Oscar in August: 10 predictions for the 2013-2014 awards season

Oscar in August: 10 predictions for the 2013-2014 awards season

Bet on Meryl, Tom, Woody and more

As awards season finally drags itself kicking and screaming back to Hollywood after a long well deserved vacation, there are two momentous events that officially signify its return.  First, this pundit begins speaking in third person once again (oh, you know you love it) and, second, we present 10 predictions for the upcoming season. In August. In very early, er, late August.

Over the years this writer has been very right (calling "Precious" and "Inception" Best Picture nods) and he's been so, so wrong (yikes, I guess that nomination for Steve Martin's "Shopgirl" screenplay didn't happen did it?). Of course, putting yourself out there this early is part of the game and the equivalent of Miley Cyrus showing up at a Parents Television Council meeting anytime soon. But, we'd expect nothing less.  If awards season is anything it's the most political, back-biting and euphoric yearly campaign west of our nation's capital.  Whether you're trying to convince someone the Hollywood Film Awards has more legitimacy than the presiding regime in Syria or a member of the media dealing with feedback from your beloved fanbase.

That being said, we'll know a lot more after many of this year's contenders begin screening at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals this week and the Toronto Film Festival the week following. In the meantime, are you ready to take a step into the future? This prognosticator is sure your knives are sharpening as you get ready to scroll down the page…

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<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Monuments Men&quot;</p>

"The Monuments Men"

Credit: Sony Pictures

'Monuments Men' poster lines up a motley crew with Matt Damon out front

How will this one figure into the awards landscape on the other side of the festivals?

Is "The Monuments Men" an awards movie? That's still the question on everyone's lips after the film started to appear more commercial than the subject matter might have had us believe -- not that that's a bad thing. "Argo" was pretty darn commercial.

George Clooney is playing things cool on the movie. Maybe he doesn't want to deal with the awards press whirlwind. Maybe he's being smart by not showing too much of his hand. Who knows? It's true there isn't an awards consultant (yes, those are a thing) on board, though reports that Sony won't be aiming for Oscars with the film are probably a bit of a stretch. Whatever the case, I loved the trailer and can't wait to see the movie. That's all I know for now as we gear up for the big fall festival push later this week.

A poster for the film has finally been released. It's handsome enough. All the dudes are present (sorry, Cate Blanchett). It's interesting that Matt Damon is featured out front. Does that mean he's the lead of the film? I've been wondering how his and Clooney's roles would shake out on that score. Anyway, check out the poster below and tell us what you think.

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<p>&quot;Soongava: Dance of the Orchids&quot;</p>

"Soongava: Dance of the Orchids"

Credit: Rapsodie Production

Nepal and Greece enter the foreign-language Oscar race

At least one lesbian-themed drama will be in the running

Well, it won't be France's "Blue is the Warmest Color" (for eligibility reasons discussed here), but at least one lesbian-focused drama stands a chance at winning this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. And it's from rather an unexpected country: Nepal. Subarna Thapa's film "Soongava: Dance of the Orchids," a story of a young dancer who defies her wealthy Hindu family's plans for an arranged marriage to move in with her working-class female lover, was announced as the landlocked South Asian state's official submission yesterday.

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<p>Mia Wasikowska in &quot;Tracks.&quot;</p>

Mia Wasikowska in "Tracks."

Credit: See-Saw Films

Venice preview, part four: 'The Zero Theorem,' 'Joe,' 'Tracks,' 'Via Castellana Bandiera,' 'Sacro GRA'

Casting an eye another five Golden Lion contenders

Concluding our preview of the 20 titles in the running for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off on Wednesday. Today's selection includes new films from Terry Gilliam, David Gordon Green, John Curran, Emma Dante and Gianfranco Rosi.

"The Zero Theorem," directed by Terry Gilliam: It's been nearly 20 years since the last Terry Gilliam film that was widely embraced by either critics or audiences, but when it comes to festival programmers and industry peers, goodwill from the honorary Brit's "Monty Python"-to-"12 Monkeys" glory days is a seemingly limitless resource. The Venice Film Festival has backed Gilliam in times both thick and thin. "The Fisher King" premiered there in 1991, winning him the Silver Lion; 14 years later, he received a frostier welcome on the Lido with the roundly (and rightly) panned "The Brothers Grimm." Which way will "The Zero Theorem" go? We can hope that the presence of "Grimm" star Matt Damon in the cast isn't a sign pointing to the latter route.

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<p>Scarlett Johansson in &quot;Under the Skin.&quot;</p>

Scarlett Johansson in "Under the Skin."

Credit: Film4

Venice preview, part three: 'Under the Skin,' 'Night Moves,' 'Tom at the Farm,' 'Ana Arabia,' 'The Police Officer's Wife'

Casting an eye over another five Golden Lion contenders

Continuing our preview of the 20 titles in the running for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off next week. Today's selection includes new films from Jonathan Glazer, Kelly Reichardt, Xavier Dolan, Amos Gitai and Philip Gröning. 

