I was more than a little surprised to read this week that the Weinstein Company had chosen a summer release date for their Sundance pick-up Fruitvale whilst Fox Searchlight went with the Weinstein-like December 27th for Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave. While summer is by no means a bad move for Fruitvale (movies without stars, instant hooks, or famous directors need time to build) and Fox Searchlight can sell a movie to Oscar with any date, it's weird to see the Weinstein Company go this route; Harvey Weinstein is more than a little responsible for the modern "DECEMBER OR BUST!" fanaticism that awards campaigns live by. For a moment I worried that they might have no faith in Fruitvale at all.
It's never been true, of course, that you have to release a movie in December to be an Oscar player but the important thing in regards to release dates is that it feels true to the studios which is why we get movie gluts every year 'round Christmas. ANYWAY... that's just the two most recent release date announcements. Here's what's coming our way -- a monthly calendar after the jump -- that might conceivably have Oscar dreams of some sort or another. (Feel free to add to the list in the comments so I can finally get around to the first Oscar predictions of the year!)
- 42 (Warner Bros) -The inspirational sports saga biopic subgenre is crowded but usually a no-hitter with Oscar. But every once in a while something catches.
- To the Wonder (Magnolia) -It's Malick! But the reviews haven't been kind.
- Oblivion (Universal) - Tom Cruise does his best Wall•E in this sci-fi pic. With Andrea Riseborough and Morgan Freeman.
- At Any Price - Dennis Quaid stars as a farmer in Ramin Bahrani's latest and it always feels like Bahrani's on the edge of wider recognition, doesn't it?
May (The Oscar race in several categories probably begins right here.)
- Iron Man 3 (Disney/Marvel) - three Oscar nominations in total from the first two adventures of Tony Stark
- Love is All You Need - Oscar winning Danish director Susanne Bier trains her camera on Pierce Brosnan for a romantic comedy set in Italy
- The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros) -Baz Luhrmann's glitzy return. In 3D for some reason. Enjoy it because he'll disappear again until at least 2020. (sigh)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) - overexcited pundits thought that the previous one in 2009 would be Best Picture nominated but it did score four tech noms which is nothing to sneeze at. Can Into Darkness also win tech nods?
- Frances Ha (IFC) - Noah Baumbach's latest black and white film is said to be a real charmer and a potential breakthrough for Greta Gerwig who is always on the verge.
- Before Midnight (SPC) - part three of Celine and Jesse's talky romance. Before Sunset won an Adapted Screenplay nomination but stupidly no Oscar traction for Julie Delpy. Will Oscar finally realize what magic this franchise is?
- The English Teacher (Cinedigm)
What Maisie New (Millenium) - Sit up straight people. It's Ms. Julianne Moore twice over.
- After Earth (Columbia) - Will Smith and Spawn of Will Smith star in M Night Shyamalan's postapocalyptic sci-fi epic
- Much Ado About Nothing (Lionsgate & Roadside) Joss Whedon & Friends throw toss off a little Shakespeare party
- The Bling Ring (A24) - the Return of Sofia Coppola. Yay!
- Man of Steel (Warner Bros) - aka Superman Returns... Again.
- World War Z (Paramount) - Brad Pitt and family try to survive the zombie apocalypse
- Monsters University (Disney/Pixar) - the Monsters Inc sequel. Can it win Best Animated Feature and avenge Monsters Inc's loss?
- I'm So Excited (SPC) - Pedro Almodovar returns to comedy in this airplane set farce
- White House Down - Channing Tatum defends the White House in this action flick from Roland Emmerich. No, I don't know why I included in this list either. Shut up.
- The Lone Ranger (Disney) - Johnny Depp rides and quirks again
- The Hunt (Magnolia) - this Danish film about communal hysteria and a spreading lie stars Mads Mikkelsen and is supposedly excellent. From Thomas Vinterberg, a famous Oscar snubee from way back when for The Celebration (1998) which was just an awesome motion picture.
- Pacific Rim (Warner Bros) - the geeks are very excited about this sci fi would be blockbuster from Guillermo Del Toro. With Charlie Hunnam & Rinko Kikuchi
- Turbo (Dreamworks) - a snail becomes a speedy racer in this cartoon
- Only God Forgives (Radius/TWC) - Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling, who were so sensational paired in Drive attempt to recapture the magic.
