For fans of film, fall and winter are the best times of the year. This is when, typically, some of the most well-received films are released. Unofficially, we call it Oscar Season, and there’s good reason that the year’s best films are saved for last. Any film released before the end of the year is eligible for Oscar nomination. Therefore, if you release your film towards the end of the year, it will be fresher in audience and critic minds when awards time rolls around in early March/late February (February 22nd, 2015 to be exact).
In preparation for the fall and winter movie season, we’ve put together this preview of films that have been getting lots of attention. This list is by no means a complete collection of films we expect to be nominated, but are the ones that are currently getting the most buzz. We’ve grouped them into 5 categories based on what we know about them so far. Will they ultimately have what it takes to take home an Oscar?
Oscar nominees will be announced in January. Until then, we have three months to watch a ton of potentially great films, such as:
We won’t go into detail about those here, we recommend you catch them yourself.
It’s true that a number of films have already been released earlier in the year that also have good potential. Films like Boyhood, Foxcatcher, and The Grand Budapest Hotel seem to have all the right stuff and as a result have gotten rave reviews from critics and were well received by audiences. Other films, such as The Fault in Our Stars, Wild, and Still Alice have caught our attention with impressive individual performances. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if those previous releases will remain in consideration once critics and audiences have had a chance to view the rest of this year’s Oscar-hopeful films.
Big Budget Releases:
The Scoop: A big-budget epic WWII war film, Fury hopes to cash in on Brad Pitt’s popularity and David Ayer’s writing skills. Ayer has definitely shown that he can write (Training Day), but behind the camera he has only been making action films. Fury could blend those two talents together. Combined with a stellar cast, awesome special effects, fitting costumes, detailed make-up, and gritty/dirty visuals, Fury is expected to make some noise at the Oscars. Most importantly, it will be a coming-out party for Logan Lerman and Scott Eastwood.
The Summary: April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.
The Names: Writer-Director David Ayer, Actor Brad Pitt, Actor Shia LaBeof, Actor Logan Lerman, Make-Up Artist Alessandro Bertolazzi
The Scoop: Christopher Nolan is back with probably his most epic film to date. He’s exploring some pretty heady territory with Interstellar, but because of what we’ve seen from him in the past we can expect that it will not only be a thought-provoking film, but an entertaining one as well. Matthew McConaughey is fresh off his Best Actor Oscar and the rest of the cast is also full of Oscar nominees and winners. Interstellar has many weapons at its disposal with which it can do some damage at the Oscars.
The Summary: A group of explorers make use of a newly-discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.
The Names: Writer-Director Christopher Nolan, Actor Matthew McConaughey. Actress Jessica Chastain, Actress Anne Hathaway, Actor Michael Caine, Writer Jonathan Nolan, Composer Hans Zimmer, Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema
The Scoop: Early reviews have commented that Gone Girl lives up to its lofty expectations, and what lofty expectations it has. At the helm is Oscar-winning director David Fincher, and in the lead role is Oscar-winning Actor/Director Ben Affleck. Book adaptations have proven to be hit-or-miss proposition as of late, but Fincher remains one of the best at doing it. The only question that remains is whether or not audiences who were fans of the book will appreciate this interpretation.
The Summary: This film unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his beautiful wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
The Names: Director David Fincher, Actor Ben Affleck, Actress Rosamund Pike, Actor Neil Patrick Harris, Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, Musician Trent Reznor
Films by Oscar Regulars:
The Scoop: It seems like any PT Anderson film is nominated for at least one Oscar, and Inherent Vice is his latest attempt at continuing that trend. It is another book adaptation, but Anderson has made an adaptation before (There Will Be Blood) which turned out well. Plus, Anderson always seems to get the best out of his actors (he made Adam Sandler worth watching in Punch Drunk Love) so it’s hard to root against him.
The Summary: In Los Angeles in 1970, drug-fueled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
The Names: Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson, Actor Joaquin Phoenix, Actor Josh Brolin, Actress Reese Witherspoon, Actress Jena Malone, Cinematographer Robert Elswit
Into The Woods
The Scoop: Rob Marshall, who has shown talent in adapting musicals to the big screen, is back at it with an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 musical. Although this film will be a Disney picture, don’t be fooled. There is some serious talent involved (Meryl Streep not getting nominated is rare, a guy named Johnny Depp), and if Marshall can find the magic that made Chicago possible, this one could raise some eyebrows.
The Summary: A witch conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children’s stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.
The Names: Director/Choreographer Rob Marshall, Actress Emily Blunt, Actress Meryl Streep, Actor Johnny Depp, Actor Chris Pine, Costume Designer Colleen Atwood
The Scoop: All of Stephen Daldry’s previous films have been nominated for Oscars, so his new one has a lot to live up to, and it probably will. He has also been nominated for three Best Director Oscars, so obviously the Academy likes what he is doing.
