Early Look at Oscar Contenders, Part 2

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Premise: A spy comes out of retirement to find a mole in MI6 during the Cold War.
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Screenplay: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan

Pro: It is based on a popular British miniseries. Director Tomas Alfredson has some pedigree with his last film, Let the Right One In. Early word from the Venice Film Festival was positive and will help to keep the excitement for the film going until its December release date.

Con: Despite early good reviews, spy thrillers have never been a favorite genre with the Academy. It will have to be something beyond just a thriller if it is to stay with the Academy.

Young Adult

Premise: A former popular girl heads home to break up the marriage of her high school sweetheart when he sends out a birth announcement.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, and Patton Oswalt
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Diablo Cody

Pro: Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody did very well last time they worked together, getting Cody an Oscar and Reitman his first director nomination for Juno. Reitman was also back at the Kodak Theater with his last film, Up in the Air.

Con: Cody has not had much luck with her script work since Juno, and the story is supposed to be a bit more dark than both of their previous works. The lead actress, Charlize Theron, has not caught the Academy’s eye since 2005.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Premise: A young boy finds a key belonging to his father two years after his father died on 9/11. He then sets out to see what the history of the key is.
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, and Sandra Bullock
Director: Stephen Daldry
Screenplay: Eric Roth

Pro: Stephen Daldry has been a master at making the Academy love him. He has made three films and all three have gotten him Best Director nominations, and two of them have gotten Best Picture nominations (The Hours and The Reader). This project seems to have the same emotional energy that the Academy has liked before, dealing with loss and a sense of redemption. The cast also screams Oscar, with recent winners Bullock and two-time winner Hanks.

Con: Daldry is the only director to get noms for all three of his first films, and keeping that kind of momentum going is always going to be difficult. Will he be able to make the cut?

War Horse

Premise: A boy’s horse is taken to serve in WWI and even though he is too young to enlist, they boy does so anyway to find his beloved horse.
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Lee Hall and Richard Curtis

Pro: First off, it is never wise to underestimate Steven Spielberg; after winning Best Director for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, it is clear that he makes films the Academy likes. Even Munich, which was supposed to be the big Academy film in 2005 but lost steam near nomination time, still managed Best Picture and Best Director nominations. Even with reduced buzz, Spielberg gets Oscar nominations. Here we have him going back to the subject of war—a subject the Academy likes and, as shown above, has been very kind to Spielberg. The material is based on a popular book turned into a popular play that has won several Tonys, including best play.

Con: The only potential con is the translation from play to film and how emotional it is. The Academy likes romance and emotional moments, but not if it is too over the top. If Spielberg keeps the tone even-keeled, he has a contender.

So those are the movie that look most likely to be touted for Best Picture in the coming months. As with all Oscar predictions, anything can change at a moment’s notice; let the games begin!

Pages: 1 2


Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

You can reach Benjamin via email or on twitter

View all posts by this author