Preliminary 2011 Oscar Contenders: Part One

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As of right now, I have a list of 72 individual films that could potentially go on to become 2011 Oscar nominees. If you take into consideration the additional films I currently have listed as animated and documentary contenders the list grows to 85 films. As a result I am going to break up this preliminary list of Oscar contenders into four articles and on the fifth day, this coming Friday, I will publish the list in its entirety. I felt it would be easier to digest everything this way as opposed to offering one massive list you probably wouldn’t be able to look over all at once.

As for the list itself, it should be looked at as 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.

However, taking that into consideration, each day will be presented in alphabetical order and the following day will pick up exactly where the previous left 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 the first twenty films…

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Quick Thoughts: Directed by Danny Boyle whose last film, Slumdog Millionaire, racked up eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay returns with James Franco, who seems to be an actor just prime for Oscar recognition. With Fox Searchlight handling this film you would have to expect they will know exactly what to do with it should it live up to the billing. Just look what they did at the end of last season with the late run for Crazy Heart and Jeff Bridges sweeping the major awards. I also think the Academy may need to make up for the obvious dismissal of Anthony Dod Mantle’s work on Antichrist and give him a look for what I expect to be some great cinematography with what should be a predominately outdoor and on location shoot.
Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Still looking for distribution
Directed By: Eric Mendelsohn

Quick Thoughts: 3 Backyards, directed by Eric Mendelsohn, doesn’t currently have a distributor, but after winning the Directing Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival as well as being nominated for the Grand Jury Prize I have a hard time believing this one won’t make it to theaters this year.

Release Date: July 30, 2010
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Directed By: George Nolfi

Quick Thoughts: George Nolfi is best known as the co-writer on The Bourne Ultimatum, but this year he’ll make his directorial debut on The Adjustment Bureau which he adapted for the screen based on the Philip K. Dick short story “Adjustment Team”. The film stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt for your acting consideration and with cinematography by two-time Oscar winner John Toll (Braveheart and Legends of the Fall), the score composed by ten-time Oscar nominee (never won) Thomas Newman and editing by Jay Rabinowitz (The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream) I think you can find more to consider.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Newmarket Films
Directed By: Alejandro Amenbar

Quick Thoughts: Newmarket Films picked up distribution rights to Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora, but there is still no word on when they plan to distribute the picture, which has drawn mixed reactions from festival showings. Starring Rachel Weisz and considering Amenabar’s previous films (The Others and The Sea Inside) it’s hard not to think this film will have some sort of chance at awards recognition. Also look out for Oscar winner Dario Marianelli’s score and this one could be prime for art direction and costume nominations.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Still looking for distribution
Directed By: Andrew Jarecki
Quick Thoughts: Oscar-nominated Capturing the Friedmans documentarian Andrew Jarecki directs his first feature length narrative All Good Things and fills his cast with the likes of Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kristen Wiig and Frank Langella. The film is described as an intriguing love story and murder mystery set against the backdrop of a New York real estate dynasty in the 1980s. The Weinsteins are no longer distributing domestically as Jarecki spent several million dollars to regain the U.S. rights and now he and his team at Creative Artists Agency are meeting with potential distributors and hope to have a deal in place shortly.
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Distributor: Focus Features
Directed By: Anton Corbijn

Quick Thoughts: Anton Corbijn’s follow-up to Control in the thriller The American starring George Clooney as an assassin out on his final assignment with a script by Rowan Joffe adapted from Martin Booth’s novel. Corbijn’s Control was unfortunately overlooked, but the casting of Clooney guarantees this one won’t be which means other facets may also get recognized whereas they were dismissed before, such as Martin Ruhe for cinematography (which was spectacular in Control).

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed By: David Michod

Quick Thoughts: Sony Pictures Classics picked up Animal Kingdom after it won the Grand Jury Prize (World Cinema – Dramatic) at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and while it may be more likely this will be a film for the Independent Spirit Awards, I won’t count out David Michod’s feature until I’ve had a chance to see it.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Focus Features
Directed By: Mike Leigh

Quick Thoughts: Anytime Mike Leigh makes a film we must stand up and take notice. Personally I loved Happy-Go-Lucky in 2008, a film which earned Leigh an original screenplay Oscar nomination and this time he’s brought back his Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) and reteams with Jim Broadbent for the third time. Leigh also has brought with him BAFTA Award nominated editor Jon Gregory (In Bruges and The Road). To say there is Oscar potential here is an understatement.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Still looking for distribution
Directed By: Richard J. Lewis
Quick Thoughts: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” director/producer Richard J. Lewis is taking a stab at feature film directing for the first time since his debut feature release Whale Music in 1994, but this time around he has attracted a much more impressive cast including Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Rachelle Lefevre , Scott Speedman and Bruce Greenwood . The synopsis is limited, but the cast makes it an attractive prospect as it tells the story of the politically incorrect, fully lived life of the impulsive, irascible and fearlessly blunt Barney Panofsky (Giamatti). Michael Konyves adapted the story from Mordecai Richler’s novel.
Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Directed By: Jodie Foster

Quick Thoughts: Jodie Foster reunites with her Maverick star Mel Gibson, directing him in The Beaver, the story of a man who walks around with a puppet of a beaver on his hand and treats it like a living creature. Foster also plays a role in the film as Gibson’s wife and Anton Yelchin is aboard as the son of the family. The script is an original written by first-timer Kyle Killen. Gibson’s return to the big screen was a bummer earlier this year with Edge of Darkness, but perhaps The Beaver will have better results.

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