The Wolf of Wall Street
Last year was easy. There was a Spielberg-Lincoln movie, an Osama bin Laden film, a Les Misérables flick, and more. 2013 won't be so easy to predict from this far out, so we'll take it nice and easy with the top slot. No, I don't really like Wolf's chances to take the top prize, its subject matter both slightly out-dated, and potentially not to the Academy's liking, but with Leonardo DiCaprio in front of the camera, and Martin Scorsese behind it, the movie's almost a lock for a nomination. The director hasn't had a late-year release get shut-out of the big race since 1999's Bringing Out the Dead... enough said.
The Monuments Men
The Academy loves George Clooney, even scrounging up a screenplay nod for the guy on 2011's already-forgotten The Ides of March. The silver fox puts his director's cap on once more, this time with a juicy story about art history and Nazis, and a cast featuring the likes of Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, and Clooney himself. What's not to like?
The last time director Alfonso Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki teamed up, they made the masterpiece Children of Men, and somehow walked home empty handed on Oscar sunday. What makes their 2013 offering different? This far out, it appears to be the year's grandest spectacle, a road recently taken to gold-man glory by the likes of Life of Pi, Hugo, and Avatar. Having a pair of Academy favorites in your leading roles (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) doesn't hurt either.
This is where these pre-nominations become tricky: If The Counselor works out, I'll immediately bump all the way up to the #1 slot. It's the screenwriting debut of unmatched modern literary genius Cormac McCarthy, features Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz, and receives direction from over-due Ridley Scott. That said, it has to actually work out, and Scott's recent track record has been suspect at best.
Untitled David O. Russell Abscam Project
Yeah, I know predicting a still-untitled movie to be a Best Picture nominee a mere year later is kind of crazy, but are you really going to bet against Russell after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook? The guy is a straight-up prodigy when it comes to guiding actors, and with a line-up featuring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., and his famed Linings pair of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, betting on his flick is pretty easy.
In nominating director Paul Greengrass for his otherwise ignored United 93, the Academy showed a clear liking for the helmer's intense, kinetic action. Phillips should prove more within their wheelhouse, relaying the true story of a Somali Pirate hijacking, and placing Tom Hanks front-and-center.
Oscar loves Alexander Payne, and it's not difficult to see why. The guy makes films about families and mid-life crises that wring maximal emotional substance out of their familiar rhetoric. While the lead pairing of Bruce Dern and Will Forte might not read exactly like George Clooney and Jack Nicholson, the man's got a hell of a track record, and I'm not going to be the first to jump ship.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Still can't decide if I have this one so high out of hope or faith. Judging on both synopsis and trailer, there's nothing about ILD that seems particularly Academy friendly, but the Coen Brothers' record speaks for itself. Three of their last four flicks have sat at the Best Picture table, excluding Burn After Reading (which arrived on the final year of five nominees), and including A Serious Man (a willfully esoteric effort that almost screamed, 'don't nominate me!'). One wonders if they're automatic invites at this point.
Yes, it's all unknowns, and yes, it's just a tiny Sundance flick, but if there's anything that the Best Picture category has made room for with its recent expansion, it's the, 'little movie that could.' 2012 saw Beasts of the Southern Wild ascend to prominence, The Tree of Life, The Artist, and Winter's Bone filling out analogous in recent years past. Unlike all the aforementioned films on this list, this one's already been seen, praised, and positioned for a run.
Like Fruitvale, the fact that this flick's already been witnessed and adored gives it a leg-up on other speculative options. It's sure to be the same walk-and-talk exercise as the previous two installments, but this trilogy has built up a boat-load of goodwill at this point. We'll see where it gets them.
As of now, I am predicting these ten films to be nominated (I don't have some crazy math equation that helped me determine this number; these just seem like the ones). The following is where I rank the next movies in line.
13. Saving Mr. Banks
23. The Fifth Estate
25. Prince Avalanche
26. The Butler
27. The Railway Man
29. Labor Day
36. The Third Person
39. Lone Survivor
41. The Past
43. Frances Ha
45. Winter's Tale
46. The Zero Theorem
47. Blood Ties
48. Grace of Monaco
49. Blue Jasmine
50. The Wind Rises