Off the Carpet: Oscar hopefuls from 'Before Midnight' to 'Mud' try to stand out from the year's first half
It seems like just yesterday Ben Affleck was on stage at the Dolby Theatre accepting his Best Picture Oscar for "Argo" and one of the more dramatic awards seasons was drawing to a close. Since then we've had a refreshing handful of months away from the fray, but today, we're going to ruin all of that, just for a moment.
Last week Greg, Guy and I offered up our "for your consideration" Oscar picks from the year's first half that we'd like to see remembered come year's end. With that as a launching off point, and with today marking the actual mid-way point of 2013, let's really dig in. How has the year shaped up for awards hopefuls so far?
January proved to be the typical dumping ground for new films and expansion area for December limited releases, but the Sundance Film Festival brought a number of possibilities. The Weinstein Company struck first, picking up (for VOD shingle RADiUS-TWC) the documentary "20 Feet from Stardom" and later the tear-jerking Grand Jury and Audience Award winner "Fruitvale Station" (née "Fruitvale"). The latter went on to Cannes and is set for a late-July release, but we'll just have to see if it can be viewed as more than a strong Independent Spirit player.
Sundance also brought Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," which Sony Pictures Classics picked up after the fest. It could yield a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination like its predecessor, "Before Sunset," but stars Ethan Hawke and particularly Julie Delpy could find room as well. As of right now it would appear the film is SPC's most suitable awards player, unless rumors of Sony's "Foxcatcher" being shuffled over to the indie shingle pans out.
Those were probably the biggest players coming out of Park City this year, though certainly there are idle possibilities in this and that, from "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" to now-playing controversial doc "We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks." Jeff Nichols' "Mud" also popped back up after a Cannes 2012 debut, but more on that in a moment.
February was more drought in the multiplexes. Steven Soderbergh's supposed final foray into theatrical, "Side Effects," was a curiosity, but really, not much to discuss beyond Jude Law's performance and the stunning digital photography.
March brought the first animated feature film contender of the year, "The Croods," as well as the first major box office draw, "Oz the Great and Powerful." The latter may be able to find its way through the crafts races. Landing on the art house side of things were "Ginger & Rosa" (potential Indie Spirits player with a top-notch Elle Fanning performance and gorgeous photography from rising star Robbie Ryan), as well as Focus Features' "The Place Beyond the Pines" (a screenplay hopeful among other pushes). Harmony Corine's "Spring Breakers" also landed, bringing with it a fun potential nomination for supporting actor James Franco.
Things got a little more serious in April with the arrival of "Mud." The Mark Twain-inspired Jeff Nichols drama currently sits at a whopping 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, easily the first significant Best Picture player of the year, with a supporting performance from Matthew McConaughey that could make him a double nominee come year's end. Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" also made its way to screens (a possible cinematography nomination for Emmanuel Lubezki, who has "Gravity" coming later this year), but it was mostly dismissed, while baseball biopic "42" also landed, bringing with it a supporting performance from Harrison Ford that will be looking for traction.
In May, the summer movie season announced itself with releases such as "Iron Man 3" and "The Great Gatsby." The latter was mostly savaged but could still end up remembered for its design, while the former was mostly appreciated and might pop up in sound and visual effects races.
Also in May, three films from the 2012 Telluride Film Festival finally hit theaters: Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" (a screenplay and Best Actress player for Greta Gerwig but it could end up relegated to the Spirits bin), Ariel Vromen's "The Iceman" (a showcase for actor Michael Shannon) and Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" (a definite documentary feature contender). It's also worth mentioning Zal Batmanglij's "The East," an effective thriller that could show up at the Indie Spirits like his debut last year, "Sound of My Voice."