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Oscar Watching: Prepping for the Upcoming Season

The Oscar race won’t really begin for another few weeks, but given some recent developments – an infamous name change being among them – I figured I’d go ahead and resume Oscar Watching. Even before the Toronto International Film Festival kicks into gear, I’ve had to revise quite a few of my predictions.

I’m barely scratching the surface of what the season might offer, and it’s too early to be confident about anything, honestly. To that end, films like Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color, Richard Ayoade’s The Double, Steven Bernstein’s Decoding Annie Parker, Spike Lee’s Oldboy, and Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun could certainly register despite not appearing in my predictions.

Without any further ado, check out my first official predictions for the top eight races since February.


Best Picture

Am I crazy for sticking with The Railway Man? It’s been relatively quiet despite its obvious potential (World War II, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman), but its spot at Toronto gives me hope. Of course, one shouldn’t ignore American HustleDavid O. Russell’s follow-up to last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, at this point; perhaps Foxcatcher, the fact-based thriller from Bennett Miller about the murder of Olympic champ David Schultz, falls into the same category given the success of MoneyballSteve McQueen might break through to Oscar with 12 Years a Slave. If a sci-fi film makes it big at the Oscars, it’ll be Gravity from Alfonso Cuarón. Sorry, Pacific Rim.

George Clooney tackles multiple duties once again, now on the World War II-centric Monuments Men. Meanwhile, Alexander Payne is yet another Oscar fave who looks to join the mix. His last two films, 2004’s Sideways and 2011’s The Descendants, scored best picture and best director nominations and won the adapted screenplay race. Might his latest, Nebraska, follow in their footsteps? August: Osage County boasts awards cred on the Great White Way, but will it translate to cinematic success with John Wells, mostly a television director, at the helm? Lastly, Fruitvale Station looks like the only U.S. release thus far to stand any shot at getting a best picture nod. Paul GreengrassCaptain Phillips might be a hit with critics and audiences, but will it make waves with Oscar voters?

1. The Railway Man (Jonathan Teplitzky)

2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

3. American Hustle (David O. Russell)

4. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)

5. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

6. The Monuments Men (George Clooney)

7. August: Osage County (John Wells)

8. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)

9. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

10. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass) 

11. Philomena (Stephen Frears)

12. The Fifth Estate (Bill Condon)

13. The Book Thief (Brian Percival)

14. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan and Joel Coen)

15. The Counselor (Ridley Scott)

16. Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock)

17. Devil’s Knot (Atom Egoyan)

18. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

19. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)

20. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Lee Daniels)

21. Rush (Ron Howard)

22. The Past (Asghar Farhadi)

23. Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper)

24. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)

25. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)

Also worth mentioning: Labor Day (Jason Reitman), Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Justin Chadwicky), Tracks (John Curran), Elsa and Fred (Michael Radford), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), How I Live Now (Kevin Macdonald), All is Lost (J.C. Chandor), The Conjuring (James Wan), Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh)


Best Director

Even if Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man nabs the top prize, might voters prefer to honor a previous nominee, like Cuarón, Miller, or Russell, instead? Will McQueen pose a threat?

1. Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

2. Jonathan Teplitzky for The Railway Man

3. David O. Russell for American Hustle

4. Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher

5. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

6. George Clooney for The Monuments Men

7. John Wells for August: Osage County

8. Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips

9. Alexander Payne for Nebraska

10. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station

Also worth mentioning: Brian Percival for The Book Thief, Bill Condon for The Fifth Estate, John Lee Hancock for Saving Mr. Banks, Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Stephen Frears for Philomena, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Atom Egoyan for Devil’s Knot, Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis, Scott Cooper for Out of the Furnace, Ridley Scott for The Counselor, Ron Howard for Rush, Asghar Farhadi for The Past, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club, Lee Daniels for Lee Daniels’ The Butler


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams might have her best shot at Oscar to date for American Hustle – regardless of her category placement. Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock’s turn in Gravity might give her a career-defining performance; the domestic success of The Heat certainly can’t hurt. Meryl Streep would be the front-runner for August: Osage County if not for her recent win, but she’ll certainly earn a nomination if Oscar history tells us anything. New blood has missed out on most of the conversation, but Mia Wasikowska looks to have a huge year and could make the cut for Tracks. Cate Blanchett seems to be the only legitimate contender to arise thus far, so expect her to pop up for Blue Jasmine.

