Preliminary 2011 Oscar Contenders: Part Two

Welcome back for part two of my four part look at the early 2011 Oscar Contenders. If you didn't check out Part One you can do so right here or use the link at the bottom of page two of this post. However, first things first, there has already been a change to part one as a watchful reader has pointed me to an article from the Los Angeles Times saying Andrew Jarecki's All Good Things is no longer at the Weinstein Co. as the director has bought back the domestic rights and is now shopping them around to potential distributors and hopes to have a deal in place shortly. This doesn't change much, but it does mean we have a change in distributor.

There was also a slight change in my numbers as another film was added to my list, bringing the total to 73 individual films plus my animated and documentary contenders, which will bring the total to 86 films to be previewed over the course of this week ending with the entire list being published this Friday.

I will again remind you all, this is merely a guide to potential nominees, not a guarantee, not a lock, but simply films that could potentially go on to be remembered at the year-end Oscar race. A few of these films may not even be released in 2010. Several of these films still don't have distribution. A few of these films just started production. Suffice to say, this list, as the headline says, is preliminary.

Each part of this list is being presented in alphabetical order, which means tomorrow's part three will pick up exactly where this list leaves off. So, if you see a spot where a film may have been overlooked please comment below. I have not yet finished work on the new "The Contenders" section and once I open its doors I hope to have as comprehensive a list as possible. As the year goes on several of these films will drop off the list, others will be added and just like last year we will ultimately end up with our front-runners.

With all that said, let's get started with part two, which includes yet another 20 films...

Release Date: July 9, 2010 (Limited)
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Quick Thoughts: The Duplass brothers had a minor breakout in 2005 with The Puffy Chair and also gained some attention for Baghead in 2008, but neither film was met with as much appreciation as Cyrus when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. As a comedy it may be more likely this film is heading to Golden Globe attention rather than Oscar, but the cast made up of the Oscar winning Marisa Tomei and Oscar nominees John C. Reilly and Catherine Keener means this one can't be counted out of the race.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Miramax Films
Directed By: John Madden
Quick Thoughts: Another one of those "up in the air" Miramax titles is John Madden's The Debt. Madden's history with the Oscars includes the 1999 Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love, which is often brought up in Oscar arguments and this time he also heads back in time, just not as far. The Debt is set in 1965 and centers on three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. The cast is stacked and offers Sam Worthington's second non-action feature of the year to go along with Last Night, but along with Worthington you have Helen Mirren in one of her four potential Oscar contenders (Love Ranch, Brighton Rock and The Tempest) as well as Jessica Chastain, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas and Jesper Christensen. On top of cinematography duties for Stephen Frears's Tamara Drewe, Ben Davis puts in work here, Natalie Ward is on costumes, Jim Clay, Peter Francis and Dominic Masters on art direction and editing by Alexander Berner.
Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed By: Alexander Payne

Quick Thoughts: Alexander Payne's The Descendants isn't guaranteed to be a 2010 release as it just started shooting in Hawaii, but expectation is Fox Searchlight will release what amounts to Payne's first feature release since the Oscar-winning Sideways in 2004 this year. With Clooney attached this is sure to draw major attention as he plays a newly widowed father - the descendant of landowners and one of the richest men on Oahu - who takes off with his two rebellious daughters to track down his wife's lover on the island of Kauai.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Directed By: Jim Sheridan
Quick Thoughts: Dream House may not be ready for a 2010 release, but filming did begin on January 25, 2010, which means six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan's thriller could be ready for a late year release and a serious Oscar push should the names attached turn out the film we would expect. The film stars Daniel Craig, Oscar nominated Naomi Watts and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz.
Release Date: November 5, 2010
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Directed By: Todd Phillips

Quick Thoughts: After the success of The Hangover, Todd Phillips's Due Date can't be counted out of the Oscar race and with a cast made up of Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan and Jamie Foxx it only adds to the intrigue. Comedies don't tend to inspire a lot of Oscar attention, but the tides do shift and with ten nominees who's to say this won't inspire the Academy members to change their ways?

