THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
This is the big one in my opinion as The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the big three contenders for next year. Just look at the talent behind the film. It's directed by Martin Scorsese, who hasn't won since The Departed in 2006, and stars Leonardo DiCapri, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, and Matthew McConaughey. It just seems like something that the academy would most certainly go for. Scorsese has directed five films since 2000 and only one has not been nominated for Best Picture (Shutter Island). That's a pretty good track record. The film has now received a November 15, 2013 release date which is a smart move considering that most films that win Best Picture open in October or November nowadays. Look for this to be a very good film and a major Oscar contender (it might even bring DiCaprio his first Oscar).
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTRY
For a lot of people, this is the front-runner for next year's Oscars. I think that while it has a very impressive cast, it won't win. It just doesn't feel like a Best Picture winner. However, I think that it is an extremely impressive cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberwatch, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abagail Breslin, and Juliette Lewis. And it is based off a well-liked stage play so that gives it an advantage. It is also directed by John Wells, who's only feature film is The Company Men. It is now set for a November 8, 2013 date which is a prime Oscar slot. The biggest advantage of this film is the fact that it is produced by the Weinstein Company and Harvey almost always finds a way for his films to win.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM
I have to say that Mandela is an extremely interesting film. It truly hearkens back to the days when studios did full biopics of important figures like Gandhi or Woodrow Wilson. Now it seems that the thing in Hollywodo is to do biopics that focuse on a specific part of a person's life. Some examples of that are Lincoln and Hitchcock and the upcoming Emperor. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom hopes to change that. It's a sweeping biopic that reportedly tells the life story of South African leader Nelson Mandela and his quest to end apartheid. The film stars Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela and is directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl). Mandela has been given a November 29, 2013 release date which will play directly into the Oscar season.
GRACE OF MONACO
I'm thinking that Grace of Monaco could end up being this year's Iron Lady. The biopic about how starlet Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) became the princess of Monaco is set for a December 27, 2013 release date and is likely to play into that nostalgic Hollywood sensibility that has ruled the Oscars for the past two years. But it might not end up being a great film and will only be rewarded for the performances. That's the kind of film I see Grace of Monaco being. However, I believe that Nicole Kidman is a leading candidate for her role as Kelly and she might end up taking home the big prize. The film also stars Tim Roth and Paz Vega and is directed by relative newcomer Oliver Dahan.
I know that I'm comparing this year's race a lot to previous races but Fruitvale could end up being this years Beasts of the Southern Wild. It's a Sundance darling that will likely get a small theater count and not be seen by many people, but it will end up being a film that all the critics love and it will get a major push from Harvey Weinstein and company. The film is now set for an October 18, 2013 release date which fits right in with the rest of Weinstein's schedule. I think that Fruitvale will end up being a dark horse contender but never a major player. I'm looking forward to the film and I hope that it is as good as the Sundance buzz suggests.
Look for a major dissertation of the major contenders later today along with some early predictions.