40 Potential 2014 Oscar Contenders: Part One - '12 Years a Slave' to 'Elysium'

The 2013 Oscars have come to a close, but that doesn't mean us dedicated followers of the almighty awards season stop looking ahead twelve months from now when a new film will be crowned king of the world amidst all the backlash and hate that swirls around the event.

Instead of focusing on the negative, let's keep positive. Let's look forward to the next ten months of 2013 and ponder what possible great films we may have in store. While we may second guess the decisions of the Academy and consider them out-of-step with current trends in film, at the very least they give us a chance to consider what may be the best the year has to offer and what will be the most talked about films and performances come this year's awards race.

Pushing the build-up aside, my early year 2014 Oscar Preview begins today with the first ten films in a 40 movie preview. I will dedicated this space to ten new films each day and on Friday reprint the list in its entirety before opening the doors to my 2014 Oscar predictions next week.

In each preview I've included some thoughts on each film's Oscar potential and what categories they may most likely find themselves nominated. I've included the cast, director, studio, synopsis and release date where applicable. Some of these films don't even have distribution yet, how will that effect their award campaign? When will some most likely premiere? What films will we likely see at this year's film festivals?

I hope to get into all of these questions and more over the next four days and then the predicting begins earlier than ever before when I open the doors to my 2014 Oscar predictions next week.

For now, let's check out the first ten films in my 2014 Oscar preview and you will be able to browse the rest of the installments using the following navigation as each one is released.

2014 Oscar Preview Navigation

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Complete List

Today's films include Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, the third film in the Before franchise Before Midnight, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips from Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks, Dallas Buyers Club with Matthew McConaughey, the Best Actress bid for Naomi Watts in Diana, Elysium from District 9 helmer Neill Blomkamp, The Butler starring Forrest Whitaker and Ridley Scott's The Counselor written by Cormac McCarthy and starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem.

Let's begin...

Twelve Years a Slave
DIR. Steve McQueen / TBA 2013

12 Years a Slave
Photo: New Regency

There have already been test screenings for Steve McQueen's follow-up to Shame, a relentless and unflinching look at slavery that will likely draw comparisons to Django Unchained even though we're talking about polar opposite films that just happen to take place amid one of the worst times in America's history.

Odds on Twelve Years a Slave getting a Best Picture nomination are slim and from what I have heard from a few people that attended press screenings, their reactions seem to mirror those recapped by Shadow & Act. From what it sounds like this one will likely have a better chance in the acting categories than anywhere else, but it would also be nice to see McQueen get some love in the Director category and maybe Sean Bobbitt can get the Cinematography nom he was wrongly overlooked for with Shame.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender), Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o), Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley and Steve McQueen), Cinematography (Sean Bobbitt)

STUDIO: No Distributer Yet

CAST: Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Adepero Oduye, Paul Dano, Taran Killam, Benedict Cumberbatch, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Michael Kenneth Williams, Quvenzhané Wallis

SYNOPSIS: Tells the true story of Solomon Northrup, a New York citizen who was kidnapped in Washington in 1841 and rescued from a cotton plantation in Louisiana in 1853.

August: Osage County
DIR. John Wells / November 8

Let's see, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Letts play adapted by Letts, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts and distributed by The Weinstein Co. I think the Oscar chances for August: Osage County speak for themselves.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES: Best Picture, Director, Actress (Meryl Strep), Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts and Margo Martindale), Supporting Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Adapted Screenplay (Tracy Letts)

STUDIO: The Weinstein Co.

CAST: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor and Julianne Nicholson

SYNOPSIS: Meet the Westons. Dad's disappeared. Mom's (Streep) popping pills. One daughter's (Roberts) bound for divorce. And that's just the start. The film is based on Tracy Letts' award-winning play.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    Early prediction: Captain Phillips & The Fifth Estate score Best Actor & Best Picture noms.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

      I'll take the bet on either film getting picture, but Actor I like. I just want BC to win everything

      • Angel

        I'd love Cumberbatch to win, too. Wait, that's who we're talking about, right?

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

          Absolutely. My favorite actor

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

    I am liking this. Really cool Brad. However...I hate to be that guy, but 12 Years and Before Midnight are Adapted, not Original (memoir and sequel, respectively)

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      You're not being "that guy", you're making sure I have it right once I post my predictions. Thanks, all fixed.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

        Ok, good. I wanted to point that out, but I just didn't wanna feel like I was hopping on immediately to just go "Well, ya screwed THAT up!" No problem. Like I said, this all looks really cool.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

      Also, I hope to have my final (starting) predictions ready by Friday. I have finalists, I just can't narrow some categories down past 12ish. And when there are 5 spots, that is hard

  • Kate

    The Counselor is going nowhere with AMPAS, except for a slim possibility that Diaz gets a best supporting actress nod.

