The Oscars are coming, and the drumbeat is starting to get louder. Here’s what’s happening: On Monday we will see one of the two remaining films which has yet to be screened. That’s David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Christian Bale. Russell has been denied awards for “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” in the last couple of years. So “American Hustle” is much anticipated.
That leaves just “The Scorsese,” as it is known: “The Wolf of Wall Street” is being screened on Monday night for ‘friends and family.’ Not press. After it’s shown, Scorsese heads to the Marrakesh Film Festival, where he’s head of the jury. He doesn’t get back until the first week of December. “Wolf” has a very late premiere: December 17th. But it also follows some other last minute Scorsese entries like “Gangs of New York.” Oh the drama!
Other than those two, everything else has been seen is being watched either on DVD or in the slow rollout of screenings. In the last 24 hours I’ve viewed Spike Jonze’s excellent, off beat highly inventive “Her” on DVD and Peter Berg’s ferocious “Lone Survivor” on a big screen. Each of them is terrific. And that poses the question: what the heck are we going to do? There are too many good films and not enough slots (except at the Golden Globes, where you can be a comedy/musical without a song or a laugh).
Here are the players, so to speak, in no order.
It would seem like four films are ‘in’ without a doubt. Maybe. They would be “Gravity,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Blue Jasmine,” and “The Butler.” We know them, we’ve had a lot of time with them. “Captain Phillips” would be next. I’m also including “Fruitvale Station” here because it’s headed to DVD, has been out, and is sensational. But it may be too small to make it over the finish line. “Dallas Buyers Club” will probably be more active in acting nominations. (UPDATED NOTE: “DBC” has a strong shot at Best Picture nom, but definitely Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor, and McConnaughey could be the surprise in Best Actor.)
“All is Lost” is lost, although Robert Redford remains a front runner for Best Actor. Last night a sailor told me all the sailing stuff in “All is Lost” is wrong. I don’t know: It looked good to me. On the other hand, if it was right, how did the Redford character get in so much trouble? No one’s ever suggested before that maybe the guy was a bad sailor. Good point.
The next group are the smaller pictures, each with fervent fans: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Nebraska,” and “Philomena.” They should all be in. I should include Spike Jonze’s sort of quietly mind blowing “Her” in this group. Joaquin Phoenix is pure genius. The screenplay is a lock nomination for Original. The set design and cinematography are so unusual they command attention.
Then we have “Lone Survivor,” out of left field. Stupendous. The true story of Navy seal Marcus Luttrell should be the “Platoon” or “Hurt Locker” of 2013. It’s a flawless film about combat and friendship. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Taylor Kitsch head up a superb ensemble cast. Peter Berg was obviously distracted thinking about this film while he was making “Battleship.”
Still out there and bearing down on us: The Weinstein Company is holding two cards which may be aces: “August: Osage County” and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” They are also getting big airings on Monday night. Look out because at least one of these is going to upset the apple cart. They were each seen in Toronto. But Monday night may tell us a lot, especially about “AOC.”
And then there are a bunch of really good films that can’t make it but might have in less competitive years: “Prisoners,” “Before Midnight,” “The Place Beyond the Pines.” “42.” And so on. “Enough Said” is a charming, memorable comedy.
I’ve probably missed something here. So hang on. It’s going to get rough before it gets better.
PS It’s good thing that “Monuments Men” and “Foxcatcher” pulled out of this race. The Oscars would have had to be shown on two consecutive nights!