The nights are drawing in, the clocks turned back, the slow fall into winter has well and truly begun and in Hollywood that can mean only one thing – time to talk about Oscar. The temperature may well have only just dropped but the race for Academy Awards is certainly heating up.
The closing of the London Film festival last week marked the end of the year’s biggest showpieces, meaning that whichever films are likely to compete for the golden statues come March have already premiered, been judged and lauded. The nature of certain festivals determines the make-up of the films on show and subsequently, the likelihood of those going on to scoop the big prizes in the industry’s most glittering of award shows. Cannes, for example, attracts an array of stars and attention due to its grand history, tradition and glamour. It’s also seen as the emperor of European and world cinema, with films picking up prizes on the southern coast of France unlikely to trouble the more American-focused eyes of the Academy. The big winners on Oscar night tend to come from the tested waters of Venice or Toronto, with the latter having an incredibly accurate knack of picking a winner. Previous years have seen Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and Argo bestowed with honors at Toronto and go on to scoop the main prizes a few months later in Los Angeles.
This year’s winner in Canada was Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, a film based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup, a free man tricked and sold into slavery for the 12 years of the title. The film is picking up plaudits wherever it plays and is already a strong favorite to take home a number of Academy Awards, including best film, best director and best actor for lead Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Woody Allen’s celebrated Blue Jasmine cemented his return to form, with a staggering central performance by Cate Blanchett that will surely be recognized by the Academy in the best actress category. There she may face competition from Judi Dench for the Dame’s work in Stephen Frears’ Philomena. Frears is no stranger to the Oscars and may find himself in the running for a best director nomination; the film, applauded for its heartfelt script, may see Alan Partridge himself, Steve Coogan, pick up a best original screenplay nomination.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron has astounded audiences with an impressive array of visual effects in his lost in space drama Gravity and can expect to be rewarded with a clutch of awards within the technical categories. The George Clooney starring film also boasts the talents of previous award winner Sandra Bullock, and may well pick up nods for directing and best film as well as editing and sound nominations.
Clooney has become something of a perennial Oscar’s attendee with cameras clamouring to catch each twinkling smile he flashes at the ceremony. With his upcoming feature Monuments Men sure to be in the running, it’s probable he’ll be pleasing TV networks yet again.
Britain’s own Colin Firth is a familiar face to the Academy too. Twice among the best actor nominations, and his latest vehicle The Railway Man is full of traits admired by the voting panel, and co-stars another former victor in the shape of Nicole Kidman.
Every new Martin Scorsese film seems guaranteed to make the cut in some regard and his latest, The Wolf of Wall Street, could land his leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio, his first statuette. Similarly, there are certain themes that tend to repeatedly catch the Academy’s eye, notably heavyweight biopics. This could bode well for Idris Elba whose portrayal of Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is certainly one to watch out for come award season.
Tom Hanks will be looking to add a third acting Oscar to his list of accolades and could have the chance to after strong performances in both Captain Phillips and as Walt Disney in Mr. Banks. The competition in that category may well be fiercely contested with Matthew McConaughey, another name to add to an already strong line-up, for his work in Aids related drama Dallas Buyer’s Club.
Of course, numbers of these films are yet to play to cinema-going audiences and, for all the early buzz, may fall some way short of expectation. Given the right backing however, the sort made notorious by producing kingpin Harvey Weinstein, expect to see any number of the above come away from Oscar night grinning wildly and clutching that prized Hollywood possession, an Academy Award.
What winning traits would you look for in a film if you a member of the Academy?