    • Paul

      What makes you say that?

      • Kate

        I've read the script.

        • http://mulhollandcinelog.wordpress.com/ Gustavo


    • Bertram J. Krogh

      Well, I think it has great chances in a bunch of categories. It is arguably too early to leave such a major film out, I must say.

  • Flewellen

    I don't mean to be "that guy" either, but in the preview for "The Butler", you said that "Precious" was Lee Daniel's debut feature film. It's not; it's his second film (after "Shadowboxer" starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.).

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ben/ Ben

    I don't want to be THAT guy, but people need to quit saying "THAT guy"

    Other than that, great article. Excited for the counselor and 12 years .

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    I have a bad feeling that The Butler will be a train wreck

    • Auggie9192

      Sadly, I agree with your sentiments. I just don't see Lee every pulling off another Precious. Everything fell into place and worked for that movie, but it's his only movie that has. The Paperboy was unique but all over the place and was mainly redeemed by Kidman's wacky, dedicated performance. I see The Butler having similar problems.

  • http://letterboxd.com/gman/ G-Man

    This is awesome and great work, Brad. I can imagine this must've been a lot of effort to put this together.

  • MajorFilmFan

    Despite the fact that it may not be traditional Oscar material, I think The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will pick up nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects (Basically all the technical awards)

    • Bertram J. Krogh

      The Hunger Games was well received with critics, and Catching Fire is the second out of four films in the series. I doubt it will score these kind of technical awards since the first didn’t stand a chance on any of them. But who am I to argue that at this point? I’ll keep my mind open, and hope I’ll be surprised :)

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

        Yes, but the franchise has more exposure this time around and the story itself lends to more toward some special effects. I guess it depends on the competition.
        But it could get a visual effects nod. Who knows Jennifer Lawrence could squeeze out a nod as well. That is unless she gets one for Serena.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    I'm really hoping The Counselor and Captain Phillips are both good.

  • Paul

    Love this, man, and the site in general. Really well put-together. Looking forward to the next parts!

    I've heard a lot of people say and think Julie Delpy could score a nod in acting for Before Midnight. Nothing would make me happier.

    Also, quick little note -- I thought Nicole Kidman dropped out of The Butler?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      You're right on Kidman. Thanks! Fixed.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/bridgetoash/ Nathan

    I'm hoping Wolf of Wall Street will bring Leo's first win.

    • adu

      I'm with ya!

    • Auggie9192

      I have an awful feeling Dicaprio will end up getting his Oscar by way of "He should've won for something else, so we'll give it to him for this" i.e. Kate Winslet.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

        I could see that happening. He is way past due

  • adu

    I most excited about Counseler and 12 Year a Slave.

    I'm calling it now...Watts will win for Diana.

    As for Before Mignight, I loved the last one but can't find myself getting excited for this. Not to be 'that guy' but I am more excited for The Hobbit sequels :)

  • http://www.everyeliakazanmovie.blogspot.ca/ IngmarTheBergman

    Hmmm... there are a few here I didn't expect. My Best Picture predictions are as follows: The Monuments Men, August Osage County, The Counselor, Twelve Years A Slave, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, Serena, Inside Llewyn Davis and Untitled Terrence Mallick Project.

    I would love to see recognition for Before Midnight, but who knows. Blue Jasmine would be great also.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

      I'm calling for an award for Serena in at least one category. Adapted screenplay, actress, maybe even actor if cooper is lucky. But the release date might hurt its possibilities.

  • Ron Loyola

    I have this really strong gut feel that we will be seeing a lot of 'Kill Your Darlings' during the 2014 awards season.

    My bets: Actor (Radcliffe), S. Actor (DeHaan), Screenplay

    • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

      I'd throw The Roons in those nods for "Kill Your Darlings" too.

      • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

        Sorry, never mind, mixed that up with something else....

    • Bertram J. Krogh

      I also have a good feeling about Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Both films got out of Sundance with rave reviews.

      • Ron Loyola

        Yeah, forgot about that too.

