Contender Countdown: Will 'Saving Mr. Banks' crash the Best Picture race?

Posted by · 12:19 pm · October 17th, 2013

It may turn out to be the most competitive Best Picture race in years, but the showdown between co-frontrunners “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” to win it all may soon turn into a three-way race. Walt Disney Studios’ “Saving Mr. Banks” will debut at the London Film Festival on Sunday as the Brits will be the first to chime in on the long-buzzed awards player. And, at this point, “Banks” may be the only remaining unseen contender who can make a real mark on the long marathon for the top prize.

In case you haven’t seen a trailer or read the numerous posts on it here at In Contention and any other movie outlet in the continental United States, “Banks” tells the story of author P.L. Travers’ contentious dealings with Walt Disney (the Walt Disney) when the studio adapted her novel “Mary Poppins” into a feature film. What Disney hasn’t shown you, however, is that a good portion of the film is a series of flashbacks to Travers’ childhood and focuses on her relationship with her father (Colin Farrell). It’s somewhat deeper stuff than the trailer indicates.

Of course, it’s almost becoming an open secret in Hollywood about how good “Banks” is at this point anyway. This pundit has talked to a number of people who’ve seen it (cough, long lead my eye) and it’s continually described as a tearjerker with praise not only for Thompson’s performance, but supporting players Hanks (long assumed), Farrell and even Paul Giamatti, who plays Travers’ Hollywood driver (we love Giamatti, who’s also fantastic in “12 Years a Slave” as well). Disney is seemingly trying to stagger media screenings until the film has its Los Angeles debut at AFI Fest on Nov. 7. And that pseudo premiere reaction may matter more than the London one. Will director John Lee Hancock’s studio style fly with the English critics? We’ll know more on Sunday, but keep that in mind when the reports come in. The bigger takeaway, of course, is that “Banks” will be a player. Could it split the votes between “Gravity” and “12 Years” and sneak through for the win? That would certainly be a nice spoonful of sugar in Disney’s cap if it did.

On to the contender rankings…

1. “Gravity”
Is the quote unquote backlash over? Yeah, that didn’t last long.

2. “12 Years a Slave”
Fox Searchlight is looking for a huge per-screen this weekend to quiet those saying it’s too disturbing for some viewers. They may get it.

3. “Saving Mr. Banks”
Where there’s smoke there’s fire. And we’re not talking chimneys either.

4. “Captain Phillips”
Excellent box office debut against a true phenomenon and opening day reviews were right on target. Now? Make sure the guilds and AMPAS don’t forget it in December.

5. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Look for Oprah to (smartly) hit the circuit over the next few months. Still, The Weinstein Company’s best shot for a nod, but not a lock.

6. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Looking to wow Los Angeles (finally) at AFI FIlm Fest. Time to get the West Coast music branch on board.

7. “Dallas Buyers Club”
Playing fantastically in guild screenings. Predicting SAG ensemble nomination. Can you bet on that in Vegas?

8. “Her”
Is there an Academy hipster vote? Probably not (yet), but Spike Jonze’s romantic drama will absolutely have a passionate fan base within the Academy. Also, don’t be surprised if it steals a LAFCA or NYFCC win from “Gravity” or “12 Years.”

9. “Nebraska”
Yikes. It’s gotten much more competitive

10. “The Monuments Men”
Betting on this Sony release over “American Hustle” or “Blue Jasmine.” For now. Assuming there are even 10 nominees, of course.

What are your 10 picks? Share your thoughts below or make your own predictions here.

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