Off the Carpet: Gearing up for the 2013-2014 season

Posted by · 8:33 am · August 5th, 2013

We have a host. Studios have made their fall festival moves. Potential season players like “Captain Phillips” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “The Fifth Estate” and “Gravity,” etc., have secured their big reveals. Telluride is on the horizon and with it, the season. You ready to do this?

I’m not. Not yet, anyway. We looked at the sidebar and figured it’s been a month, let’s refresh the predictions and typically, a column comes with that. But what’s there to say? Okay, there is this and that…

Warner Bros. has a little film called “The Good Lie” that is rumored to be Telluride-bound and, given what’s on paper, could be something to watch out for this season. From “Monsieur Lazhar” director Philippe Falardeau, it stars Reese Witherspoon as a straight-talking American woman who takes in a Sudanese refugee (one of many orphans displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War). Yes, “The Blind Side” has been invoked. Or it could pass on to 2014. We’ll see.

So far Fox appears to be following the “Life of Pi” playbook by dropping footage of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” at CinemaCon, stirring Oscar talk there, grabbing a high-profile gala screening at the New York Film Festival and getting its ducks in a row for Oscar season. The trailer was hugely impressive as far as I’m concerned and if the film Ben Stiller has been dying to make shapes up, it could be his first major awards player to date. Or it could just be some holiday commercial appeal. We’ll see.

Speaking of studio strategy, Sony Pictures Classics sent “Before Midnight” back out into 200 more theaters this weekend, a tactic they used to great effect a few years ago on Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” I’d like to think that means it’s being primed as an awards season big gun (no word yet on the fate of “Foxcatcher”). I’ll still be talking about Julie Delpy when everyone else stops, that’s for sure. Or she and the movie could just fade away into the forgotten early months. We’ll see.

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” has started screening and apparently The Weinstein Company is happy to let noted Harvey shill Roger Friedman write it up while the rest of us stick to an embargo, and that’s fine. But the news is it’s a softball that could absolutely land right in the right spot for the Academy with performances from Forest Whitaker and particularly Oprah Winfrey that might pop up on the circuit. Or it could barely make a box office splash and go away before the season even revs up. We’ll see.

The rest is what it is. The summer was a bit of a disappointment for many, which will hopefully shine a light back to great early stuff like “Mud,” “The Place Beyond the Pines” and the aforementioned “Before Midnight.” But mostly, all eyes are on the end of the year and a back-loaded season.

Lots of release date shuffling has been going on. Universal inched “Rush” back a bit. TWC sent “August: Osage County” hurtling toward Christmas (then turned around and set it for a Toronto premiere over three months prior). Relativity has moved “Out of the Furnace” deeper and deeper into the glut of the season. Meanwhile, the first two weekends of November are free and clear for anyone looking to drop adult content earlier. Surely there will be more maneuvering before it’s all said and done.

For now, we wait. And I feel like I type that phrase every year, but it’s true. One final update to the charts before the festivals shed more light. By the time they’re updated again, I’ll have concluded a year of living in New York (which has been fantastic) and I’ll be back in the LA freakshow. Until then, enjoy the rest of the summer before the awards season madness sucks all the air out of the room.

A quick note on the podcast. Thanks everyone for asking in any and every possible way — Twitter, comments, emails, etc. — but yes, Oscar Talk is coming back. We’re doing it differently this year, however. In my opinion, the noise of Oscar season can too often lead to a dull roar and the clutter is useless. Anne and I, as I’m sure you know, end up twiddling our thumbs, grinding well-made points into the ground, repeating ourselves and basically just running out of steam on the weekly schedule. So we’re scaling the podcast back to a 10-special series, running roughly monthly (with special reports on this and that thrown in as big news moments dictate). So you’ll get less of us, but hopefully, more refined considerations. That starts Aug. 16 with a review of the year’s best so far and a fall festival preview.

Now…forget all this for another few weeks.

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