1. Amy Adams for American Hustle

2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

3. Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

4. Mia Wasikowska for Tracks

5. Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

6. Judi Dench for Philomena

7. Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks

8. Bérénice Bejo for The Past

9. Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant

10. Elizabeth Olsen for Thérèse

Also worth mentioning: Sophie Nélisse for The Book Thief, Saoirse Ronan for How I Live Now, Nicole Kidman for Grace of Monaco, Naomi Watts for Diana, Zoë Saldana for Nina, Kate Winslet for Labor Day, Jennifer Lawrence for Serena, Shirley MacLaine for Elsa and Fred, Keira Knightley for Can a Song Save Your Life?, Hailee Steinfeld for Romeo and Juliet, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County, Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Belle, Kristen Wiig for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carell could be this year’s best actor front-runner as Foxcatcher gives him the chance to display a different side of his acting talent, similarly to how Miller’s Capote allowed Philip Seymour Hoffman to do the same – and win an Oscar. Matthew McConaughey made a critical comeback this past year, and his role as an AIDS-stricken homophobe in Dallas Buyers Club should get him some attention. Bruce Dern’s Cannes prize for Nebraska helps but, ultimately, guarantees nothing. Colin Firth heads to Toronto with both Devil’s Knot and The Railway Man, the latter looking like his better shot at Oscar glory – at least in the lead actor race. Also, Chiwetel Ejiofor looks to contend for his performance in McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave.

1. Steve Carell for Foxcatcher

2. Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

3. Bruce Dern for Nebraska

4. Colin Firth for The Railway Man

5. Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave

6. Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station

7. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips

8. Benedict Cumberbatch for The Fifth Estate

9. Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

10. Robert Redford for All is Lost

Also worth mentioning: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Christian Bale for American Hustle, Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis, Forest Whitaker for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, George Clooney for The Monuments Men, Michael Fassbender for The Counselor, Joaquin Phoenix for Her, Christian Bale for Out of the Furnace, Josh Brolin for Labor Day, Ralph Fiennes for The Invisible Woman, Ben Stiller for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Casey Affleck for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Christopher Plummer for Elsa and Fred, André Benjamin for All Is By My Side, Jesse Eisenberg for The Double


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

The lineup I almost settled on just last night featured four performances from films backed by The Weinstein Company. However, a lineup with so many contenders from the same distributor – even TWC – is difficult to conceive. Still, I can only bring my count of Weinstein women down to three. Maybe Harvey’s got a stronghold on this race after all.

Regardless of how that turns out, projecting a winner at this point is almost impossible, but it might be one-time supporting actress nominee Oprah Winfrey‘s performance in Lee Daniels’ The Butler if the current buzz tells us anything. With backing from Weinstein and Oprah’s savvy, it’s not as crazy as you might think. Let’s see what happens at the box office. Oscar snubbed Cameron Diaz for both going against type (Being John Malkovich) and being sexual (Vanilla Sky), but can she finally get in for going against-type and being sexual in The Counselor? She might even win since Oscar loves comeback stories and paying its assumed dues. (But wouldn’t that help Oprah more?) Can Nicole Kidman’s supportive wife in The Railway Man get some love this season? Lastly, one should keep August: Osage County – and its bevy of supporting actresses – in mind at this point. But will Margo Martindale’s role stand out? And will voters buy the category fraud if Julia Roberts drops to supporting?

1. Cameron Diaz for The Counselor

2. Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

3. Margo Martindale for August: Osage County

4. Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale Station

5. Nicole Kidman for The Railway Man

6. Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

7. Julia Roberts for August: Osage County

8. June Squibb for Nebraska

9. Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine

10. Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Also worth mentioning: Penélope Cruz for The Counselor, Viola Davis for Prisoners, Catherine Keener for Captain Phillips, Julianne Nicholson for August: Osage County, Juliette Lewis for August: Osage County, Reese Witherspoon for Devil’s Knot, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Kristin Scott Thomas for The Invisible Woman, Laura Linney for The Fifth Estate, Zoë Saldana for Out of the Furnace, Shirley MacLaine for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Alfre Woodard for 12 Years a Slave, Cate Blanchett for The Monuments Men, Emily Watson for The Book Thief, Jessica Lange for Thérèse


