Contender Countdown: It's already hard out there for a best picture player

Posted by · 5:25 pm · September 12th, 2013

It’s going to be one of those years, a season where so much is at stake that the back-biting begins very, very early. In fact, too early. We saw signs of these behind-the-scenes shenanigans last season when “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Les Misérables” lost their legit Best Picture-contending statuses in pressure-filled PR takedowns. It’s only September and competing consultants and publicists already appear to be trying to influence the media to do their bidding. A few disparaging quotes heard across Toronto…

“Oh, it’s an HBO movie.”

“It’s brutal and tough for Academy members to sit though.”

“The New York branch is going to hate it.”

Oh, my.

Now, this pundit certainly likes to engage in debate and idle gossip (hehe), but people, it’s September. There is no euphoric “Argo,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech” or even “The Artist” in the mix yet. Those were legitimate frontrunners when they were being hyped. Right now? We have a number of fantastic films battling for a slot. We may not have a frontrunner until January. Everyone has more than enough time to take down their competitors. Thank the scheduling gods there are few weeks until the New York Film Festival gets underway so the chatter can die down a bit. My lord, if we’re not careful this is going to distract us from the joy of watching “Jackass: Bad Grandpa.”

That being said, another week brings another Contender Countdown, which you can ponder below. Plus: we’ve also got something special for you. Check out HitFix’s brand new ranking poll. You can take all of the Best Picture contenders listed in this article and rank them as you see fit. Let us know what you think!

1. “Gravity”
Still standing on top. Or should that be floating on top?

2. “12 Years A Slave”
The Oscar hyperbole hit new levels after Steve McQueen’s drama screened in Toronto. Fox Searchlight no doubt appreciates the passion from the press, but being in the position of the underdog might actually be more beneficial this year than being the perceived frontrunner.

3. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
At this point it’s the closest thing The Weinstein Company has to a sure bet for a Best Picture nod. Who knew?

4. “Captain Phillips”
Needs Academy reaction to validate its candidacy, but everything so far seems to suggest it will fill a slot.

5. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Full court press may begin a tad earlier than expected with this one. And that starts with the charity concert “Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis” on Sept. 29 in New York.

6. “Blue Jasmine”
Slow and steady, but might be a good idea for SPC to make sure that screener is in voters’ hands a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

7. “Dallas Buyers Club”
People loved this movie in Toronto perhaps a bit more than even Focus thought they might. Will get lots of positive media coverage in terms of both awards and the film’s commercial release. Big question remains: What will the Academy think?

8. “Saving Mr. Banks”
Hearing from long lead press they really like it, but in a commercial release or awards way? 

9. “Nebraska”
Tough one. Going to Toronto might have helped keep the momentum up after a stellar Telluride.

10. “All Is Lost”
Excuse the pun, but it just has to make sure it’s not lost among all the other contenders. Borderline, but will have its fans.

Outside looking in:

“American Hustle”
Not done, no one has seen it (sort of), pt. 1

“The Wolf of Wall Street”
Not done, no one has seen it (sort of) pt. 2

Judi Dench and screenplay seem the best bets for this one.

It’s going to open well and make money. Will it still be standing as a contender by November? Not convinced.

“August: Osage County”
I’m not sure how you can hold a gala premiere your film at the Toronto International Film Festival for reviews then change the ending for theatrical release and still be considered a legit best picture nominee. Does not compute.

We’ll know in November.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
We’ll know in October.

Daniel Bruhl and below the line categories all have a shot, but is it really a best picture player? Still not sure.

Paging Independent Spirit Awards, paging the Independent Spirit Awards.

“The Book Thief”
Honestly, I’m waiting to be impressed.

“Lone Survivor”
Eh, I dunno. Feels a year late. Maybe a surprise. Maybe not.

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