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Oscar Watching: A BLUE Oscar Race?

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At the Box Office…

When it comes to last weekend’s nationwide releases, I have to eat my words: I thought Gravity would, with ease, enjoy a fourth weekend atop the U.S. box office due to weak competition, but why I did I underestimate the Jackass brand? Its latest, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, debuted at number one in the U.S. with around $32.1 million. ButGravity still made an impressive $20.1 million in its fourth weekend and crossed $200 million in the States on Monday.

Last weekend’s other new wide release, The Counselor, meanwhile, managed $7.8 million – far behind the aforementioned films and and third-weekend holdover Captain Phillips. So much for Cameron Diaz. 12 Years a Slave performed well enough (around $2.1 million from 123 locations in its second weekend) to hold its place in the main Oscar conversation, and its expansion to 410 locations this weekend should only help its buzz grow.

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Looking at the new releases, Ender’s Game should top the weekend box office with around $25 million, but gaining Oscar attention – even in lower-tier races – might prove difficult due to mixed critical reception. The animated Free Birds, which might pull in anywhere from $10 to $20 million, made critics cringe, so it’s not getting anywhere near the Oscars. Despite weak reviews, Last Vegas should rake in around $15 million thanks to older moviegoers.

Big numbers would help Dallas Buyers Club in its limited debut. It likely misses in picture and original screenplay, but Matthew McConaughey, who, in this prognosticator’s humble opinion, narrowly leads the actor race, and Jared Leto, who holds his own in a flexible yet intense supporting actor race, could use the box-office boost. Mixed response keeps limited release About Time, Richard Curtis’ new sci-fi rom-com, out of the main conversation, but it might find an audience in its nationwide expansion next weekend.

Oh, and there’s the Naomi Watts-led biopic Diana, too.

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Awards, Fests, and Campaigns

Surprise, surprise: 12 Years a Slave leads the Gotham Independent Film Awards nods with bids in feature, breakthrough actor for Nyong’o, and actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station, and Inside Llewyn Davis picked up two bids each. The International Documentary Association nominated buzzed-about docs like The Act of Killing, Blackfish, and Stories We Tell for its top prize.

However, Forest Whitaker might be having the best week of any Oscar contender. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival named him winner of its Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film. The actor’s body of work this year includes Black Nativity, Out of the Furnace, and, most notably, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Whitaker might earn a nomination for the lattermost film. He also participated in The Hollywood Reporter’s annual actors roundtable. The aforementioned Leto and McConaughey joined, as did Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael B. Jordan, who might compete for Labor Day, Prisoners, and Fruitvale Station, respectively.

Paramount finally confirmed the rumored Christmas Day release of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. The film might contend for various awards, including actor for Leonardo DiCaprio and supporting actor for Jonah Hill and/or McConaughey. Wolf competes as a musical or comedy at the Golden Globes, suggesting that Oscar attention might not follow. On a lesser note, Sony Pictures Classics will campaign Felicity Jones as a lead actress for her work in Ralph FiennesThe Invisible Woman. The distributor initially planned a supporting actress campaign, but those who’ve seen the film suggest she’s the lead. But will it matter much in the end? The film garnered mixed response since its Telluride bow, and subsequent word did little to help.

The AFI Fest will honor David O. Russell with a special tribute on Friday, Nov. 8. This can only help American Hustle, as it hopes to (and likely will) gain a presence this season.

Check out my Oscar predictions on the next page, and feel free to comment.

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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.