Release Date: September 24, 2010
Distributor: Focus Features
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald

Quick Thoughts: Kevin Macdonald's The Eagle of the Ninth is a big question mark. The director and studio say major Oscar potential but Channing Tatum playing the lead role of Marcus Aquila is a bit of an eye-roll. Macdonald missed the mark with State of Play last year, but that film's production ups-and-downs make the end result a bit unsurprising, which has me looking at The Last King of Scotland as Macdonald's work of comparison. As a film set back in Roman-ruled Britain this film will draw other comparisons that have it looking at a tough road. I do like Mark Strong, an actor that has both this film, Robin Hood and Peter Weir's The Way Back as films that will all give him potential acting nominations. Anthony Dod Mantle will also draw cinematography attention here, Macdonalad editing regular Justine Wright is here, the art direction crew is sure to be a contender as are Oscar-winner Michael O'Connor's costumes after he just won the Oscar for The Duchess one year ago.

What is sure to be interesting about this film is how Macdonald has gone on record saying the American accents the Romans are using isn't by accident. He told the Times Online, "It was always my concept for this film that the Romans would be Americans... This is a film which in some way reflects some of the current anxieties and the political questions that we all have... That's what we are doing - not simply reflecting on the Afghanistan or Iraq wars, but a sense of cultural imperialism." This could all work out to the film's favor, but I'm guessing not... at least in terms of Oscar.

Release Date: August 13, 2010
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Directed By: Ryan Murphy

Quick Thoughts: If anything, Eat Pray Love has to be looked at as this year's The Blind Side, but the one thing it has going against it is Julia Roberts already has her Oscar. "Nip/Tuck" creator Ryan Murphy didn't hit the Oscar big-time with Running with Scissors in 2006, but perhaps the adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoirs will sit better with the Academy than Augusten Burroughs did. It doesn't hurt the cast also includes Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis and Billy Crudup.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Still looking for distribution
Directed By: Doug Liman

Quick Thoughts: There are a lot of thrillers on my early list of contenders and Doug Liman's Fair Game hopes to be a hit with the Academy in a way Nothing But the Truth couldn't two years ago. Starring Oscar nominate Naomi Watts and two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn is a good start, not to mention the story of Valerie Plame is particularly intriguing.

Release Date: Release date not yet set
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Directed By: David O. Russell

Quick Thoughts: David O. Russell is an interesting director who can deliver the excellent Three Kings and then turn around and offer a snoozer, if you ask me, in I Heart Huckabees. His last film, Nailed, may never see the light of day due to production issues and now The Fighter looks like a serious Oscar contender with talent such as Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams in front of the camera and Let the Right One In cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema behind it. Costumes and makeup in a the drama about boxer "Irish" Micky Ward's (Wahlberg) road to the world lightweight title should also to be considered.

Release Date: July 30, 2010 (Limited)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed By: Aaron Schneider

Quick Thoughts: I don't think I would get any early arguments from other Oscar pundits if I said Robert Duvall is the current frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar for Get Low considering many thought he'd be a 2010 nominee had the film been released last year. However, perhaps Sony Pictures Classics already assumed Jeff Bridges had the race locked and would enter their aging horse a year later. However, unlike Bridges, this wouldn't be Duvall's first win as he has already been nominated for an Oscar six times and won in 1984 for Tender Mercies. Will Get Low make it two?

  • Catherine Scott

    Hey Brad!

    I love that you're doing this so early (even though it's getting me excited for films that probably won't come out until 2011), but I think that you should include more plot summary in each blurb, rather than relying on the big names alone. A bunch of stars in the form of actors, directors, producers, and cinematographers does not always make something that is Oscar-worthy; it's how the film comes together. Look at The Hurt Locker. No one thought it would be an Oscar contender, let alone the winner. Again, thanks for writing this massive list!

