Ben Affleck and the rest of Team Argo
likely are still partying as you read this, celebrating their come-from-behind victory at the Oscars Sunday night
, which resulted in a Best Picture win for the critically acclaimed political thriller.
Not us. We’ve already tied the bow on this year’s Oscar race and are more than ready to move on to next year’s crop of Best Picture contenders! (I know. I’m sorry. I hate myself even as I write this, but trust me, it’s time to look forward, because we can only say so much about the recent Oscar nominees and winners. It’s beyond time to move on.)
Given what we know about these soon-to-open films, here are the five movies I expect to lead the charge for a Best Picture trophy at the 86th annual Academy Awards:
1. August: Osage County
Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play shifts to the big screen with a to-die-for cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch. Argo producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov are the driving forces behind the film, which will be distributed by the Weinstein Company. To call this “the one to beat” at this stage of the game would be an understatement.
2. Saving Mr. Banks
Hollywood loves stories about moviemaking (see The Artist) and this one casts two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks as a cinematic icon working on one of our most beloved films. Hanks plays Walt Disney, who faces tough negotiations with author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) as they collaborate on the movie musical Mary Poppins. This one checks off a lot of the Academy’s usual Oscar boxes. Expect it to be a contender.
Opening: December 20
3. The Monuments Men
Were you wondering why Clooney was sporting such a salt-and-peppery beard at the Oscars? It’s because he’s directing and starring in a WWII period thriller called Monuments Men that’s currently shooting in Berlin. The creator of Good Night, and Good Luck sets his sights on the true-life story of art experts who raced to reclaim valuable works from the Nazis at the end of the military conflict. The Academy loves Clooney, and he has a great cast (which includes Daniel Craig and Cate Blanchett), but if the film feels too close to Argo in tone and execution, that might hurt the movie’s overall chances.
Opening: December 18
4. Grace of Monaco
Casting Nicole Kidman as the beautiful Grace Kelly should be enough to get a film on Oscar’s radar. But with the news breaking that director Olivier Dahan’s biopic of the princess of Monaco has been picked up by the Weinstein Company and positioned for a December release date, you just get the impression that this movie’s going to get the full-court press come Oscar season. We’ll see if it can live up to its already-percolating hype.
Opening: December 2013
5. Captain Phillips
Yes, it’s Tom Hanks’ second picture in the still-developing Oscar race. But couple director Paul Greengrass’ name with the factual account of the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. cargo ship by Somali pirates, and you have the ingredients of a surefire Best Picture contender. Hanks plays the title role, working from a screenplay by the razor-sharp Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, State of Play). Look for this one to test the waters of the fall film-festival circuit, and hopefully generate some buzz.
Opening: October 11
Also consider: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Ron Howard’s Rush, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and Ryan Coogler’s Sundance hit Fruitvale.