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12 Upcoming Films To See Before Oscar Night

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
November 12th, 2008 9:52am EST
Revolutionary Road This year's Oscar race isn't very deep with talent, and at this point there are probably only eight films with a legitimate shot at getting a nod for Best Picture. But those that have a chance at a nomination also have a great chance of winning.

One such film, "The Dark Knight", has already hit screens, but the rest of this group will premiere in the coming weeks as studios scramble to get their prestige pictures on the big screen before the year-end deadline.

Every year, film fans are tormented by the true snobs who catch all these possible nominees before the big awards show attention sends everybody rushing to the theater to get in on the action. This inevitably leads to them saying, "Oh, I saw that when it came out," which is truly insufferable. Well, now it's your chance to join the ranks of the irritating with the guide below. You'll find those seven films that have shot at a Best Picture nomination as well as five more that should get shortlisted for other major categories.

The following are 12 films to see before Oscar Night:

"Slumdog Millionaire" - Opens November 12

This Best Picture contender is probably the least known. "Slumdog Millionaire" is Danny Boyle's ("Trainspotting", "28 Days Later") tale of a boy from the slums of Mumbai who hits it big on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Trouble is, he's arrested before he can answer the big question because he's suspected of cheating, leading him to tell the story of his life and how it led him to the game show.

This film has been met with unbridled enthusiasm at various festivals, and that buzz should carry over into nominations for Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actress for Freida Pinto, who is said to have a breakout role. This is the one to see if you really want to be an Oscar insider before the year is out.

Slumdog Millionaire



"Australia" - Opens November 26

This film has a good shot at Best Picture, though in recent days it seems a bit of a stretch. News has recently come out that the movie isn't even finished yet, despite its world premiere only being about a week away. Then further word came that it was finished but Fox forced Baz Luhrmann to change the ending.

Still, this is a sweeping romantic epic in the tradition of films like "The African Queen" and "Out of Africa." That alone, plus a killer pedigree, gives it a shot at the big prize. It is even more likely that its leading man, Hugh Jackman, should have his name read as a Best Actor nominee as reports claim that he absolutely steals the film. Luhrmann has a fine shot at Best Director, and don't count out Nicole Kidman for Best Actress either.

Australia



"Milk" - Opens November 26

Another film with a good shot at Best Picture, "Milk" deals with the election of San Francisco's first openly homosexual city supervisor, the first gay man to hold such a prestigious public office. It also marks the first time in eight years that director Gus Van Sant has made a movie for a more mainstream audience.

The movie looks epic in scope, and in the title role of Harvey Milk, Sean Penn looks like his usual brilliant self. Look for nominations for Best Picture, Actor, Screenplay, and Director. A trio of supporting actors could find their way into the mix as well with prominent roles for Josh Brolin, James Franco, and Emile Hirsch.

Milk




"Frost/Nixon" - Opens December 5

Based on the play of the same name that was nominated for nearly every drama award, this film deals with the events surrounding the interviews held between the two titular characters when Richard Nixon subtly acknowledged his guilt in the Watergate Scandal.

This one has Oscar bait names coming out of its ears. Ron Howard is the director, Peter Morgan ("The Queen") adapted it from his own play, and it's being pushed by a major studio (Universal). Look for noms for Best Picture, Best Actor (Frank Langella, who seems a lock to win the award for his portrayal of Richard Nixon), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Other possible nominations include a second Best Actor for Michael Sheen as David Frost, though it seems unlikely unless they switch his campaign to Supporting Actor. That's not impossible, though how would one really make the case for a person being a supporting actor when his character's name is in the title?

Frost-Nixon



"Doubt" - Opens December 12

For some inexplicable reason, buzz has been waning on this film in recent weeks. People are saying that it's going to be too stagey, that the dialogue from the Tony, Pulitzer Prize and Drama Desk Award-winning play won't translate to film, and it's going to be overshadowed by stronger competition.

All this seems very strange judging from the movie's pedigree. First, Meryl Streep is in her first big dramatic lead role of any consequence since 1996's "Marvin's Room." Second, this is writer/director John Patrick Shanley's first bit of Oscar bait since his "Moonstruck" won about 74 Oscars in 1987, and this time he's armed with own multi-award-winning play as source material. Third, this is a period piece dealing with fierce social issues in a manner made applicable to the minutiae of everyday life.

