Alexander Payne’s last movie – The Descendants – was a masterclass in how to convey the troubles and struggles of maintaining a family as it crumbles.
His latest, Nebraska, is a similar beast, but from an entirely different perspective. Silent Running star Bruce Dern plays an old man who convinces his son to travel across the country with him to claim what he believes is a winning lottery ticket.
The Academy absolutely loves Payne and has nominated his last four films, with Sideways and The Descendants both winning prizes for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Nebraska seems to be an interesting return to Payne’s road movie love affair. Dern has received huge amounts of plaudits for his performance and Payne is more than a safe pair of hands. This one has half a chance.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (Payne), Best Actor (Dern), Best Cinematography (Phedon Papamichael)
Wins? Bruce Dern won Best Actor at Cannes, but he’s unlikely to transfer that to an Oscar. Cinematography is its best shot.
UK Release Date: 6th December 2013
Philomena is the year’s British fluff entry. Stephen Frears – best known for The Queen – directs a script by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope based on the true story of Philomena Lee and her lost son.
It’s an unashamedly sentimental story, bolstered by two stunning performances from Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Dench is hilarious and touching, whilst Coogan underplays his role just enough.
It may suffer in terms of awards because it lacks glamour and bombast, but it’s certainly the kind of film that might sneak into lists of nominations if the Academy decide to locate their hearts.
The film may have piqued the interests of critics just enough to do the same with Academy voters.
Nominations? Best Actress (Dench), Best Supporting Actor (Coogan), Best Adapted Screenplay
Wins? Dench’s performance is huge, but I doubt it’s big enough to match some of the heavy hitters in the category. Screenplay is its best shot, and if the Academy is in its usual state of Brit awe, it has a chance.
UK Release Date: Out now. (review)
13. Fruitvale Station
Race issues are going to be a big part of this year’s awards season with Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave right in amongst the hopefuls. Elsewhere in that arena lives Sundance hit Fruitvale Station.
Based on a true story, the film stars Michael B Jordan as a black youth who was shot by police on New Year’s Eve in 2009. Jordan, best known for his role in Chronicle, is angling for a Best Actor nod. In the year that the Trayvon Martin case made waves across the globe, this could be the year’s zeitgeist awards movie.
Octavia Spencer is also about and looking for her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar to put next to her statuette for The Help. Due to a crowded Best Actor field, it is her that stands the best chance.
Nominations? Best Actor (Michael B Jordan), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer)
Wins? Doubtful. The field for Best Actor is ludicrously crowded, but a diverse Supporting Actress field could benefit previous Academy favourite Octavia Spencer.
UK Release Date: TBA
Rush is a bit of a wildcard in this year’s awards season. It’s a historical biopic, which makes it very attractive to the Academy, but it’s also about sport. And not just any sport, but Formula 1, which America does not like at all.
Fortunately, director Ron Howard has won an Oscar before, for A Beautiful Mind in 2002. And there are also a set of very weighty performances on display here, especially from Daniel Brühl as troubled Lauda.
The best chance for Rush at the 2014 Oscars though is with Anthony Dod Mantle’s jaw-dropping cinematography. Some of his innovative ways of filming high-octance race sequences are amongst the best things I have ever seen done with a movie camera.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (Howard), Best Supporting Actor (Brühl), Best Cinematography (Anthony Dod Mantle), Best Sound Editing/Mixing
Wins? The stunning cinematography probably heralds Rush’s best chance at the 2014 Oscars, but it would be very unwise to rule out the brilliant Daniel Brühl for Best Supporting Actor.
UK Release Date: Out now. (review)
11. The Butler
Earlier this year, Lee Daniels’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Precious tore through the US box office. At the time of writing, it has grossed $140m worldwide and that’s before it has opened in a number of territories, including the UK.
A lot of this is down to the Forrest Gump style tale of one figure being part of major historical events. This time, the character in question is Forest Whitaker’s African-American White House butler, who served various presidents between the 1950s and 1990s.
The ensemble cast is ripe for acting nominations, with Alan Rickman’s portrayal of President Ronald Reagan drawing particular praise alongside Oprah Winfrey as Whitaker’s wife. It is in the acting categories at the 2014 Oscars that The Butler stands its best chance, but it would be foolish to count it out of the race for Best Picture at this stage.
Nominations? Best Picture, Best Director (Daniels), Best Actor (Whitaker), Best Supporting Actress (Winfrey), Best Supporting Actor (Rickman), Best Adapted Screenplay
Wins? I’m unsure if The Butler will be able to convert its buzz into prizes given the strength of the Best Picture field this year. Whitaker stands a chance as Best Actor and there’s a decent argument for Winfrey getting to Best Supporting Actress, barring Sally Hawkins getting there for Blue Jasmine.
UK Release Date: 15th November 2013