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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

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727/Features/Awards Season Round-up

Fury

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.

Mr Turner

  • 5 stars
  • 2014
  • UK
  • 150 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Mike Leigh
  • Cast: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson
  • UK release: 31 October 2014

Portrait of the last 25 years of the life of painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (Spall). A work of great beauty, wit and poignancy, presenting the artist as unapologetically gruff but sympathetic and spectacularly eccentric. Leigh's latest demonstrates a command of his craft to rival that of his subject.

Big Eyes

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp
  • UK release: 26 December 2014

Biopic of Margaret Keane (Adams), whose paintings of women and children with oversized eyes became all the rage in the 60s – except that husband Walter (Waltz) took all the credit. Adams is superb but despite thoughtful touches, the treatment of her character's psychological abuse is unsatisfying.

Gone Girl

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 145 min
  • 18
  • Directed by: David Fincher
  • Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
  • UK release: 3 October 2014

Nick (Affleck) comes home on his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife Amy (Pike) gone, and a series of revelations cast him in the worst possible light. Fincher directs with cool proficiency and a sense of brutal fun; Affleck is perfect, and Pike gives a bravura, breakout performance.

Birdman

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 119 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan
  • UK release: 1 January 2015

Riggan Thompson (Keaton) played Birdman, a popular Hollywood superhero, but that was a while ago and he's having trouble getting the second art of his career started. A stellar cast (Norton, Watts, Stone) and fluid script prop up an award-worthy turn from Keaton, all mesmerisingly photographed by Lubezki. Highly…

Unbroken

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 137 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Angelina Jolie
  • Written by: Joel Coen (screenplay), Ethan Coen (screenplay) , Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), William Nicholson (screenplay), Laura Hillenbrand (book)
  • Cast: Jack O'Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson
  • UK release: 26 December 2014

Staggering true story of Louis Zamperini (O'Connell), an Olympic runner who in WW II became a USAAF bombardier who was shot down, survived in a raft for days and ended up in a Japanese POW camp. Jolie's directorial skills are much improved, but there's just too much story going for any character development.

Boyhood

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 163 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Richard Linklater
  • Written by: Richard Linklater
  • Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
  • UK release: 11 July 2014

Made over 12 summers, Linklater's visionary Boyhood follows Mason (Coltrane) from age 5 to 18 as he grows up in real-time.

Selma

  • 5 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 128 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ava DuVernay
  • Cast: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson
  • UK release: 6 February 2015

The story of the 1965 civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, with Martin Luther King (Oyelowo) facing a nervous President Johnson (Wilkinson) and Alabama's racist Governor Wallace (Roth). Among a stellar cast Oyelowo is exceptional, and DuVernay and Webb capture both the greatness and the limitations of King's…

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