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We're a year out from the next Oscar ceremony, and though we know absolutely nothing for certain, it's fun to place your bets before this year's Oscar buzz completely fades. Here are 10 films we think have a shot to be the next The Artist or Hugo.
Pixar seems poised for a comeback after the monumental disappointment that was Cars 2. Brave is the studio's first original story since Up (a Best Picture nominee), and the injection of fresh blood in directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman and star power (voice actors Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, and Kelly Macdonald) hopefully equals a great movie.
Life of Pi
Ang Lee is a tremendous director, though his name doesn't always mean Oscar. Taking Woodstock proved that three years ago. But his latest (which is scheduled for a very Oscar friendly December release) is based off a beloved book, has a very unusual premise, will need great technical features to succeed, and sounds like it could be a real tearjerker.
Untitled Bin Laden Film
Last time director Kathryn Bigelow tackled the War on Terror, The Hurt Locker happened. For her follow-up, she's focusing on Seal Team Six. No word on just how action-oriented this one (which is still untitled, though once known as Kill Bin Laden) will be, but anything Bigelow does at this point should be in the Oscar conversation—especially this far out.
The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann last released a film in 2008. It was Australia, and this far in advance, everyone expected it to clean up at the Oscars the following year. It didn't even come close, actually. But The Great Gatsby strikes a different chord. Yes, it could fall flat on its face, but the cast is extremely strong (Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire), and the Christmas Day release speaks of a studio's confidence.
It's time for Ben Affleck to join the big leagues, and this might be the project to do it. Based on a true story, Argo follows a group of CIA agents tasked with rescuing a group of hostages trapped in Iran. All eyes will definitely be on Affleck, as he's directing, writing, and starring in the film, but don't count out Bryan Cranston, who feels poised for some recognition after a few great supporting roles over the last year or so.
Hyde Park on Hudson
This year's The King's Speech? Might be. The film boasts a familiar but relatively inexperienced director (Morning Glory's Roger Michell), a historical subject (FDR) and a potentially towering lead performance (courtesy of Bill Murray). The only thing missing is that inspirational hook that sent Tom Hooper's film over the top in 2010. But that doesn't mean it isn't present; we don't know enough about it yet. Based on what we do know, however, it's a contender.
Speaking of Tom Hooper, his The King's Speech follow-up is this supremely baity musical starring some hot young stars, as well as a few of Oscar's favorite sons and daughters—Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.
The Dark Knight Rises
If The Dark Knight couldn't get a Best Picture nomination, its sequel probably won't, right? Well, The Dark Knight came out in a year with only five Best Picture nominations, and if the rules had been what they are now, there's little doubt it would have been in. There's also sentiment on this film's side—it's Nolan's last go-around in the series, and the previous film's snub was one of the most infamous in recent memory. All this speaks in the film's favor, and even though it's highly unlikely a third film in a superhero franchise can win Best Picture, it definitely can and probably will be nominated. And even if it doesn't, it'll absolutely be a major technical contender.
Five years ago, director Paul Thomas Anderson broke into the Oscar conversation for the first time in his young but prolific career with the epic neo-Western There WIll Be Blood. His long-awaited return sounds like it could be similar in a number of ways—including a potentially marvelous lead performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the founder of a Scientology-esque religion. What this film has that Anderson's last didn't: The backing of "King" Harvey Weinstein, who no doubt has a third consecutive Best Picture win on his mind.
Prediction: This doesn't win Best Picture. The frontrunner this far out NEVER does (too high of expectations). But how can one not put Steven Spielberg's Lincoln atop this list. It has absolutely everything a big Oscar movie needs: a big-time leading performance (Daniel Day-Lewis as the titular President), an all-star cast, a master director, some real talent behind the scenes, and a juicy, Oscar friendly subject matter.
Honorable Mentions: The Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Joe Wright's Anna Karenina, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Ben Lewin's The Surrogate, and David O. Russell's The Silver Linings Playbook.