Early-year releases and 2013 bump-ups find room to maneuver this season
For films that don't have deep pockets or any number of other elements stacked up against them in an awards season -- genre bias, early-year release, etc. -- muscling into the conversation at the end of the year can be tough. You use what's at your disposal, of course, and you seize the moment when you can. And make no mistake, there's always a moment to be seized. Because an Oscar season isn't a preordained thing. It's constantly shifting, giving slack, taking it in, ebbing, flowing.
This year, for instance, there is softness in the lead actress category to be capitalized upon. Of course, it seems like there is always a fair share of complaints to be lodged against a minimal amount of Best Actress contenders in a given season, but often enough (in my opinion), we have a strong field. And nevertheless, I think that blame lies first and foremost with a dearth of quality female roles than it does a dearth of quality female performances. So you get something like "Hitchcock" showing up with Helen Mirren in tow, or the possibility of multiple foreign nominees (which means, thankfully, they're getting a look as a result of wanting elsewhere), or you see a campaign excited about the possibilities of a Sundancer like Mary Elizabeth Winstead in "Smashed." The doors crack a bit and whoever wedges in a foot gets the shot.