Oscar Beat: Which Awards Contenders Will Emerge from the Fall Film Festival Season?

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Ready or not, the awards season is about to begin.  Every year, Oscar season kicks off with the series of film festivals in late August and early September.  It’s at these festivals—Telluride, Toronto, and Venice—that a hefty number of the year’s Oscar hopefuls debut and begin what they hope will be long and prosperous campaigns.  Four out of the last five Best Picture winners screened at both Telluride and Toronto, and as the festivals are about to start later this week, now felt like a good time to preview the block of awards hopefuls that will be screening since the odds are pretty good that this year’s Best Picture winner will have debuted by mid-September.

Hit the jump for the Fall Film Festival Preview 2014 edition of Oscar Beat.

foxcatcher-steve-carell-channing-tatumOne of the year’s biggest awards contenders actually had its first screening way back at Cannes in May, but is also poised to play at both Telluride and Toronto: Bennett Miller’s dark drama Foxcatcher, which finds Steve Carell playing a mentally unstable millionaire who goes on a deep and dark descent in his secluded compound.  Reviews out of Cannes were ecstatic and the film is poised to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in a couple of weeks, and though Telluride keeps its lineup secret until the day the festival begins, many believe it will show up there as well.  Miller’s previous two features, Capote and Moneyball, both nabbed Best Picture nods with the former also landing Miller a Best Director nomination, so expectations are high for this one.

Another potential heavy hitter is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s black comedy Birdman, which just had its world premiere at Venice and could also pop up at Telluride before closing out the New York Film Festival in October.  Reviews out of Venice were ecstatic, praising Michael Keaton‘s lead performance and the film overall, which is apparently a major departure for Iñárritu.  Moreover, the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has earned high marks, as he and Iñárritu crafted the film to look like it’s one long, unbroken take.  Whether the film will be too “weird” or esoteric for the Academy remains to be seen, but reviewers out of Venice seem confident the pic will land multiple nods come Oscar time.

birdman-michael-keaton-edward-nortonThere are also a few other films that remain question marks with regards to their Oscar hopeful status.  Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Valle helms the drama Wild with Reese Witherspoon in the lead role and it will debut at Telluride before screening at TIFF.  There’s also Jason Reitman’s dark-looking drama Men, Women & Children, which features an ensemble cast that includes Adam Sandler and The Fault in Our Stars breakout star Ansel ElgortMen, Women & Children feels like an incredibly morose departure for the Up in the Air filmmaker and it will make its world premiere at TIFF.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sandler actually finds himself appearing in two potential awards contenders with a leading role in The Cobbler, the new film from The Visitor and The Station Agent writer/director Tom McCarthy.  Sandler plays a man who finds he has the ability to literally step into someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective.  The film will debut at TIFF where all eyes will be on whether Sandler can make another successful step into dramatic territory.

the-imitation-game-benedict-cumberbatchThere is also a pair of intellectual-leaning biopics that could be in the awards race: the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game and the Stephen Hawking film The Theory of EverythingBenedict Cumberbatch leads the former for The Weinstein Company as Imitation Game tells the story of the mathematician who cracked the Nazi code during World War II, becoming responsible for bringing the war to an end.  He was later tried and prosecuted by the British government for being a homosexual.  As for The Theory of Everything, the picture sees Eddie Redmayne taking on the role of Hawking and follows his struggle with a debilitating motor neuron disorder while he’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough.  Both films will play at TIFF, but The Imitation Game is expected to pop up at Telluride first.

On the smaller side of things, there’s also Jon Stewart’s highly anticipated directorial debut Rosewater to look forward to, as well as Ramin Bahrani’s drama 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon.  Both of these films are playing Telluride and TIFF, and one imagines the character-focused dramas could garner attention in the acting categories if the performances are up to snuff.  As for documentaries, we also have Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing “sequel” The Look of Silence, which will play both Venice and TIFF.

gone-girl-ben-affleck-kim-dickens-patrick-fugitOf course there’s also David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which are slated to have their world premieres a little later in the season at the New York Film Festival.  It’s unclear if either is an awards contender per se, but Fincher has certainly received a fair amount of (very deserved) Oscar love for his last few films, so Gone Girl will likely be in the mix for some technical categories at the least.  Anderson’s last film, The Master, proved to be a bit too dense for the Academy but managed to secure recognition for its performances, so Inherent Vice is a bit of a question mark as well.  If the rumblings about Inherent Vice are true, I could see it taking the same path as The Master and landing a couple of acting nominations.  Regardless, it’s wise never to count out Fincher or PTA.

