With Oscar nominations right around the corner, theaters are packed with films vying for a coveted nomination. While award season is usually a mix of blockbusters and surprises, here are the 10 films most likely to hear their names called when the nominees are announced on January 24, 2012.
Last year’s reigning Oscar king was certainly The Social Network and its director, David Fincher. This year, Fincher is back with the much-hyped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the highly successful book of the same name. Fincher teams up again with his The Social Network ingénue Rooney Mara who plays a computer hacker tasked with helping Daniel Craig’s character solve a 40-year-old missing person case. What occurs along the way could earn Fincher his second consecutive Best Picture Oscar.
Also looking to recapture Oscar glory are Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody of Juno fame who are reunited for their new flick, Young Adult. This “dramedy” about an author, (played by Oscar-winner Charlize Theron), who returns home to try to recapture her glory days goes a bit dark, but with Reitman and Cody at the helm, you can expect a slightly twisted heart warmer that is sure to be a hit with critics and audiences alike.
No award season is complete without the names “Scorsese” and “DiCaprio.” This time, however, they aren’t linked to the same movie. Martin Scorsese is releasing the family-friendly 3D adventure Hugo, starring Jude Law and Sasha Baron Cohen. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio is taking to the screen in the very adult J. Edgar, a biopic about former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Scorsese’s Hugo boasts an all-star cast and J. Edgar is written by Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black and directed by Oscar-winner Clint Eastwood, so they’re both films to watch for come Oscar night.
The Ides of March
, a political drama, stars a slew of Academy favorites including George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei. The film opened this year’s Venice Film Festival and was even awarded the coveted Brian Prize, which honors “a film that highlights and enhances the values of rationality, respect for human rights, democracy” and more. Moreover, the film proved to be beloved by both critics and audiences, a key factor when it comes to taking home a trophy.
Another Clooney film in contention is The Descendants. Marking the return of director Alexander Payne, whose last film was the 2004 Oscar-winner Sideways, Clooney plays a man struggling to reconnect with his daughters after his wife is left in a coma. The film is also generating Oscar buzz for 20-year-old Shailene Woodley who is currently best known for her role on the ABC Family Channel show The Secret Life of an American Teenager.
It has been 11 years since Cameron Crowe took home an Oscar for Almost Famous; could his new film be the one that gets him another nomination? In We Bought a Zoo, based on a true story, he teams up with Almost Famous star Patrick Fugit, as well as Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Damon plays a man who moves his family out to the countryside to renovate and reopen a dilapidated zoo. The Academy has long been a fan of true stories. If history repeats itself, We Bought a Zoo could certainly be a contender.
Another true story, The Iron Lady, comes from Oscar powerhouse Meryl Streep. Seemingly incapable of losing the Oscar race in previous years, Streep takes on the role of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep’s role is tailor-made for a Best Actress nomination, but only time will tell if the film itself will receive a nomination.
Director Stephen Daldry is a three-time Oscar nominee without a win to his name. He is looking to change his luck with an adaptation of the popular Jonathan Safran Foer novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The film features Oscar-winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, but the true star is 13-year-old newcomer Thomas Horn. Interestingly, Horn had never acted prior to this role; he was actually handpicked by the director after Daldry saw the young San Francisco native win Jeopardy Kids Week in late 2009.
The last film garnering pre-Oscar buzz comes from the heaviest of Hollywood heavyweights, Stephen Spielberg. War Horse follows the journey of a young man who enlists in the military in an effort to be reunited with his beloved horse, which was sold to the cavalry during World War I. Typically, Spielberg’s war epics are met with much fanfare – Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List and Munich were all Oscar nominees, and his TV hits Band of Brothers and The Pacific both swept the Emmys – so there is no reason to think War Horse won’t be met with a similar reception.