The Grand Budapest Hotel- 3/7
Typically the Academy has this weird thing where they forget that movies get released from January through August. Thus movies specifically going for awards will set their release date at the end of the year. However, there is the rare occasion that films coming out early get attention, so I wanted to give a few early picks. Wes Anderson usually gets shafted during award season and with the early release date that will probably be the case here as well, but he's definitely conjured up a huge hit with The Grand Budapest Hotel. The reviews all around for the movie have been very positive and the movie has been killing it in limited release. This could be Anderson's biggest hit yet and if the Academy remembers that this movie came out, it could also be the first time Anderson gets some love from the Academy.
Million Dollar Arm- 5/16
Sports movies sometimes get love at the Oscars. All one has to do is look at The Blind Side and Moneyball to figure that out. Although Moneyball didn't win any Oscars, it received six nomination including best picture. I specifically bring up Moneyball because Million Dollar Arm is freakishly similar. Both movies are about using unconventional wisdom to put together a Major League Baseball team. Million Dollar Arm even has the Oscar-nominated Thomas McCarthy in charge of the screenplay. The only problem here is the release date. So instead of being the next Moneyball, this looks like it will instead be the next 42, a movie from last year that would've been in the conversation if it had come out later in the year.
Get On Up- 8/1
Oscar season officially gets underway around September or October, but there is often an August movie that sneaks into the picture. This year that candidate looks to be Get On Up. Chadwick Boseman is apparently the actor to cast if you are doing a biopic movie. Last year he got a lot of attention by portraying Jackie Robinson in 42. This year he takes on James Brown. As previously mentioned, 42 had release date issues. Get On Up, though, is in range for Oscar-love.
Gone Girl- 10/3
Two-time Oscar nominated director David Fincher has had a lot of success with the Academy recently with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. This year he has teamed up with Ben Affleck to take on Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl, about a woman who mysteriously disappears on her wedding anniversary. Fincher plus Affleck seems like a sure-fire hit on paper.
The Judge- 10/10
Robert Downey Jr. may get no attention from the Academy for his role as Iron Man, but he's no stranger to the Academy in his other roles as he has been nominated twice, most recently for his role in Tropic Thunder. He may get his third nomination this year for The Judge, which is a drama about a lawyer returning home to his mother's funeral to find that his father, the town judge, is suspected of murder. Initially this appears similar to last year's Prisoners, which may have gotten more nominations had it not been such a crowded field.
Kill the Messenger- 10/10
This next candidate for awards is a lot like the previous movie that I just talked about. Both The Judge and Kill the Messenger are crime dramas that feature an Avengers star with two Oscar-nominations looking for a third just before the Avengers sequel comes out. While The Judge features Iron Man, Kill the Messenger features Hawkeye, aka Jeremy Renner. Renner has received two recent nominations for his work in The Hurt Locker and The Town. Kill the Messenger is the true story of reporter Gary Webb, a reporter that becomes a huge target after after exposing the CIA. Renner of course plays Gary Webb.
Christopher Nolan is one of the most prolific directors of our day, which is why many are surprised that he has received no nominations for best director. Inception got a best picture nod, but that's as far as it goes with Nolan-directed films. Is this his year where he finally gets the love he deserves? Seems likely, especially since Interstellar has a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain.
The title of this movie may actually change before this movie comes out, so no laughing at me if you never hear of a movie called Fury. Moving on, can director David Ayer get an Oscar nomination? He can when his movie is a World War II drama released in November that stars Brad Pitt. Shia LaBeouf is also a main player in this. That would certainly shock the world if he somehow pulled off a nomination.
I mentioned earlier that sports dramas have a good history at the Oscars. While we have several of them this year, McFarland is the one that has the highest chance of earning nominations, specifically because it is released at the right time of the year. Kevin Costner is the star of this movie and his role in this is a track coach. Interestingly enough, this is actually his second sports drama that he is doing this year following April's Draft Day. Costner does well in sports dramas, so this could pay off.
