Post Telluride/Venice/Toronto Predictions
Steve McQueen "12 Years a Slave"
David O. Russell "American Hustle"
Paul Greengrass "Captain Phillips"
Alfonso Cuaron "Gravity"
George Clooney "The Monuments Men"
Other Contenders - Martin Scorsese "The Wolf of Wall Street", Alexander Payne "Nebraska", John Lee Hancock "Saving Mr. Banks", Joel and Ethan Coen "Inside Llewyn Davis", Ron Howard "Rush" Woody Allen "Blue Jasmine", John Wells "August: Osage County", J.C. Chandor "All is Lost", Lee Daniels "Lee Daniel's The Butler", Jean-Marc Vallee "Dallas Buyers Club", Ben Stiller "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", Jason Reitman "Labor Day", Peter Jackson "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug", Ryan Coogler "Fruitvale Station", Stephen Frears "Philomena", Denis Villeneuve "Prisoners", Asghar Farhadi "The Past", Brian Percival "The Book Thief", Richard Linklater "Before Midnight"
Commentary - This year is just stacked. Even if The Wolf of Wall Street doesn't end up being finished in time, there are still so many contenders to sort through (PS if Wolf does get made in time, Scorsese probably moves back in). Some of the names I really think could crack the top five are Alexander Payne, whose Nebraska will probably play well with Academy voters, John Lee Hancock, Ron Howard, Woody Allen, Jason Reitman, John Wells, Lee Daniels, Peter Jackson, Ryan Coogler, Brian Percival, and now Ben Stiller, whose Walter Mitty could be a contender despite initial mixed reviews. So many names, this race will probably remain fluid. There are probably two safe bets going into October. The first is Alfonso Cuaron, whose Gravity is a feat of incredible direction, I find it hard to believe that the directing branch will overlook his work. The other is probably Steve McQueen. 12 Years a Slave enters the race as the Oscar frontrunner, and I think that director will not be far behind. Both are newcomers, but they have the two biggest films of the festival circuit. I also think that Paul Greengrass, a previous nominee, will impress the director's branch, with his realistic and taut thriller Captain Phillips. The film is getting great reviews, and with Tom Hanks in front of the camera doesn't hurt. However, I think it is the most vulnerable of the already seen projects. The last two slots I am filling with unseen contenders based on pedigree. The first is David O. Russell. If he can get nominated last year over the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, and Ben Affleck, then he must be incredibly popular with the directing branch. If American Hustle is as good as I think it is going to be, Russell is surely to be in the conversation. Finally, George Clooney can insist all he wants to that The Monuments Men is not an Oscar film. But it has Oscar bait written all over it. Until I am proved otherwise, I am going to assume it will be a contender to be reckoned with.