The 2013 Oscars are in the books. No matter if you’re basking in the victory glow of “Argo,” cursing the fate of political-controversy victim “Zero Dark Thirty,” or wondering how everyone forgot about The “Master”— chances are you are one of 40.3 million people who tuned in to see who would take home the big prize (EW.com). But is this the world’s most spectacular self-congratulatory exercise? Or do Vegas odds, office pools, and underdog stories make the Oscars our second Superbowl?
If, like me, you’re in the second camp, then it’s never to soon to start the water-cooler banter about next year’s “big game.” With that in mind, here’s a sneak peak at the films that will be vying to join “Argo” as an Academy Award Winning Best Picture in February 2014.
“The Monuments Men”
With six nominations and two wins spread across three categories in the last seven years, director George Clooney has the Midas touch when it comes to Oscar Gold. Expect performances by Jean Dujardin, Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett to catapult this movie straight to the top of the Oscar race.
“Saving Mr. Banks”
Recent Best Picture winners “Argo” and “The Artist” proved that if there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s a movie about Hollywood. Look for “Saving Mr. Banks,” starring Tom Hanks, to capitalize on this sentiment by featuring the tale of Walt Disney’s quest to make hit film Mary Poppins.
It’s been 11 years since Sir Ridley Scott was last an Oscar Nominee (for Directing “Black Hawk Down”). Look for “The Counselor” to end that draught on the strength of performances by Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, and Penelope Cruz.
Bennet Miller’s only narrative feature credits as a director are “Capote” and “Moneyball.” Meaning Miller is, in Hollywood terms, as close to a “can’t miss” as anyone has ever been. Look for Steve Carell to make lots of noise in a role way outside his comfort zone.
Pairing George Clooney with Sandra Bullock would have been enough to garner Oscar consideration, but in the capable hands of writer/director Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien”), this film is a legitimate Best Picture hopeful. The twist? Clooney and Bullock are adrift in space for most of the movie.
If not “Gravity,” then perhaps “Elysium” can crack the anti-Science-Fiction stigma and become a best picture nominee. After all, the last movie to pull off the feat was writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s last feature effort, “District 9,” back in 2009. Expect performances by Matt Damon and Jodie Foster to play favorably with the Academy.
“The Great Gatsby”
It is a perpetually difficult task to survive the long trek from a summer release date to awards-season relevancy. But the much-anticipated Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!”) take on this literary classic is rumored to have what it takes. Perhaps the more interesting question is: Is this the role that finally lands Leonardo DiCaprio an Academy Award?
“Wolf of Wall Street”
In Martin Scorsese’s last five directorial efforts, only one (“Shutter Island”) has failed to receive an Academy Award Nomination for Best Picture. And remember that Leonardo DiCaprio fellow, with no Oscars? Well he stands an outside chance to become the first actor ever to receive a pair of nominations for leading actor in the same year if both “Wolf” and “Gatsby” are well received.
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
The Coen Brothers have a legitimate Best Picture contender on their hands for the third time since 2007 (“True Grit,” “No Country for Old Men”). The other two films on their slate in that time frame (“Burn After Reading” and long-shot nominee “A Serious Man”) were hardly slouches. 2013 is also shaping up to be a good year for Carey Mulligan, who will star both here and in “Gatsby.”
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
The New York Times calls “Annie Hall” (1978) the last comedy to win an academy award for Best Picture (“Why Don’t Comedies Win More Oscars?”). But if you’re looking for a long shot to end the 35-year draught, why not Ben Stiller? He garnered critical praise for his performance in “Greenberg,” and the recent nomination snub of “Tropic Thunder” is still fresh in the minds of many. If this adaption shows as much escapist whimsy as the Thurber short story it is based on, it might win enough hearts to sneak into the field.
Impress your friends and be the first to call a winner in 2014’s Best Picture race. The best part? The Oscars are way too far away for anyone to remember you were wrong.
If you want to let me know who I forgot (or how brilliant I am) give me a shout on twitter @Ethan_Wellin.