Oscar bait talks the summer releases chances in the Academy Award race

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Lee Henry: Let’s start with Sandra Bullock. Where did this performance come from? She’s a lock for a nomination, and I’d say she’s a serious contender to win Best Actress. There’s a strong correlation between Best Actress victories and Best Picture nomination/contention which is very hard to overcome, so that gives her an edge over her only current competitor, Cate Blanchett.

Colin McLaughlin: I think we agree. We’re a long way off from February, but this year’s Best Actress race is already Bullock’s to lose. It’s hard to imagine any of the other prospective nominees coming close to what she does in “Gravity.”

CM: If nothing else, “Gravity” is a lock for best visuals and cinematography. Cuaron’s movie is full of uninterrupted takes that last more than 10 minutes. And I really do hate to call major categories so soon, but “Argo” came out by this time last year and that movie was called as the Best Picture winner at Toronto. Right now, the biggest potential opponent for “Gravity”’s chances is “12 Years A Slave,” which will be out this Friday. 

LH: We can’t ignore “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron. He’s a lock for his first directing nomination in a critically acclaimed career, and he’s a charmer. He could sell this movie to the stodgiest Academy member without coming off as sycophantic. His people skills certainly give him an edge over his newest competitor, Paul Greengrass. Greengrass was nominated in 2006 for directing “United 93,” and “Captain Phillips” is a strong return for him. Greengrass is a little stodgier than Cuaron, but he’ll have Tom Hanks by his side every step of the way. They’ll be fighting it out in every single technical category that period pieces don’t automatically take.

CM: I was slightly let down by “Captain Phillips,” so I’m curious as to whether we’ll be discussing Greengrass at all two months from now. He is a fine director, but his skill has always been the technical aspects of his presentation, and I think that Cuaron has him outranked far and away in “Gravity.” 

LH: This summer also had a good crop of potential dark horses/spoilers: “Fruitvale Station,” “Before Midnight” and “The Butler” have retained support, although previous talks of locks for best picture have been replaced by mere chance at a single or select few nominations. “The Butler,” of course, is different because of the strength and prestige of the cast. And of course, we have “12 Years A Slave” coming this week. Based on the reception at Toronto and Telluride, it’s a contender for … I guess everything?

CM: Everything but Lead Actress. I’ve actually stopped reading the reports because I don’t want to let the hype ruin my expectations, but by all accounts, that’s pretty much impossible.

LH: So next time we’ll discuss the reported powerhouse that is “12 Years a Slave,” the state of the Best Actor race, and whether or not “Wolf of Wall Street” will even make it into contention this year. In conclusion, I think that we can both agree...

CM: “Crash” won Best Picture. Anything is possible.