Below is my fourth set of films for the 2013-2014 Awards season, titled The Usual Suspects. Each article in this series will present a group of upcoming releases that are currently on my watch list. I divided the articles up to each represent the strengths found in cinema in one of the last four years (with 2013 as an unknown wild card for the fifth post). This post is in honor of the year 2012, when the movies that were SUPPOSED to be the big awards players mostly lived up to the hype. In its honor, I present this set of films that due to their director, stars and/or subject matter, can truly be termed pure Oscar Bait. This category can contain many genres, but epics, costume dramas, and war films often make up the bulk.
On a side note, any year can turn out to be a year in which The Usual Suspects shine through. It all depends on how satisfactorily the talent involved lives up to the high expectations that come with their names. A year like 2013, that has new films from Scorcese, Soderburgh, Payne, Miller, Reitman, Howard, Cianfrance, Daniels, McQueen, and Russell on the horizon (just to name a few, honestly) is rife with opportunity to do just that. However things pan out, expect at least five of your Best Picture nominees to come from this bunch of choices.
The movies that already have release dates are presented in chronological order. The films that have not received such dates are listed alphabetically afterward. The twenty films (that have not already been released, and that I did not cover last year, ahem, Gatsby and Gravity, ahem) that I am most excited about seeing appear in bold with short descriptions of why. Do not be surprised if we see some of these get pushed back until 2014. I will be surprised if we don't. Still, for now, the Usual Suspects of 2013 are...
01/07 - Great Expectations (Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham!!!)
02/08 - Side Effects (Soderburgh's final film? With Mara, Law, Zeta-Jones & Tatum)
03/29 - The Place Beyond the Pines (Dir: Derek Cianfrance, starring Gosling, Cooper & Mendes)
04/05 - The Company You Keep (Dir: Robert Redford, starring Redford, Marling, Sarandan, LaBouf...)
Trance (this might be too trippy for Oscar, but Slumdog and 127 Hours leave Boyle 2 for 2)
04/12 - 42 (now holds the honor of having the top Box Office premiere ever for a baseball flick)
To The Wonder (Dir: Terence Malick, stars Ben Affleck, Benecio del Toro & Rachel McAdams)
04/26 - At Any Price (with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron)
Midnight's Children (Directed by Deepa Mehta)
05/10 - The Great Gatsby (Luhrman in 3D!!! Stars DiCaprio, Mulligan, McGuire & Edgerton)
05/24 - Before Midnight: I normally avoid threequels at all costs but this is director Richard Linklater's next episode in the Before series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset) and the quality didn't slide from Part 1 to Part 2, so...stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.
08/30 - Diana: The latest from director Oliver Hirschbiegel (who's been too busy with TV's the Borgias to come out with a new film for the last couple of years) chronicles the last two years in the life of Princess Diana. Oscar loves biopics about the British royals and Naomi Watts (in the title role) seems well primed to be a Best Actress contender.
09/20 - Rush (car racing drama from Ron Howard starring Chris Hemsworth)
09/27 - Serena: Susanne Bier (director of the Foreign Language Film Oscar winner In a Better World) tries her hand at English language cinema with this depression era drama about a barren woman. Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (deja vu part 1).
10/04 - Gravity (I covered this in last year's preview. Cuaron directs Bullock in one woman spacewalk.)
Out of the Furnace: Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Get Low) returns with a crime drama about two brothers. Stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whitaker, Casey Affleck & Sam Shepard.
10/18 - The Butler: Lee Daniels (Precious) directs this true story of a White House butler who served under every administration from Kennedy to Reagan! Stars (prepare yourself) Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Melissa Leo, Alex Petyfer, James Marsden, Alan Rickman, Liev Shrieber, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redrave, Lenny Kravitz & Mariah Carey.
Her: The always creative Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich) returns with this story of man and machine starring Olivia Wilde, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix and Samantha Morten.
