by Jim Keller
Admittedly, last month’s column was thrown together between health battles, and birthday and Oscar celebrations—oh wait, those last two were on the same day, no lie! Without further ado, I give you the remainder of a short list of films—some of which you might be hearing about for years to come as they, too, stake their claim in Oscar glory.
The Counselor (director: Ridley Scott):
Why you might like it: A lawyer-cum-drug trafficker finds himself in over his head.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: The film features Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender—arguably two of the best, working actors of our time. Moreover, it could find Scott in the running for Best Director for the fourth time since 2001’s Black Hawk Down.
Labor Day (director: Jason Reitman):
Why you might like it: It’s an on-screen adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel of the same name, set in the 1980s, which concerns a depressed single mom and her son who unwittingly offer a wounded, frightful escaped convict a ride. As police search the town for him, the two gradually learn his true story and their options become increasingly limited.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Kate Winslet excels in taught, period dramas and there’s no reason that she wouldn’t do well here. This brings to mind Revolutionary Road and Little Children, the latter of which earned her a Best Actress nomination, and the former, which should have. Both of these were adapted from the novels that preceded them.
Elysium (director: Neill Blomkamp):
Why you might like it: In the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station and the remaining population resides on a ruined Earth, a man risks his life in a mission to bring equality to these two worlds.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Blomkamp’s first feature film, 2009’s District 9, was a cinematic vision and earned four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Elysium is my most anticipated film of the year.
Monuments Men (director: George Clooney):
Why you might like it: Based on Robert M. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, the film depicts a race against time as a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to save renowned works of art before their destruction by Hitler during World War II.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Despite the aesthetically unpleasing title, Clooney’s films are well-crafted and often end up in the Oscar wheelhouse. What’s more, 2005’s Good Night and Good Luck earned him a Best Director nomination.
The Spectacular Now (director: James Ponsoldt):
Why you might like it: It’s a teen drama about a hard-partying high school senior’s relationship with the not-so-typical “nice girl” and how it affects his life philosophy.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Ponsoldt made a splash last year with Smashed at the Sundance Film Festival. This year, his film made its crowd-pleasing debut there and earned its co-leads, Shailene Woodley, and Miles Teller top acting honors.
A Most Wanted Man (director: Anton Corbijn):
Why you might like it: Based on John le Carré’s novel, the film follows a Chechen Muslim as he gets caught up in the international war on terror after he illegally immigrates to Hamburg, Germany.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Corbijn’s The American (2010) wasn’t able to best his debut, 2007’s Control, but I’m interested to see what he can do with a le Carré novel.
The Fifth Estate (director: Bill Condon):
Why you might like it: It’s a look at the heady, early days of WikiLeaks, which covers the controversial, history-changing information leaks that led to its demise as well as the relationship between founder Julian Assange, and his early supporter/eventual colleague, Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Virtually everyone is fascinated by Assange and his story—I’m no exception, and with Benedict Cumberbatch and Laura Linney on-hand, it’s got to be good!
Oldboy (director: Spike Lee):
Why you might like it: It’s an English language adaptation of Chan-wook Park’s masterful, South Korean film based on a Japanese manga of the same name, which depicts the release and subsequent obsessive mission of a man held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement to determine the identity of his captors. Through this quest he finds he’s still trapped in a web of torment and conspiracy.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: The initial film won the Grand Prize of the Jury at 2004’s Cannes Film Festival. This version features Josh Brolin in the title role along with Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley.
Nebraska (director: Alexander Payne):
Why you might like it: An aging boozehound of a father and his son trek from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million-dollar Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes prize.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: I’m a long-time fan of Payne’s work and am not often disappointed by the fruits of his labor. I have a hunch that this seemingly straight-forward, simple tale will ultimately be more complex.
Blue Jasmine (director: Woody Allen):
Why you might like it: While details on this one haven’t been revealed, according to a Sony Pictures Classics press release, the film stars Cate Blanchett in “the story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife.”
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Sometimes he flops, but you’ve got to hand it to Allen for cranking out one film per year—year after year. Who doesn’t want to see Cate Blanchett in this role?!
The Way, Way Back (directors: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash):
Why you might like it: The film is a coming of age story about a boy’s relationship with a park manager over the course of one summer. It marks the directorial debut from Faxon and Rash who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 2010’s The Descendants.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews.
The East (director: Zal Batmanglij):
Why you might like it: It’s about an operative of an elite, private intelligence firm, who finds her priorities change after she infiltrates an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. Also, you enjoyed Batmanglij’s collaboration with co-writer/actress, Brit Marling, in 2011’s Sound of My Voice and want to see more.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: I’m a fan of Batmanglij and Marling, but am intrigued at the prospect of seeing Ellen Page in an anarchist role.
Lowlife (director: James Gray):
Why you might like it: The film stars Marion Cotillard as an innocent immigrant woman tricked into burlesque and vaudeville until a magician tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being held on Ellis Island.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Besides having an outstanding cast, which includes Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, Gray’s films The Yards, We Own the Night (2007 and 2008, respectively) and most recently, 2008’s Two Lovers, have all been nominated for the Palm d’Or—the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Speaking of Cannes, the next issue will be a preview of those films set to cross the Croisette.