        Of the Sundance line up, I think those who have Oscar chances are:

        The Spectacular Now
        Before Midnight
        Kill Your Darlings
        Ain't Them Bodies Saints

  • Liathach

    Are there any more movies out there about how wonderful Hollywood is, to make it three Best Picture winners in a row?

    • Kate

      That would be Saving Mr. Banks. It's about Disney.

  • SP1234

    Are you not confident in Matt Damon and Jodie Foster getting acting nominations for Elysium (two Oscar winners in a sci-fi movie from the director of District 9 is really impressive) or is it just because of the genre?

  • Gautam

    Brad, Though I know that you are huge fan of Before films, I believe you are weighing Before Midnight lightly. Those who have seen [Oscarologists like Kris Tapley, Peter Knegt] suggest apart from the obvious Adapted Screenplay, it could turn out to be a major player for Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Actor [in the same order]. Before films have garnered so many legions of fans over years [including many in the Academy] that this time they might feel and want to reward it.

    Anyways, I am seeing Before Midnight this Saturday at SXSW [hopefully], then I will be able to gauge the possibilities better.

  • Auggie9192

    Already an interesting and diverse slate for 2013. Let's hope some of these aren't clunkers!! 12 Years, The Counselor, and Elysium have me excited. I'm still on the fence about Diana but there's not doubt in my mind Watts will own the role with every fiber of her being.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ducard/ Ducard

    Greengrass is probably my favorite active director. This guy does harrowing action better than anyone without ignoring the human element. "Captain Phillips" seems to be a perfect fit for him.
    "Elysium" sound veryy exciting too. I think we're all forward to Blomkamp's folo to "District 9".

    • viral vora

      I'd like for it to be true because I am big fan of Hank's work but Greengrass is a hit and miss - and seeing how he's recruited The Hurt Locker DP I'm worried as it will be another hand-held nausea inducing fare. I hope I am wrong.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheMovieGuru/ The Movie Guru

    Brad, are you thinking that David O. Russell's Abscam film will be released in time for awards season. I have it at the top of my predictions and various sources say that it is going for a 2013 date, but I wasn't sure if you knew.

    • Bertram J. Krogh

      I am pretty sure it is still in pre-production, and at this point, it is pretty much impossible for that film to get made AND released this year. As much as I’d hope for it to, really anticipating this one.

      • http://mulhollandcinelog.wordpress.com/ Gustavo H. Razera

        It is most certainly not impossible. Filming is scheduled to end in August and O. Russell is a quick shooter. He shot his last movie in 60 days.

        Spielberg began Munich on June 29, 2005 and it was released six months later. Eastwood began filming Million Dollar Baby in June 2004.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheMovieGuru/ The Movie Guru

          I hope so. If it does get released, I have a feeling that its going to dominate. I think that the Academy really liked The Fighter and SLP and will want to pay him back for that. Plus, I can draw a lot of parallels between Argo and the Abscam feature.

  • Mary

    Naomi Watts as Best actress would be fair

    • http://cinemmaconfessions.com Gautam

      And so will be Julie Delphy for Before Midnight.

  • Jack

    1. Monuments Men
    2. 12 Years a Slave
    3. August: Osage county
    4. Saving Mr. Banks
    5. Foxcatcher
    6. Labor Day
    7. Captain Phillips
    8. Wolf of Wall Street
    9. Gravity
    10. The 5th Estate

    1. George Clooney- Monuments Men
    2. Steve McQueen- 12 Years a Slave
    3. Bennet Miller- Foxcatcher
    4. Martin Scorsese- Wolf of Wall Street
    5. Alonso Cuaron- Gravity

    1. Tom Hanks- Saving Mr. Banks
    2. Steve Carell- Foxcatcher
    3. Chiwetel Ejifor- 12 Years a Slave
    4. Bruce Dern- Nebraska
    5. Matthew McConegheny- Dallas Buyer's Club

    1. Naomi Watts- Diana
    2. Meryl Streep- August
    3. Emma Thompson- Saving Mr. Banks
    4. Kate Winslet- Labor Day
    5. Berenice Bejo- The Past

    1. Josh Brolin- Labor Day
    2. Michael Fassbender- 12 Years a Slave
    3. Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher
    4. Tobey Maguire- Great Gatsby
    5. Sam Rockwell- Way, Way Back

    1. Margo Martindale- August
    2. Julia Roberts- August
    3. Cameron Diaz- The Counselor
    4. Cate Blanchett- Monuments Men
    5. Catherine Keener- Captain Phillips

