Oscars update: ‘Captain Phillips’ & ‘Gravity’ way up, ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ down (and out?)

12 Years a Slave” continues to hold onto first place, picking up the support of two more pundits — Dave Karger (Fandango) and Keith Simanton (IMDb) — for a total of 13/20 to date. And the still unseen “American Hustle” remains in second with the backing of five experts. However, there is a lot of jockeying further back in the race for Best Picture

Captain Phillips” knocked it out of the park at both the world premiere at the New York filmfest on Friday and Sunday’s official academy screening in Beverly Hills. This tense thriller vaults Tom Hanks into the Best Actor race. Could we see another two-time Oscar champ take home a third award again? Last year, Daniel Day-Lewis became the first three-time Best Actor winner (putting him one behind all-time leader Katharine Hepburn). 

Well-liked, Hanks is a Hollywood mainstay and has served as an academy governor  for years. He last contended for “Castaway” in 2000, losing to Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”). With this new film from Oscar nominated Paul Greengrass (“United 93”), the actor delivers a powerhouse performance as real-life hero Rich Phillips who stood up to Somali pirates in 2009. After dominating the action for a tense two hours, Hanks has a quiet moment at the end of the picture that is so simple and yet so memorable. Could that be enough to keep 1980 directing champ Robert Redford (“Ordinary People”) from claiming his first acting Oscar for “All is Lost”?

Buoyed by rave reviews at the Venice and Toronto filmfests, “Gravity” has screened now to wide acclaim on both coasts. The 90-minute movie is a showcase for Sandra Bullock who, as a stranded astronaut fightig to survive, is the most viable challenger to Best Actress frontrunner Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”). Critics darling Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) is sure to contend for his helming of this surprisingly intimate epic film. And if the box office is as impressive as the stellar reviews, this could be a serious contender for the top prize. 

Six years ago, the Coen brothers swept the Oscars with “No Country For Old Men,” winning Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay. These academy favorites are back in the hunt with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a low-key look at the life of a struggling folk musician in 1961 New York which won the consolation prize at Cannes. While the film played well at the New York filmfest, it has yet to screen at the academy.

And yet to unspool anywhere is “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese‘s adaptation of disgraced financier Jordan Belfort‘s memoir. Word is that the first cut of the film, originally due out Nov. 15, ran more than three hours and flirted with an NC-17 rating. 

The helmer has enjoyed great success with his star, Leonardo DiCaprio, who headlined Best Picture champ “The Departed” in 2006 which finally won Scorsese an Oscar. Could the director return the favor as the actor is still without a trophy despite three nominations?

While two experts still back if for the big win — Scott Feinberg (THR) and Susan Wloszczyna (RogerEbert.com) — overall support for “Wolf” has slid in the wake of uncertainty about its place in this year’s race. There is talk that Paramount could release the film on Christmas eve, thereby just squeaking into the derby. 

Stay tuned. 

Cast your ballot for Best Picture below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Change it as often as you like till nominations are announced on Jan. 16. 


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