"Under the Skin," directed by Jonathan Glazer: Regular readers may well have worked out that this is my most anticipated title of the Venice Film Festival -- if not the entire remainder of 2013. Impatiently, I held out a sliver of hope that Glazer's long-awaited third feature would show up in Cannes, but it was always likeliest to premiere on the Lido -- where the British director's last feature, "Birth," was unveiled a full nine years ago. The eerie reincarnation drama was an immediately polarizing title. Some denounced it as overreaching twaddle; I'm in the camp that deems it one of the films of the new century. Nothing about "Under the Skin" suggests that Glazer, in his long absence, has grown any more inclined to play it safe.

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<p>Zac Efron in &quot;Parkland.&quot;</p>

Zac Efron in "Parkland."

Credit: Open Road Films

Venice preview, part two: 'The Wind Rises,' 'Parkland,' 'The Unknown Known,' 'L'intrepido,' 'Miss Violence'

Casting an eye over another five Golden Lion contenders

Continuing our preview of the 20 titles in the running for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which kicks off next week. Today's selection includes new films from Hayao Miyazaki, Peter Landesman, Errol Morris, Alexandros Avranas and Gianni Amelio.

"The Wind Rises," directed by Hayao Miyazaki: It's been five years since the last Miyazaki-directed feature, "Ponyo," premiered in Competition at Venice -- and honestly, that sweet but unapologetically minor children's film wasn't enough to satisfy Miyazaki fans' cravings for over half a decade. Since the veteran Japanese animator ascended to festival auteur status (a promotion sealed when eventual Oscar-winner "Spirited Away" won the Golden Bear at Berlin), his work has arrived with crossover expectations that "Ponyo"'s gentle maritime charms couldn't quite fulfil. That looks likely to change with "The Wind Rises," a significant change of pace for the director, and one of the most ambitious projects of his big-dreaming career.

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<p>The ensemble of &quot;The World's End.&quot;</p>

The ensemble of "The World's End."

Credit: Focus Features

Tell us what you thought of 'The World's End'

Will you raise a glass to Edgar Wright's apocalyptic bar-crawl comedy?

Years from now, when the dust has settled on the multiplex offerings of summer 2013 -- and I have a feeling we're talking quite a lot of dust here -- people will still be confusing "The World's End" with "This is the End," and vice versa. (In fact, the passage of time will only render the distinction fuzzier.) Perhaps they'll be put together in a box-set, so people will have their bases covered. Anyway, both are casually structured apocalyptic comedies, both have boisterous, largely male ensembles, and both are reasonably amusing. It's the British one, however, that has won the critical war.

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<p>Time to trade those in for the cape and cowl, sir.</p>

Time to trade those in for the cape and cowl, sir.

Credit: Focus Features

Ben Affleck goes from Best Picture-winning 'Argo' to... Batman?

An interesting and seemingly counter-intuitive choice from the actor/director

I think I'm in, like, Russellville, Arkansas or something like that. Mid-trek cross-country. Checked into the hotel, grabbed a shower, settled in and…Holy Argo, Batman -- Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Dark Knight in Zack Snyder's still untitled "Man of Steel" sequel (tentatively being called "Batman vs. Superman").

So if you're keeping score at home, that puts last year's Best Picture winner in the weirdly rare air of having played Superman (2006's "Hollywoodland") AND Batman in his career. Oh, and Daredevil, too. But let's break this down...

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<p>Oscar Isaac in &quot;Inside Llewyn Davis.&quot;</p>

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis."

Credit: CBS Films

New trailer for 'Inside Llewyn Davis' further showcases Oscar Isaac's charisma

But you've still got to wait over three months to see the Coens' latest

The further I get away from the Joel and Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis" -- which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, along with adulation of critics -- the more I find myself thinking of Oscar Isaac's performance before I do the film surrounding him. That's no slight on "Davis," which is every bit as cool and acute and exquisitely crafted as the brothers' top-tier work, but it's Isaac who carries its soul, warming and roughing up its wintery reserve. I still have no idea what the film's profile will be this awards season -- it could as easily be the critics' cause as the distantly admired outsider -- but if it lands right with Academy voters, I hope Isaac lands with it.

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<p>Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in &quot;Philomena.&quot;</p>

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in "Philomena."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Venice preview, part one: 'Philomena,' 'Child of God,' 'Stray Dogs,' 'Jealousy,' 'The Rooftop'

Our first overview of the titles competing for the Golden Lion at this year's fest

I can hardly believe we're at that point in the year already, but it's less than a week until Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" opens the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday -- kicking off a long, busy, hype-filled run of fall festivals, and in turn, priming us for the even longer, even busier, even more hype-filled awards season that lies ahead. As usual, I'll be in attendance at Venice, and this year, we've heard your requests for a more detailed festival preview than usual. Time is too short for me to preview the 20 Competition titles individually, as in my Cannes Check series. Each day for the next few days, however, I'll be casting an eye over a mixed selection of five Golden Lion contenders -- beginning today with the latest from Stephen Frears, James Franco, Tsai Ming-Liang, Philippe Garrel and Merzak Allouache.   

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