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Oscar Watching: Does 12 YEARS A SLAVE Lead the Race?

The Telluride Film Festival came to a close on Monday. Of course, the festival didn’t end without showcasing a number of potential Oscar contenders. Films like J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, the Coen BrothersInside Llewyn Davis, and Alexander Payne’s Nebraska already played at Cannes; the stateside premieres led to only more raves. And the Venice Film Festival is still happening. But before Venice announces its winners, it’s time to check out how the films have played thus far.

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, the true story about a man sold into slavery, played to raves at Telluride, meaning the director might break through to both audiences and Oscar voters with his third feature. 12 Years should easily nab bids for best picture, McQueen in the director race, Chiwetel Ejiofor in best actor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o’s supporting performances, and John Ridley’s adaptation – not to mention the various crafts races.

There’s also Labor Day, the first straightforward drama from director Jason Reitman. Add Kate Winslet to the list of previous Oscar winners in the running to return, and Josh Brolin could earn a second nomination in the supporting actor race for his performance. Denis Villeneuve‘s drama Prisoners also premiered to strong notices. It’s unlikely to make waves in the best picture race, but Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal might register in the actor and supporting actor races, respectively.

Stephen Frears’ dramedy Philomena divided critics at Venice, but watch out for Judi Dench’s turn as a mother searching for her long-lost song. She could easily snag another best actress nod under the guidance of The Weinstein Co. Dench might even win the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical if that’s how Weinstein campaigns Philomena.

Speaking of The Weinstein Co., the distributor picked up John Curran’s Tracks, which played at Venice and Telluride and earned raves for Mia Wasikowska’s leading performance as Robyn Davidson. Weinstein might give the actress, who’s worked with plenty of Oscar voters and featured in several Oscar hits over the years, a major push in the best actress race – one virtually devoid of newcomers at the moment. This is, of course, assuming it hits theaters by the end of the year.

My faith in Jonathan Teplitzky’s World War II drama The Railway Man as an Oscar contender wanes. Will the film break through – and, more importantly, find a distributor – at Toronto, or will it slip through the cracks? We’ll see.

Ralph FiennesThe Invisible Woman, in which the director also stars as Charles Dickens and Felicity Jones plays his young lover, failed to pick up the strong notices for which distributor Sony Pictures Classics had hoped at Telluride. Meanwhile, Peter Landesman‘s Parkland, which centers on events on the day of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, played to even less favorable notices.

At the box office, moviegoers made Lee Daniels’ The Butler the number one film for a third consecutive weekend, making the civil rights drama the first film to achieve that feat in 2013, according to Deadline Hollywood. Oprah Winfrey’s supporting turn will likely vie for the gold, but Lee Daniels’ The Butler might also contend for lead actor (Forest Whitaker’s mostly subtle performance), supporting actor (David Oyelowo’s brilliant balancing of a coming-of-age narrative and important happenings in the civil rights movement), and even best picture. Keep an eye out for Danny Strong in the adapted screenplay race, too, but I imagine the film might miss out there.

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine slipped out of the weekend top 10 despite pulling in more money. Cate Blanchett’s performance still leads the best actress race, according to most, but will that change in the coming weeks? If the season begins to focus on other contenders, how will Allen and Sally Hawkins fare?

Potential contenders like Shane Salerno’s doc Salinger, which played to strong notices at Telluride, and Lynn Shelton’s Sundance player Touchy Feely get limited releases this weekend, while the only wide release, Riddick is unlikely to register during the awards season.

Check out this week’s predictions below, and feel free to chime in with a comment.

Best Picture

Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davis get major boosts thanks to their success at Telluride. 12 Years a Slave could go all the way, but will films like American Hustle, Gravity, and The Railway Man stand in its way?

1. The Railway Man (Jonathan Teplitzky)

2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)

3. American Hustle (David O. Russell)

4. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

5. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)

6. August: Osage County (John Wells)

7. Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)

8. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Lee Daniels)

9. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

10. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan and Joel Coen)
11. Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)
12. The Monuments Men (George Clooney)
13. Philomena (Stephen Frears)
14. Rush (Ron Howard)
15. The Counselor (Ridley Scott)
16. The Book Thief (Brian Percival)
17. The Fifth Estate (Bill Condon)
18. Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock)
19. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
20. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
21. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller)
22. All is Lost (J.C. Chandor)
23. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
24. Labor Day (Jason Reitman)
25. Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper)

Also worth mentioning: Before Midnight (Richard Linklater), Devil’s Knot (Atom Egoyan), Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve), Tracks (John Curran), The Past (Asghar Farhadi), Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Justin Chadwick), Elsa and Fred (Michael Radford), How I Live Now (Kevin Macdonald), The Conjuring (James Wan), Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh), Ender’s Game (Gavin Hood)

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón could take the prize, but McQueen will be hot on his trail. Expect Bennett Miller and David O. Russell to be competitive as well. Meanwhile, Teplitzky is a huge question mark at this point.

1. Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

2. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

3. Jonathan Teplitzky for The Railway Man

4. David O. Russell for American Hustle

5. Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher

6. Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
7. Alexander Payne for Nebraska
8. John Wells for August: Osage County
9. Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips
10. Lee Daniels for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Also worth mentioning: Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis, George Clooney for The Monuments Men, 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, Ron Howard for Rush, Stephen Frears for Philomena, Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine, Atom Egoyan for Devil’s Knot, Scott Cooper for Out of the Furnace, Ridley Scott for The Counselor, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club, John Curran for Tracks

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Surprise, everyone: Meryl Streep returns. The brouhaha that was the announcement of supporting campaign made The Weinstein Co. think twice about that decision, so she’s back in the leading race.

