Best Picture 2014: Oscar contenders include 'Gravity,' 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years a Slave'

Best Picture 2014: Oscar contenders include 'Gravity,' 'Captain Phillips' and '12 Years a Slave'

Surveying this year's field of awards hopefuls

The Oscar season is howling to life in the wake of the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals. NYFF is right around the corner and very soon it'll be October, "Gravity" (with "Captain Phillips" and "12 Years a Slave" right behind it) and we'll pretty much be off to the races. It's time, then, for our annual early plunge into this year's contenders, which we'll bring to you on a category-by-category basis over the next few weeks. We begin today with, what else? Best Picture.

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<p>Jerry Bruckheimer</p>

Jerry Bruckheimer

Credit: AP Photo

American Cinematheque honors Jerry Bruckheimer

The blockbuster merchant is the first producer to receive the award

It's been a time of mixed fortunes for Jerry Bruckheimer, the Hollywood super-producer ("Beverly Hills Cop," "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down") whose surname is as distinctive a cinematic brand as that of any auteur. Not long after his overly expensive western "The Lone Ranger" took a beating (undeservedly so, in my opinion) from critics and ticket-buyers alike, it was announced that he and Walt Disney Pictures would be ending their once-lucrative deal. As Greg noted when reporting the news last week, it wasn't his first such flop -- is there still room for studio mega-producers in this day and age?

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<p>Zhang Ziyi in &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;</p>

Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Foreign Oscar update: 'The Grandmaster,' 'Broken Circle Breakdown,' 'Neighboring Sounds' join race

India surprises, while Agnieszka Holland represents for the Czech Republic

We’re in the home stretch of the submissions process for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. With one week to go until the official deadline, we currently have 52 entries – which, to use past years as a yardstick, means we probably have about three-quarters of the final field confirmed. Of course, it’s at this stage that you fall way behind if you turn your back for a day or two, so I’ve got a lot of submissions to catch up on.

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<p>&quot;Approved for Adoption&quot;</p>

"Approved for Adoption"

Credit: GKIDS

GKIDS sets animated documentary 'Approved for Adoption' for Nov. release

But it won't qualify for this year's Best Animated Feature Film race

We'll be analyzing the incredibly lackluster Best Animated Feature Film field in due time. Pieces are still falling into place and the race for the win looks to be another Pixar vs. in-house Disney showdown. A press release landed today announcing what at first looked to be another potential player, but it turns out Academy rules will actually keep it from qualifying.

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<p>&quot;Like Father, Like Son,&quot; one of the films controversially absent from this year's foreign-language race.</p>

"Like Father, Like Son," one of the films controversially absent from this year's foreign-language race.

Credit: Sundance Selects

Roundup: Fixing the foreign-language Oscar

Also: Fantastic Fest winners, and has Michael Douglas been taken for granted?

By this point, it's common knowledge that the Academy's voting system for Best Foreign Language Film -- or Best Foreign Language Film Approved And Selected By A National Committee That Is Also Agreeable To The Widest Academy Demographic And Was Domestically Released Within The Eligibility Window -- is, to put it gently, somewhat flawed. Everyone has different ideas about how to fix it (including, to their credit, the Academy itself), but Toronto Film Festival director Cameron Bailey's are more sensible than most. I wholeheartedly echo his statement that the idea of this being a country-based competition in this era of global co-production is archaic. Also interesting: he argues that requiring contenders to have a US release date would encourage increased distribution of foreign fare. Good points all round. [Variety]

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Christian Bale in "Out of the Furnace."
Christian Bale in "Out of the Furnace."
Credit: Relativity Media

'Her,' 'Out of the Furnace,' 'Dallas Buyers Club' to compete at Rome Film Festival

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' will screen out of competition

At least three American awards hopefuls will have the chance to compete for some European festival hardware, as Spike Jonze's "Her," Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace" and Jean-Marc Vallee's "Dallas Buyers Club" are among the first four Competition selections announced for November's Rome Film Festival. They'll be joined by the world premiere of Spanish director Isabel Coixet's "Another Me," along with several others yet to be announced.

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<p>Nicole Kidman in&nbsp;&quot;Grace of Monaco&quot;</p>

Nicole Kidman in "Grace of Monaco"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Weinstein moves 'Grace of Monaco' with Nicole Kidman to 2014

Also confirms 'The Immigrant' for quarter one of next year

Well, Harvey Weinstein probably needed to thin things out a bit on this year's slate and now, after being rumored for a little while now, "Grace of Monaco" has been moved to 2014.

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<p>Leonardo DiCaprio in&nbsp;&quot;The Wolf of Wall&nbsp;Street&quot;</p>

Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Off the Carpet: Whither 'Wall Street?'

Scorsese's latest could move as 'Mud' is the first screener in voters' hands

I was all set to write something in this space last week, with Toronto having wrapped, etc. But then I just stopped. It seemed like it all needed a moment to sit, and what could I add to the conversation that hadn't been hammered home for two weeks already by the time "12 Years a Slave" predictably won the festival's audience award?

What I'm noticing this year is that the media is, more aggressively than ever, trying to dictate the conversation. From the call-off-all-bets aplomb of Best Picture proclamations at Telluride and Toronto to trying to force a supporting campaign on a very strong lead actor hopeful, the whiff of being authoritative is so much stronger than usual this time of year. But I've covered that. Let's attempt to progress things a bit here; there is this and that to consider.

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<p>Tye Sheridan, Matthew McConaughey and Jacob Lofland in &quot;Mud.&quot;</p>

Tye Sheridan, Matthew McConaughey and Jacob Lofland in "Mud."

Credit: Roadside Attractions

Roundup: 'Mud' wins the Oscar screener race

Also: The greatest short speeches, and the successful anonymity of Ron Howard

Being the first screener to land in Academy voters' mailboxes is a victory that sometimes brings more than just bragging rights -- especially for smaller films that might get lost in the crush later in the season. The early bird strategy has paid off handsomely for such performance-driven indies as "A Better Life" and "Frozen River" in the past, though it doesn't always get results: last year, TWC's "The Intouchables" didn't even wind up with a foreign-language nod. So, which screener was quickest on the draw this year? Jeff Nichols' coming-of-age tale "Mud" -- until recently, the year's highest-grossing art house release. Roadside Attractions are simplifying Matthew McConaughey's Best Actor drive for "Dallas Buyers Club" by running a supporting campaign for the star, who plays the title role. You can argue amongst yourselves about the rights or wrongs of that move, though the film's best shot at a nod is probably for Best Original Screenplay. Will being first pay off this year? [Deadline

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<p>Michael Douglas at the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards</p>

Michael Douglas at the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Emmys: David Fincher and Michael Douglas headline movie vet winners

Steven Soderbergh, Jeff Daniels and James Cromwell also picked up prizes

It was a big night for prestige film personalities in front of and behind the camera at the Emmys tonight. Most notable was "House of Cards" and "Behind the Candelabra" directors David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh walking away with wins for TV Drama and TV Movie or Miniseries respectively.

In the case of Soderbergh, he joins rare air with names like Martin Scorsese, Bob Fosse and Michael Moore as one of only a handful of helmers to scoop up an Emmy, an Oscar (for 2000's "Traffic") and the Cannes Palme d'Or (for 1989's "sex, lies and videotape"). In the case of Mr. Fincher, well, I'm sure he'll get his fill of "He doesn't have an Oscar but he has an Emmy!" headlines tomorrow morning.

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