Oscar Power Rankings Week 1
By: Henry J. Fromage –
Now that Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride are well in the books, and after Venice has handed out its Golden Lion and half the movies in the known universe debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, it looks like we finally have enough grist for the ‘ol Oscar mill. After many of the tons of exciting projects that looked like they’d be competing moved to 2013 or debuted to lackluster reviews, it’s actually looking like a surprisingly weak slate. Last year I had no trouble finding 25 true contenders, but barring some films coming out of the woodwork late, this race is a bit more concrete. Of course, I may be sitting in front of a plate of crow come February, but such are the dangers of prognosticatin’.
Oscar Power Rankings
1. The Master
Is this likely to be too smart and/or challenging for the Academy? Probably, but with early ecstatic reviews in and the track record of all involved, no film looks likelier this year to be held up as a massive Oscar snub… unless it wins, that is. Also: Weinsteins.
Another year, another Spielberg film with all the ingredients for Oscar domination. Should work out a bit better this time around.
3. Les Miserables
Tom Hooper got plenty of Academy love for The King’s Speech, and Oscar loves a musical that has the goods. On stage at least, this one has that in spades, and the cast gives one plenty to hope on.
Will this ambitious, true-life CIA meets Hollywood rescue tale finally get Ben Affleck some Oscar directing attention? Early reviews say yes.
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Earlier in the year this looked like it’d be lucky to inch into the race, and now after just about every critic that’s seen it has given it a pass and many competitors have fallen by the wayside, it’s beginning to look like a lock.
6. Silver Linings Playbook
No film got a bigger boost from the TIFF. Critics loved the mix of drama and comedy in David O. Russell’s latest, and it looks like it has what it takes for some nice box office support as well.
7. The Sessions
The other big Sundance debut is all but assured to get acting nominations for stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt, but doesn’t seem like it sticks out enough in other categories to make it a serious crown contender.
8. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s most accessible and financially successful work yet might also be his best chance to finally crack the Best Picture race. Could be this year’s Midnight in Paris.
9. Django Unchained
Sure, Tarantino scored big with Oscar with the like-minded Inglourious Basterds, but a similarly irreverent look at slavery might end up a bit too controversial for the Academy’s taste. We’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
10. Life of Pi
Early trailers and stills look gorgeous, and the source material is well-loved, but it’s been awhile since Ang Lee’s scored big with anything, and this could be a beautiful disaster. Rooting for it, though.
11. Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow returns to her Oscar-winning subject military subject matter, this time detailing the hunt for Bin Laden. Too close to The Hurt Locker? Too potentially political? I don’t care, I can’t wait.
If this was in English, this heartbreaking look at aging and loss would be a lock for multiple acting nominations and a much more besides. But it’s not, which makes it’s road to gold much rockier, but not impassable.
13. Promised Land
One of the latest debuting films of the year reteams Matt Damon and Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) in a tale about a community taking on the ultra-controversial fracking. John Krasinski helped write the script, which is always nice.
14. Anna Karenina
On the plus side, Joe Wright + Keira Knightley has proved a pretty potent team in the past (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement). On the negative are mixed early reviews that make the film, shot almost entirely on stage, sound incredibly intriguing to me, but also not like something that will get enough support to figure heavily into the race.
15. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Expect plenty of technical category love, but will the Academy be all Middle-Earthed out? Also, the fact that this is 1/3rd of a 300 page book can’t help matters.
Dustin Hoffman’s long-delayed directorial debut is by early word a potent, heartfelt look at aging. This is shaping up to be a bit of a blue-hair year, and this might be the best bet of the bunch to get Academy attention.
17. The Impossible
Outside of a stunning early tsunami sequence, reviews on this one are also quite mixed. The melodrama might play better with regular audiences than critics, though, and keep this one in the race.
It’s kind of hard to get a handle on this one. It’s been awhile since Denzell has had an Oscar-type role, and an alcoholic pilot whose heroism comes into question seems like it’s one of those. However, director Robert Zemeckis, freshly returned from the uncanny valley, could either help or hinder this one.
19. Killing Me Softly
Oscar somehow ignored Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt’s last film, The Assassination of Jesse James by that Coward Robert Ford, possibly just because they didn’t want anything to do with that unwieldy title. This one seems both pulpier and more political than they’d like, but a newly acquired prime release date and those canny Weinsteins might get this one further than you’d expect.
20. The Perks of Being a Wildflower
High school dramas are really outside of Oscar’s wheelhouse, but by all accounts Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own acclaimed novel knocks it out of the park. The marketing’s already mentioning Juno connections, so you never know.
21. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Say it ain’t so. By all accounts this is a toothless, if moderately enjoyable old folks comedy. There’s no reason this should figure into the race at all, but a healthy box office take and some big names on the cast list might propel it in all the same.
22. The Avengers/The Dark Knight Rises
Yeah, I know they made plenty of cash, and almost everybody loved them, but come on… not going to happen (okay, probably not going to happen).
23. Cloud Atlas
Can’t wait to watch this, but reviews were all over the place. They all seemed to agree, though, that it didn’t lack for chutzpah, and since when is shooting too high creatively a thing to be discouraged?
24. Trouble With the Curve
The latest reason Clint Eastwood was on everyone’s minds can’t have helped, but for me the first trailer’s light touch is reason not to expect a ton of Oscar love out of this one.
25. Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray playing FDR? Seemed to good to be true, and apparently it is. Still, My Week with Marilyn showed us last year that flashy roles can still overcome purely mediocre execution.
Honorable Mentions: Lawless, Rust and Bone, Mud, Looper, On the Road