With Oscar season gradually closing in yet again, alas all of the contenders begin to reveal themselves. One by one, the truly great cinematic works of art step forward toward the pedestal of being crowned the best. It is time for the artistically inclined to separate themselves from the financially motivated filmmakers. This is a list that I have compiled of the most anticipated films during these Academy Award winning months. Some have already been released, while others are on the way. This is nothing more than a mere devoted Cinefile’s adoration and eagerness for what he considers to be the greatest artistic medium known to man, a perfect symphony of all other mediums blending together in harmonic synchronization. Or at least that is what I feel when immersed in a truly great work of cinema.
*Keep in mind the order of the list does not specify anything more then expected date of release. Release dates are subject to change and be only in select cities. Major Blockbusters are withheld from the list.
1.12 Years a Slave Release Date: 8/30/13 Rated R
Director: Steve McQueen
Writer: John Ridley adapted from Solomon Northup’s Novel of same title.
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamantti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, and Lupita Nyong’o.
Why the Anticipation: If the cast alone has not already hinted at the greatness of this film, then allow for me to delve further. This is the latest concoction of one of the film world’s most ground breaking and refreshingly unique director’s, who coincidentally shares namesake with the legendary actor Steve McQueen. For years, the black British born McQueen had been the king of the underground short film realm. Making provocative and risque films that dealt with themes and motifs that pushed the envelope on a consistent basis. Eventually McQueen finally made his long awaited feature film debut with his now apparent muse Michael Fassbender, who starred in Hunger, McQueen’s first film which he co-wrote with Enda Walsh. The movie centered around the true story of Irish Republican Bobby Sands and his politically led hunger strike in the prisons of Northern Ireland during the tumultuous 70’s. A film that gained critical acclaim for both McQueen and Fassbender, who lost close to 30 pounds to play the role of a starving man. The next film for this spectacular duo was Shame. Fassbender’s portrayal of a depressive sex crazed nymphomaniac businessman alone in New York City is haunting, and his performance is mirrored by the abundantly talented Carey Mulligan as his sister who has the same troubles. This film was also praised for it’s artistic ingenuity and craftsmanship, along with it’s fearlessness and hidden context. Both of McQueen’s first two feature films were rated NR and this hindered McQueen’s exposure. So now that brings us to his 3rd and most recent major motion picture. A film which many are saying is not only this visionary young director’s greatest work thus far, but one of the best films to ever reenact the atrocities of slavery in America. Chiwetel Ejiofor is getting a lot of Best Actor Oscar buzz for his draining true story performance of free born Solomon Northup who is taken from his family and is sold into slavery in the deep south for 12 years of his adult life. Michael Fassbender is also garnering attention for his take on the grotesquely intense and purely sadistic plantation owner. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o gives a heart trembling performance as the young tortured slave girl Patsey. This just may be Steven McQueen’s Magnum Opus and I recommend for everyone who is not faint of heart to see this. McQueen is all about realism but he does blend in the most beautifully scenic shots that the human eye can capture. Each frame can be a portrait in its own right.
2.Dallas Buyers Club Release Date: 11/1/13 Rated R
Director: Jean-Marc Valle
Writer: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto and Steve Zahn
Why the Anticipation: Matthew McConaughey’s hunger for a Best Actor statue is so voracious that he is willing to starve to the edge of death for it. According to long time friend and co-star Jennifer Garner, watching McConaughey wither away slowly and lose 50 pounds for his role as a gay Dallas man who contracts AIDS in the 1980’s was disheartening and painful to watch on set every day. Reports are that McConaughey would be so physically drained and weak from his malnourished state that he would be hunched over in pain before each scene, then soon as renowned french director Jean-Marc Valle would yell action, Matthew immediately sprang up and became his character. This dedication to his craft may reward him with his greatest performance yet. I’m also looking forward to the return of the highly underrated and under-appreciated Jared Leto, who hasn’t made a film in 4 years, and who also underwent a horrific physical transformation as McConaughey’s AIDS infected transgender lover. It’s goes without saying that this film will be an extremely heavy one and I expect it will carry the same weight come Oscar night.
3.Nebraska Release Date: 11/15/13 Rated R
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb
Why the Anticipation: This film is the latest stark comedy from Oscar winning screenwriter Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways). Bruce Dern and Will Forte are both accumulating a lot of award hype for their roles as an estranged father and son going on a journey of self-discovery together. The film focuses on Dern, who plays Woody Grant, an old drunk from Montana that thinks he has won a free lottery he received in the mail, and in his delusional state, he sets out from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim his “money” and Forte plays his son who goes along just to make sure nothing unfortunate happens to his estranged and clearly unstable father. It seems like another classically made Alexander Payne Dramedy in which soul searching is done through darkly comedic means, his films always convey that all human are flawed but that it’s okay to be flawed is all part of being a person. Payne specifically hand picked former SNL standout Forte for this role over many other bigger names. This is a testament to the artistic integrity of the film, no star power needed, but Dern and Forte will certainly reward Payne’s faith in them, and their relative obscurity will only bring more realism to the film itself, along with Payne’s refreshingly retro choice of shooting the entire film in black and white.