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

I’ve got Mark Ruffalo at the top for Foxcatcher: The industry respects him, and it’s a physical transformation in a film that could make waves at the Oscars in its own right. Might Stellan Skarsgård find himself in the mix for The Railway Man? Benedict Cumberbatch probably stands a better chance of a nomination here than the other men in August: Osage County thanks to his baity role and year of breaking out as a film star. John Goodman features in Inside Llewyn Davis and The Monuments Men; while the latter might be a bigger Oscar hit, the former likely gives him more room to stand out. That he starred in last two best picture winners should help, too. Michael Fassbender missed out for Shame, but will 12 Years a Slave, his third feature with McQueen, be the charm?

1. Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher

2. Stellan Skarsgård for The Railway Man

3. Benedict Cumberbatch for August: Osage County

4. John Goodman for Inside Llewyn Davis

5. Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave

6. Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

7. Daniel Brühl for Rush

8. Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks

9. Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher

10. Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street

Also worth mentioning: Sam Shepard for August: Osage County, Chris Cooper for August: Osage County, Matthew McConaughey for The Wolf of Wall Street, Ewan McGregor for August: Osage County, Benedict Cumberbatch for 12 Years a Slave, Brad Pitt for 12 Years a Slave, Javier Bardem for The Counselor, Geoffrey Rush for The Book Thief, Bill Murray for The Monuments Men, Jeremy Renner for American Hustle, Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, Woody Harrelson for Out of the Furnace, Brad Pitt for The Counselor, Jeremy Irvine for The Railway Man, Colin Firth for Devil’s Knot


Best Original Screenplay

Wouldn’t it make sense for an innovative, groundbreaking film to take this category home? Cuarón’s Gravity might fit that bill, but the more traditionally baity American Hustle might end up being this year’s front-runner. Fruitvale Station now sits as one of the most discussed titles of the pre-season; can it hold onto its buzz after the season begins? The Counselor might be nothing more than a well-made thriller with an all-star cast, but Cormac McCarthy might ride a wave of name recognition to a nomination regardless. Can we expect Ethan and Joel Coen to fill out the rest of the category for Inside Llewyn Davis despite the black comedy’s home at CBS Films?

1. Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón for Gravity

2. David O. Russell and Eric Singer for American Hustle

3. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station

4. Cormac McCarthy for The Counselor

5. Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis

6. Asghar Farhadi for The Past

7. Peter Morgan for Rush

8. Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine

9. Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith for Saving Mr. Banks

10. Bob Nelson for Nebraska

Also worth mentioning: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club, Scott Cooper and Brad Inglesby for Out of the Furnace, J.C. Chandor for All is Lost, Carey W. Hayes for The Conjuring, Neill Blomkamp for Elysium, Jeff Nichols for Mud, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for The Way, Way Back, David Lowery for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Aaron Guzikowski for Prisoners, James Gray and Richard Menello for The Immigrant, Scott Z. Burns for Side Effects, Derek Cianfrance, Bob Coccio, and Darius Marder for The Place Beyond the Pines, Arash Amel for Grace of Monaco, Stephen Jeffreys for Diana


Best Adapted Screenplay

I’m still rather high on The Railway Man’s chances, as you can tell, so I think it could take this prize home. But what do we make of August: Osage County? Will buzzed-about titles like 12 Years a Slave, Foxcatcher, and The Monuments Men pose major threats? And what about the World War II-set Book Thief from Michael Petroni?

1. Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson for The Railway Man

2. Tracy Letts for August: Osage County

3. E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for Foxcatcher

4. John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave

5. Michael Petroni for The Book Thief

6. George Clooney and Grant Heslov for The Monuments Men

7. Billy Ray for Captain Phillips

8. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson for Devil’s Knot

9. Josh Singer for The Fifth Estate

10. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater for Before Midnight

Also worth mentioning: William Nicholson for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Steve Conrad for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street, Lee Daniels and Danny Strong for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Abi Morgan for The Invisible Woman, Christopher Kyle for Serena, Andrew Bovell for A Most Wanted Man, Luc Besson and Michael Caleo for The Family, Jullian Fellowes for Romeo and Juliet, Joss Whedon for Much Ado About Nothing, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for The Spectacular Now, Anna Pavignano and Michael Radford for Elsa and Fred, Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Dan Scanlon for Monsters University

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The Author

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.