wolf of Wall Street, Mud, and Dallas Buyers Club. You'd think he has to be nominated for one of them, right?
I'm going with:
Steve Carell, FoxcatcherLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips / Saving Mr. BanksMatthew MacConaughey, Dallas Buyer's Club
Also consider: Christian Bale, Untitled ABSCAM project; Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Chiewetel Eljoifor, Twelve Years a Slave; Michael Fassbender, The Counselor; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
I predicted Naomi Watts for her Princess Diana biopic last year before it got bumped to 2013. I see no need to axe her from my predictions now. Will she have a leg up in a field that seems (from this early point, anyway) to be largely comprised of previous winners?
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. BanksNaomi Watts, Diana
Also consider: Marion Cotillard, Lowlife; Julie Delpy, Before Midnight; Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco; Jennifer Lawrence, Serena; Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby