As in years past, so much hope lies in movies that few people, if any, have seen so far, and the last movie that has yet to premiere at the New York Film Festival (as of this writing) is Robert Zemeckis’ Flight (Paramount), starring Denzel Washington, which will be seen by critics bright and early on Sunday morning and everyone else at the World Premiere that night. It’s definitely one of the more interesting and so-far low-key entries because it hasn’t been at the top of many lists, but you can’t discount that Zemeckis is the man behind award-winning movies like Forrest Gump and he directed Tom Hanks to two Oscar nominations and the win for “Gump.” I’m sure many Academy members will be happy to see Zemeckis returning to live action films after years of performance capture animation and Washington has been long overdue for another Oscar nomination, having not received one since winning for Training Day ten years ago.
One movie that some may be surprised to even see mentioned is the upcoming 23rd James Bond movie Skyfall (MGM/Sony), because it’s been thirty years since the successful action franchise has been considered even worth mentioning. Before 1982, Bond movies were mostly nominated for their visual FX, sound and scores as well as two Oscar nominations for their theme songs (neither which won!), but this is the first time where they have an Oscar-winning director helming it in Sam Mendes, which could make all the difference. Not that we think it might get a Best Picture nomination or even director, but with a cast that includes previous winners Javier Bardem and Dame Judi Dench and nominee Ralph Fiennes, it’s obvious they’re upping the game for the 50th Anniversary. We think the best bet would be a supporting actress nom for Dench, especially if this is her last appearance as M, because this would seem like a stronger role than for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
A late-comer to the Oscar race is Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock (Fox Searchlight), a look at Alfred Hitchcock’s making of Psycho, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in the role of the eclectic often-namechecked director. One would assume that members of the Academy would thrill to movies like this, going by the support for My Week With Marilyn last year, but that only ended up with two acting nominations and we expect that much of the focus will be put on getting Sir Anthony his fifth nomination. Again, lead actor is going to be a tough category, and not having seen the movie, we think a nomination is a safer bet than a win. It also has a great supporting cast including Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson and while we’ll have to see where Mirren is placed, we think she has a good chance of being nominated as well.
One movie that’s already gotten a lot of buzz merely from its trailer is the musical Les Misérables (Universal), directed by The King’s Speech‘s Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper. The original musical was a big awards winner both on Broadway where it won 8 Tonys and in the original London production during the ’80s and one expects that having a serious movie version of the musical could elicit similar love among Oscar voters, particularly the acting branch. Many eyes are on Anne Hathaway’s supporting performance as Fantine, going by the way her rendition of the classic song “I Dreamed a Dream” is used in the trailer, and also on the performances by Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as Jean Valjean and Javert, but much of the movie will have to be carried by newcomer Samantha Barks as Éponine, a role she has performed in concert and the one that got a Tony for Frances Ruffelle in the original Broadway production. The cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, who previously appeared together in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a movie which won an Oscar for art direction and was nominated for two others but failed to find the Best Picture love expected, as well as popular young actress Amanda Seyfried. Winning over the Academy’s acting branch goes a long way to creating a Best Picture frontrunner and this one should have all the elements that appeal to them.
Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line/WB) is also on many radars, considering how many Oscars were won by his grand finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It may be in the same boat as those movies where it gets a lot of technical awards attention, but not any substantial consideration as a Best Picture contender. Part of this comes down to the Academy’s acting branch, since the original trilogy only received one acting nomination for Ian McKellen but only for the first movie, though The Hobbit has a lot of new cast members including Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and no matter how good he is, it’ll be hard to get into the crowded leading actor category. We wouldn’t be surprised if McKellen gets another nomination sometime during the upcoming trilogy.
Another interesting entry into Oscar season is Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company), his follow-up to the surprised awards contender Inglourious Basterds, and his first Western. It stars previous winner Jamie Foxx in the title role and reunites Tarantino with Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his role in “Basterds,” this time playing more of a protagonist role as a bounty hunter. Many eyes will be on previous Oscar nominee Leonardo Di Caprio, who plays the main villain, and could get into the race in a supporting role, and this might be the perfect time for a Tarantino Western, considering the number of accolades that went to the Coen Brothers’ True Grit a few years back. Then again, this could be more of an outright genre film like Kill Bill, which would make it harder for the movie to get into the Best Picture race. We’ll know more once we see it, obviously.
Even more than that, everyone will be eagerly awaiting Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (Sony), her follow-up to the multiple Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, which comes out in mid-December. So far, we know very little about the movie except that it involves the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and it has a talented and eclectic cast so we’re not sure which of the actors might have the spotlight placed on them, but there’s a good bet that last year’s nominee Jessica Chastain will be one of them.
Are there other movies coming out over the next few months we may have missed and that might surprise everyone or might we get a few last-minute additions? Possibly. But we think that the movies we discussed above will be the main players and the ones that will be talked about most over the next five months.
We’ll be back soon with a look at this year’s animation race and then more regularly as we start seeing some of the movies discussed above.