Oscar season preview (November/December): Could be Christian Bale’s year…again

Posted: September 15, 2013 in Movies

In part four of this four part Oscar season preview, we examine those films that will be contending for Academy award buzz in late November and December.  If you remember correctly, last year’s December darling that used a successful box office push to serious consideration was David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.   This year’s December darling could be a variety of films, as December 2013 looks to be considerably strong for Oscar contenders.

Out of the Furnace (Dec. 6)

Director: Scott Cooper

Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe

Synopsis: From Scott Cooper, the critically-acclaimed writer and director of Crazy Heart, comes a gripping and gritty drama about family, fate, circumstance, and justice. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell’s brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so – with nothing left to lose – Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother. The impressive cast of Christian Bale and Casey Affleck are rounded out by Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe.

Mark’s Take: Director Scott Cooper only has one directorial credit under his belt with 2009’s Crazy Heart, which – for a time – had its own Oscar buzz going.  The film, which stars Christian Bale is a bit out of the norm for Bale who doesn’t usually star in action films (Batman withstanding).  Casey Affleck is a good actor who hasn’t really gotten the credit he deserves either.  Depending on reviews, this could be a film that rides substantial Oscar consideration to potential nominations.

Foxcatcher (Dec. 20)

Director: Bennett Miller

Starring: Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller

Synopsis: FOXCATCHER is a psychological drama directed by Academy Award nominee Bennett Miller (MONEYBALL) and starring Golden Globe winner Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo, Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller. The film was written by E. Max Frye and Academy Award nominee Dan Futterman. FOXCATCHER tells the story of Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum), who sees a way out from the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Ruffalo) and a life of poverty when he is summoned by eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont (Carell) to move onto his estate and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Desperate to gain the respect of his disapproving mother, du Pont begins “coaching” a world-class athletic team and, in the process, lures Mark into dangerous habits, breaks his confidence and drives him into a self-destructive spiral. Based on actual events, FOXCATCHER is a gripping and profoundly American story of fragile men who pinned their hopes for love and redemption on a desperate obsession for greatness that was to end in tragedy.

Trailer has not yet been released

Mark’s Take: I love dramatic films that take type-cast actors and completely ignore the stereotypes.  Foxcatcher is going to be one of those films where funny guys Steve Carrell and even Channing Tatum, to a certain extent, showcase their acting flare .  In Bennett’s upcoming film (who is no stranger to Oscar buzz – Capote, Moneyball) he takes a heartbreaking true story and casts Carrell as a real life villain.  The film looks to be Carrell’s first real Oscar worthy performance – he’s long been an actor in “dramedy’s” – while catapulting Tatum further into A-list status.  The real winner here may be Mark Ruffalo, who has always been a fantastic actor but hasn’t really received the due he’s deserved.

Saving Mr. Banks (Dec. 20)

Director: John Lee Hancock

Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Ruth Wilson

Synopsis: When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation. For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

Mark’s Take: What could be better than Tom Hanks as the famous Walt Disney trying to persuade the author of the story of Mary Poppins (Emma Thompson) that her story could translate into a very good movie.  It’s going to be a family affair while showcasing Hanks’ and Thompson’s acting presence.   Seriously, this is probably the one film opening in December that will take the box office by storm and march its way to Oscar glory.  Hanks, Thompson, and Giamatti all have realistic shots at Oscar nominations here.

American Hustle (Dec. 25)

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K.

Synopsis: A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell’s previous films, American Hustle defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.

Mark’s Take: O. Russell has quickly become an Academy mainstay and one of voters favorite directors.  He’s spent his last two films garnering Oscar buzz (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) and looks to continue the trend with American Hustle.  He’s basically taken the cast from his two best films – mentioned above – and combined them into one spectacular cast.  Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale stand the most to gain but Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams could gain from it as well.  With O. Russell’s resume, American Hustle could ride much garnered Academy momentum to awards season.

The Monuments Men (Dec. 18)

Director: George Clooney

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin

Synopsis: Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is a dramatic thriller focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind’s greatest achievements. From director George Clooney, the film stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett. The screenplay is by George Clooney & Grant Heslov, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney.

Mark’s Take: George Clooney is probably looking for some Ben Affleck success with The Monuments Men, in which he directs and also stars.  Warner Bros. will more than likely look to capitalize on last year’s Argo’s success with another historical adventure that features an ensemble.  The trailer makes the film look less serious than what it appears to be but I’m looking forward to seeing how well Clooney is received as a director with serious Oscar hype.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Dec. 25)

Director: Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley McClaine

Synopsis: In this comedic adaptation of James Thurber’s short story, Ben Stiller stars as Walter, a milquetoast proofreader for a magazine publishing firm. Walter is constitutionally incapable of standing up for himself, so he retreats into his fantasy world, where he is heroic, poised, self-assured, and the master of his fate. Stiller directs from a script by Steven Conrad, with Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt, and Shirley MacLaine rounding out the starring cast.

Mark’s Take: When you think of Ben Stiller you don’t think of DIRECTOR Ben Stiller, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is exactly what we’re getting.  And by all accounts, he looks fantastic as a first time director.  Stiller both directs and stars in the upcoming “dramedy” about a man who can’t face his problems and instead creates situations for himself where he doesn’t have to deal with them.  Stiller has always been a really good actor, even if he’s never really taken the time to focus on serious roles.  While The Secret Life of Walter Mitty might not be the completely serious turn we’ve been waiting for from Stiller, his direction for the film and the tone from the trailer give the movie some serious Oscar buzz.


Catch up on parts 1-3 here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


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