Yesterday in Part 1 of my Oscar preview I highlighted the most intriguing titles debuting in September and October. However, we all know that the biggest contenders generally hold off their releases until the November and December months. And while it's still very early in the game and most of this is based purely on speculation, here's a list of the late year films you should have on your radar.
Spotlight - Starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams & Mark Ruffalo
Although director Tom McCarthy hit a dud of epic proportions with his most recent effort, The Cobbler, it's impossible to ignore his otherwise very impressive catalog of work. In his upcoming dramatic release, Spotlight, McCarthy tackles the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalism executed by the Boston Globe which unveiled the diabolical child molestation scandal and cover-up within the Catholic Church. With a lengthy all-star cast and an Oscar-drooling source material, Spotlight has the potential to command a bevy of acting nominations and perhaps a Best Picture nod. Assuming McCarthy recovers from his latest and only cinematic blunder. (November 6th)
Carol - Starring Cate Blanchette & Rooney Mara
Most of the time, timing is everything. Especially when it pertains to the Academy Awards. With the recent victories for the same-sex battles in the Supreme Court, perhaps now is as good a time as any for the upcoming Todd Haynes drama, Carol. Rooney Mara stars as a department store clerk in 1950s New York who dreams of a more glamorous life and falls for a wealthy married woman named Carol (Cate Blanchette). Early indicators point to Blanchette and Mara earning Oscar recognition for their work, as well a potential Director nomination for Haynes. (November 20th)
The Danish Girl - Starring Eddie Redmayne & Alicia Vikander
Eddie Redmayne has been one of the fastest rising actors in Hollywood of late, especially thanks to his Academy Award winning performance as Stephen Hawking in last year's The Theory of Everything. Redmayne returns this year in a collaboration with his Les Miserables director, Tom Hooper, in The Danish Girl, The film follows the true story of 1920s Danish painter, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), and her husband (Eddie Redmayne) who became the first documented person to go through a male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. Yet another film seemingly arriving at the perfect time, The Danish Girl has all the makings of a top flight Oscar contender that could land nominations for all of Redmayne, Vikander, Hooper as well as Best Picture and beyond. (November 27th)
In the Heart of the Sea - Starring Chris Hemsworth & Cillian Murphy
Everyone is fully aware of Herman Melville's iconic novel, Moby Dick, about a mammoth whale that attacked a vessel in the 1820s. This year, Ron Howard re-teams with his Rush star, Chris Hemsworth, to tell a whole other side to that story with In the Heart of the Sea. Following the assault of a massive whale, the Essex and its crew must fight to survive brutal conditions and circumstances all while killing this beast and finding direction out on the open sea. Rush became a regrettably snubbed film two years ago, and we'll see if the Academy looks to honor the brilliant filmmaker and his anticipated feature. (December 11th)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens - Starring Oscar Isaac & John Boyega
Despite the fact that Science Fiction films are always overlooked by the Academy, there might not be a film more talked about than The Force Awakens. Director J.J. Abrams trades his Star Trek loyalty for the opportunity to revive one of the greatest franchises in film history. While details of the plot have been closed lip and will continue to be, the early footage looks phenomenal and the final clip of Harrison Ford and Chewbacca is guaranteed to give you the chills. I'd put Oscar hopes at "less than likely", but that doesn't mean The Force Awakens won't be a late-year treat. (December 18th)
Joy - Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper & Robert De Niro
David O. Russell have developed into a "sure-thing" director with the critical adoration of his previous trio of titles The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Yet, I must admit tht the first look into his latest work, Joy, offers a bit of a puzzling vibe that we'll just have to wait and see for ourselves. Jennifer Lawrence stars in the title role as a strong mother figure who, after four generations of guidance, becomes the leader of a highly successful family business. I continue to hold my reservations, however history would suggest that Jennifer Lawrence is a safe bet in the Best Actress race while co-star Bradley Cooper may be in line for a supporting nod and David O. Russell could very well garner another Director's nomination. (December 25th)
The Revenant - Starring Leonardo DiCaprio & Tom Hardy
In the "what have you done for me lately" would in which we find ourselves, perhaps no film is as anticipated as last year's Best Picture winning filmmaker, Alejandro G. Inarritu's, The Revenant. By now everyone is fully aware of megastar Leonardo DiCaprio's quest for an Oscar and, as expected, this latest film has us all wondering if this will be the one. DiCaprio stars as frontiersman Hugh Glass who was viciously attacked and mauled by a bear during an expedition in the uncharted American wilderness in the 1820s. Left for dead by the rest of his hunting team, headed by the betrayal of John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Glass must struggle to survive a harsh winter and seek vengeance on Fitzgerald. What's been described by the studio as a visceral cinematic experience, all eyes will be on The Revenant as this year's early frontrunner for Oscar glory. (December 25th)
Honorable Mention: November 6th marks the release of the newest James Bond film, Spectre, which could very well end up in the Oscar mix if everything goes well, as well as the drama Brooklyn which finds Saoirse Ronan in a complicated love triangle.
Angelina Jolie tries once again to break into the Oscar ranks with her relationship drama, By the Sea, starring her and her current beau, Brad Pitt, which arrives on November 13th. And on December 4th the raved about indie, Youth, could land Academy Award acting nominations to its two leading men, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel.
Finally, a pair of Christmas day releases worth noting are Quentin Tarantino's newest western entry, The Hateful Eight, which could prove a career first Oscar nom for supporting actor Kurt Russell, and the latest from Oliver Stone, Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the whistleblowing title character.