Exodus concludes quite the lengthy streak of religious-themed movies in 2014. It may be a stretch to include it in this list, but if it's well received by all parties, it's in the right position. Christian Bale in December is a pretty safe bet to get the attention of the Academy. This also wouldn't be the first time a movie about the story of Moses got some love at the Oscars. Cecil B DeMille's classic film The Ten Commandments was nominated for seven Oscars back in 1957, including best picture. So it's possible.
Inherent Vice- 12/12
While nothing is for sure, out of all the movies I've mentioned thus far, Inherent Vice is one of the more surefire bets at Oscars. Director Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't come on the scene very often, but when he does, it's usually been gold. His previous outing, The Master, received three nominations. The time before that, There Will Be Blood received eight nominations. Inherent Vice reunites Paul Thomas Anderson with Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix narrowly missed out last year with Her, but it was with Anderson where he got his most recent best actor nomination with The Master, so he could be back on the scene again. Inherent Vice also stars Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, and Owen Wilson. It's possible for anyone of them to join in on the party.
Into the Woods- 12/25
Musicals have had good luck at the Oscars, most recently with Les Miserables. This Christmas brings us two musicals with Into the Woods and Annie. With the mixed reaction to the first trailer for Annie, I'll go ahead and wager that the movie gets similar reaction and thus miss out on awards. That leaves Into the Woods with the biggest chance of scoring nominations. It definitely has the cast to back me up on that. Meryl Streep has a role in the movie and being that she has had 18 nominations, it's safe to bet that she could easily add another to that. The movie also puts Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt in good positions to win out the hearts of the Academy.
I recently mentioned Inherent Vice as a surefire bet to get nominations. If I were to make official bets this early on, Unbroken is the other one I would make sure to include. The movie has Oscar-bait written all over it. Oscar darling Angelina Jolie has won for best supporting actress, been nominated for best leading actress, and most recently won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Now she is going for a best director nod with Unbroken. Joel and Ethan Coen are in charge of the screenplay with Roger Deakins doing the cinematography. Add to all that, this is another World War II drama. It follows the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japan. Here's a name for you to write down: Jack O'Connell. He's fairly unknown right now, but this time next year he could be a household name. He's plays the lead role of Louis Zamperini.
Untitled Cameron Crowe Project- 12/25
A movie with no title on this list? With Cameron Crowe at the helm, it's a good bet. Crowe is responsible for the Oscar-nominated films Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. He's also done We Bought a Zoo and Vanilla Sky. Whatever they decide to name this movie, it has Bradley Cooper leading the way with Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Jay Baruchel, John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride. It's about a military man who discovers himself while deployed on the island of Hawaii.
Foxcatcher- release date TBD
Foxcatcher was initially supposed to come out in 2013 and many thought it was going to be a major contender in this year's Oscars. Well, it got pushed back to this year so logic says if they finally decide on a solid release date than it will be a major contender this year. Director Bennett Miller hit two home runs with his previous to films, Moneyball and Capote, so there's a good chance of him hitting three in a row. The film is about Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz, whose brother David Schultz was killed by John du Pont. Channing Tatum actually plays the star role of Mark Schultz, but the major buzz is surrounding Steve Carrell as du Pont. It would be Carrell's first Oscar nomination. It would also be Tatum's first Oscar nomination if he gets some love as well.
The Cobbler- release date TBD
While there are certainly plenty of other candidates that will sift themselves out as the year goes on, the last one I will mention here is The Cobbler. This also doesn't have an official release date, but if they settle on 2014 with this, it could bring a lot of surprises. Writer/director Thomas McCarthy was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay work on Pixar's Up, so he has the talent. What makes this movie stand out to me is the potential of shocking the world by getting Adam Sandler an Oscar nomination. I've always said that Adam Sandler is a good actor. He just usually decides to be weird and goofy in his movies. He'll be out to prove that to the world this year. His co-stars include Glenn Fleshler, Dustin Hoffman, and Steve Buscemi