4.Inside Llewyn Davis Expected Release Date: 12/06/13 Rated R
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Writer: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund
Why the Anticipation: To have this and American Hustle released within two days of each other is my own personal film Utopia. In my humble opinion, the Coen brothers have already cemented their legacy as two of the greatest filmmakers/writers to ever wield a camera, a mere 4 academy awards won and 13 nominations since 1997 is proof of that. With each project, they are simply carving away at the flawless wood sculpture that is already their career and accomplishments, with each delicate whittle they make that sculpture more even, smoother, and finer. These two are the masters of comedy and tragedy. No other modern filmmaker captures and writes both quite like these two, perhaps with the exception of Quentin Tarantino and Woody Allen. But the Coen brother’s take full advantage of two heads being better than one. With their latest effort about a struggling yet talented folk singer roaming the Folk Music scene in Greenwhich Village, New York during the 60’s, Oscar Issac gets the breakout role of his life as that singer Llewyn Davis. Issac is a rising commodity in Hollywood at the moment, and this film should solidify him as a leading man from now on. The Coen brothers reunited Issac with his wife in the film Drive, Carey Mulligan. To me, Carey Mulligan is one of the finest young actresses to come along in a long while and I can’t wait to see her work with the Coen brothers for the first time. The Coen brother’s favorite regular John Goodman is also in the film, and for true Coen fans this makes perfect sense since Goodman was also in another Coen brothers film entrenched in folk music throughout, their classic adaptation of Homer’s Epic The Odyssey, which they entitled O Brother, Where Art Thou? A film that was widely acclaimed and embraced as authentically folk rooted in sound, look, and feel. The Coen brothers are back and aiming for Oscar gold yet again.
5.American Hustle Expected Release Date: 12/13/13 Rated R
Director : David O. Russell
Writer : David O. Russell and Eric Singer
Cast : Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro
Why the Anticipation: One of the film industries best director’s, the award magnet David O. Russell gives us his long awaited return since blessing us with last year’s best film Silver Linings Playbook. Russell reunites and unites former cast from his other great films to make a melting pot of great performing, writing, and directing. His timeless duo of Cooper and Lawrence along with De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook is being reunited after they all got Oscar nominations last year, Lawrence even became the second youngest person to ever win an Academy Award for best actress with Russell lighting the path for her, both literally and figuratively. Now Bale and Adams who Russell directed brilliantly in The Fighter, a film in which Bale won his first and only academy award for best supporting actor and Adams was nominated for best supporting actress, not to mention Melissa Leo actually won for that same category. It’s abundantly and overbearingly obvious that David O. Russell gets his entire core cast Oscar recognition every time he makes a film, so his latest disco era crime saga is without a doubt another classic to add to the already bloated resume of recent successes. This movie strikes me as this generation’s Casino, a film that Russell’s predecessor and undoubtedly his biggest inspiration Martin Scorcese made with De Niro over 20 years ago. And like Scorcese two decades prior, through his mastery of angles and lighting, Russell seems to have fused that gap of time between the disco 70’s and now. Expect drugs, sex, money, and violence in this one, but expect it picturesquely done.
6.Saving Mr. Banks Expected Release Date: 12/13/13 PG-13
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Sue Smith and Kelly Marcel
Cast: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, and Ruth Wilson
Why the Anticipation: This is a film everyone can watch together and enjoy equally during the holiday season. It is based off the story of author P.L. Travers and her introduction to Walt Disney himself, while adapting her novel Mary Poppins into the now immortal Disney film. A young energetic Walt Disney is played by the great Tom Hanks and of course he is gaining some momentum for this role along with the already released Captain Phillips. The supporting cast seems perfectly chosen and this film should make a magical journey into the past feel as simple as watching Mary Poppins herself float gently down to earth.
