LOS ANGELES - Now that Ben Affleck has shaved his good-luck Oscar beard, we believe it's safe to officially close the book on the 2012-13 awards season so we can cast a small peek at the treasures that await. What will the coming best picture race look like? Here are 10 candidates:
"The Great Gatsby" (May 10): Director, Baz Luhrmann; cast, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire. Delayed from last year and, like all of Luhrmann's high-style, high-wire movies, guaranteed to be divisive, "Gatsby" could well be this year's "Les Miserables" (without the singing) - a lavish, emotionally over-the-top, sweeping spectacle that aims to hold a mirror to modern times. Its schedule bump might prompt some doubts, but "Titanic" moved back its release date too, and it made out OK.
"Monuments Men" (Dec. 18): Director, George Clooney; cast, Daniel Craig, Clooney, Cate Blanchett. It's a WWII action-thriller about a special platoon charged with saving art from the Nazis. Tension + higher purpose + Clooney = best picture? That equation worked this year with "Argo," didn't it?
"The Wolf of Wall Street" (Late 2013): Director, Martin Scorsese; cast, Leonardo DiCaprio. The fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio has sex, drugs and securities fraud, not to mention mob elements, along with a script from Terence Winter, who, judging from his work on "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire," knows his way around the subject at hand.
"Nebraska" (Late 2013): Director, Alexander Payne; cast, Bruce Dern, Will Forte. Payne's road trips ("About Schmidt," "Sideways") never disappoint. This one follows a son (Forte) reluctantly taking his irascible dad (Dern) from Billings, Mont., to Lincoln, Neb., to claim a magazine sweepstakes prize. Likely to be low-key, but that could work in its favor.
"Captain Phillips" (Oct. 11): Director, Paul Greengrass; cast, Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener. Hanks plays a cargo ship captain taken hostage by Somali pirates. Greengrass ("United 93," "Bloody Sunday") knows how to craft compelling cinema from true stories, and it's about time the academy recognizes him for something. Hanks' presence should help pave the way.
"Foxcatcher" (Late 2013): Director, Bennett Miller; cast, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo. Miller follows his Oscar-nominated "Moneyball" with an altogether different true story - the relationship between paranoid chemical fortune heir John du Pont and an Olympic gold-medal wrestler who was his longtime friend. For Carell, in particular, this has the potential to be a career-changer.
"Labor Day" (Late 2013): Director, Jason Reitman; cast, Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin. While out shopping for back-to-school clothes, a mother and her 13-year-old son come across a bleeding man in need of help. They bring him home and ... it gets complicated from there. Reitman adapted the story from Joyce Maynard's poignant, coming-of-age novel.
"August: Osage County" (Fall): Director, John Wells; cast, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis. The movie has the pedigree - Tracy Letts adapted his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play about a dysfunctional family coming together after a crisis. And it's being released by the Weinstein Co., so there's that. But Wells is primarily a TV director and dramas centered on family conflict often turn into tonal train wrecks. An iffy proposition, but, with this year's Oscar-winning producers Clooney and Grant Heslov on board, it's one that cannot be discounted.
"Gravity" (Oct. 4): Director, Alfonso Cuaron; cast, Clooney, Sandra Bullock. Clooney (he's everywhere!) and Bullock play astronauts dealing with a mission gone bad. Cuaron ("Children of Men") is one of our most gifted directors and this will need critical raves to break through the academy's tendency to short-sheet sci-fi.
"Fruitvale" (TBD): Director, Ryan Coogler; cast, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer. Indie drama about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old Bay Area man shot dead by a transit officer. Like "Beasts of the Southern Wild" last year, "Fruitvale" took Sundance by storm, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. Weinstein Co. bought the devastating drama at the festival, and based on the buzz and reviews, it probably will become a fixture in the upcoming award season.
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