If it seems a little early to be speculating on what movies might receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination for 2013… well, not really. Granted, most of these titles don’t even have trailers yet and the majority won’t be released until fall. Some don’t even have set release dates at the moment.
However, I realized that if this blog existed one year ago today and I had produced a list of 25 potential films, I would have included Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty. These composed six of the nine features nominated and the winner.
Scouring over the list of movies coming out in the remainder of the year, some things are for certain: there will be surprises. Films that come out of nowhere on the festival circuit that will become contenders. Also: some of the movies mentioned here will simply not pan out, not get very good reviews, and disappear from consideration. A 2012 example: Hyde Park on Hudson, with Bill Murray playing President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It certainly would have been on my list of consideration one year ago today. The picture was released, wasn’t well-received, and came and went quickly. Finally, I’m guessing at least five of the titles mentioned here will end up getting Best Picture nominations. Among the 25 titles I’m listing, I will note my Top Five most likely contenders for the big prize at this juncture.
And with that, here are 25 Early Best Picture Contenders for the 2013 Oscars:
August: Osage County
This family drama, from director John Wells (known more for his TV work on ER and The West Wing) has an impressive cast that includes Oscar darling Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, and Ewan McGregor. Release Date: November 8.
This is Richard Linklater’s third in his series of romantic dramas starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, following 1995’s Before Sunrise and 2004’s Before Sunset. The two earlier titles received enormous critical acclaim and the Academy may feel it’s time to honor them by honoring this one. The picture screened recently at the Sundance Film Festival to very positive notices. Release Date: May 24.
Woody Allen’s latest picture starring Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett. It’s a roll of the dice with Woody’s films. In 2011, his Midnight in Paris was his highest grosser of all time and earned a Best Picture nomination. In 2012, his To Rome in Love opened to mediocre reviews and box office and received zero awards attention. Impossible to know where this one falls, but it’d be foolish to leave it out of the running right now. Release Date: July 26.
Director Lee Daniels got the attention of the Academy when his feature Precious scored a Best Pic nod in 2009. His follow-up, last year’s The Paperboy, was met with critical scorn. The Butler sounds like more an awards contender, with Forest Whitaker playing a real life person who served as a White House butler for eight Presidents. The Butler will certainly garner attention for Whitaker’s performance. It includes an impressive supporting cast: John Cusack, Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Alan Rickman, and Jane Fonda, among others. Release Date: October 18.
Paul Greengrass is the man responsible for directing the second and third Jason Bourne flicks, as well as United 93. This feature focuses on the Somali Pirate hostage incident of 2009 and stars Academy heavyweight Tom Hanks. Release Date: October 11.
Ridley Scott directs this thriller about an attorney (Michael Fassbender) who gets involved in the world of drug trafficking. Scott has directed his share of Best Pic nominees and winners, including Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. This boasts a heckuva supporting cast, including Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem. Release Date: November 15.
The Dallas Buyer’s Club
Matthew McConaughey has experienced a career resurgence as of late, with critically acclaimed performances in The Lincoln Lawyer, Magic Mike, and Bernie. This film could earn McConaughey an Oscar nod, playing a HIV positive man in the 1980s who begins smuggling alternative medicine into the U.S. McConaughey underwent a drastic weight loss to play the character. A nomination for him seems quite possible, but if audiences respond to the movie as well, it could be a contender. Release Date: Fall 2013.
Focusing on the last two years of Princess Diana’s life, Diana may garner the most Oscar attention for Naomi Watts’s performance as the Princess. Once again, though, if the film is really good… Release Date: Fall 2013.
The sci-fi thriller is director Neil Blomkamp’s follow-up to 2009’s District 9, which received a Best Picture nomination. That alone makes it a contender. Elysium stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Release Date: August 9.