11/08 - August: Osage County: It's hard to go wrong with a cast starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard & Margo Martindale. The picture is adapted by Tracy Letts from her own play and directed by John Wells (The Company Men).
Inside Llewyn Davis: NEVER discount the Coen Brothers. This tale of the 1960's New York music scene stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and F. Murray Abraham.
11/15 - The Fifth Estate: Bill Condon goes from directing teen-age vampires to the story of the founding of WikiLeaks. Stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, David Thewliss & Alicia Vikander.
The Wolf of Wall Street: The legendary Martin Scorcese reteams with star Leonardo DiCaprio for this tale of stock market intrigue. Also stars Matthew MacConaughey, Jonah Hill, John Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Julie Andrews, Rob Reiner & Jean Dujardin.
11/29 - A Most Wanted Man: Director Anton Corbjin (The American) directs this tale of an innocent Muslim who gets caught up in the War on Terror. The cast includes Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe & Daniel Bruhl.
12/13 - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
12/18 - The Monuments Men: George Clooney wrote, directed and stars in this film of art historians trying to save timeless works from the Nazis. Maybe the most Oscar-baity film of the year also stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman & Jean Dujardin.
12/20 - Saving Mr. Banks (The Blind Side's John Lee Hancock directs Hanks, Thompson, Giamatti...)
12/25 - Untitled David O Russell Abscam Project: It may not have a title yet, but it surely has buzz. Can Russell make it three Picture and Director nominations in a row (after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook)? The cast reunites Cooper, Lawrence & DeNiro (deja vu part 2) and also includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Louis CK & Michael Pena.
12/27 - Grace of Monaco: Director Olivier Dahan's La Vie en Rose won Marion Cotillard an Oscar and it wasn't even in English. Can the Academy possibly ignore him directing Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly during her transition from movie star to royalty? I have my doubts. The movie also stars Milo Ventimiglia (Peter from TV's Heroes), Tim Roth, Parker Posey, Frank Langella & Derek Jacobi.
Twelve Years a Slave: Shame was a true masterpiece but a little too edgy for Oscar. Writer/director Steve McQueen's follow up should be a little more palatable to the AMPAS. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Paul Dano, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard & Dwight Henry.
TBA - All is Lost (writer/director JC Chandor's follow up to Margin Call stars Redford in one man show)
Foxcatcher: Moneyball got Bennett Miller into the Best Picture race last time at bat. Can he repeat with this true story of a paranoid schizophrenic starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carrell, Sienna Miller, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Michael Hall & Vanessa Redgrave? At this point, I'm not going to bet AGAINST it.
How I Live Now: Director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void) tells a story of young girl caught up in war. Stars Saoirse Ronan and The Impossible's Tom Holland.
Labor Day: Jason Reitman has a great track record with the Academy and he adapted and directed this picture which should show the film maker's more serious side. It stars Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet & Tobey Maguire.
Last of Robin Hood (probably 2014, but this could pull a Hitchcock)
Maps to the Stars (ditto)
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight: Director Stephen Frears brings you the story of the epic Supreme Court case. Starring Christopher Plummer, Danny Glover, Frank Langella, Barry Levinson, Bob Balaban & Ed Begley, Jr.
Nebraska: It seems appropriate to wind down an article on the year's Oscar bait with a film from Alexandre Payne who is usually quirkier than one should be when trying to catch the Academy's eye but does so anyway. Could this year be the Scorcese/Payne show down that The Artist prevented from happening in 2011? Bruce Dern and Will Forte star in a father/son cross country road trip.
Untitled Terence Malick Project (2013? I'll believe it when I see it.)
Related Articles: Upcoming 2013 Award Season Preview: Part One: Pulpy Players, Part Two: Specialties That Might Spellbind, Part Three: Little Pics That Might Could, Dark Clouds Beautify "Silver Linings", Innkeepers of Blood and Shame (Shame review), "Impossible"y Well Crafted