Oscar Bait: December and January movies could shake up Oscar favorites

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Ben Stiller’s film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” is one of several late contenders for the awards season in 2014. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox. 

Colin McLaughlin: We’d like to spend the last installment of Oscar Bait talking about the state of the awards race and then move into highlighting some of the awards categories we’ve largely ignored up to this point. As far as the top two awards, Best Picture and Best Director, they haven’t changed since October. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” are the top contenders for Best Picture, and their helmers, Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron, are really the only ones being talked about for Best Director.  

Lee Henry: Absolutely. Other well-received directors like Alexander Payne, Paul Greengrass and the Coen brothers, are basically jockeying for spots in the category. There are some potential, late-breaking surprises such as recent Academy darling David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” and Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street,” but no one has seen either of them, and I doubt either will be able to take down McQueen or Cuaron.

CM: The Hollywood Reporter has already filmed its yearly Director’s Roundtable, which featured McQueen, Greengrass, Russell, Cuaron, Ben Stiller and Lee Daniels. Stiller’s film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” is screening well so far, so he may have dark horse status. Right now, I’m guessing that Daniels won’t be nominated given that “The Butler” is by now so distant compared to the other contending films. 

LH: In just a month’s time, we’ll have seen most of the winners for the major film critics’ societies, as well as the nominees for the Golden Globes and Screen Actor’s Guild Awards. Russell’s last two films have forged intense emotional connections with their audiences and led “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” to awards success, and “American Hustle” will be the most recent film in a lot of voters’ minds as they nominate. I don’t like to predict films I haven’t seen for nominations, but I won’t be surprised if it happens. 

CM: “Captain Phillips” is receiving strong support for director, actor and likely Best Picture nomination. To me, it looks like one of the films that will garner a lot of nominations — mostly technical — but few wins — sound editing and mixing is the best bet for a “Captain Phillips” win, though “Gravity” very well could make a technical sweep. “12 Years” will take the adapted screenplay award. Nothing else could possibly stand in that category — “Philomena,” “Captain Phillips,” maybe even “Before Midnight” — against John Ridley’s take on Solomon Northup’s memoir. You’ve seen “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Blue Jasmine,” both by directors that are known for their writing ability. Thoughts on the original screenplay category?

LH: As far as Best Screenplay, it is almost certain “12 Years a Slave” will take Best Adapted Screenplay. Best Original Screenplay is more up in the air. 

CM: The potential award winning movies still to come out this year include “Saving Mr. Banks,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “August, Osage County,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Labor Day” and “Her.” 

LH: After winter break, we’ll discuss the inevitable craziness of awards in December and January and see how our personal predictions stack up against reality.