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Awards Watch

Awards Watch


By Norah Lawlor

The fall film festival circuit kicks off with the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival this September 5, 2013 – September 15, 2013; I sat down with the leading New York film critics to get a clearer picture of the upcoming awards season’s major contenders. From period dramas to biopics, sci-fi flicks and dark comedies, if buzz is any indication, these films should top your early awards season watch list as you gear up for the 71st Annual Golden Globe® Awards on Sunday, January 12, 2014, and the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014.

Film: August: Osage County
Director: John Wells
Release Date: 2013
Movie Company: The Wenstein Company; Smokehouse Pictures
Cast: Meryl Streep
Julia Roberts
Ewan McGregor
Chris Cooper
Abigail Breslin
Why it’s a Contender:
Based on the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award-winning play of the same name by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County features an A-list cast of leading ladies including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Abagail Breslin and Juliette Lewis. Directed by John Wells, this film adaptation offers an intimate look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family and the dysfunctional woman who raised them, as the family comes together following the death of its patriarch. With such a stellar cast, including previous Academy award winners, we hear this is a film you won’t want to miss.

Film: Inside Llewyn Davis
Directors: Joel Coen; Ethan Coen
Release Date: December 6, 2013
Movie Company: CBS Films
Cast: Oscar Isaac
Carey Mulligan
John Goodman
Garrett Hedlund
Justin Timberlake
Why it’s a Contender:
A musical drama set in the dynamic Greenwich Village folk music scene of the early 1960’s,  Inside Llewyn Davis follows a young folk singer, played by Oscar Isaac, over the course of a week as he struggles against a number of obstacles to make it as a musician. Throughout the film, Isaac’s character encounters new friends and strangers played by an all-star cast including Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake.

Film: Nebraska
Director: Alexander Payne
Release Date: November 22, 20133
Movie Company: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Bruce Dern
Will Forte
June Squibb
Stacy Keach
Why it’s a Contender:
In Nebraska, a hard-drinking father, played by Bruce Dern, travels from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son, played by Will Forte, in order to claim a million dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize. Shot in black and white, Nebraska casts a melancholy light on a difficult father-son relationship and explores familiar themes of family dynamics, judgment, vanity and aging, with an underlying message about the importance of dreams.

Film: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Director: Justin Chadwick
Release Date: November 29, 2013
Movie Company: The Weinstein Company
Cast: Idris Elba
Naomie Harris
Mark Elderkin
Terry Pheto
Robert Hobbs
Why it’s a Contender:
Based on South African leader Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” this biopic chronicles Mandela’s life, spanning from his childhood in a rural village to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. In Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Idris Elba takes on an extraordinary and difficult role as Mandela during his struggle against apartheid, 27-year imprisonment and rise to becoming one of the most influential figures of the late 20th century.  Elba delivers a remarkable performance making him a likely contender for Best Actor.

Film: Grace of Monaco
Director: Olivier Dahan
Release Date: December 26, 2013
Movie Company: The Weinstein Company
Cast: Nicole Kidman
Tim Roth
Frank Langella
Parker Posey
Milo Ventimiglia
Why it’s a Contender:
Starring Nicole Kidman as Hollywood-star-turned-princess Grace Kelly, Grace of Monaco tells the story of Kelly’s crisis of marriage and identity, at a time when the principality’s security and Kelly’s position was uncertain. Kidman flourishes in historical dramas and her humanizing portrayal of Kelly in Grace of Monaco does not disappoint.

See Also

Film: Fruitvale Station
Director: Ryan Coogler
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Movie Company: The Weinstein Company
Cast: Michael B. Jordan
Octavia Spencer
Melonie Diaz
Ahna O’Reilly
Why it’s a Contender:
A powerful directorial debut for 26-year-old Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station swept the Sundance Film Festival in January, winning both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Based on the shooting death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by transit police on a subway platform on New Year’s Day, 2009, Fruitvale Station tackles issues of race, injustice and gun control as it retraces the final 24 hours of Grant’s life. Young actor Michael B. Jordan delivers a moving performance as Grant, forging a deep emotional connection with the audience. No stranger to the Academy, Octavia Spencer is unforgettable in her portrayal of Wanda Grant.

Film: Gravity
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Release Date: October 4, 2013
Movie Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Cast: Sandra Bullock
George Clooney
Why it’s a Contender:
Gravity stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts lost in space after an accident leaves them without any link to Earth and little hope for rescue. Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), a veteran astronaut on his last mission before retiring, and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, work together to survive in this visually stunning and emotionally raw 3-D sci-fi drama. Featuring spectacular above-Earth imagery and masterful camerawork, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is sure to receive an Oscar nod, while director Alfonso Cuarón’s intensity draws the Academy’s attention to a breathtaking sci-fi film.

Film: The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Movie Company: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio
Jonah Hill
Matthew McConaughey
Jean Dujardin
Kyle Chandler
Why it’s a Contender:
Following an undeniable pattern of success, The Wolf of Wall Street marks the fifth collaboration between legendary director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.  A black comedy based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street tells the story of a New York stockbroker’s rise to success and subsequent fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. Scorsese’s directorial genius and DiCaprio’s acting chops aside, The Wolf of Wall Street features an all-star supporting cast including Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler and more.

Film: Lee Daniels: The Butler
Director: Lee Daniels
Movie Company: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: August 16, 2013
Cast: Forest Whitaker
Oprah Winfrey
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Terrence Howard
David Oyelowo
Mariah Carey
Alex Pettyfer
Why it’s a Contender:
Forest Whitaker stars as Cecil Gaines, the White House butler who served eight presidents during his tenure, in this American historical drama directed by Lee Daniels. In this film, Oprah Winfrey returns to the big screen for the first time since 1998 to play Cecil’s wife Gloria Gaines. The film features an all-star cast including Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, Robin Williams, Mariah Carey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., John Cusack and Lenny Kravitz. David Oyelowo, who plays outspoken activist Louis Gaines (Cecil’s son), illustrates a true departure from the conservative British actor who we first saw in the role of Ira Clark in Lincoln. •

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