Tuesday, August 5, 2014

2014 Oscar Preview: December Releases

As we conclude our Oscar preview segment today with Greg Rouleau's (Reel True) insight into the Oscar-caliber films scheduled for release in December, here's a chance to look back on the months of September, October and November. With all the makings of a formidable awards season, these anticipated releases will close out the road to the Oscars.


Release Date: December 25th, 2014

Starring: Jack O'Connell and Domhnall Gleeson

The Scoop: Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track star whose plane was shot down during World War II.  After 47 days stranded at sea, he then spent two and a half years in Japanese POW camps.  Angelina Jolie helms this biopic and it wouldn’t be surprising if we see her name in the Best Director conversation, too.  Despite having only a couple of features to her directorial credit, she’s wisely employed some of the top craft talent in the game with Roger Deakins as DP, Alexandre Desplat scoring, and a screenplay written by the Coen Brothers.  Sadly, real-life Louie Zamperini passed away in early July of this year, but from the looks of it we have a potentially great film to honor his legacy.

Potential Nominations: Assumed as one of the powerhouses this season, it's reasonable to anticipated recognition in the Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Score and Cinematography.


Release Date: December 5th, 2014

Starring: Reese Witherspoon and Gaby Hoffman

The Scoop: Last year, Jean-Marc Vallée directed not one, but two actors to their first Oscar nominations and wins when his Dallas Buyers Club duo of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took home gold on the big night.  This year he returns with another character driven piece called Wild, which stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who uses a 1,100-mile hike to recover from a recent tragedy.  Witherspoon already won a Best Actress for 2005’s Walk the Line but another win would make her only the 13th woman ever to win more than 1 Best Actress award.

Potential Nominations: Vallée has shown he can elicit great performances so there's a strong chance we see an Oscar nod in the Best Actress (Witherspoon) race, as well as a possibility with its Adapted Screenplay.

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Release Date: December 12th, 2014

Starring: Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton

The Scoop: When the director of Gladiator decides to return to the world of swords and sandals, it should be cause for jubilation, right? Well after a string of recent misfires, the anticipation for Ridley Scott’s biblical epic is accompanied by some trepidation.  The talent is surely there, with Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton in the leading roles, and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul in support.  The big question is, will the storytelling be strong enough? With Steve Zailian penning the screenplay, it’s one reason to remain optimistic.  Exodus should at least be a fantastic display of production values.

Potential Nominations: Recognition for Costume Design and Production Design seem like safe bets this early on, but perhaps it could sneak into another technical race or two like Visual Effects. 

Inherent Vice

Release Date: December 12th, 2014 (Limited Release)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Reese Witherspoon

The Scoop: It was recently announced that one of the major gala spots at the New York Film Festival this year will be the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, Inherent Vice.  Adapted from a novel by Thomas Pynchon, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a quirky detective that investigates the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend in 1970s Los Angeles.  Anderson was able to elicit a great performance out of Phoenix in his previous film, The Master, and there’s no reason not to expect the same here.  The cast also includes Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro, and Martin Short.  Early word is that you can expect Vice to be a little zany, in a Big Lebowski sort of way, which could possibly make it a tough sell with the Academy. Even if Vice is a little too eccentric for the Academy it has the makings to be one of the best films of 2014.

Potential Nominations: If Anderson's film plays as many expect it will, it could be in for at least Best Picture, Director, Actor (Phoenix), Adapted Screenplay and Score.

Mr. Turner

Release Date: December 19th, 2014 (Limited Release)

Starring: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson and Dorothy Atkinson

The Scoop: Another film that debuted at Cannes earlier this summer was Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner.  Leigh is no stranger to awards season, with 7 nominations to his credit, he returns with what appears to be major Oscar bait.  This period biopic about the life of eccentric painter, JMW Turner is exactly the kind of film that registers with the older members of the Academy.  Turner received strong reviews at the Cannes festival, and Timothy Spall took home the Best Actor prize.

Potential Nominations: It has a fighting chance in Best Picture and Actor (Spall), but more likely a contender in Original Screenplay, both Costume and Production Design as well as Cinematography.

Big Eyes

Release Date: December 25th, 2014

Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz and Krysten Ritter

The Scoop: Tim Burton hasn’t made a live-action film that wasn’t a remake or adaptation of a play since 2003’s Big Fish It’s a shame because the visionary director has really shown some skill when focusing on character-driven dramas.   This year he finally returns to that genre with Big Eyes; the story of successful painter, Margaret Keane and the battle that ensues with her husband over the ownership of her works.  The couple is being portrayed by five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, and two-time Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz.  Despite the talented cast and backing of Harvey Weinstein, who has proven to be very influential come awards season, it’ll most likely be an underdog throughout the winter, unless early reception is incredibly strong.   All in all, it’ll be nice to see Burton back in this territory and Big Eyes could be a welcome holiday addition. 

Potential Nominations: It's reasonable to expect a Best Actress nod for Amy Adams along with Best Score, Production Design and Costume Design.

*** That concludes our 2014 Oscar Preview. A big thank you to Greg Rouleau for all of his help

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