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Post-TIFF Best Picture Power Rankings

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Now that the fall festivals have come and gone, it’s time to start thinking seriously (and in a guilt-free way) about the 2015 Oscars. Pundits everywhere have been sharing their 2015 Oscar predictions for weeks, sometimes months, and I’m no different (check out my first set of 2015 Oscar predictions, published about a month ago). For the first time in the race, though, we know something. Films still need to be seen—Fury, Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, and Unbroken among them—but it’s safe to say a handful of titles are in it for the long haul.

Because this is the first post in a season-long series, I hope you’ll indulge me a little exposition. These are my “Best Picture 7.” This year, I’m going to refrain from writing about a film and its awards potential at least until after it screens. So all seven of the films below are ones I think are in genuine contention for a nomination, and all seven are known quantities to a degree. They are ranked in order of likeihood to be nominated, as all similar posts will be from now until January. And though it ought not to need mentioning, this should not be taken as an indication of a film’s quality either positively or negatively. We should be bright enough to tell the difference, but it seems we aren’t, so for the saviors of cinema who are too uppity and/or thick to be able to differentiate between a review and an assessment of a film’s Oscar potential, this is the latter. Idiots.

Exposition/rant concluded. Now, my Best Picture power rankings for today, the 17th of September, 2014. This will be updated again around the conclusion of the New York Film Festival. In the interim: Best Actor and Best Actress power rankings. Stay tuned!


1.) The Imitation Game
TIFF’s People’s Choice Award winners have gone on to earn Best Picture nominations in five of the last six years. (Incidentally, they’ve won Best Picture three of those years.) Of course, The Imitation Game was cruising for a nomination since the second the lights went up on its Telluride premiere. I’m not going to get into winner’s odds until we know more, but in terms of likelihood to be nominated, nothing will overtake The Imitation Game in any iteration of this column from now until January.

2.) Birdman
Inarritu’s “comedy” will probably be this year’s craft category beast a la Gravity or Life of Pi. Combined with the film’s likely acting nods, that sets it up pretty well for a Best Picture nod. Could lose some ground if Inherent Vice blows everyone out of the water after its NYFF premiere.

3.) The Theory of Everything
While The Imitation Game won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, the talk of the festival seemed to be director James Marsh’s Stephen Hawking biopic and the film’s lovely lead performances, courtesy of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. I was supremely skeptical on the film’s chances out of the gate, but the reviews are stronger than I originally thought they might be. It’ll be an Academy-friendly pic for sure, but if it’s winning critics over, too, there’s no denying its strong Best Picture chances.

4.) Boyhood
Richard Linklater’s surprising summer hit should come back around with critics at the end of the year. Until then, it’s hanging around the fringe. I think it’ll get in, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it falls off eventually.

5.) Foxcatcher
See also: Boyhood. Bennett Miller’s film has the benefit of opening this fall, so it’ll be front of mind, but by all accounts, it’s a cold take on a dark story and could miss out in lieu of some of the season’s softer, more gooey films.

6.) Whiplash
Precious, Winter’s Bone, Beasts of the Southern Wild—all Sundance Grand Jury Prize winners. Are we sleeping on Whiplash? I think so. At the very least, it will stay in the conversation thanks to JK Simmons’ sure-to-be-nominated performance.

7.) Still Alice
The only other film we’ve seen that I still think has a shot at a Best Picture nomination. I think Still Alice‘s chances are small, especially considering Sony Pictures Classics is distributing the two films immediately above this one on my list, but it just landed and it seemed to come out of nowhere. I think we need to see some more reactions (and the reactions to other films) before being able to accurately estimate its Oscar odds.

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