Last year, eventual Best Picture Oscar champ “12 Years a Slave” began its trek to the stage of the Dolby Theater at the Telluride film festival over Labor Day weekend. Its closest rival — “Gravity” — had kicked off the Venice filmfest days earlier and another of the nine nominees — “Philomena” — also played along the Lido. All three then travelled to the Toronto film festival, where their campaigns kicked into high gear as did that for “Dallas Buyers Club.” A few weeks later, another nominee, “Captain Phillips,” unfurled during the film confab in Gotham.
Already this year, “Birdman” has seen its Oscar hopes soar with its launch at Venice; it will screen at both the Telluride and New York film festivals. But what of the other awards hopefuls? Below, a breakdown of them by their festival.
TELLURIDE (Aug. 29 – Sept. 1)
“Foxcatcher” – Based on true events, Bennett Miller’s film tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire (Steve Carell) and two champion wrestlers (Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo).
“The Imitation Game” – Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal.
“Mr. Turner” – This biopic by Mike Leigh explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851), played by Timothy Spall. Profoundly affected by the death of his father, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady (Lesley Manville) with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, until his death.
“Rosewater” – Jon Stewart makes his directing debut with this true story of a journalist (Gael Garcia Bernal) detained in Iran for more than 100 days and brutally interrogated in prison.
“Wild” – Jean Marc-Vallee tells the story of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) who makes a rash decision, after years of reckless behavior, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own.
TORONTO (Sept. 4 – Sept. 14)
All five of those Telluride titles also screen in Toronto, but not in the first four days as per this fest’s new rule that those prime slots go to films having their world premiere.
“The Good Lie” – Witherspoon and an ensemble of young Sudanese actors bring the inspiring and uplifting story of The Lost Boys to the screen in Phillipe Falardeau‘s film about heartbreak and hope, survival and triumph.
“The Judge” – In this crime drama from David Dobkin, big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town’s judge (Robert Duvall), is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth, and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.
“Men Women and Children” – Jason Reitman‘s film follows a group of teenagers and their parents (Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, Judy Greer) as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives.
“The Theory of Everything” – James Marsh‘s film tells the extraordinary true story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Hawking receives an earth-shattering diagnosis at age 21. Together, Stephen and Jane defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science.
TIFF has also has a slew of titles that lack distributors and/or release dates but which could jump into the race still. Stay tuned.
“Gone Girl” – David Fincher helms Gillian Flynn‘s adaptation of her bestselling novel about a woman (Rosamund Pike) who mysteriously disappears on the day of her wedding anniversary and her husband (Ben Affleck) who is the prime suspect.
“Inherent Vice” – Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel set in 1970s Los Angeles in which a drug-fueled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
What you think will win Best Picture at the Oscars? Use our easy drag-and-drop menu below it to cast your ballot for the Best Picture lineup.