Autumn film preview 2014: Birdman, Mr Turner and Gone Girl among the likely awards contenders
Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, Big Eyes, Interstellar, The Judge and Brad Pitt's Fury also frontrunners
After a lacklustre summer of box-office disappointments, Hollywood hopes to regain some credibility by mounting a handsome awards season. Few of the tipped contenders have been on general release, like Richard Linklater’s superb Boyhood, and there’s been a few surprise crash-and burns along the way; critical and public flops The Monuments Men, Grace of Monaco, The Fifth Estate, Prisoners and The Counsellor all seemed like a good bet this time last year.
Already up and running are Mr. Turner (31 Oct), Mike Leigh’s biopic of the painter JMW Turner, with Timothy Spall picking up the best actor award in Cannes. At the same festival, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum were also picking up attention for Foxcatcher (9 Jan), a true crime drama set against the background of Olympic wrestling that’s set the bar high in the acting stakes. The opening slot at the Venice film festival brought forth last year’s contender Gravity; this year, it’s occupied by Birdman (2 Jan), an offbeat offering featuring Michael Keaton as a struggling actor who once played a superhero. And last year’s New York Film Festival was a launch-pad for Captain Phillips; looking for the same attention at this year’s festival are David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl (3 Oct) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice (30 Jan).
A slew of heavy-hitters are also booking their berths in the winter schedules, notably Meryl Streep in Rob Marshall’s version of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (9 Jan), Angelina Jolie directing WWII drama Unbroken (26 Dec) and Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall in family legal drama The Judge (24 Oct). And there’s always attention for those overlooked in the past; Oscar Isaac missed out for Inside Llewyn Davis, but may get a second chance in JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year (26 Dec), while Amy Adams, who missed out on the big prizes in American Hustle, is generating buzz as painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.
The latter is one on awards-favourite Harvey Weinstein’s slate, with the ex-Miramax honcho also pushing The Imitation Game (14 Nov), with Benedict Cumberbatch as troubled WWII code-cracker Alan Turing alongside Keira Knightley. And after Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s Oscar success in Dallas Buyers Club, more unconventional performances may be in vogue; Alfred Molina and John Lithgow pull at the heartstrings as an eccentric gay-couple in Love Is Strange while Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler (17 Oct) features Jake Gyllenhaal changing his appearance to striking effect as a crime-scene obsessive.
And don’t forget that mainstream releases always have considerable awards-season pulling-power; Brad Pitt in David Ayer’s tank-battle movie Fury (24 Oct) and Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi colonisation epic Interstellar (7 Nov) may well feature. Throw in Stephen Daldry’s Trash (30 Jan), plus wildcards like Rosewater or Selma (6 Feb), and there’s a full field of runners and riders; let’s hope they make more of an impact with audiences than the duds of summer did.