The Descendants

As we get closer to the end of the year, Hollywood starts unloading all of their Oscar bait/prestige films. As of now, the only Oscar news hitting the waves is the shuffle of hosts (Congrats to Billy Crystal).  But like the Oscar host shake up, there are also other Oscar norms being altered. No guarantee for ten best picture nominees! Pixar’s probable absence in the best picture category! No Hans Zimmer! So let’s sort this out. Let’s take a moment and see which movies have the most chatter for award season thus far.

Now before going any further, I must remind you that some of these films have not been released to the general public and, at best, are coming from talk and buzz from very early reviews and screenings.

Early Locks:

The Artist

The Descendants: Perhaps the biggest critical darling so far. After premiering at the New York Film Festival, the movie is being helmed as the early front runner. Alexander Payne received a best screenplay award for Sideways and The Descendents could be his chance to take home the big award of the night. But an even stronger lock may be George Clooney for Best Actor.

The Artist: The movie that is making the most noise is the one not making any at all. This black and white silent film won Jean Dujardin Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and the movie is generating some favorable reviews, already picking up some early awards.  The movie should start gaining steam when released, especially with an older crowd.  Its real test will be how it performs with a wide audience. Expect The Artist to make many appearances at award shows. Also expect numerous award show parodies.

War Horse:  Steven Spielberg’s newest project won’t be released until Christmas and producers are keeping very hush hush on the project. But early audience screenings are overwhelmingly positive. Plus the movie has Oscar written all over it:

Period piece, check!

Steven Spielberg war film, check!

Based on Tony winning play, check!

Expect War Horse to perform very strong over award season.

War Horse

Side note: Don’t count out Spielberg/Peter Jackson collaboration, Adventures of Tintin. The movie has opened strong in Europe and reviews have been very nice. Although, it may not have enough prestige to get the best picture win or even nomination (it’s animated, Oscar voters tend to dismiss animated films). But with Cars 2 being a critical miss (a first for Pixar) Tintin should be a strong contender for Best Animated Feature.

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy: This is another film that is grabbing the attention from many critics. The movie has already been released in parts of Europe and has some strong buzz around Gary Oldman’s performance.  This may finally be the year the acting veteran may get his long overdue Oscar nomination. The film, which is based on an award winning miniseries, could definitely gain big momentum when it opens worldwide.

Strong Contenders:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Now it would be impossible to cover all bases on the overload of films being released but here are some others you may want to keep in mind.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Oscar nominated director, Stephen Daldry, brings this bestselling novel to the big screen. Not a whole lot of early word on this one but it could be a serious player given the subject matter and source material. Plus it has two big name Oscar winners, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Question is if the buzz can live up to the novel. Remember The Kite Runner?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: After The Social Network, David Fincher comes swinging back to his gritty serial killer narrative roots in the remake/adaptation of the film and book of the same name. The material is dark, graphic, and violent. It may be a little too bleak for Oscar members. Then again, it’s David Fincher and he is no stranger to the award game. Whatever happens, at least we got an awesome teaser trailer out of it.

The Help: One of the biggest surprises of the year (financially and critically) could also be an Oscar contender. Although the film may be a little too schmaltzy for a best picture win, a nomination is very possible. The Blind Side anyone? But the biggest contenders will come from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in their respectful acting categories. The question is if Viola Davis will contend in leading or supporting.

Tree of Life: Remember all that Oscar buzz when it was released this past summer. It even won the big prize, the Palme d’Or, at Cannes. Although it got a lot of early critical love, audiences didn’t really embrace it. Even its actor Sean Penn had some strong critiques about it. The film probably won’t do much damage come award season. But given its initial success, time will tell if critics will remember it.

Don’t Count Me Out

Young Adult

Young Adult: This one could be a surprise. Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody collaborate again after their award winning work on Juno. Early screenings are saying the movie is surprisingly dark, somber, and funny. Cody’s female characters tend to get the attention of voters; an Oscar nomination for Ellen Page (Juno) and an Emmy win for Toni Collette (United States of Tara). Then again, Jennifer’s Body didn’t fare too well for Megan Fox on any level.  However, Reitman has not made a misstep in his small handful of directed films and collaborating with Cody doesn’t hurt given their last results. Expect Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt to generate some buzz.

Moneyball: This film could very well get a best picture nomination plus an Oscar nomination for Brad Pitt. As good of a movie it is, it ultimately will make a lot of ‘best of’ lists, but won’t ever get the big awards. Like animated films, Oscar voters don’t take sport movies as seriously as they should. And this film is no different, even with Aaron Sorkin and Brad Pitt invloved.

Carnage: Roman Polanski’s film adaptation from the award winning play is getting a lot of buzz for its star studded performances.  And it should. The four main cast members have a combined total of twelve Oscar nominations and four wins. There could be some nominations, especially for Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. But they both just won Oscars a couple years back. This could be a contender for a best picture nod, but count on it to shake up acting nominations.

Midnight in Paris: This was a sleeper summer hit as well one of Woody Allen’s stronger films. It may face the problem of being released too early but the Academy loves Woody Allen. The movie might sneak in to fill in the comedy void. Most definitely an original screenplay nomination is in store.

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo: Not much to report for this one. There has been little released about this Cameron Crowe, Matt Damon project. It aims toward a more heartfelt tone and I’m not sure how serious this will play out come award season. Crowe hasn’t had a major hit since Almost Famousmore than a decade ago. But maybe the guy still has it in him. This one is a big question mark.

Now some really Dark Horses:

The Iron Lady

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: That’s right! Harry could finally make it to the best picture category. If there was ever a time Harry could make it, it’s now. The chances are against it but it’s very plausible. The movie has some serious critical love and it’s made some big cash worldwide. If the movie gets a nomination, the nomination would be its award. But I’m sure the crew is wouldn’t be complaining.

The Ides of March: This seemed like a serious contender a couple months back but it turned out to be good but not great, both critically and financially. Without strong support from critics or the public, the movie seems to have become a long shot. At best, Ryan Gosling may get a best actor nomination. The guy put out three good/great performances this year and this may be his best shot for a second Oscar nomination.

J. Edgar: This Clint Eastwood flick was also an early Oscar contender but reviews haven’t been too nice. At this point Leonardo DiCaprio is the only thing that may get any attention.

Bridesmaids: Its shining moment is more likely to come at the Golden Globe Awards but the Academy is sometimes opened minded enough to let one outsider sneak into a category. Bridesmaids has a truckload of positive reviews plus it was a huge summer hit. Probably won’t have what it takes to make it to the top but, despite not being an A-lister, Melissa McCarthy could surprise in the supporting category, ala Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder) and Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean).  But don’t hold your breath.

Hugo: As beautiful and well made that this family movie could be, it probably won’t be seeing best picture gold anytime soon. Could take some technical categories, but honestly, the only reason this could do something is cause of Martin Scorsese.

The Iron Lady: This is another mystery. Early screenings have been mostly mixed to negative. The only positive thing is Meryl Streep’s performance (Surprised?). Right now, the movie seems like a long shot but Streep is in front to pick up her third Oscar.