Too Early for This: Oscar Picks – 15 October 2013

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Gravity

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Captain Phillips
Fruitvale Station
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Monuments Men

The Wolf of Wall Street

Falling off: The Counselor, Labor Day
Rising star: Nebraska

The skinny: The Counselor and Labor Day both looked and smelled like contenders, but lukewarm critical reception has weeded them out. Even though Alexander Payne’s past two films (The Descendants and Sideways) were both Best Picture nominees and Adapted Screenplay winners, a road movie like Nebraska still feels a little too small to crack its way in at this point. That all changes if The Wolf of Wall Street gets bumped to 2014. 

Alfonso Cuarón directs George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Falling off: George Clooney
Rising star: John Wells, August: Osage County

The skinny: I’m still betting on a major Fruitvale Station resurgence in December, so all its big nominees are staying put. Cuarón has the buzz right now, but just ask Stanley Kubrick and the never-nominated Christopher Nolan how their sci-fi films fared outside the technical categories.

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All is Lost

Falling off: Christian Bale
Rising star: Bruce Dern, Nebraska

The skinny: If you’re not a known commodity, good luck to you. There are about 10 more worthy actors waiting to take your spot. Christian Bale falls this month simply because his two roles in American Hustle and Out of the Furnace couldn’t be more different, and they’ll cancel each other out.

Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Falling off: Kate Winslet
Rising star: Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

The skinny: I’d say Amy Adams is the most in danger, which would make this a category of previous winners, something that deeply depresses me, no matter how good the work is.

Daniel Brühl in Rush
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street

Falling off: Matthew McConaughey
Rising star: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

The skinny: How great would it be to see Barkhad Abdi, the first-time actor and Somalian immigrant on Oscar night, for going toe-to-toe with perhaps our greatest living actor? I’d love it, and if Captain Phillips continues to do well, that magic could happen. Again, if The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t make it in time, Jared Leto is a shoe-in.

Oprah Winfrey in The Butler
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Margo Martindale, August: Osage County
Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis
Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station
Oprah Winfrey, The Butler

Falling off: Penelope Cruz
Rising star: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

The skinny: Martindale could easily fall prey to just being one of way too many great actors in August. And if you believe the 12 Years a Slave hype (which I don’t fully yet, at least not until it hits theaters), then Nyong’o is the latest ingenue to make it in this category.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale in American Hustle
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Fruitvale Station
Inside Llewyn Davis

Falling off: The Counselor
Rising star: Her

The skinny: While I sincerely hope that The Counselor is merely good and not Oscar-level great, there’s a sneaking suspicion that it’s a well-cast stinker.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight
12 Years a Slave
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
The Wolf of Wall Street

Falling off: Labor Day, The Monuments Men
Rising star: The Book Thief

The skinny: A very stacked slate indeed, though never count out the Holocaust movie.

Oozma Kappa of Monsters University
Ernest and Celestine
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

Falling off: Despicable Me 2
Rising star: The Croods

The skinny: DreamWorks, despite never going for Pixar-style earnestness, could easily out-muscle a smaller studio to make its way into the final five, especially for a box office monster like The Croods. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for Fox’s nature-themed Epic to survive, simply because it’s unlike any of the other films this year.

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