Word on Winslet is strong enough for her to break through… or is it? It’s a stacked year, and Dench is in the mix, too. I can’t imagine the lineup consisting solely of previous winners and nominees; it’s too early to declare anything as definitive, honestly. I still have Wasikowska in my top five, but Tracks could very well be released next year. If that’s the case, Dench or maybe Winslet should have no trouble making the top five.

1. Amy Adams for American Hustle

2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

3. Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

4. Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine

5. Mia Wasikowska for Tracks

6. Judi Dench for Philomena
7. Kate Winslet for Labor Day
8. Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks
9. Bérénice Bejo for The Past
10. Adèle Exarchopoulos for Blue is the Warmest Color

Also worth mentioning: Julia Roberts for August: Osage County, Sophie Nélisse for The Book Thief, Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha, Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Belle, Elizabeth Olsen for Therese, Brie Larson for Short Term 12, Shailene Woodley for The Spectacular Now, Marion Cotillard for The Immigrant, Nicole Kidman for Grace of Monaco, Naomi Watts for Diana, Zoë Saldana for Nina, Shirley MacLaine for Elsa and Fred, Keira Knightley for Can a Song Save Your Life?, Hailee Steinfeld for Romeo and Juliet

Best Actor in a Leading Role

We won’t know anything about Foxcatcher until it screens, but I’m confident enough to keep Steve Carell at the top despite a resurgence of buzz for Bruce Dern and Robert Redford. However, it might all be for naught: Ejiofor might will be the one to beat if 12 Years goes all he way.

I’m still holding out on The Railway Man, so I’ve got Colin Firth barely edging out Redford. There’s sentiment for the All is Lost star, who’s never won an acting Oscar. But he already has a competitive Oscar (for directing) and an honorary prize from AMPAS, so will there be enough sentiment for him to make the cut? Maybe Dern hogs the goodwill this year?

1. Steve Carell for Foxcatcher

2. Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

3. Bruce Dern for Nebraska>

4. Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave

5. Colin Firth for The Railway Man

6. Robert Redford for All is Lost
7. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips
8. Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station
9. Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis
10. Forest Whitaker for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Also worth mentioning: Chris Hemsworth for Rush, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Fifth Estate, Hugh Jackman for Prisoners, Idris Elba for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Christian Bale for American Hustle, George Clooney for The Monuments Men, Michael Fassbender for The Counselor, Joaquin Phoenix for Her, Christian Bale for Out of the Furnace, 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

Oprah definitely has the hype right now, but Cameron Diaz might steal her thunder for her performance in The Counselor. Then again, a win for Oprah might be the best way for AMPAS to recognize Lee Daniels’ The Butler. But what about breakthrough Nyong’o? If 12 Years sweeps, she might come along for the ride.

1. Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

2. Cameron Diaz for The Counselor

3. Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

4. Octavia Spencer for Fruitvale Station

5. Margo Martindale for August: Osage County

6. Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle
7. Nicole Kidman for The Railway Man
8. Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
9. June Squibb for Nebraska
10. Amy Adams for Her

Also worth mentioning: Naomie Harris for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Jennifer Garner for Dallas Buyers Club, Emily Watson for The Book Thief, Viola Davis for Prisoners, Melissa Leo for Prisoners, Penélope Cruz for The Counselor, Catherine Keener for Captain Phillips, Julianne Nicholson for August: Osage County, Juliette Lewis for August: Osage County, Reese Witherspoon for Devil’s Knot, 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, Jessica Lange for Therese

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

I still have Mark Ruffalo winning this race despite an overhaul of my predictions in this race. It’s still a confusing category to predict, but Fassbender, John Goodman, and Jared Leto might enjoy their first Oscar nods.

1. Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher

2. Jeremy Renner for American Hustle

3. John Goodman for Inside Llewyn Davis

4. Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave

5. Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

6. Stellan Skarsgård for The Railway Man
7. Bradley Cooper for American Hustle
8. Benedict Cumberbatch for August: Osage County
9. Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks
10. Hiroyuki Sanada for The Railway Man

Also worth mentioning: Josh Brolin for Labor Day, Javier Bardem for The Counselor, Geoffrey Rush for The Book Thief, Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street, David Oyelowo for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher, Daniel Brühl for Rush, 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, Woody Harrelson for Out of the Furnace, Jeremy Irvine for The Railway Man, Colin Firth for Devil’s Knot, Jake Gyllenhaal for Prisoners

Best Original Screenplay

The Counselor slips as Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska picked up steam at Telluride. It’s also impossible to ignore Allen’s Blue Jasmine at this point.

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. Ethan and Joel Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis

5. Bob Nelson for Nebraska

6. Woody Allen for Blue Jasmine
7. Cormac McCarthy for The Counselor
8. Asghar Farhadi for The Past
9. Peter Morgan for Rush
10. Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith for Saving Mr. Banks

Also worth mentioning: Aaron Guzikowski for Prisoners, 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, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright for The World’s End, Carey W. Hayes for The Conjuring, 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, 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

Best Adapted Screenplay

Three weekends at the top of the domestic box office could help Lee Daniels’ The Butler become an Oscar favorite. It’d be foolish to leave Danny Strong out of my predictions at the moment, wouldn’t it?

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

2. E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for Foxcatcher

3. John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave

4. Tracy Letts for August: Osage County

5. Danny Strong for Lee Daniels’ The Butler

6. Michael Petroni for The Book Thief
7. George Clooney and Grant Heslov for The Monuments Men
8. Billy Ray for Captain Phillips
9. Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson for Devil’s Knot
10. Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater for Before Midnight

Also worth mentioning: Josh Singer for The Fifth Estate, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope for Philomena, William Nicholson for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Steve Conrad for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Jason Reitman for Labor Day, Terence Winter for The Wolf of Wall Street, 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.