It’s that time of the year. The time when summer blockbusters fade into the distance, when some of the biggest festivals in the world gear up for their wide array of film premieres and of course, when I become nearly crippled by my intense cinephile excitement. The awards season is upon us!
The Academy Awards may still be six months away but September is that time of the year when it all begins again. Nearly every week brings with it the premiere of an under-the-radar critically acclaimed indie or an Oscar contender that wanted to get a jump on the competition. Thus begins my weekly drives up to Boston due to my inability to wait for the films to come to me.
This year however, is even more special for me. For the first time in my life, I will make the journey up to Canada to experience the Toronto International Film Festival. I will have the chance to view some of my most anticipated films of the season months ahead of time and it’s safe to say that I can’t wait for these next two weeks to fly by.
With all this being said, I’ve decided to compile a list of my most anticipated films of the coming awards season. This year brings films from some of my absolute favorite filmmakers and here’s hoping they are not overlooked (as they often are) by the Academy come early next year.
Honorable Mentions: Joe, Prisoners, Gravity, Out of the Furnace, Don Jon, Oldboy, Thor: The Dark World, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, American Hustle, Labor Day, Devil’s Knot, Insidious Chapter 2
5. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (December 25th)
“I’ll take the red one.”
It’s safe to say that Ben Stiller’s latest directorial effort wasn’t really on my radar prior to the release of its first trailer, but boy did that trailer ever make an impression. Easily one of the best of the year, the trailer is the perfect encapsulation of the saying ‘less is more’. It uses a Of Monsters And Men tune in place of dialogue and tells it story visually, setting up Walter as an outsider frustrated by his place in the world who decides to take a chance and go on a journey of self-discovery. A remake of an old Danny Kaye classic (which I have yet to see), Ben Stiller took a chance in taking this story on, especially considering his directorial efforts so far having been broadly comedic. If the trailer is any indication however, it has most certainly paid off.
4. Inside Llewyn Davis (December 6th Limited Release)
“You should be wearing condom on condom, and then wrap it in electrical tape.”
It’s still mind-blowing to me that the Coen Brothers have now become perennial Oscar nominees. They’re material is not typical of the Academy’s tastes and their off-beat humor is about as far from Oscar-bait as one can get. Yet here we are in 2013 and the Coens are very much in the hunt with their latest effort centered on a down and out folk singer and his cat. I’m a fan of the Coen brothers filmography and although I wouldn’t claim them among my absolute favorites, a film about the folk scene in Greenwich Village in the 60s may just get them in that group. With a fantastic cast including Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and yes, even the man who brought sexy back himself, Justin Timberlake, the odds are stacked incredibly high in the Coens favor this go-around. And yeah, the soundtrack will no doubt be incredible.
3. Foxcatcher (December 20th)
The only entry on my list that has yet to release a trailer is Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, which tells the true story of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) whose brother David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), also an Olympian, was killed by paranoid schizophrenic John du Pont (Steve Carell). Although he’s only directed two feature films so far, Bennett Miller has made quite the impression already. His first, Capote, won the Best Actor Oscar for Phillip Seymour Hoffman and his last outing, Moneyball, was nominated for six Oscars and landed on my year-end list as one of my favorite films of 2011. Another reason for my interest in Foxcatcher is the casting of Steve Carell. Although most of his film career thus far has been spent in the comedy realm, he’s certainly flexed his dramatic acting chops in Crazy, Stupid, Love. in addition to some of his work on U.S. television’s The Office. In those dramatic glimpses, I saw an actor with virtually limitless ability and I am predicting a big night for Steve Carell come next year’s Oscars.
2. 12 Years a Slave (October 18th Limited Release)
“I will survive, I will not fall into despair, I will keep myself hearty until freedom is opportune!”
One of the best kept secrets in filmmaking is about to have a big-coming out party this awards season. British filmmaker Steve McQueen has only two features on his filmmaking resume thus far, but they are two films of such a high-quality that it’s only fitting his latest film is one destined to put him on the map for good. With a distinct visual flair and the ability to get devastatingly real performances from his actors, the sky is the limit for McQueen and his latest pairing with the supremely talented Chiwetel Ejiofor is sure to be one for the ages. Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery and forced to work for a villainous slave owner played by frequent McQueen collaborator Michael Fassbender. Fassbender may just be my favorite actor on the planet and that is predominantly due to his lead performances in McQueen’s last two outings, performances that were easily among the best of their given years. I will hopefully have the opportunity to check this film out at TIFF, although tickets are sure to be a premium. Here’s hoping come year’s end that McQueen and company receive the attention they so desperately deserve.
1. Her (December 18th Limited Release)
“I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you.”
There has perhaps never been a filmmaker whose lived two seemingly opposite lives as has filmmaker Spike Jonze. He not only is one of the creators of Jackass (yes, that one) but he has also become one of the most distinct filmmaking voices of the last few decades. His work on films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation couldn’t be more different than a group of dim-witted friends taking various forms of punishment for the audience’s amusement, or are they? With his latest film Her, Spike Jonze tells the story of a lonely writer who falls in love with his computer operating system (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). Yeah, you heard that right. The writer is played by one of the best actors around, Joaquin Phoenix, who just last year delivered a performance for the ages in The Master. With Her, he looks to perform yet another heartbreaking portrayal of a severely lonely man. This film also marks the first occurrence of Spike Jonze making a film based on an original screenplay of his own. It’s safe to say that if the trailer is any indication, he’s picked up a thing or two from frequent collaborator Charlie Kaufman. Now, why is Her my most anticipated film of awards season? Well, it’s a depressingly real love story. Yeah, the story of my life.