By Brian Susbielles
As we enter the second half of the year, people like myself begin the countdown to certain movies and prepare ourselves for unscheduled movies that can pop out and make a splash on the Oscar radar. Telluride, Venice, and Toronto are on the horizon, which means Oscar watch is on. Already, Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road has been thrown into the mix as a contender for Best Picture (not to win, but for a nomination), and trailers of other high-bar movies have been released or will be soon. The schedule is already out and people are keeping tabs of what to watch for.
Big names are in line for the acting and directing categories, as well as their respective movies’ chance of getting into the Big Dance (the Academy reaffirmed the number of BP nominations being 5 to 10). Here are some of the films that have buzz based on their cover and previews:
- Black Mass (Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch; released October 18)
- The Walk (Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley; released October 2)
- Steve Jobs (Starring Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels; released October 9)
- Bridge Of Spies (Starring Tom Hanks; released October 16)
- Brooklyn (Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson; released November 6)
- By The Sea (Starring Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt; Released November 13)
- In The Heart Of The Sea (Starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw; released December 11)
- The Hateful Eight (Staring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh; released December 25)
- Joy (Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro; released December 25)
- The Revenant (Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy; released December 25)
Those are my ten most intriguing works to be seen later this year, but there are many others. Some will scream out SPECTRE or Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but they are not – at least by Academy standards – to be thought of as a major Oscar threat. Others not on the list tend to pop out in Telluride or Toronto, making their mark known as a movie not to be missed. The ten here are either true stories, romantic, or are expected to have great dialogue and performances. The Academy tends to like the true story movies and actors who can transform into their real life characters; just ask them on Eddie Redmayne and The Theory Of Everything. (Speaking of which, Redmayne will be in The Danish Girl, about the first known recipient of sexual reassignment surgery. There’s Oscar bait all over that).
Big name directors are also attached here, along with past winners. Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) finished up Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg is on Bridge of Spies, Quentin Tarantino is following up on Hateful Eight, three-time consecutive Oscar loser David O. Russell is hoping to find Joy, and The Revenant has last year’s winner, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, at the helm. Ron Howard is anchoring In The Heart Of The Sea, which initially was to be released in March, but got moved to December after a test screening showed a strong liking. The Walk, the story behind the Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire, will debut at the New York Film Festival.
Last year, Whiplash was the Sundance hit that got into the Oscar race and won for JK Simmons’ performance. Fox Searchlight bought this year’s hit, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl for $12 million, as well Brooklyn, an Irish romantic story, for $9 million. With Fox Searchlight’s track record, one or both could be threats; however, I put down the latter movie on my list because the Academy (unfortunately) does not really dig high school-based teen movies. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower was a hit both critically and commercially, but never had its Oscar scent picked up by the voters. Boyhood, on the other hand, went above and beyond where it was virtually unanimous to be an Oscar front-runner, even with its release by IFC Films in the summer.
Of course, I write this (as of June 27, 2015), where anything can swift dramatically. Expectations of movies can fall short (a lot do) and those who never saw it with potential becomes a surprise hit and make its mark. The festivals of Venice, Telluride, and Toronto become a launching pad for the Oscar-targeting works (hello, Weinstein) and can change the course of what the voters fall for when it comes to casting their ballots. The hearts and minds of all are now opening to what awaits them the next six months.