    • Brad Brevet

      If you click on the titles of any of the films you can check out the full details. I felt including the synopsis would just be overbearing.

  • Paul H.

    Hope to see the Ledge on the list, and your thoughts on it...

    • Brad Brevet

      Although filming is underway on The Ledge, I just can't see that getting a 2010 release.

  • Stiggy

    After The Hurt Locker's win, I think that in the next 10 years were are likely to see a load of Best Picture nominees set during the Gulf War. Vietnam got milked to death by the Academy, so what's stopping them from milking Iraq?

    • Brad Brevet

      Movies like Green Zone will stop them. :)

  • Nick

    If Downey adds something new and fresh, maybe even another level to the character of Tony, I can see the nomination, otherwise no. That would be like nominating Depp for Dead Man's Chest.

    And I'd love for Inception to get as much Oscar love as possible, though by all justice Nolan should already have at least two Oscars (Best Screenplay for Memento and Best Director for TDK) and who knows how many nominations by now.

    Oh, I would also say that the guys who did VFX and Art Direction for Tron Legacy are frontrunners in their categories... I can see hardly any films beating it in those departments.

    • m1

      "Oh, I would also say that the guys who did VFX and Art Direction for Tron Legacy are frontrunners in their categories… I can see hardly any films beating it in those departments."

      Have we (yes, plural) forgotten Alice in Wonderland ALREADY? Wow, its buzz must have faded FAST!

      • Nick

        Alice didn't impress me that much, and I'm not alone.

  • pomme

    "the fighter" had very good screen-tests!
    as Nolan was snubbed for TDK,"inception" seems a good contender(if the movie is great)!
    i see Anette Benning and julianne Moore as best actress nod(Sundance's reviews are very good)

    • m1

      I don't know if both would count as lead. But it would be nice to see Moore and Bening win in the same year, whether for this movie or their others.

  • m1

    There ARE a lot of thrillers on your list. To be honest, I didn't think State of Play was TOO bad, I just thought that its Oscar-contender tone was too wannabe-ish and false-playing.

    Let's see, Black Swan, Fair Game, The Ghost Writer, Dream House, Inception, The Conspirator...could one of them possibly WIN (among the others which I didn't mention because the genre dominates at least half of the list)?

  • m1

    I will never forgive Todd Phillips for stealing that Golden Globe from (500) Days of Summer. But at least it didn't lose to Nine.

    • Nick

      That doesn't make a bit of sense. He didn't steal it, he didn't ask for it, he didn't have any word in it. The International Press chose to give it to him.

      • m1

        The Golden Globes were populist and unfair. How is it a coincidence that the highest grossing films in the show's top BP categories WON?

    • Stiggy

      If The Hangover didn't win, Julie & Julia would have. For the 2 Streep movies (Julie & Julia/It's Complicated) it was a case of "One would have won if the other wasn't nonminated".

      • m1

        Really? I thought A Serious Man could have WON had it been nominated. But no, the Globes nominated NINE.

      • Stiggy

        Basically what I am saying is The Hangover won because the 2 Meryl Streep movies (Julie & Julia and It's Complicated) stated splitting the vote.

  • Gastón

    Brad, do you think Christian Bale's role in 'The Fighter' has any chances of getting a nod?

    • m1

      I know you're not talking to me, but I think he could sneak in, depending on the reviews of the film.

  • m1

    Brad, not that this isn't a good idea, but why are you separating the preliminaries into sections?

    • Brad Brevet

      What do you mean? I thought explained all that in opening paragraphs of Part One.

      • m1

        Oh, right. I read it. I understand. Makes sense. Sorry.

