Contender Countdown: 'Gravity' and '12 Years A Slave' storm out of the gate

Posted by · 9:55 pm · September 4th, 2013

And we’re back! Yes, it’s your favorite weekly rundown of Best Picture contenders. A snapshot of who’s up, who’s down, who’s got it in the bag and who’s a big whiny pretender.

With Venice almost completed, Telluride in the books and Toronto opening her red carpets to the world, the 2013-2014 awards season is in full swing. Last year, “Silver Linings Playbook” was the surprise at Toronto as “Argo” kept its Telluride momentum going. “Lincoln’s” debut was over a month away and many pundits were getting smoke signals that “Zero Dark Thirty” might not even make its expected end-of-year release. So, yep, a lot can happen between now and Dec. 1st. Telluride, however, was quite, um, telling this year (as it increasingly steals Venice and Toronto’s thunder). A number of films proved their worthiness (or not) there. With that in mind, let’s review the countdown as it stands today, Sept. 5, 2013.

1. “Gravity
Not only do we have critical raves, notable Academy members James Cameron, Michael Moore, Guillermo Del Toro and producer Frank Marshall have all publicly gushed over the pic. And it hasn’t even hit Toronto yet.

2. “12 Years A Slave
Could dominate the year-end critics awards. Will have many passionate backers, but can it win?

3. “Captain Phillips
Public won’t see it until opening night of the New York Film Festival, but word is it delivers and then some.

4. “Nebraska
The slam-dunk winner of the “we knew they’d like it, but we didn’t know they they’d like it this much” award at Telluride. After the so-so reception at Cannes, Paramount is likely shocked they don’t just have a Best Actor nominee contender on their hands, but a Best Picture player.

5. “Inside Llewyn Davis
In for the long haul and will easily be the New York and musicians choice.

6. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Hitting that $100 million will help.

7. “August: Osage County
Lots of voters with lots of Academy friends in that cast. Pass the phone when you’re done, Julia?

8. “American Hustle
It could be just amazingly commercial. Or, it could be even better than “Silver Linings Playbook.”

9. “Blue Jasmine
Is it seen as just a showcase for Cate Blanchett or something more? Good question.

10. “Saving Mr. Banks
Opening night at AFI Fest is a nice platform to launch from. Everyone loves the script, but the clips and trailer have been a bit one note. If there is something special here Disney can’t wait much longer in showing us what it is.

On the outside looking in:

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Big fan of Stiller’s direction. Still not sure this is Oscar fare.

“The Book Thief
Hear 20th Century Fox loves it, but lord that trailer.

Will arrive late to the party. Could it crack the Best Picture race or is it all about Steve Carell’s performance?

Heard this movie come up as a favorite from a number of Academy members at Telluride. It might just be too competitive this year or, it’s a Jan. 16 surprise.

“Dallas Buyers Club
We’ll find out at the Toronto Film Festival this weekend.

Spike Jonze’s latest looks like it’s more of a player in the screenplay and Best Actor categories.

“Lone Survivor
Peter Berg’s redemption? Another late entry hoping to make waves,

Everyone who has seen it thinks it’s the best thing Ron Howard has directed in a long time. Does that make it a Best Picture player, though?

It’s oh so early, but who do you think is in and who do you think is out? Share your thoughts below.

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