I’ll be at TIFF this year doing awards coverage, and I’ll be logging regular Oscar Beat entries here on the site as I finally get a chance to see some of the aforementioned films.  Of course the films themselves are what really matters, but it will be fun to see which Oscar contenders emerge out of the Fall Film Festival season, and I hope you’ll join me these next six months as I explore the ups and downs of the 2015 race right here in Oscar Beat.

Venice Film Festival: August 27th – September 6th.

Telluride Film Festival: August 29th – September 1st.

Toronto International Film Festival: September 4th – September 14th.

New York Film Festival: September 26th – October 12th.

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Fall Film Festival Preview




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  • Johnson

    Wonderful suggestions, but what about Interstellar?…

    • the king of comedy

      I agree that Intertellar migh be an Oscar contender, and also Big Eyes from Tim Burton (finally a Tim Burton movie I`m anticipating), but those movies are not going to be seen in festivals, so that`s why they are not mentioned.

    • Adam Chitwood

      An awards contender for sure, but it appears to be skipping the festival circuit along with Unbroken.

  • Jamie Teller

    Here’s what I hope/think will be up for Best Picture:
    - Birdman
    - Boyhood
    - Foxcatcher
    - Fury
    - Gone Girl
    - Inherent Vice
    - Interstellar
    - Selma
    - Unbroken

    And if there’s a 10th film, the 5 most likely:
    - The Imitation Game
    - Men, Women, and Children
    - Mr. Turner
    - Theory of Everything (I guess)
    - Wild

  • Vulcan

    I think the Disappearance of Elinor Rigby or the Skeleton Twins might be those indie dramas that come out of left field and score several nominations (like Silver Linings Playbook, Juno, etc.). Also, I wouldn’t count out Selma.

    • Vulcan

      And Boyhood! I forgot about Boyhood. Definitely getting some recognition.

      • Vulcan

        Ok, here is my breakdown for awards.
        Definitely nominated:
        Boyhood
        Foxcatcher
        Unbroken

        Strong Chances:
        Interstellar
        Gone Girl
        Selma
        Men, Women, and Children
        The Imitation Game
        Theory of Everything

        Big Eyes
        Wild

        Could Go Either Way because the Academy can be weird sometimes:
        Birdman
        Inherent Vice

        Wild Cards:
        The Disappearance of Eleanore Rigby

        Skeleton Twins
        Grand Budapest Hotel
        Jane Got a Gun (if it actually does come out and is actually good)

        Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (mainly an acting nom for Andy Serkis)

      • GrimReaper07

        Why Unbroken? Jolie doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to directing.

      • Vulcan

        It just seems like the type of film that the Academy is really going to go for. Her last film wasn’t bad, it just had a lot controversy attached to it, and no one saw it.

      • Nona

        That Unbroken trailer looked like it was made for brain dead people.

      • GrimReaper07

        There’s some hope though. I think the Coens wrote the script. Also, Roger Deakins is doing the cinematography.

      • Person

        I don’t think Boyhood is a shoo-in, it’s very unconventional and Linklater is not an Academy darling like some other indie filmmakers.

  • Drax

    Guardians of the Galaxy for best picture, or these awards are a sham. its the best fucking movie of the fucking year.

    • Gerry Rock

      Groot for Best Actor..!!