"Doubt" should be the biggest Oscar contender of them all. It should be a lock for nominations for Best Picture, Actress (Streep), Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman, being campaigned in this category despite the size of his role), Supporting Actress (Viola Davis, who, based on the play, will own the film with one scene) and Adapted Screenplay. It also has a shot at Best Director and an additional Supporting Actress nomination for Amy Adams. This is the one to see.

Doubt




"The Reader" - Opens December 12

This is a smaller film but one with tremendous Oscar bait nonetheless. Its stars, Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, are each multiple nominees and its subject matter, generations dealing with the holocaust, always attracts awards attention.

This is too small to be considered likely for any awards, but Fiennes and Winslet could find their way to Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress nominations, respectively.

The Reader



"Gran Torino" - Opens December 17

The last time Clint Eastwood snuck a movie up on us at the end of the year it was "Million Dollar Baby," and we all know how that turned out.

This movie doesn't seem likely to get a nomination in any category, but the trailer, dealing with an old man's befriending of a Hmong boy after he tries to steal his titular car, looks powerful, and it's hard to ignore the Academy's fondness for Clint.

If the movie's as good as it looks and lives up to the reputation of its director/star it could see nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Eastwood), and Supporting Actor (Bee Vang). None of this seems too likely, but at the same time, nobody had even really heard of "Million Dollar Baby" until a month or so before it came out, so this could surprise us all.


"The Wrestler" - Opens December 17

How far can this movie go? It's been drawing raves at festivals everywhere, mostly for Mickey Rourke's comeback performance in the title role as Randy "Ram" Johnson, a former pro wrestler who attempts a comeback while wooing a stripper and reconciling with his estranged daughter.

Rourke is a lock for a Best Actor nomination, but everything else is up in the air. This film has a shot at Best Picture, Best Director (Darren Aronofsky), Best Screenplay and a pair of Supporting Actresses in Marisa Tomei as the stripper and Evan Rachel Wood as the daughter. This all depends on how much the buzz for Rourke carries over and makes the rest of the cast and film a title contender.


"Seven Pounds" - Opens December 19

Very little is known about this film, including what the title means, but it seems that's what "The Pursuit of Happyness" Director Gabriele Muccino wants. Who knows how that will play out in the buzz department, but it's hard to ignore Will Smith chances at his second consecutive nomination in a Muccino film for his role as a suicidal IRS agent.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" - Open December 25

Another Best Picture contender, "Button" could be considered a frontrunner. This is because of its source material (an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story), Forrest Gump-ian examination of American History through its main character expanding on the scope of its source, and the first time that wickedly talented David Fincher has worked with Oscar friendly material.

In addition to the Best Picture nom, "Button" has an excellent shot at nominations for its screenplay, leading man (Brad Pitt), and Director. Also, Cate Blanchett is in this movie, ostensibly in a supporting role. She'll get nominated no matter the size of her role, as the Academy recently passed a law that Blanchett must be nominated every year.

"Revolutionary Road" - Opens December 26

Much like "Doubt," the buzz on this film has been waning for quite some time. It's hard to ignore its pedigree, however, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the lead roles, "American Beauty" director Sam Mendes at the helm, and an award-winning novel as the source material.

Despite the lackluster buzz, this is the six of the seven upcoming films that has a good shot at a Best Picture nomination. It is also a likely nominee for Best Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay. There also possible supporting nods available for Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon.

Revolutionary Road




"Defiance" - Opens December 31

This is a strange one. The trailer looks fantastic, and Daniel Craig is certain to be red hot again with the release of "Quantum of Solace" on Friday, but Paramount appears to be burying the film by releasing it in just one theater on Christmas Day for a January role out. This strategy backfired for "Children of Men" a couple years ago, and "Defiance" could suffer a similar fate.

If everything plays out as it should for such a prestigious war film of high pedigree, then "Defiance" has a shot at nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Craig), and Best Director for Edward Zwick, of "Glory" fame. Things don't look good, but it's hard to ignore that trailer or the film's back story.

Defiance



Andrew Payne
Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer


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