It’s November, which means that it’s probably time to start talking about awards already. Before we know it, it’ll be February/March and all of the weighty awards movies will be kicking about and anyone who’s anyone in Hollywood will be spending their evenings flouncing about on red carpets.
In advance of all that, it’s worth pointing out the crop of films that are quite obviously going to be in amongst it all when the gongs are handed out at the 2014 Oscars.
So here’s the first five of my top 20 films that are likely to be inescapable in a few month’s time.
20. Labor Day
It’s an interesting literary adaptation, from the director of Up in the Air, featuring a cast with past Oscar success. Labor Day sounds like it could be a real awards contender.
Jason Reitman directs Kate Winslet as a troubled divorcee who picks up Josh Brolin’s wounded hitchhiker on a shopping trip with her on. When Brolin turns out to be an escaped convict, the tension escalates and his true motives become clear as he develops relationships with both mother and son.
The combination of drama, thriller and romance is an interesting hybrid. Brolin and Winslet drop real dramatic heft into the film’s heart and the storyline has a very intriguing idea at its heart.
Joyce Maynard’s novel was very well-received and Reitman is a consistently reliable director who can expect nominations given the pedigree of his previous work.
Nominations? Best Actress (Winslet), Best Supporting Actor (Brolin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Reitman)
Wins? Labor Day seems unlikely to win anything, but it’ll certainly be amongst the nominations. Best Adapted Screenplay is its best shot.
UK Release Date: 7th February 2014
Perhaps too weird to win, this tale of Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his computer’s artificial intelligence (Scarlett Johansson) is one of the 2014 Oscars’ most interesting films. Phoenix failed to win for The Master last year and the supporting cast includes a number of previously spurned nominees in the shape of Rooney Mara and Amy Adams.
Despite a plot that merges an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror with one of The Big Bang Theory’s more bizarre plot threads, Her seems a very interesting film.
Spike Jonze’s quirky drama has a chance though based on critical buzz alone. It was almost universally adored when it premiered at the New York Film Festival, currently boasting a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, it’s probably a little too offbeat for the Academy.
Nominations? Best Actor (Phoenix), Best Supporting Actress (Adams)
Wins? It’s too strange to win anything big, but many of the cast are owed big by the Academy, so it could possibly stage a shock. I doubt it though.
UK Release Date: 10th January 2014
18. Before Midnight
Richard Linklater’s trilogy closer was a critical hit earlier this year, to the extent that is bound to be right up there in terms of consideration for the 2014 Oscars.
Being a tender romantic comedy means that it isn’t completely outside the Academy’s remit and there’s a trend of rewarding big trilogy finales such as Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Toy Story 3.
Previous sequel Before Sunset was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay prize in 2005 and so the Academy has form for acknowledging the work of the Linklater, Hawke and Delpy writing trio.
It’d be a nice one for a 2014 Oscars reward, but Before Midnight is unlikely to make too many waves.
Nominations? Best Adapted Screenplay (Linklater, Hawke, Delpy)
Wins? A tender romantic dramedy isn’t really standard Academy fodder, but Linklater’s trilogy has proved popular. It’ll struggle to even come close outside of the writing category.
UK Release Date: On DVD/Blu-ray now
17. Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is the latest film from awards mainstays Joel and Ethan Coen. They will be hoping to stage a Woody Allen style “return to form” after the critically derided Gambit and will be looking back at the 10 nominations that greeted their True Grit remake in 2011.
That said, Inside Llewyn Davis is a hugely different beast to their Jeff Bridges-led Western. It’s the tale of a struggling folk musician and his relationships, set in a washed-out 1960s New York.
And also, there’s the small matter of the Coens. They’re pretty good really.
Nominations? Best Original Screenplay (Coens), Best Director (Coens), Best Supporting Actress (Mulligan)
Wins? It’s probably a little too folksy to gain any of the big awards, but it stands a chance at a screenplay gong and could steal one of the supporting performance nods.
UK Release Date: 24th January 2014
16. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
A Ben Stiller film up for awards consideration? It seems a strange one in principle, but his Hollywood satire Tropic Thunder was also nominated, albeit for Robert Downey Jr’s supporting performance.
Stiller directs and stars as the titular magazine employee who regularly retreats into outlandish fantasy worlds to escape the mundanity of existence. It is an adaptation of a 1930s short story that was previously transferred to screen in 1947.
It has received somewhat mixed reviews thus far, but that didn’t stop the Academy showering Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close with nominations. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty could be a surprise success at the 2014 Oscars.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (Stiller), Best Actor (Stiller), Best Adapted Screenplay
Wins? Could a Ben Stiller movie win awards? Probably not. It’s considerably too silly a film to do particularly well at the 2014 Oscars, but it could fill the “offbeat Best Picture nom” slot.
UK Release Date: 26th December 2013