The best picture race is much more open this year than usual. There are three locks and the rest are really up in the air, especially now that former contenders such as Foxcatcher and Monuments Men got pushed back to 2014. Former strong candidates such as Rush, Prisoners, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Counselor, The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County have dropped out of the race for the most part. With the Oscar's weird voting process there could be anywhere from five to ten films nominated. I would assume that there will be nine as there has been in the last two years, but will predict ten since it is still early in the race.
Top Ten Predicted
12 Years a Slave
Pros: Firmly at the frontrunner status with potential nominations and wins in director, adapted screenply, actor, supporting actor, supporting actress and others. This is the one people are talking about and the one that other contenders are being judged against.
Cons: Becoming a frontrunner too early can cause a movie to wear out too fast. Still waiting on a wider release. Is said to be a very difficult film. This harsh and real of a look at slavery may be too difficult for voters who are used to a white perspective.
Pros: A rare combination of both outstanding box-office and near perfect reviews. Visual 3D spectacles like this are becoming more successful with voters (i.e. Hugo and Life of Pi). Not only a major contender for visual effects but also vital categories such as director, original screenplay, actress, sound and score. Has not faded away like many films already released this year, has a lot of staying power.
Cons: Early release, slight critical backlash, sci-fi does not always do well at The Oscars. Its main competition is with 12 Years a Slave for a best picture win (for which this is currently the runner up), can't see either of those two missing a best picture nomination.
Pros: David O. Russell's career is in the perfect spot for a Best Picture and Best Director win, having had been nominated for two popular best picture nominees in the past two years. He is now a regular at the Oscars and this movie stars six recent Oscar winners and nominees. A throwback to a popular era of cinema, costume pieces like this often do well. Great late release date that is similar to The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook.
Cons: Has not been seen yet. Russell cranked this out very quickly. Some say it looks too similar too Argo. May have too late of a start in the race.
Pros: One of the year's biggest box-office surprises that is also a hit with most critics. This movie garnered a lot of attention from the news and was a hit with audiences. It is the kind of large decade spanning movie based heavily in American history that can do well with the Oscars. It has enough feel good moments, but also plenty of harsher material that makes the viewers think. An enormous ensemble lead by two strong actors, one of which is a very powerful media figure. Should easily get a nomination.
Cons: Won't be a major contender to win. Early release date. Some viewers and critics see it as too light weight of material.
Saving Mr. Banks
Pros: Fairly positive reviews and consistent buzz. Recently the Oscars have loved movies about Hollywood (The Artist, Hugo, Argo, etc.). It is a loving look at a beloved movie and features two great performances.
Cons: Disney has not had live-action best picture contender in decades (haven't had one nominated under the Disney brand since Mary Poppins in 1964). Some reviews have not been too kind. May be mismarketed as it is not as uplifting as the trailers suggest.
Pros: Alexander Payne is one that many feel will earn an Oscar someday and he often fits comfortably in the Oscar race. This has been a movie he has been wanting to make for years and it has been receiving great reviews from festivals. A smaller, personal movie that could do well against the larger contenders.
Cons: But then again it may be too small and easily overlooked. The actors aren't Oscar standards. May just not be Payne's year. Needs to earn notices with precursors.
Pros: Has great box-office and reviews going for it. Hanks still holds a lot of weight and this is his first project in a long time to be a viable candidate. Stories based on recent events can get nominated when done well.
Cons: Needs to maintain its buzz now that it has been released. Hanks may put more attention towards the more Oscar friendly Saving Mr. Banks. Could be too much of an action movie.
Pros: In the past several years early releases have really surprised in this category (Hurt Locker, Winter's Bone, Kids are All Right, Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, Beasts of the Southern Wild, etc.). This is the one that has people taking and near perfect reviews. If the studio gives it a proper push in December it will make its way to a very deserved nomination. Especially if more new movies continue to drop out of the race, this has remained consistent and pretty resilient.
Cons: Early releases are still risky. Has an uphill battle in key categories of director, original screenplay, actor and supporting actress. The movie may be too small and feature too much of an unknown cast and director to get noticed.
Wolf of Wall Street
Pros: Scorsese is a still a legend who received another nomination only two years ago. Based on a popular book and features a very Oscar friendly cast. Now that other movies have dropped out of the race and this is confirmed for 2013 it should have a decent shot at a nom.
Cons: Despite how much they may seem like Oscar bait, Leo's projects have been striking out a fair amount. May be too different from what voters want from Scorsese. Movies about money have not been large critical successes. Also the well publicized attempts to move it 2014 has caused it to lose some momentum. There is a chance that this shorter cut of the film may be inferior.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Pros: People always predict the Coens and they have had a great track record since their win for No Country for Old Men, with two additional best picture nominees. Great reviews from the festival circuits and many pundits are swearing by this movie.
Cons: Seems very low-key and understated, said to be a downer. This does not strike me as an Oscar movie. If it does not gain attention in other categories (namely directing, acting and writing) it will easily get overlooked. This one in particular needs precursors.
Pros: A unique premise that is very relatable to modern society. A great cast and good reviews out of New York Film Festival. Will definitely stand out.
Cons: May be too strange. Spike Jonze was only nominated for his first film in 1999. May not work with celebrities who may not feel that reliance on technology to overcome isolation.
All is Lost
Pros: Great reviews and a lot of good feeling towards the veteran Redford. With the great reception towards The Artist voters are definitely more open to nonconventional movies like this.
Cons: A very small movie that may not make an impact in its release. Similar in theme to Gravity. It's best picture potential is dependent on how popular of a nominee Redford is.
Pros: Terrific reviews and box-office. Woody Allen is still a name easily associated with Oscars and many say Blanchett is the frontrunner for best actress.
Cons: Early release and buzz has certainly died down. Needs Blanchett to be a sure thing and strong nominee as well as a few more nominees to drop out. Woody is pretty inconsistent at the Oscars, even when his films are great (i.e. Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
Pros: Retiman has directed two best picture nominees. He steps outside of his comfort zone for this difficult film. Could be divisive in a good way.
Cons: May be too divisive. Has not even received a trailer, could be pushed back or swept under the rug.
Pros: Sole World War II movie this year
Cons: Late entry, not much known about it, not up for too many other nominations.
Also in Contention
With three potential acting nominees and a socially relevant subject matter Dallas Buyers Club could get a best picture nomination. There is a lot of good reviews for Blue is the Warmest Color, it could pull an Amour and controversy could help it gain attention. However controversy may also limit it to foreign language. There are several early releases with incredibly positive reception that could reenter the race, namely Mud and Before Midnight. Lone Survivor is also an unseen contender that could potentially surprise.