- The Wolverine (20th Century Fox) - James Mangold attempts to rescue Hugh Jackman's solo X-franchise from the horror that was "Origins" (just discussed)
- Fruitvale (Weinstein Co) - the Sundance winner is a true story about a young man (played by Friday Night Lights' Michael B Jordan) in the Bay Area on a fateful day in 2008
- Blue Jasmine (SPC) - Woody Allen directs Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard and Alec Baldwin in this comedy about a fashionable New York housewife in crisis.
- The Spectacular Now (A24) - this Sundance hit is a romantic teen drama starring almost-Oscar nominee Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and very far from but shoulda been almost Oscar nominee Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole)
- Elysium (Columbia) - a scifi drama from District 9's Neill Blomkamp starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Yes, please.
- Aint Them Bodies Saints (IFC) - Sundance reports suggest that this indie outlaw western (starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) is a major achievement in cinematography at the very least. We shall see.
- The Grandmaster (Weinstein Co)- Wong Kar Wai and Tony Leung Chiu Wai reunite for this story about Bruce Lee's mentor. It's been a long long long time in coming (and in the making). Can it hurdle the dumb general indifference foreign films often meet in the US market?
- Closed Circuit (Focus Features) Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana at a terrorist trial
- Prisoners (Warner Bros) - Hugh Jackman's daughter goes missing and detectives Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano are on the hunt in this drama from acclaimed Canadian director Denis Vileneuve.
- Rush (Universal) - Ron Howard, who hasn't been in the Oscar race in forever, attemps a comeback with this sports drama about the rivalry between two 70s racers played by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl.
- Runner Runner (20th Century Fox) - Brad Furman isn't exactly an "Oscar" director but given that his new thriller stars Ben Affleck who AMPAS loves right now... who knows?
- Gravity (Warner Bros) - Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are lost in space in this ambitious sci-fi drama from Alfonso Cuaron
- Captain Phillips (Columbia) - Tom Hanks stars in this true story dramatic thriller from Paul Greengrass about the first hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates in hundreds of years
- Oldboy (FilmDistrict) Spike Lee remakes Park Chan Wook's cult favorite about a wrongly imprisoned man out for revenge on his captors. With Josh Brolin
- The Butler (Weinstein Co) Lee Daniels, attempts a Precious big comeback with Oscar post-The Paperboy (though he has so little to apologize for there despite the reviews) with this Oscar friendly concept film about the butler to many presidents. Forest Whitaker headlines.
- Carrie (Screen Gems) the remake with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore... just discussed
- Malavita (Relativity) Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer headline this mafia comedy from Luc Besson
- Seventh Son (Warner Bros) Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore battle in this supernatural fantasy adaptation. Love the cast but can it capture the box office?
- Ender's Game - this classic sci-fi novel finally gets the big screen treatment. With Harrison Ford but will recent negative buzz for Orson Scott Card hurt the enthusiasm to see this visualized?
- August: Osage County (Weinstein Co) - Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts star in this female-led drama about squabbling daughters and their drug addled mother in Oklahoma reunited when their man of the house goes missing. Based on the sensational stage play.
- Thor: The Dark World (Disney/Marvel) - I guess they repaired that rainbow bridge.
- The Counselor (20th Century Fox) - Ridley Scott, who has weirdly never won the Oscar, returns with an all star cast in this legal drama about the drug trade. Cormac McCarthy
- The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) - Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio based on Jordan Belfort's hard-partying memoirs
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) - Katniss (freshly Oscar clubbed Jennifer Lawrence) goes on her victory tour... but all is not well in The Capitol
- Black Nativity (Fox Searchlight) - Kasi Lemmons who made the memorable Eve's Bayou (1997) many moons ago returns for this stage-to-screen adaptation in which a teenager dreams of a black nativity at Mass. With Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson.
- Frozen (Disney) - a new animated musical in which Disney aims to extend their princess line. With the singing voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, and Jonathan Groff
- The Fifth Estate (Touchstone) - Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) returns to dramatize the early days of WikiLeaks. With Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Line) - this horribly titled Rings epic is likely to snag some Oscar noms. They always do.
- Abscam (Columbia) - David O. Russell is definitely in his Oscar moment so will the writer/director have another winner hot on the heels of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook? This year's actorly collision involves Amy Adams and Christian Bale as criminals, Bradley Cooper as a federal agent and Jeremy Renner as a politician so obvs Russell is still trying to win his own gold.
- The Monuments Men (Columbia) - George Clooney directs himself in this true WW II story about men trying to save great pieces of art.