Director Bennett Miller’s last two featues, 2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball, both received Best Picture nominations. This drama focuses on the real life case of John duPont’s killing of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. With Steve Carell as duPont and Mark Ruffalo as Schultz, expect the actors to receive Oscar attention as well. Release Date: Fall 2013. TOP FIVE CONTENDER
This indie drama that premiered at Sundance recently inspired a bidding war among studios that the Weinstein Company won (the studio that knows how to get Oscar nominations). For some historical perspective, two 2009 nominees (Precious, An Education), two 2010 nominees (The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone) and a 2012 nominee (Beasts of the Southern Wild) debuted as Sundance and were audience favorites, like Fruitvale was. So its chances seem solid at the moment. Release Date: Undetermined.
Grace of Monaco
Like Diana, this picture focusing on the life of actress and Princess Grace Kelly may get more awards attention for Nicole Kidman’s performance in the lead role, as well as costars Tim Roth and Frank Langella. And like Diana, it could get a Best Pic nomination depending on how good it is. Release Date: December 27.
Director Alfonso Cuaron is one of the most acclaimed directors of the last decade, having made Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. This sci-fi drama stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Release Date: October 4.
The Great Gatsby
This one’s a big question mark. Director Baz Luhrmann’s retelling of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and 1974 Robert Redford film boasts an all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. Gatsby was pushed back from its original Christmas 2012 release date, a time period usually reserved for more award-worthy material. Its summer 2013 release date may boost its box office potential, but not its awards potential. Release Date: May 10.
Inside Llewyn Davis
You can never count any Coen Bros movie out of the Best Picture race. Three out of their last four features have received nominations (No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, True Grit). Davis focuses on the folk music scene in the 1960s and stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and Justin Timberlake. Release Date: Fall 2013.
Director Jason Reitman saw two of his films in a row, 2007’s Juno and 2009’s Up in the Air, receive nominations before his follow-up, 2011’s Young Adult got zero attention. This drama, starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Tobey Maguire, could be a return to form. Release Date: Fall 2013.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
This Mandela biopic with Idris Elba in the title role could certainly receive attention for its star and the movie itself. It was picked up by the Weinstein Company and given a plum awards consideration debut slot. Release Date: November 29.
George Clooney directs this World War II drama about a team of men sent to Germany to save priceless pieces of art before Hitler destroys them. With an all-star cast including Clooney, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, and Matt Damon, this one is undoubtedly a major contender. Release Date: December 18. TOP FIVE CONTENDER
A Most Wanted Man
Based on a John le Carre, this thriller stars Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, and Oscar darling Philip Seymour Hoffman. Release Date: November 2013.
Director Alexander Payne’s last two features, 2004’s Sideways and 2011’s The Descendants, both received nominations. That bodes well for this road trip drama starring veteran actor Bruce Dern and SNL alum (and MacGruber) Will Forte. Expect considerable attention for Dern for a Best Actor nomination. Release Date: Fall 2013.
Out of the Furnace
Scott Cooper’s directorial follow-up to 2009’s Crazy Heart (which earned Jeff Bridges a Best Actor win) is a crime thriller starring Christian Bale, Forest Whitaker, and Woody Harrelson. Release Date: Fall 2013.
Saving Mr. Banks
From director John Lee Hancock, who made the 2009 Best Pic nominee The Blind Side, comes this drama about the making of 1964’s Mary Poppins. With previous winners Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers, this could be a big hit and a nominee. Co-stars Colin Farrell and Paul Giamatti. Release Date: December 20. TOP FIVE CONTENDER
12 Years a Slave
The historical drama from Shame director Steve McQueen boasts a cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, and Paul Giamatti. Release Date: Fall 2013.
Untitled David O. Russell Project
Director David O. Russell has also seen his last two pictures, 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, earn nominations. This drama focuses on the Abscam political scandals of the 1970s and 1980s that brought down several Congressmen. Silver Linings costars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence join a cast with Fighter costar Christian Bale, as well as Jeremy Renner. Release Date: December 25. TOP FIVE CONTENDER
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese has seen four of his last five movies nominated (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Hugo). His latest is a crime drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, and Jean Dujardin. Expect this one to be considered a major player the whole way through. TOP FIVE CONTENDER