  • Julio Navas

    These are my picks for Best Picture, Best Director, and the Best Acting categories:

    - American Sniper, Clint Eastwood
    - Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller
    - Interstellar, Christopher Nolan
    - Gone Girl, David Fincher
    - Inherente Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
    - Boyhood, Richard Linklater
    - Whiplash, Damian Chazelle
    - Birdman, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu
    - Into the Woods, Rob Marshall (The Academy is into musicals, so…)

    Posible Nomenees:
    - Wild
    - Big Eyes
    - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    - The Grand Budapest Hotel (I highly doubt it since Sony Pictures Classics has two strong contenders in Foxcatcher and Whiplash)

    Best Director
    - Christopher Nolan
    - Bennett Miller
    - Richard Linklater
    - David Fincher
    - Alejandro Gonzáles Iñarritu

    Best Actor
    - Steve Carell
    - Bradley Cooper
    - Michael Keaton
    - Miles Teller

    Best Actrees
    - Rosamund Pike
    - Meryl Streep
    - Amy Adams
    - Patricia Clarkson
    -

    Best Supporting Actor
    - J.K. Simmons
    - Channing Tatum
    -
    -
    -
    So far those are my picks.

    • Vulcan

      I thought Channing Tatum is the lead actor, and Steve Carell is the supporting.

    • the king of comedy

      American Sniper isn`t coming out this year, I don`t think Whiplash got noticed enough to be nominated either, I don`t think Into The Woods is going to be nominated, the academy likes musicals when done properly (same as movies from other genres) and Rob Marshall has proven to be a one time wonder with Chicago but doesn`t impress the critics and the academy anymore, I really hope they nominate Boyhood that movie is amazing I don`t understand why the academy looks over Richard Linklater, totally agree about the rest of the movies and also think that Big Eyes has a lot of potential, The theory of everything and The Imitation Game look intriguing I migh need to give them a chance since I`m not familiar with the directors, and Nailed also has a chance since the academy love David O Rusell

      • Vulcan

        American Sniper is getting a limited release for December 25, so that it can qualify. It’s not opening wide until January.

      • Vulcan

        American Sniper is getting a limited release for December 25, so that it can qualify. It’s not opening wide until January.

      • Neven

        Don’t believe everything you see on IMDb. David O. Russel’s Nailed won’t be released this year, nor ever, probably. They started filming that back in ’08. but everything fell apart half way through. Reportedly, they shot everything but one crucial scene, and it’s been sitting on a shelf ever since. Russel offically washed his hands off the project in 2010., and he’s currently working on his next movie Joy which is due to be released on December 25th 2015.

        Also, like Vulcan said, Eastwood’s American Sniper is getting a limited release on the 25th of December so it’s eligible for this awards season.

    • the king of comedy

      American Sniper isn`t coming out this year, I don`t think Whiplash got noticed enough to be nominated either, I don`t think Into The Woods is going to be nominated, the academy likes musicals when done properly (same as movies from other genres) and Rob Marshall has proven to be a one time wonder with Chicago but doesn`t impress the critics and the academy anymore, I really hope they nominate Boyhood that movie is amazing I don`t understand why the academy looks over Richard Linklater, totally agree about the rest of the movies and also think that Big Eyes has a lot of potential, The theory of everything and The Imitation Game look intriguing I migh need to give them a chance since I`m not familiar with the directors, and Nailed also has a chance since the academy love David O Rusell

    • Person

      Budapest is Fox, not Sony. And it won’t get a Best Picture nomination, it released too early in the year; the Academy has a short memory.

  • Person

    Good article, but Adam Sandler will not factor into this race at all. His movie might, but putting his picture in the main banner for this story is a joke. Really pulling for Gone Girl.

  • Neven

    Honestly, I don’t even care what gets nominated and what not anymore, because there is so many amazing films coming out and I simply can’t wait to see them all. Let’s get this party started!

    On a side note, I’m curious why there’s no mention of Nightcrawler in this article? I believe it looks amazing and like it could be a major contender at the Oscars this year.

  • Neven

    Honestly, I don’t even care what gets nominated and what not anymore, because there is so many amazing films coming out and I simply can’t wait to see them all. Let’s get this party started!

    On a side note, I’m curious why there’s no mention of Nightcrawler in this article? I believe it looks amazing and like it could be a major contender at the Oscars this year.

  • blake011

    Inherent Vice will be too divisive much like The Master. And much like The Master it will not get nominated for Picture and Director.

    • Nona

      PTA doesn’t make crowd pleasers or Oscar bait movies.

    • Person

      This one looks like it may have a slightly more conventional narrative though, so hopefully that translates to “Academy members can understand this movie and therefore nominate it.”

  • Norbert

    Look out for Nightcrawler and Jake Gylenhaal in it.

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