The 2015 Awards Race: Best Picture contenders – Unbroken, Foxcatcher

Unbroken sea raft scene 600x377

It’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions to see what folks like myself think will happen at the end of the year, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know which films will be in contention. To that end, once or twice a week for the next month or so I’ll be running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls. Consider this a sort of pre awards season cheat sheet.

Today I’m beginning with the big one…Best Picture.

Here are the ten films that I have right now cracking the Best Picture lineup:

1. Unbroken – To me, Angelina Jolie’s sophomore directorial outing is the one to beat out right now. It’s a World War II survival tale starring up and comer Jack O’Connell, written by a group that includes the Coen Brothers, and is shot by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. There’s such a tremendous pedigree on display, this would have to be an absolute disaster not to crack the lineup. As it stands now, it’s the one I have winning it all.


2. Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller’s passion project got a nice boost this past week at the Cannes Film Festival. Raves were given not just for Miller, but for star Steve Carell and co-stars Mark Ruffalo/Channing Tatum as well, so there’s across the board potential here. Right now, it’s the only film that I’m basically 100% sure will be in the Best Picture lineup, barring something unexpected.

3. Men, Women, & Children – I’m perhaps higher on Jason Reitman’s latest than most, but I’m also a big fan of the book by Chad Kultgen and see real potential here. Along with giving Adam Sandler a rare chance to be serious, the talented ensemble cast includes Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Emma Thompson, Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort, Dennis Haysbert, and J.K. Simmons, so Reitman has tons of toys to play with here. If Oscar can handle the sexual frankness of the story, Ivan’s son could again be a nominee and see his film nominated for Best Picture.

4. Big Eyes – Of late, Tim Burton movies have been the exact opposite of Oscar bait, but this sees him returning to something closer to his Ed Wood days. Amy Adams might be a Best Actress frontrunner for this and Christoph Waltz is always a threat, so if Burton keeps his oddness to a minimum, there’s no reason why this drama shouldn’t be a major player.

5. Boyhood – I’ve seen this over a decade in the making experiment from Richard Linklater and it’s just as good as has been hinted at. Critics will really need to repeatedly bang the drums for this one, but it’s such a special little movie that I don’t think that will be much of a problem. If it doesn’t fade, it’ll be in the running all season long.

6. Gone Girl – Another pitch black drama/mystery/thriller from David Fincher, opinions range greatly on just how much of a Best Picture threat this one is. Especially if Ben Affleck and/or Rosamund Pike shine, Fincher will again see a dark work of his embraced by the Academy.

7. Rosewater – Jon Stewart’s directorial debut would seem like a frontrunner if it weren’t for the comic newsman being the one at the helm. If his lead actor Gael Garcia Bernal starts receiving some big notices, that would be a big boon to this film’s hopes. More than anything else though, it just comes down to how good of a writer/director Stewart is. I have a hunch that he’s more than up to the task.

8. Mr. Turner – Though he doesn’t always crack the Best Picture lineup, Mike Leigh almost always sees his films get some major awards play. At Cannes people went nuts over Timothy Spall’s lead performance, so there’s a ton of praise already in place here for sure. Best Picture often has a period piece or two, so there’s no reason not to assume that there’s a good chance that this could be one of them in 2014.

9. Interstellar – Could this be the big one for Christopher Nolan? With perhaps the best cast of any movie in 2014 (Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Bill Irwin, Mackenzie Foy, Topher Grace, and Matt Damon), Nolan could really see Oscar voters finally go for his stuff in a real big way.

10. A Most Violent Year – Any number of indie flicks could make a big play for Best Picture, but one that a lot of my colleagues are backing is J.C. Chandor’s third film. The duo of Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac will both likely be in play for awards, so if Chandor can again attract precursor interest, perhaps this time a work of his can actually crack the Best Picture lineup.

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans commentary) for Best Picture:

11. Inherent Vice
12. Fury
13. Into the Woods
14. Trash
15. Kill the Messenger
16. Wild
17. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
18. Birdman
19. The Grand Budapest Hotel
20. Whiplash

Finally, here are ten more to give us a top 30 to cull from, sans commentary as well:

21. Suite française
22. Life Itself
23. The Homesman
24. Jersey Boys
25. Exodus: Gods and Kings
26. Begin Again
27. The Judge
28. Maps to the Stars
29. A Most Wanted Man
30. Chef

That’s what the Best Picture race could be made up of. Stay tuned in a few days/next week (still figuring that part out) for my look at the Best Director race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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