Oscar whispers: An early look at potential nominees

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The deadly August movie dip is coming to an end and the smell of Oscar bait already pervades the air. The best part about this time of year is making early predictions of who will win the Oscar (as so many early predictions turn out to be wrong, wrong, wrong). Some movies opened earlier this year while others still have a few weeks or months to go before release. Will the latter take the world by storm or will they fail to live up to their hype? Here is a glimpse at who we might see on nomination morning, based on early buzz.

Michael Keaton in “Birdman” (YouTube)
Michael Keaton in “Birdman”

Birdman: Writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) helms this piece about a failed action hero actor attempting to jump-start his career with a Broadway play. The film just made a splash at the Venice Film Festival, gaining particular acclaim for the performance of the aptly cast Michael Keaton in the lead.

Boyhood: An unexpected cinematic phenomenon that examines a young boy’s life in modern day Texas. Richard Linklater (Before Midnight and Bernie) has executed an incredible feat by shooting this film over the course of more than a decade, allowing the actors (including Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) to play their characters at all ages.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: The collective title of three separate films (Him, Her, and Them) that each look at a couple’s relationship from three separate points of view. This is writer/director Ned Benson’s feature film debut with James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in the lead roles.

Foxcatcher: Bennett Miller (Capote and Moneyball) has already won Best Director at Cannes for directing this drama about the real life murder of American Olympian Dave Schultz in 1996. The cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, and Vanessa Redgrave alongside early Oscar contender Steve Carell.

Fury: A small band of American soldiers struggles to survive inside a tank named “Fury” in 1945 Nazi Germany. David Ayer (Training Day and End of Watch) directs an all-star cast led by the always dependable Brad Pitt.

Ben Afflek in “Gone Girl” (YouTube)
Ben Afflek in “Gone Girl”

Gone Girl: Based on the book by Gillian Flynn (who has also handled the screen treatment), this thriller follows the search for a missing woman and questions whether or not her husband is to blame for her disappearance. David Fincher (The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) directs and Ben Affleck leads.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: More approachable fare from the master of quirk Wes Anderson (Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom). Ralph Fiennes gives a bravura performance in this quaint, well-executed comedy about a hotel concierge in a fantastical, early-twentieth century European country.

The Imitation Game: A chronicle of the life and achievements of Alan Turing, the singularly brilliant cryptanalyst responsible for breaking encrypted Nazi codes in World War II as well as realizing early theorems on artificial intelligence.  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing alongside Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode.

Ralph Fiennes in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (YouTube)
Ralph Fiennes in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Inherent Vice: Paul Thomas Anderson’s (There Will Be Blood and The Master) adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel about a drug addict Private Investigator investigating the disappearance of his ex. Joaquin Phoenix leads an all-star cast that includes Josh Brolin and Owen Wilson.

Interstellar: With the incomparable Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception) at the helm and an ingenious creative team behind him, this story of a dystopian near future follows a group of astronauts (played by Christopher Nolan’s typical acting troupe as well as Matthew McConaughey) as they investigate black holes.

Into the Woods: A film adaptation of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s unique musical take on fairy tales is directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha). Meryl Streep leads the cast and the trailers already seem to scream “creative arts” Oscars, if not more.

Selma: A chronicle of the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) in Selma, Alabama in 1965, including the infamous “Bloody Sunday” standoff.

The Theory of Everything: A biopic on the relationship between theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane, based on her memoir. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones play the Hawkings and James Marsh (Shadow Dancer) directs.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything” (YouTube)
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”

Unbroken: A chronicle of the trials and tribulations of Louie Zamperini, who went from American Olympian to World War II POW in Japan. Richard LaGravenese’s (Behind the Candelabra) script was rewritten by the Coen brothers (Fargo and No Country for Old Men), and there is already early Oscar buzz for director Angelina Jolie.

Whiplash: After winning accolades at Sundance this year, this piece about a gifted jazz drummer and his overbearing music school conductor already has critics abuzz. Look out for possible Oscar gold for Supporting Actor contender J.K. Simmons.

Wild: Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) directs Nick Hornby’s (An Education) adaptation of the memoir by Cheryl Strayed about her 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, with Reese Witherspoon playing Strayed.