Preliminary 2011 Oscar Contenders: Part Two

Welcome back for part two of my four part look at the early 2011 Oscar Contenders. If you didn’t check out Part One you can do so right here or use the link at the bottom of page two of this post. However, first things first, there has already been a change to part one as a watchful reader has pointed me to an article from the Los Angeles Times saying Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things is no longer at the Weinstein Co. as the director has bought back the domestic rights and is now shopping them around to potential distributors and hopes to have a deal in place shortly. This doesn’t change much, but it does mean we have a change in distributor.

There was also a slight change in my numbers as another film was added to my list, bringing the total to 73 individual films plus my animated and documentary contenders, which will bring the total to 86 films to be previewed over the course of this week ending with the entire list being published this Friday.

I will again remind you all, this is merely a guide to potential nominees, not a guarantee, not a lock, but simply films that could potentially go on to be remembered at the year-end Oscar race. A few of these films may not even be released in 2010. Several of these films still don’t have distribution. A few of these films just started production. Suffice to say, this list, as the headline says, is preliminary.

Each part of this list is being presented in alphabetical order, which means tomorrow’s part three will pick up exactly where this list leaves off. So, if you see a spot where a film may have been overlooked please comment below. I have not yet finished work on the new “The Contenders” section and once I open its doors I hope to have as comprehensive a list as possible. As the year goes on several of these films will drop off the list, others will be added and just like last year we will ultimately end up with our front-runners.

With all that said, let’s get started with part two, which includes yet another 20 films…

Release Date: July 9, 2010 (Limited)
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Quick Thoughts: The Duplass brothers had a minor breakout in 2005 with The Puffy Chair and also gained some attention for Baghead in 2008, but neither film was met with as much appreciation as Cyrus when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. As a comedy it may be more likely this film is heading to Golden Globe attention rather than Oscar, but the cast made up of the Oscar winning Marisa Tomei and Oscar nominees John C. Reilly and Catherine Keener means this one can’t be counted out of the race.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Miramax Films
Directed By: John Madden
Quick Thoughts: Another one of those “up in the air” Miramax titles is John Madden’s The Debt. Madden’s history with the Oscars includes the 1999 Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love, which is often brought up in Oscar arguments and this time he also heads back in time, just not as far. The Debt is set in 1965 and centers on three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. The cast is stacked and offers Sam Worthington’s second non-action feature of the year to go along with Last Night, but along with Worthington you have Helen Mirren in one of her four potential Oscar contenders (Love Ranch, Brighton Rock and The Tempest) as well as Jessica Chastain, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas and Jesper Christensen. On top of cinematography duties for Stephen Frears’s Tamara Drewe, Ben Davis puts in work here, Natalie Ward is on costumes, Jim Clay, Peter Francis and Dominic Masters on art direction and editing by Alexander Berner.
Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed By: Alexander Payne

Quick Thoughts: Alexander Payne’s The Descendants isn’t guaranteed to be a 2010 release as it just started shooting in Hawaii, but expectation is Fox Searchlight will release what amounts to Payne’s first feature release since the Oscar-winning Sideways in 2004 this year. With Clooney attached this is sure to draw major attention as he plays a newly widowed father – the descendant of landowners and one of the richest men on Oahu – who takes off with his two rebellious daughters to track down his wife’s lover on the island of Kauai.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Directed By: Jim Sheridan
Quick Thoughts: Dream House may not be ready for a 2010 release, but filming did begin on January 25, 2010, which means six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan’s thriller could be ready for a late year release and a serious Oscar push should the names attached turn out the film we would expect. The film stars Daniel Craig, Oscar nominated Naomi Watts and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz.
Release Date: November 5, 2010
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Directed By: Todd Phillips

Quick Thoughts: After the success of The Hangover, Todd Phillips’s Due Date can’t be counted out of the Oscar race and with a cast made up of Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx it only adds to the intrigue. Comedies don’t tend to inspire a lot of Oscar attention, but the tides do shift and with ten nominees who’s to say this won’t inspire the Academy members to change their ways?

Release Date: September 24, 2010
Distributor: Focus Features
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald

Quick Thoughts: Kevin Macdonald’s The Eagle of the Ninth is a big question mark. The director and studio say major Oscar potential but Channing Tatum playing the lead role of Marcus Aquila is a bit of an eye-roll. Macdonald missed the mark with State of Play last year, but that film’s production ups-and-downs make the end result a bit unsurprising, which has me looking at The Last King of Scotland as Macdonald’s work of comparison. As a film set back in Roman-ruled Britain this film will draw other comparisons that have it looking at a tough road. I do like Mark Strong, an actor that has both this film, Robin Hood and Peter Weir’s The Way Back as films that will all give him potential acting nominations. Anthony Dod Mantle will also draw cinematography attention here, Macdonalad editing regular Justine Wright is here, the art direction crew is sure to be a contender as are Oscar-winner Michael O’Connor’s costumes after he just won the Oscar for The Duchess one year ago.

What is sure to be interesting about this film is how Macdonald has gone on record saying the American accents the Romans are using isn’t by accident. He told the Times Online, “It was always my concept for this film that the Romans would be Americans… This is a film which in some way reflects some of the current anxieties and the political questions that we all have… That’s what we are doing – not simply reflecting on the Afghanistan or Iraq wars, but a sense of cultural imperialism.” This could all work out to the film’s favor, but I’m guessing not… at least in terms of Oscar.

Release Date: August 13, 2010
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Directed By: Ryan Murphy

Quick Thoughts: If anything, Eat Pray Love has to be looked at as this year’s The Blind Side, but the one thing it has going against it is Julia Roberts already has her Oscar. “Nip/Tuck” creator Ryan Murphy didn’t hit the Oscar big-time with Running with Scissors in 2006, but perhaps the adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoirs will sit better with the Academy than Augusten Burroughs did. It doesn’t hurt the cast also includes Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis and Billy Crudup.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Still looking for distribution
Directed By: Doug Liman

Quick Thoughts: There are a lot of thrillers on my early list of contenders and Doug Liman’s Fair Game hopes to be a hit with the Academy in a way Nothing But the Truth couldn’t two years ago. Starring Oscar nominate Naomi Watts and two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn is a good start, not to mention the story of Valerie Plame is particularly intriguing.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Directed By: David O. Russell

Quick Thoughts: David O. Russell is an interesting director who can deliver the excellent Three Kings and then turn around and offer a snoozer, if you ask me, in I Heart Huckabees. His last film, Nailed, may never see the light of day due to production issues and now The Fighter looks like a serious Oscar contender with talent such as Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams in front of the camera and Let the Right One In cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema behind it. Costumes and makeup in a the drama about boxer “Irish” Micky Ward’s (Wahlberg) road to the world lightweight title should also to be considered.

Release Date: July 30, 2010 (Limited)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed By: Aaron Schneider

Quick Thoughts: I don’t think I would get any early arguments from other Oscar pundits if I said Robert Duvall is the current frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar for Get Low considering many thought he’d be a 2010 nominee had the film been released last year. However, perhaps Sony Pictures Classics already assumed Jeff Bridges had the race locked and would enter their aging horse a year later. However, unlike Bridges, this wouldn’t be Duvall’s first win as he has already been nominated for an Oscar six times and won in 1984 for Tender Mercies. Will Get Low make it two?

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