The likeliest Best Picture contenders of 2014 will, as usual, be made by respected people with strong resumes and, as usual, contain strong, socially resonant material that will probably push mainstream buttons. Particularly among over-25 women. Two of the likeliest will be directed by women, and four will primarily be about women. Plus a couple of dramedies, a crime drama, an epic Biblical drama, two World War II dramas, a more-or-less modern war drama and so on. In a word, varied. Nobody knows anything and I’m obviously just guessing at this stage, but here are the films I’m presuming will be among the final picks:
1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s comedic Birdman (seen in a rough version by a friend last July and described as AGI’s “best, most humanistic work!”); 2. J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year (’80s-set, Sidney Lumet-ish Manhattan crime drama); 3. Ridley Scott‘s Exodus (Ridley Scott/Kingdom of Heaven treatment given to Biblical tale of Moses, Egyptians and Hebrew slaves); 4. Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken (World War II survival saga, All Is Lost/Life of Pi + Japanese prison camp); 5. Jean Marc Vallee‘s Wild (makeup-free Reese Witherspoon discovering herself and the American character on a long-distance hike); 6. Saul Dibbs‘ Suite Francaise (married rural-residing French woman has affair with German solder during World War II); 7. Michel Hazanavicius‘ The Search (remake of Fred Zinneman‘s same-titled 1948 film, relationship between a woman and a young boy in war-torn Chechnya, Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening costarring); 8. Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Chidren (ensemble social-sexual dramedy with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, et. al.) ; 9. Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette (British-set, turn-of-the-century drama about female voting-rights struggle, script by The Queen‘s Abi Morgan, costarring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep).
It’s quite possible that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice (Los Angeles in the ’60s, a private dick looking for a disappeared ex-girlfriend, first-ever film adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel) and Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar (wormhole, time travel) will be nominated also, but these guys don’t make Oscar films. PTA makes bold, uncompromising, high-style mood trips that stand their ground with the door slightly ajar for those who wish to come to them (PTA’s films never pander or even tiptoe into accessible emotionality), and Nolan…well, Nolan is basically an indie-geek gearhead whose importance has been amplified by his directing super-budgeted Warner Bros. event films, but who probably peaked with Memento and Insomnia. He certainly doesn’t make “Academy-friendly” films, and I mean that as a statement of absolute respect.
It’s also conceivable (although I’m not at all predicting this) that Will Gluck‘s Annie could become a Best Picture nominee — a musical feel-gooder made for the squares, but if it works, it works.
Noah Baumbach‘s While We’re Young, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special, Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes, Tate Taylor‘s Get On Up (Chadwick Bozeman as young James Brown…this year’s Ray?), Thomas McCarthy‘s The Cobbler, Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys, Thomas Vinterberg‘s Far From The Madding Crowd and Woody Allen‘s Magic in the Moonlight could also be in the mix.
An Untitled Cameron Crowe romantic dramedy is due at the end of the year, but this is basically a rewritten version of Deep Tiki, and…I’m sorry but that read/felt like a dicey project in its earlier incarnation when Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon were going to costar. I just don’t trust Crowe anymore. Not after Elizabethtown and We Bought A Zoo. Nobody does…let’s be honest. This could change in an instant but people are gun-shy as we speak.
Yes, I’m posting this as a pushback to Oliver Lyttleton‘s “Premature 2015 Best Picture Predictions” piece but I’ve been augmenting and pruning my 2014 Oscar Balloon list since early January so it’s not like I just got into this.