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…
Sundance may go without a Best Picture nod this year
The Park City institution had something of an Oscar comeback this past season with the Best Picture and Best Director nods for "Beasts of the Southern Wild." This after festival films were shut out of the Best Picture race in 2011 following nominations four out of the five previous years. After this year's festival it looked like both "Before Midnight" and "Fruitvale Station" could crack the roll call for Oscar's top honor. Obviously, you need a passionate following to earn a Best Picture nod, but will the love for either film still be that strong in December and early-January? "Fruitval" has a shot, but at this point we're not feeling it (at least in the top category).
Prediction: Neither "Fruitvale Station" nor "Before Midnight" will be nominated for Best Picture, but both films will earn screenplay or acting nods.
You can't stop Meryl
It looks like America's greatest actress earned just one year off the awards circuit train. The buzz is Streep is back to her fantastic self in John Wells' "August: Osage County" (shocker). And, even in what may be the most competitive Best Actress field in recent memory, the three-time winner is pretty damn close to a lock -- unless she goes supporting after all.
Prediction: Meryl Streep will earn her 18th nomination for "August: Osage County."
Don't call it a comeback, Ron Howard's been here for years
Howard earned a Best Director nomination for "Frost/Nixon" and the film found five nominations overall, but doesn't it seem like he's been out of the game since "A Beautiful Mind" or at least "Cinderella Man?" Perhaps it's because the 81st Academy Awards were pretty much "Slumdog Millionaire's" to lose after its festival premiere in September, or maybe it was Howard making sure "Frost" stars Michael Sheen and Frank Langella got most of the time in the spotlight. In any event, after the huge misfire "The Dilemma" (which certainly no one remembers) he's back with the independently financed "Rush" (a film no studio wanted to make). Happily, the picture may be the best directing effort of Howard's career and it will be shocking if the Academy doesn't bestow some love on the amazing true story. Of course, whether that includes a Best Picture nod or not remains to be seen.
Prediction: "Rush" will earn at least five Academy Award nominations.
The age of the 3D Oscar picture
"Avatar," "Hugo," "Life of Pi" and, now, "Gravity." 3D may be the mechanism studios are using to jack up ticket prices and keep the Hollywood machine going, but it's also increasingly becoming a tool of artistic significance. "Avatar" and "Pi" are clearly not the same cinematic experiences without the immersive technique and we've seen enough of "Gravity" to know that's also the case with Alfonso Cuarón's passion project as well. We're not willing to bet on the Best Picture nomination…yet, but direction? Let me pull out my wallet…
Prediction: Cuarón will earn his first Best Director nomination for "Gravity."
Battle of five former winners
We've already predicted Ms. Streep to earn another Best Actress nomination, but what about the other four nominees? The field is impressive and sight-unseen you could argue two to three actresses may be robbed of a deserved honor. More intriguing, however, is the fact that so many former winners are in play. Streep, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Marion Cotillard Cotillard have all taken home an Oscar at one point or another. We're calling it…
Prediction: Every Best Actress nominee will be a previous Academy Award winner. Something that has never happened in the history of the category.
"The Hobbit" ain't no "Lord of the Rings"
Remember when everyone felt they had to consider "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" as a serious awards season contender? That's what happens when you're the de facto sequel (yes, it's a prequel, we know) to the Oscar winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "An Unexpected Journey" earned just three nominations in 2013 and we expect this year's "The Desolation of Smaug" to find just one or two (make-up and visual effects most likely). "Smaug" may end up a very good movie, but the age of Middle Earth's Oscar reign is quickly coming to an end.
Prediction: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" will earn even less nominations than its predecessor.
Kiddie animated films can't take home the big one
Uh-oh, it's one of those years in animation. DreamWorks' entry for Oscar glory? "The Croods." Universal Pictures? "Despicable Me 2." Sony Pictures Animation? "Cloud With A Chance of Meatballs 2." Fox? "Epic." Walt Disney Animation Studios? "Frozen" (which looks very, very kiddie). Pixar? "Monster's University." And the latter is the current frontrunner. Now, let's stop to consider this. Is the Academy really going to honor a sequel that earned less critical and audience acclaim than its predecessor? The predecessor that lost in the same category 11 years ago? No, we think not. Instead, an independent animated film such as "The Wind Rises" by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki (a previous winner for "Spirited Away" in 2003) will rise to the top. I mean, John Lasseter doesn't think Pixar has to win every year does he? Wait, don't answer that question…
Prediction: Hollywood studios miss out on the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in 2014.
The fight for the Documentary Oscar will be hardcore
The Academy changed the rules somewhat late in the game last season allowing all members to vote for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. This time around the distributors with players in the doc category have much more time to strategize how to win what is now a wide open vote. Expect more documentary screeners to be sent to members than ever before, even before the nominations are announced. Granted, the nominating committee could surprise and leave out some popular choices, but no one is going to be allowed to ignore this category any longer.
Prediction: Early campaigning will make the year's documentary Oscar race the tightest ever.
Woody Allen continues his domination of the Original Screenplay category
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's an easy one, I know. But hey! It's not like "To Rome With Love" got a nod!
Prediction: Allen earns his 16th original screenplay nomination and 24th overall for "Blue Jasmine."
Tom Hanks back in the Oscar circle but...
After some questionable choices and time spent producing Emmy-winning mini-series, Tom Hanks has started to get back into an awards season rhythm. It actually started with "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and then last year's "Cloud Atlas" (don't laugh). This season he has a potential supporting actor nomination as none other than Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks" and an almost surefire nod as "Captain Phillips" in the Best Actor category. Even if both occur we're still not convinced the Academy is ready to elect him into the three-time winner club. Remember, it took Streep forever to gain entry and even the supposed greatest actor of our time, Daniel Day-Lewis, had to wait 18 years for his second statue. Hanks' best chance is in the Best Supporting Actor category, but we just don't buy it. Not yet anyway. He may be a beloved member of the Academy, but…
Prediction: Tom Hanks won't join the three-timers club for his work in "Saving Mr. Banks" or "Captain Phillips," but he'll be nominated for both.
Agree? Disagree? Have your own prediction? Share your thoughts below.