The 2013 Oscar race feels like it has hardly begun and yet the calendar tells me we are knee deep in it. The Toronto Film Festival is now seen as a beacon that things are underway and out of it two films came away looking very strong and give us a good starting point to dig into some Oscar predictions before I kick off my official predictions next Monday, September 24.
Before we begin, Nathaniel at the Film Experience takes a statistical look at the Toronto results and adds that, "10 of the 34 past winners have gone on to Best Picture nominations with 4 eventually winning the top prize (The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty and Chariots of Fire)." So there are your early odds as we move to...
Silver Linings Playbook, which took home the audience prize at Toronto, and, just as importantly, was well-received by virtually every critic that saw it. Personally, I gave it my first A+ grade of the year and was won over not only by the narrative, but by the performances, which include Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in the lead roles as well as strong performances from Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro. Make no mistake, Silver Linings Playbook will be nominated for Best Picture and, from my perspective, is currently the front-runner if the year ended today.
Of course, there are some that would disagree with that sentiment, namely Roger Ebert who seems to have spoken too soon based on his article declaring it the winner when he started off saying, "The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture will be Ben Affleck's tense new thriller Argo. How do I know this? Because it is the audience favorite coming out of the top-loaded opening weekend of the Toronto Film Festival." Sorry, but clearly that wasn't the case.
Ebert points to films such as No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, The King's Speech and The Artist, but I'd argue only The King's Speech launched it's Oscar bid in Toronto, and of those mentioned only Slumdog and King's Speech won in Toronto while Cannes kick-started the others and Hurt Locker started in Seattle followed by Venice later that year.
Now, I do think you can go ahead and add Argo to your list of Best Picture predictions and you can probably add Ben Affleck to your list of directors and the film may find love in a few other categories from production design to costumes and/or makeup, but we'll get into those bits an bobs a little later down the road.
After both Venice and Toronto, it's also safe to add The Master to your predictions. You can also add Paul Thomas Anderson to your directors list and Joaquin Phoenix and probably Philip Seymour Hoffman to your actor and supporting actor lists.
The film didn't win anything in Toronto, but did manage kudos in Venice, winning the Silver Lion Award (directing) and Phoenix and Hoffman shared best acting honors. I do wonder, however, where Amy Adams may end up. The Supporting Actress category is looking pretty weak and she should land her a nomination easily, she gives a performance worthy of consideration, that's for sure, but I can't tell if she's the front-runner yet or not.
I saw The Sessions in Toronto and it definitely will be under consideration, but I'm not sure if it will squeak in for Best Picture. Helen Hunt and John Hawkes should definitely land nominations each, though it looks like Fox Searchlight is going to push Hunt in Supporting rather than where she belongs in lead so as to presumably make room for Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild, another film that will also be looking for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Dwight Henry) and Directing (Benh Zeitlin) nods and perhaps even Adapted Screenplay.
One film I really can't seem to put my finger on is Anna Karenina, a film I truly disliked, but many others either respect or love. I feel it is a likely Best Picture nominee, but Manohla Dargis at the New York Times isn't helping its chances calling it "a travesty with a miscast Keira Knightley" adding "that is tragic only in its conception and execution." Ouch! Any more of that and it can consider its chances over.
Another one I'm less confident will get a nod than Anna is The Impossible, another film that disappointed me greatly, but had others weeping in their seats. Once a full range of critical reviews arrive it will be easier to decide, but it is definitely in the mix.
I don't think Cloud Atlas has much of a shot at anything outside of technical awards -- it definitely deserves editing and makeup nods. Hyde Park on Hudson has me a bit confused because it's not a good movie. I think it has the appearance of one and is duping people into congratulatory statements, but it's such a mish-mash of tones and meaning it really brings nothing to the table. If anything, a nod for Bill Murray seems like the only topline possibility and it's a possibility that seems very distant at this point.
Looking at Best Picture alone, Moonrise Kingdom has a chance at a nod and I'm still torn over what to do with Michael Haneke's Amour, a film that is certainly good enough to be considered a nominee and will certainly be nominated for Best Foreign Language. It's an incredibly tough film and if the Oscar demographics revealed earlier this year mean anything, it could really have an effect on the voters. The bigger question, though, is how many times has a film been nominated for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture?
Looking at a write up by Emanuel Levy he points to The Emigrants, Z, Life is Beautiful and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as four that managed the feat while there's also Grand Illusion, Cries and Whispers and Il Postino that were nominated for Best Picture, but not for Best Foreign Language. Grand Illusion is the only one of those three that was awarded before the establishment of the category in 1957.
So beyond these titles, what's left? On the next page I take a look at a couple of outsiders, several films that have yet to be seen and offer up a list of Best Picture predictions before I begin my official predictions next Monday.