If you've been tracking the various films I've been predicting in certain categories, then it should go without saying what I'm anticipating to be Best Pictures players. I'll go the limit and pick ten, even though we all know that'll never happen.
Will Steven Spielberg's Cold War drama Bridge of Spies hew closer to Lincoln (every bit the Academy hit it appeared to be on paper) or War Horse (which went home empty-handed)? In either case, a nomination at least for Best Picture is foreseeable. Spielberg's clout in Tinseltown is not to be underestimated.
One hopeful that's already been seen and appraised as a legitimate Oscar threat is the romantic drama Brooklyn, which was snatched up out of Sundance by the wily awards campaigners at Fox Searchlight. We'll have to wait until November to see for ourselves, but you can bet the PR strategists are already mapping out this film's red carpet road map.
Harvey Weinstein has a couple of options to throw at the wall. The first is Carol. Todd Haynes has been away from the big screen for eight years, not that he was ever a huge Oscar draw in the first place. He received his sole nomination to date for Far from Heaven, but maybe the Academy is finally ready to embrace one of his films wholeheartedly. The extra Best Picture slots help.
The other option is The Hateful Eight. Quentin Tarantino's abrasive auteur style may not fit the typical Oscar mold, but that didn't stop Weinstein from setting up Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained as major contenders, even bringing Quentin his second statuette. The question is: Can Harvey get both these titles into the race, or will his habit of putting all his eggs in one basket rule the day?
David O. Russell's recent string of Academy-targeted screwball dramedies have not been showing a promising trend iun terms of winning percentages: The Fighter went 2/6 (pretty good), Silver Linings Playbook went 1/8 (better than nothing), and American Hustle went 0/10 (ouch!). But it would seem he's not deterred, and he'll try to nab his elusive statue by reteaming again with J-Law in Joy.
Can Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu return to the big show only a year after being honoured with an exorbitant three Oscars for Birdman?... which I loved, but let's not pretend that winning all three wasn't overkill. Nevertheless, The Revenant could give him a chance to go back-to-back in numerous categories.
Gus van Sant has had a couple of huge Oscar successes in his time, but everything else he's done has been almost completely ignored. It feels like he's due for another awards hit. But will The Sea of Trees – about two suicidal men in a Japanese forest – be accessible enough for the Academy's relatively mainstream tastes? If the 'Tree of Life faction' can rally behind one art film, then perhaps it stands a chance.
After flirting briefly with Oscar-powerhouse status during Slumdog Millionaire's dream run, it would seem Danny Boyle's awards magnetism has cooled. His Steve Jobs biopic (AMPAS' favourite genre) might bring him back into the fray. An Aaron Sorkin screenplay and big star power in A-lister Michael Fassbender may go a long way in drawing voters' attention.
Sometimes a true Hollywood story is enough to earn the favour of the members who enjoy seeing themselves reflected in the movies. Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston as the famously blacklisted screenwriter, may garner some easily won love overall, even if its nomination haul isn't that impressive.
Personally, my most anticipated project of the year might be Robert Zemeckis' The Walk. I quite liked Flight and it gave me hope that Zemeckis was ready to get back into adult-geared studio dramas after a decade of frolicking in manic motion-capture experiments. I have high expectations for this vertiginous dramatization of Philippe Petit's World Trade Centre daredevilry.
Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
The Sea of Trees
Alehandro G. Inarritu
David O. Russell