The Long Shot: Out but not down
Still, it was awfully hard to keep track of those early shifts in the race, so frequently and vehemently were they noted. "12 Years a Slave" was in across the board. "August: Osage County" was out -- except for its performances, where questions of who was in, and who was out, and in the correct or incorrect category, were thrashed out on Twitter in far greater detail, and with far more enthusiasm, than the more fundamental question of whether the film was any cop. Idris Elba was out. Matthew McConaughey was so in. Directors with the audacity not to go to Toronto at all -- oh, those incorrigible Coens -- were on hold.
Most, if not all, of these declarations may be proven correct by January, though it's hard to absorb them as gospel when you're still waiting to see the film with your own eyes. "12 Years a Slave" may well enter the backlash stage before I join the chorus of even the first wave of euphoria/skepticism; by October 18, the date of its UK premiere, the counter-backlash may even be under way. (The film will be glad of it; after being declared a Best Picture-in-waiting at Toronto last year, "Argo" did itself an enormous favor by dimming its lights for a couple of weeks while more restlessly declarative pundits imagined "Lincoln" a done deal.)
The fall festivals are nearly a month-old memory, the field already leaner and more steeply raked than it was in early September, and I'm only now offering my first nomination predictions. If I've been a little slower than usual to join the prognostication parade, it's because I've been a little slower than usual to see the films -- and I'd prefer to enjoy them as films first, before analyzing what factors -- only one of which tends to be the film's own merit -- went right or wrong for its Oscar campaign. "12 Years a Slave," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "August: Osage County," even summer releases like "Lee Daniels' The Butler": all titles whose variable awards potential I know more intimately than the films themselves.
Some films may even be out of the running altogether by the time some of us get round to them, and that's no bad thing. There's a noble fascination to fine, Oscar-tailored films that never found the awards momentum they were seeking: Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price" generated awards talk for all of a second on the festival circuit last year, and I'll still tell my fellow Brits to see it when it crawls onto UK screens this winter. (Just the other day, I caught a segment of "The Soloist" on TV, and was surprised by how entirely-okay it seemed. Also, you know what's a pretty good film that no one tells you is pretty good? "Won't Back Down." But I'm straying off course here.)
Good films needn't even be great to avoid evaporating when Oscar season does. They're in a different category to genuinely remarkable early releases that probably never had Oscar on the cards anyway -- let's say "Stoker" or, at a marginally more Oscar-friendly push, "Frances Ha." (Lest we forget, Noah Baumbach's lovely film skipped away from Toronto last year with a modicum of Oscar buzz for its leading lady, before selflessly scuppering its own momentum to give the springtime at least one great movie.) And those are in a different category still to recent festival premieres that we know, sight unseen, aren't getting Oscars, but are looking forward to seeing away. (I'm pretty sure I know why nobody at Toronto was talking about, oh, "The Railway Man,"but I still want to see it.)
We're already past that nice point of knowingly blind optimism where virtually everything and everyone, we like to say, has a shot. Still, there's room in my mind for all these films, even if there's no room in the race: have-nots that still have (or might have) something, out but not down.
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
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