7.Her Expected Release Date: 12/18/13 Rated R
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt
Why the Anticipation: Two simple names why! Spike and Joaquin! I can’t recall the last time I was so filled with pure jubilation for an actor and director coming together for the first time. The creatively inclined genius Spike Jonze gives us his latest emotionally strange and complex dark comedy, centering around a lonely writer in the future who develops a kindred bond with a female sounding operating system, whose voiced by the seductive Scarlett Johansson. In fact, this film is overflowing with seductive starlets who flood the screen with their talent and beauty, with Mara, Adams, and Olivia Wilde sprinkled throughout. It’s more than obvious that everyone wants to work with Jonze, whose films have the ability to bring about existential, intellectual, and emotional revelations among the viewers, actors, and creators. Phoenix, who had a short mysterious hiatus from Hollywood after being nominated for Best Actor in Walk the Line, made an enigmatic comeback with P.T. Anderson’s The Master, a role and performance that I personally believe should have earned Joaquin his first Oscar. Still searching for that allusive golden statue, Joaquin has once again been chosen to deliver a spellbinding portrayal of yet another brilliant character that one of modern film’s brightest minds has custom woven just for him. Expect Joaquin to give his all and make yet another reach for being this year’s Best Actor, a destiny once shared by his fallen brother who paved the way for him. This one is for River!
8.The Past Release Date: 12/20/13 PG-13
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa
Why the Anticipation: Last year’s best original screenplay nominee director Asghar Farhadi makes his follow up effort to his Best Picture nominated A Seperation. This time Asghar has a star in Berenice Bejo at his disposal. Bejo was nominated for best supporting actress two years ago for her role in The Artist. Once again Farhadi is getting critical acclaim for his intensely realistic portrayal of one man’s internal power struggle between his love for his family and for his homeland. Bejo plays that man’s french wife who is left behind in France along with their two sons when that man decides to journey back to his motherland. Expect both Farhadi and Bejo to grab the Academy’s attention yet again.
9.August Osage County Release Date: 12/25/13 Rated R
Director: John Wells
Writer: Tracy Letts
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, and Dermot Mulroney
Why the Anticipation: The Star power alone could be why, but the Oscar Buzz this film is gaining is more reason why this film is highly anticipated. This film is this year’s attempt of showing a truly dysfunctional family at it’s peak of dysfunction. A task that many filmmakers take on annually but only the rare few really pull off. With a cast like this, pulling it off isn’t the problem, but more so you must blow people away and that is the pressure that comes with having an all star ensemble like this. It’s ironic that Abigial Breslin is in this film because in my personal view this film could be the sequel to Little Miss Sunshine, if that family was larger and had grown up. All I know for certain is that Meryl Streep and Sam Shepard will give awe inspiring performances, that is as certain as the sun rising each day. This film has big boom or bust potential, hopefully Streep assures a big boom!
10.The Wolf of Wall Street Release Date: 12/25/3 Rated R
Director: Martin Scorcese
Writer: Terrance Winter adapted Jordan Belfort’s novel of same title
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, P.J. Byrne
Why the Anticipation: Martin Scorsese is arguably the greatest living director, that being said, Leonardo DiCaprio may just end up being the greatest living actor, with his uniquely rare blend of Brando, Nicholson, and De Niro attributes. For many decades, Martin Scorsese had partnered with his best friend and muse Robert De Niro in making exquisitely raw and truly prototypical works of art, pioneers of realness in the cinema format. Film after film, Marty would custom tailor his lead character around Bobby, almost every time having his character based off true stories. These forces of film collided with the same originality and spontaneity as Jackson Pollock’s colors on a canvas. Unfortunately father time catches up with us all, and the youthful look needed to play most of Marty’s lead characters had escaped the great De Niro. So the legendary director set his sights on a new muse, and would find him in Leo, an actor that shared that same unique flame for creativity and intense dedication to his craft. Together these two made their seismic debut with the critically acclaimed Gangs of New York. And have done nothing but make classic after classic from that moment on. Films like The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island, Leo was nominated for The Aviator and The Departed, but lost out both times. Marty finally won his long overdue first Best Director Oscar for The Departed and looks to make another legitimate run at it this year with his latest true story saga of corrupt New York power brokers and the federal agents that brought them down, the screenplay being adapted by Terrance Winter of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire fame from Jordan Belfort’s autobiographical book. Eerily reminiscent to Scorsese’s Goodfellas, which was based off the autobiographical book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, though obviously in a completely different world and subject matter, but still connected nonetheless. This film is about the white collar criminal underground instead of the actual criminal underground, which Marty has already mastered at delivering as realistically as possible. It’s this film buff’s belief that Leo is already beyond exasperated from being Oscar-less and will give all that he has to this role in order to win his first, and playing Jordan Belfort will give him that chance. Not to mention the beautiful starlet opposite him, who is being thrust into stardom by Scorsese, Margot Robbie, an Australian actress who plays Leo’s love interest in the film and has a golden era aura that will play charmingly alongside DiCaprio. Robbie is one of many who round out a stellar supporting cast with high hopes for Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.