The Summary: Set in Brazil, three kids who make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong.
The Names: Director Stephen Daldry, Actress Rooney Mara, Actor Martin Sheen
The Pieces May Fall In Place:
The Scoop: Birdman has gotten a lot of attention already because of how non-traditional it is. Instead of celebrating our movie-obsessed culture, it is supposed to satirize it. Iñárritu, known for playing homage to his hispanic culture, gives us a film with with less direct overtones. Finally, Michael Keaton, who hasn’t really stood out in a role for the last 20 years, shows off his abilities. Sometimes, things just fit together perfectly.
The Summary: A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
The Names: Writer/Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Actor Michael Keaton, Actress Emma Stone, Actress Naomi Watts, Actor Edward Norton
The Scoop: Although Angelina Jolie covered an eye-opening topic in her directorial debut (In the Land of Blood and Honey), critics and audiences didn’t really like the movie that much. Her follow-up could be a different story. Once again, it is based on a true story, but this time she has Joel and Ethan Coen writing the story, and a handful of up-and-coming actors showing what they can do. Jolie may finally become the same unstoppable force behind the camera as she is in front of it.
The Summary: Chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
The Names: Director Angelina Jolie, Writer Ethan Coen, Writer Joel Coen, Actor Jai Courtney, Actor Garrett Hedlund, Actor Domhnall Gleeson
Theory of Everything
The Scoop: Biopics are common at the Oscars, and this one seems to have all the right pieces to entice audiences as well as critics. Not only is ToE about a generally likeable and important person (Stephen Hawking), but the main actors are very charismatic, and the story is not your typical romantic drama.
The Summary: A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
The Names: Director James Marsh, Actress Felicity Jones, Actor Eddie Redmayne, Actor Charlie Cox
If There’s Room:
The Scoop: Here’s another Biopic, but instead of being about a widely-recognized and celebrated individual, the plot revolves around someone a little more obscure and controversial. As such, it is still to be seen whether or not audiences and critics will be hooked. The actors and director are not up-and-coming or Oscar regulars, but they certainly have the talent to earn a nomination or two.
The Summary: This film explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.
The Names: Director Mike Leigh, Actor Timothy Spall
The Scoop: This film has been getting a lot of attention at the festivals, winning lots of awards, and receiving strong word-of-mouth. Word is that this is a very fun and enjoyable film to watch, and the fact that its topic (jazz music) is not covered that often makes it unique. If there’s a downside it might be the fact that the actors and director don’t yet have a resume that is impressive enough for them to be shoe-ins.
The Summary: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
The Names: Writer/Director Damien Chazelle, Actor Miles Teller, Actress Melissa Benoist, Actor JK Simmons,
The Imitation Game
The Scoop: This is another Biopic type film. It’s also about WWII, which seems to be a popular topic this year. Therefore, it doesn’t really seem like it has much to set itself apart from some of the other films on this list. However, the cast is stellar, and they may be enough to make this a truly compelling experience.
The Summary: This film is a nail-biting race against time following Alan Turing (pioneer of modern-day computing and credited with cracking the German Enigma code) and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.
The Names: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Actress Keira Knightley, Actor Matthew Goode, Actor Mark Strong, Actor Charles Dance
Has Potential, but May Be a Longshot:
The Scoop: This film has an interesting combination of veteran and up-and-coming actors. The topic seems to be a little unconventional, and the director has yet to break out of the indie film circuit. Any one of those things has a chance of making this movie something really special, or else it will get lost in the crowd.
The Summary: 99 Homes is a story about a father who struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration.
The Names: Actor Andrew Garfield, Actor Michael Shannon, Actress Laura Dern
The Scoop: The word on Nightcrawler is that as a genre film, the Academy won’t pay much attention. The Academy’s past record with ignoring genre films is proof, and for the most part that makes sense. Genre films follow formulas, and the Academy is supposed to award films that expand the art, not just maintain it. Therefore, if Nightcrawler ends up having a good twist or two, maybe it will be worth a look. If not, well, Gyllenhaal always puts on a worthwhile performance.
The Summary: A young man stumbles upon the underground world of L.A. freelance crime journalism.
The Names: Director Dan Gilroy, Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor Bill Paxton, Actress Rene Russo
The Scoop: Everyone loves Bill Murray, and that’s probably why this film has any shot at all of getting an Oscar nomination. Still, the cast seems like they will be a lot of fun and the premise of the film seems entertaining. The real question mark is the direction. Can the inexperienced Theodore Melfi make his feature debut compelling enough?
The Summary: A young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran who lives next door.
The Names: Writer/Director Theodore Melfi, Actor Bill Murray, Actress Melissa McCarthy, Actress Naomi Watts, Actor Chris O’Dowd, Actor Terrence Howard