    1. The Counselor
    2. Saving Mr. Banks
    3. Foxcatcher
    4. Nebraska
    5. Fruitvale
    ALT: Inside Llywen Davis

    1. Monuments Men
    2. Labor Day
    3. 12 Years a Slave
    4. August: Osage County
    5. Wolf of Wall Street

    • Prakshid

      @Jack Its very very close list. Nice prediction . I would like to add in your list
      Best Picture
      Labor Day instead of The fifth Estate
      American Bullshit/David O Russell Untitled Project instead of Captain Phillips
      Best Actor
      Leonardo Di Caprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
      Best Supporting Actor
      Jonah Hill - The Wolf of Wall Street
      George Clooney - Gravity
      Will Forte - Nebraska
      Best Actress
      Jennifer Lawrence - Serena or Nicole Kidman - Grace of Monaco or Sandra Bullock - Gravity instead of Berenice
      Best Supporting Actress
      Amy Adams- American Bullshit/David O Russell Untitled Project
      Cary Mulligan - Inside Llewyn Davis

  • Ghislaine

    I also think Julie Delpy has a good chance on being on the short list for Best Actress. So many of the film coming out in 2013 seem top heavy with male roles. We'll be scrambling again to find female leads. She's proven herself in this role already, so she's both familiar enough and new enough to be a satisfying nominee for everyone.

  • http://www.facebook.com Ambuj

    i just believe that Kate winslet will make her 7th nomination next year .. and hope she wins.

    • http://cinemmaconfessions.com Gautam

      Naah, she might get nominated but 2nd win so soon after the 1st not happening unless this turns out to be a weak actress year [which doesn't look like it will be].

      • http://mulhollandcinelog.wordpress.com/ Gustavo H. Razera

        Tom Hanks won 2 consecutive Best Actor Oscars, you know. Kate Hepburn did, too, in the 60s.

  • viral vora

    I dont understand all the love for watts. I hated The Impossible. and she wasnt that great in it either. but she does look strikingly like Diana - but generally that ensures just a nom and not really a win (Williams for Marylin)

    • http://cinemmaconfessions.com Gautam

      "I dont understand all the love for watts" .. well, the love is not because of The Impossible but due the fact that she is grossly overdue for an Oscar especially considering her career spans two decades and more so because her exceptional work in films like Mulholland Drive, Painted Veil and King Kong went unrecognized. In an ideal world she would have got atleast 4 nominations and 1 win.

      Secondly, most are predicting her to win for Diana next also because she will carry a great amount of goodwill from the last year. I have heard many not going gung-ho about Impossible, including Brad, but the fact is, that performance was 'favorite of the year' for many Academy members [if you already didn't know] who vociferously voiced their support.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Thornsy/ Thornsy

    Will "Nebraska" be featured? It's probably my most-anticipated movie this year.

  • Peter

    As I heard on the podcast that only god forgives won't be making an appearance, is there any reason why? Early screenings possible?

  • James

    Cinematography has to be Sean Bobbitt. Not only just in recognition of previous accomplishment with Shame, but also Hunger. The man's a genius. He and Steve McQueen are it...

  • Casio

    I'm not sure about Julia Roberts going supporting for August, her character is indeed the axis of the story. Moreover the idea of having both Roberts and Streep as lead actress nominees is so irresistible. The (unarguably) most influential Hollywood actresses of past 20 years together, the first time two lead actress compete for the same film since Thelma & Louise, the (well-deserved) comeback of Roberts...
    If August is very good, it could compile multiple acting nominations as 'All about Eve' did. If it's only good, I bet for Streep, Roberts and Martindale anyway.

  • George

    I'm very excited to see what Benedict Cumberbatch can do as Julian Assange in "the fifth estate" - it was only really a matter of time until he received his first Oscar nod, and I think this could be the ticket.
    However, more than anything else in cinema, I'd love to see Steve Carrell walk away with the golden baldy - he's got immense acting chops, as displayed in little miss sunshine, so needless to say I'm immensely excited to see what he does with such an intense role. I reckon he'll hit it right out of the park.

  • Prakshid

    The counselor is this year's The Master...It has one totally different new killing act as same like in No Country for Old Men I totally loved that act its fascinating The Counselor is dark strange unconventional & too complex script.

  • david

    All great choices but dead man down will get a best picture nod noomi ropace will get a best actress nod for dead man down as will Terrence Howard best supporting actor. so anybody disagree with me?