Oscar season preview (October/November) part 2 – Biopics are the theme

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Movies

Part 2 of the this four part series examines Oscar contending films releasing in late October, early November.  The theme for the films during this period are biopics.  There’s Captain Phillips – a true story about a freighter ship captain taken hostage by ruthless Somali pirates, then there’s the Julian Assange film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, 12 Years A Slave  – not exactly a biopic based on a true story but a character driven drama about a free black man turned slave.

Here’s the rundown on the films releasing in that time frame:


Captain Phillips (Oct. 11)

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini

Synopsis: Captain Phillips is director Paul Greengrass’s multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is – through Greengrass’s distinctive lens – simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award (R) winner Tom Hanks), and his Somali counterpart, Muse (Barkhad Abdi). Set on an incontrovertible collision course off the coast of Somalia, both men will find themselves paying the human toll for economic forces outside of their control.

Mark’s Take: Paul Greengrass likes to think he’s a smart action savant with films like The Bourne Supremacy and The Green Zone under his belt.  Captain Phillips is based off a true story, so it shouldn’t be hard for Greengrass to tell a story based on facts with Tom Hanks as his lead.   However, he’s only been in the spotlight for an Oscar briefly but he’s got the chance  again riding Hanks’ coat-tails.  However, I think this film will be more action-movie than drama.


The Fifth Estate (Oct. 11)

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Mackie, Stanley Tucci, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney

Synopsis: Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, “The Fifth Estate” reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?

Rotten Tomato Score: 38%

Mark’s Take: Bill Condon has had mixed results as a director but his resume as a screenwriter is proven as he’s been nominated twice for an Oscar winning for Gods and Monsters.  The Fifth Estate is Condon looking to throw his hat into the Oscar director’s category, but early reviews point to that not happening.  However, Benedict Cumberbatch could use his performance in The Fifth Estate as Oscar bait for a nomination.  We’ll see how the film does when it hits a wide release.



12 Years A Slave (Oct. 17)

Director:  Steve McQueen

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti

Synopsis: Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, the New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800s. Steve McQueen (Hunger) directs from a script he co-wrote with John Ridley, based in part by Northup’s memoir. Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Giamatti co-star.

Rotten Tomato Score: 100%

Mark’s Take: Steve McQueen is a relative newcomer to the Oscar scene, but his last film – Shame – while receiving a NC-17 rating in 2011 garnered serious Oscar buzz for its star Michael Fassbender.  12 Years A Slave looks to thrust Ejiofor – who’s been a fantastic actor for a very long time – into the limelight as an actor that deserves Oscar consideration not just Golden Globe nominations.



The Counselor (Oct. 25)

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem

Synopsis: Legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott and Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) have joined forces in the motion picture thriller THE COUNSELOR, starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt. McCarthy, making his screenwriting debut and Scott interweave the author’s characteristic wit and dark humor with a nightmarish scenario, in which a respected lawyer’s one-time dalliance with an illegal business deal spirals out of control.

Mark’s Take: Ridley Scott, teaming up with fame-author Cormac McCarthy (screenplay) could either be Best Picture worthy or a disaster, however I really don’t think there’s a chance of the latter.   The film has too many great actors to fail, really.  One look at Javier Bardem’s performance and it’s relatively easy to see why the film is garnering early Oscar buzz.


Dallas Buyers Club (11/1)

Director: Jean-Marc Valle

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Gardner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn

Synopsis: In the fact-based drama, Spirit Award winner Matthew McConaughey portrays real-life Texas electrician Ron Woodroof, an ordinary man who found himself in a life-or-death battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies. In 1985, Ron was blindsided by being diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. With the U.S. still internally divided over how to combat the virus and restricting medications, Ron grabbed hold of non-toxic alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Seeking to avoid government sanctions against selling non-approved medicines and supplements, he established a “buyers club,” which fellow HIV-positive people could join for access to his supplies.

Mark’s Take: Everyone thought 2012 was McConaughey’s year to finally get that Oscar nomination but it turns out 2013 is shaping up to be just as fantastic for the actor.  He’s already got a great performance in Mud (earlier this year) wrapped up but Dallas Buyers Club is his vehicle.  This film was made for McConaughey to showcase his talents and his turn in The Wolf of Wall Street (releasing in Decemeber) will likely garner Best Supporting Actor consideration.   2013 should be McConaughey’s year.




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