- Saving Mr. Banks (Disney) -biopic alert. biopic alert. Tom Hanks would like a third Oscar please. He's playing Walt Disney in this film that concerns the making of Mary Poppins. With Emma Thompson
- Grace of Monaco (Weinstein Co) - Nicole Kidman stars at the legendary movie star, long past her movie princess years as she helps settle a political dispute in 1961. From the director of La Vie En Rose.
- 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) - Steve McQueen along with his muse Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Shame) bring us this pre Civil War drama about a slave (Chiwetel Ejiofor), slaveowner (Fassy) and an abolitionist (Brad Pitt). With Quvenzhané Wallis
- 47 Ronin (Universal) - Keanu Reeves headlines this action epic. With Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)
TBA NO RELEASE DATE YET
- Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films) - the new Coen Bros picture about a folk singer played by Oscar Isaac is a looking at a fall release. With Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake
- The Railway Man (Lionsgate) - Colin Firth seeks to find his torturers in this post WWII drama. With Nicole Kidman.
- Nebraska (Paramount) - Alexander Payne directs a father son road trip. With Bruce Dern and Will Forte
- Foxcatcher (Columbia) - Bennet Miller (Moneyball, Capote) directs Steve Carell as paranoid schizophrenic John Du Pont and Mark Ruffalo as his Olympic athlete victim in this bizarre true story. With Channing Tatum.
- Snowpiercer (Weinstein Co) - this sci-fi drama with amazing cast and director (Boon Jong-Ho) is looking at the summer. But since it's Weinstein you never know. Might see it two years from now.
- Nymphomaniac (Magnolia) - Lars von Trier's latest provocation with Charlotte Gainsbourg as a woman recalling her erotic journey
- Out of the Furnace (Relativity) - writer/director Scott Cooper attemps to recapture the Oscar excitement of his debut (Crazy Heart) with this story of two brothers and a crime ring in the Rust Belt. With Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Casey Affleck and more.
- Ernest & Celestine (GKids) - an animated film from France about a bear and a mouse who are friends
- Therese (LD Entertainment) - Elisabeth Olsen and Jessica Lange star in this adaptation of the famous play Therese Raquin
- Labor Day (Paramount) - Jason Reitman directs Kate Winslet in this dramatic thriller about a woman who offers a convict a ride
TBA NO US DISTRIBUTOR THAT I'M AWARE OF (YET)...
- Under the Skin - Jonathan Glazer's long awaited follow up to Birth with Scarlett Johansson as the alien lead
- The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hers - Jessica Chastain stars in this double feature from debut director Ned Benson
- Serena - Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper reteam for this Susanne Bier depression era drama about a timber tycoon and his barren wife
- The Two Faces of January - Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen star in this adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel
- The Past - Asghar Farhadi's first film since A Separation might have used the same title. It's a drama about the troubled dissolving marriage of an Iranian man and French woman. Will Oscar notice it?
- Dallas Buyer's Club -Matthew McConaughey in a true story about a womanizing homophobe who contracted full blown AIDS in 1986 (this is the one he lost all the scary weight for) and his struggle to survive with smuggled drugs
- Her - the inventive Spike Jonze helms this story of a lonely writer who develops an unhealthy relationship with an appliance. With Joaquin Phoenix and a collection of beauties in support: Mara, Adams, Morton, Wilde, Doubleday
- Night Moves - Kelly Reichardt returns alas sans Michelle Williams for this tale of young environmentalists who are ought to blow up a dam.
- A Long Way Down - a dramedy cowritten by Nick Hornby about a surrogate family forming on New Years Eve. With Toni Collette and Rosamund Pike
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) Wes Anderson trains his singular eye on a hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and protégé (?) and stolen paintings. With a delicious and huge cast of stars
- Miss Julie - Jessica Chastain stars in the classic Strindbergh role for director Liv Ullman
- Philomena - Stephen Frears directs Judi Dench as a woman on a 50 year search for the child she gave up
- An Enemy - Denis Villeneuve's other Jake Gyllenhaal film is about a man searching for his exact lookalike
So... big years ahead for Daniel Brühl, Oscar Isaac, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hanks, Forest Whitaker, Carey Muligan, Rinko Kikuchi, and Michael Fassbender each with multiple films. And another big year for two megastars for whom it's always a big year: Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.
These are just the films with tentatively announced release dates. What else might pop up? I gotta get my Oscar charts up!