First, two omissions from last week’s article that should be remedied (damn you, Wikipedia and your incompleteness!):
All is Lost (October 18th)
The basics: In J.C. Chandor’s film, an unnamed sailor, played by Robert Redford, is lost at sea.
Why it might be great: It got a standing ovation at Cannes. Redford’s performance is receiving tons of praise.
Why it might fail: Could be too minimalistic or overshadowed by other loner survival films (last year’s Life of Pi, this year’s Gravity).
Awards chances: Redford’s one of the top contenders for Actor.
Blue is the Warmest Color (November 1st)
The basics: A 3-hour-long NC-17-rated French lesbian romance based on a graphic novel.
Why it might be great: It might be one of the most niche of the fall’s films, but also possibly one of its best. Its director, Abellatif Kechiche, and, in a first for the Cannes festival, its actresses, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, won the Palme D’or. Everyone seems to be loving it…
Why it might fail: …except the original graphic novel writer Julie Maroh, who has complained about both adaptational changes and the problems in having a straight man direct lesbian sex scenes.
Awards chances: Critics’ prizes are more likely than industry awards, but it would be something if France decided to use this as their submission for the Foreign Language Film Oscar.
And now, back to November:
Dallas Buyer’s Club (November 1st)
The basics: Jean-Marc Vallee directs the true story of a homophobe diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s (Matthew McConaughey) who started a life-saving drug-smuggling business with a transgender woman (Jared Leto).
Why it might be great: McConaughey’s had a pretty great career comeback in the past couple years, and the material’s interesting.
Why it might fail: Of all the stories about the AIDS crisis, does Hollywood have to choose the one centered around a straight man?
Awards chances: Actor and Supporting Actor have pretty good chances. Danny Elfman’s score could enter the race, as could the screenplay (not sure if it would count as Adapted or Original) and possibly the movie itself in the Best Picture race.
Ender’s Game (November 1st)
The basics: Orson Scott Card’s novel about a child supersoldier training for war with alien “Buggers” comes to the big screen after all these years.
Why it might be great: The book is still pretty great. Lionsgate gets points for donating proceeds from the premiere to LGBT charities.
Why it might fail: Too bad the author’s still a ridiculously homophobic activist, and if this becomes the franchise Lionsgate wants, they’ll have to keep paying him. Even separating the art from the artist, the book’s incredibly hard to adapt and it’s doubtful Gavin Hood has the talent to direct sci-fi action films after X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Awards chances: Possibly Effects if it’s a hit, but that field’s pretty crowded.
Thor: The Dark World (November 8th)
The basics: After The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is forced to team up with his human love interest Jane (Natalie Portman) and villainous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in order to take down a greater evil.
Why it might be great: Marvel Studios has had a good run of movies so far, and this sequel can further build their universe in wilder directions while also providing some character development.
Why it might fail: There’s been rumors of trouble behind the scenes, with director Alan Taylor possibly having final cut taken away from him.
Awards chances: Given the previous Thor didn’t get any nods and there’s a glut of superhero competition in the tech categories, pretty low.
The Book Thief (November 15th)
The basics: Brian Percival adapts Markus Zusak’s young adult novel about a girl (Sophie Nelisse) growing up with a foster family in Nazi Germany.
Why it might be great: The book’s amazing. FOX pushed the film back from a January release into the middle of Oscar season in November, so they have confidence.
Why it might fail: Much of the book’s quality was in its prose, narrated by Death. Will that translate?
Awards chances: No way this isn’t a huge Oscar player if it’s even a moderate critical and commercial hit. It could be in the Best Picture race, and certainly the Adapted Screenplay race. Even if it flops, except John Williams’ score to get nominated.
The Wolf of Wall Street (November 15th)
The basics: Martin Scorcese adapts the memoir of Wall Street criminal Jordan Belfort, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.
Why it might be great: It’s topical, and Scorcese’s great with dark humor and balancing a sense of morality with the glamor of immorality. Could this be a Goodfellas for an upper-class of criminal?
Why it might fail: Is Scorcese-DiCaprio one of those director-actor teams we’re gonna get sick of soon?
Awards chances: This might be DiCaprio’s best chance for the gold he still has yet to win. Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Directing, and Picture are possibilities.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22nd)
The basics: The sequel to last year’s blockbuster finds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are on their victory tour, while dealing with a Capitol desperate to quash rebellion.
Why it might be great: The last Hunger Games was a rare adaptation about as good as the book it was based on and an intelligent block. This one has the talent of screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3).
Why it might fail: Director Francis Lawrence’s resume (Constantine, I Am Legend) doesn’t inspire the most confidence.
Awards chances: The previous film wasn’t nominated at all. If this one is, I’d guess it’d be in the music or sound categories.
Frozen (November 27th)
The basics: Disney loosely adapts The Snow Queen.
Why it might be great: Disney’s animation studio has been getting better under John Lasseter, with hits such as Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Wreck-It Ralph. This film by Chris Buck could continue the trend.
Why it might fail: Unfortunately this movie looks incredibly generic. If you’re wondering why the trailer doesn’t even show the main characters, it’s probably because they’ve been designed as almost carbon-copies of the cast of Tangled.
Awards chances: As a musical, it’s certain to get at least one Best Song nomination, and given the weak selection of animated films this year, it’ll likely get into Animated Feature. The short before it, a 2D/3D Mickey Mouse hybrid called Get a Horse!, could be up for Animated Short.
Oldboy (November 27th)
The basics: Spike Lee adapts the manga that Park Chan-Wook previously adapted in his 2003 cult hit, with Josh Brolin as the imprisoned vengeful anti-hero.
Why it might be great: Theoretically the same source can be adapted twice in different ways and turn out great.
Why it might fail: If it’s too similar to Park’s film, or if it’s too toned down, or if the Americanization of a Korean story doesn’t work…
Awards chances: Even if it rocks, this is too twisted and edgy for the Academy’s usual taste.
December’s preview will be up Thursday.