  • goavs

    I like Part Two's chances a lot! I really want to see Inception get a best picture nod, and if the movie is as big as the hype or bigger, it should actually have a chance at winning. There is no way in hell Iron Man 2 can get a nomination. Sorry, but the only reason The Dark Knight should have been nominated(and in my mind beat the stupid Slumdog Millionaire) is because of the incredible story and Christopher Nolan(he should have gotten a nod for Best Director too). Iron Man is all flash and hardly any story. I'd love to see Iron Man 2 have a deep story like The Dark Knight, but it would be totally different than the first one. Back to Inception, this film could take top honors in many categories and not just special effects, sound editing and mixing.

    Now The Fighter. This is in my top 5 of most anticipated movies for me this year. I think Christian Bale could really surprise us here. His character is different from what he's done before and you can see he lost a ton of weight for the role. Mark Wahlberg won't get a nod, but it will be a great film.

    • m1

      Though I agree that The Dark Knight should have been nominated, WALL-E was the best movie of the year. Out of the five which WERE nominated that year, Slumdog Millionaire was hands-down the BEST! It was a brilliant film! I wish people would realize that already!

      • Nick

        That'd be hard. I will always consider Benjamin Button as the best film out of the nominees.

      • KQ

        Really Benjamin Button was the best movie from the Nominees,...a far far better than Slum dog Millionaire

      • m1

        @Nick and KQ: No TCCOBB wasn't the best. I really enjoyed for what was a near-3 hour love story, but in no way was it superior to Slumdog Millionaire or, as this poster mentioned, The Dark Knight.

    • maja

      I know that I may be in the minority, but for me the only movie that was worse than the Dark Knight which was nominatedwas The Reader. And I think that Wall-e or The Wrestler should have taken that spot so I agree with the snubbing of TDK.
      Also, I too consider Ben Button the best movie of that year

  • Colin

    Any chance of True Grit getting nominated this year or is that more likley to be released somtime in 2011?

    • Scott

      True Grit is scheduled for Christmas 2010, so we're gonna see it in next year's awards season for sure. Jeff Bridges back-to-back maybe? A remake will be hard to sell at the Oscars unless the Coens really sell it as something new (which I'm sure they will).

      • lizzie

        Surely Jeff Bridges cant win again next year for playing exactly the same role (alcoholic cowboy). Hopefully next year the actual best actor will win

  • Ian

    Lots of interesting films on this list. Inception is the most anticipated for me; I'm hoping that Christopher Nolan can completely blow everyone's mind, but I'm also prepared for the possibility of a giant misfire. Iron Man is certainly worth mentioning, but I don't think it looks very good at all. It reminds me too much of Spider-Man 3 with all the villains. And I have a feeling that the humor, which was so fun the first time around, might end up being forced. That's how I felt about Pirates 2, and that's the feeling I'm getting from the trailers.

  • Jack

    Don't forget "True Gift" by the Coen Brothers, and "The Social Network" by David Fincher.

    • Colin

      Just mentioned the Coen brothers one Jack.

  • Meghan

    I can't believe you picked Knockout to be a potential contender. Interesting. I'm very interested so see what Soderbergh does with an action film.

  • Meghan(again)

    I forgot to mention that Soderbergh is at the helm of another potential contender: Contagion

    It stars Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cartiord, Matt Damon, and Kate Winslet.

    It's a thriller about a wide spread global disease...
    this probably has more potential than Knockout imo

  • Donni Jackson

    What about I love you Phillip Morris that looks like a contender… I mean ewan mcgregor actually does a passable American accent

  • Danny King

    Just an amusing piece of information:

    My brother's name is Matt, which is the same as George Clooney's character in "The Descendants," Matt King. We got quite a few laughs out of that.

  • KQ

    Brad, What about "Shutter Island"..??
    i think it should get some consideration, at least in Acting....?????

  • Tyler R

    Where is Jack Goes Boating? I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman and it got a lot of good praise from Sundance.

  • valma44

    michelle williams it's sure for her, she will be nominated

  • Paul Zinnett

    Toy Story 3 is hands down the best film so far and Climate Refugees has to be the documentary front runner for the 2011 Academy Awards.