2013 OSCAR PREDICTIONS: Best Picture Spitballing

Yes, it’s time. Sorry, folks.

With summer winding down, the festival lineups being announced, and the fall schedule experiencing its traditional last-minute jostling (Goodbye, The Great Gatsby. We hardly considered thee.) Oscar season is ready to begin. I’ll cover it as I usually do, with semi-regular posts covering what’s changed on a category-by-category level. Today, we begin with the big kahuna—Best Picture.

I’ve identified what are, for me, the five biggest questions related to this category at the moment. Right now, they are pretty broad as, frankly, we don’t know much. They’ll grow more and more specific as the season inches closer to its conclusion.

So with that, here’s where I think Best Picture stands. Analysis is followed by predictions, which have been updated on the site’s right rail for this category only.

1.) Summer Indies: In or Out?
Perhaps this year’s only two legitimate Best Picture hopefuls that general audiences have seen so far are Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom. I regrettably haven’t had the chance to catch up with the former, but everything I’ve heard and read about it makes it sound like a real threat (at least for a nomination), as well as a film I’ll just love. For me, this Fox Searchlight property is in.

Moonrise Kingdom is a slightly different case. The novelty factor isn’t as high; We’ve been invited into Wes Anderson’s world plenty of times before. The film’s studio, Focus Features, could potentially have its hands full with Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina. And the film won’t likely much in the way of craft or acting nods (or at least not on the level of Beasts of the Southern Wild).

All that said, I’ve got “Moonrise” on my predicted list. Reverse logic tells us that if Anna Karenina flops, Focus can, um, focus exclusively on this film. Also, people just really seem to like it, and if recent history is any indication, something from Cannes will pop up in the Best Picture lineup, and this seems like the only legitimate possibility.

2.) Is September Too Early?
The Master‘s move from a mid-October to a mid-September release really surprised me. When so many Oscar-friendly films are waiting until the last possible second to hit theaters, it seems odd to mess with what might be the sight-unseen frontrunner. You won’t see me complaining because it only means I get to see the film sooner. But it begs the question: Is September too early? Moneyball scored a nomination with a September release last year, but with a loaded slate this year, The Weinstein Co. now needs to spend an extra month’s worth of Oscar money to keep The Master in the conversation.

Like I said, I think this film is a safe bet for both a nomination and perhaps the win. But this change definitely throws a bit of a wrench into everything.

3.) Can Bigelow and Hooper Bring It Again?
It’s always interesting to see how a director can follow up a Best Picture winner. This year, we get two such films—Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty. But look like home runs, quality-wise, and “Les Mis” is a close to a sure thing as we have this far out. As far as Zero Dark Thirty is concerned, the world got its first glimpse at it yesterday. I’m not sure the teaser will be indicative of the film, but I’m not sure either the film itself or the marketed version of it is “Oscary.” But we’ll see.

4.) Any Big Hits?
The big elephant in the Oscar-talking room right now happens to be my favorite film of the year so far. But as much as I loved The Dark Knight Rises, it ain’t happening. It’s just not that kind of movie.

So what big or potentially big blockbusters still stand a chance? Not The Avengers, nor Brave, nor The Hunger Games. All were good, but again, not Oscar material. Thankfully (at least in the interest of good ratings), the end of the year brings plenty of big films with awards aspirations. Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit film is among them, but it isn’t one I’m taking very seriously as an Oscar contender (outside of the craft categories, of course). Middle Earth already has a Best Picture trophy, and it’ll have two more chances after this to earn another. Another possibility is Django Unchained. Tarantino’s last film earned about $130 million domestically, and this one will almost certainly do a little better. So is a Best Picture nod in the cards? My Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good.” Lightning just doesn’t strike the same place twice, and I don’t think “Django” has the same appeal as Inglourious Basterds did.

5.) What Isn’t on the Schedule Yet?
It’s always the big question, isn’t it? Especially at this time of year. The announcement that Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder would play Venice and Toronto this year means it’s a serious contender, should it find a distributor (I suspect it will, but I don’t think it’ll be released by the end of the year). Mike Newell’s Great Expectations could also be a contender, but I tend to think it needs some other titles to fall off. Mud earned plenty of praise at Cannes, but still hasn’t found a home. I have no doubt there will be others as the season chugs along; We’ll have to wait and see what they are.

Best Picture Predictions
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
The Master
Moonrise Kingdom
Silver Linings Playbook

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