As the year draws to an end, the 2014 Oscars are almost upon us.
Over recent weeks, I have been counting down the films most likely to show up at the glittering ceremony. We have reached the top five now, so these are the real contenders for big awards next year.
5. August: Osage County
The Academy loves a big ensemble drama. Last year, Silver Linings Playbook became the first film in over 30 years to be nominated in all four of the acting categories, winning Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence.
August: Osage County is a dark comedy film set when a family gathers for a funeral and skeletons come tumbling out of closets.
Academy favourite Meryl Streep leads one hell of a cast and the entire thing is adapted from a stage play by Tracy Letts, following on from Bug and Killer Joe.
Whatever happens when August: Osage County is released, it ticks all of the boxes for the Academy to fall completely in love with it.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (John Wells), Best Actress (Streep), Best Supporting Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts), Best Adapted Screenplay
UK Release Date: 17th January 2014
4. Captain Phillips
Movies based on a true story are always awards-fodder, and this one is a real gem. Paul Greengrass has teamed up with the ever-reliable Tom Hanks for one of the best movies of the year – Captain Phillips.
It tells the harrowing true story of a freighter captain who is kidnapped by gun-toting Somali pirates.
Fantastic performances from Hanks and lead pirate Barkhad Abdi make for an absolutely stunning two hours of suspense cinema.
In the midst of a crowded awards season field, Captain Phillips may struggle to scoop gongs at the 2014 Oscars, but it is an outstanding work of cinema and so deserves to be seen and enjoyed by absolutely everyone.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (Greengrass), Best Actor (Hanks), Best Supporting Actor (Abdi), Best Adapted Screenplay
Wins? Newcomer Abdi is an interesting outside bet for Supporting Actor, but the main chance lies with Tom Hanks’ sublime emotional performance.
UK Release Date: Out now. (review)
3. American Hustle
After thrilling the Academy last year with Silver Linings Playbook, David O Russell is back in their sights with ensemble crime drama American Hustle.
Based on the FBI’s Abscam sting in the 1980s, American Hustle follows Christian Bale’s con man as he crosses paths with Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent. Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams are also in the mix as Bale’s wife and lover respectively.
American Hustle has recently scooped three of the top gongs at the New York Critics Circle Awards, considered a major forerunner for the 2014 Oscars. This puts it on the front foot going into the big awards ceremonies of next year.
This film will definitely be a force to be reckoned with at the 2014 Oscars and I would be shocked if it left empty-handed.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (O Russell), Best Actor (Bale), Best Supporting Actress (Lawrence, Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), Best Original Screenplay
Wins? Depending on what happens between now and the 2014 Oscars, American Hustle could win almost everything. Regardless, it should walk away with Best Supporting Actor for Jennifer Lawrence.
UK Release Date: 1st January 2014
If there has ever been a true example of audiences and critics alike falling in love with a film, it’s Gravity. At the time of writing, it holds a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes and has grossed over $600m worldwide. Just about everyone loves it.
It’s perhaps the simplest film premise of the year: Sandra Bullock is lost in space. And yet, Alfonso Cuarón uses effects trickery and sheer genius to produce what is arguably the best film of the year.
The Academy doesn’t do genre movies usually, but this will almost certainly be an exception. Gravity has been lauded by many as the best space film since Kubrick’s 2001 and is a dead cert to be amongst the nominations for the 2014 Oscars.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (Cuarón), Best Actress (Bullock), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Best Visual Effects
Wins? Unfortunately, the Academy’s dislike of genre movies may keep it out of the main categories. However, it’s a decent outside bet, and it will of course sweep the board in the technical categories.
UK Release Date: Out now. (review)
1. 12 Years A Slave
Steve McQueen has not received the love he deserves from the awards bodies over the last few years. His previous films, Hunger and Shame, were a bit too edgy for the Academy, but the serious 12 Years A Slave has caught fire and has awards written through it like a stick of rock.
Following Chiwetel Ejiofor’s free negro sold into slavery, it is an explosive study of the horrors of the slave trade. Featuring blistering performances from Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch, it looks like it could sweep the board at the 2014 Oscars.
It has many of the big awards covered and has dominated a lot of the publicity.
I’m calling it now.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (McQueen), Best Actor (Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actor (Cumberbatch, Fassbender), Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o), Best Adapted Screenplay
Wins? It is highly likely that 12 Years A Slave will win virtually everything. Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay are almost certain victories, and it could well win Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress too. Expect Steve McQueen to be busy on awards night.
UK Release Date: 10th January 2014