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Oscar Watching: And Then There Were Six

Before heading into this week’s analysis, one should note that six films we assume are Oscar contenders remain unseen: American Hustle, Lone Survivor, Out of the Furnace, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Wolf of Wall Street. (The lattermost might not arrive this year, but distributor Paramount hopes it will be ready in time for 2013 distribution.)

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At the Box Office…

Gravity gains ground as a best picture contender, topping the box office for a second weekend with $43.2 million. Andrew Stewart of Variety relays that the space-set thriller’s “hold is the best-ever (during a non-holiday) for a film that opened to $55 million-plus domestically.” At least for now, Alfonso Cuarón leads the best director race, and Gravity leads many of the crafts races, particularly cinematography and visual effects. And Sandra Bullock might win a second best actress trophy unless Amy Adams and Emma Thompson emerge as serious threats.

Captain Phillips opened in second place with $25.7 million, Tom Hanks’ best U.S. opening since 2009’s Angels & Demons. The fluidity of the best actor race could help Hanks win his third trophy, but his two wins might work against him as most of his competition has yet to win even one trophy. The breakthrough hype for newcomer Barkhad Abdi could push him to victory in the supporting actor race. Machete Kills bombed with $3.7 million. Distributor Open Road Films expected twice as much, according to Deadline Hollywood.

Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo projected that The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, exec produced by Alicia Keys, should open with about $1 million from its 147 locations, but the drama debuted to $254,279. Mister and Pete failed to take off at Sundance, so strong critical reaction to the film – not to mention Jennifer Hudson’s supporting performance – looks like it’ll miss out of the major races. However, Keys could compete for the original song Oscar with “Better Me, Better You,” the end-credits tune she co-wrote and performed.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to see why Cinema Blend’s Doug Norrie predicts rotten critical reaction for this weekend’s wide releases. The Fifth Estate looked like this year’s The Social Network until it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Carrie remake didn’t screen for critics until earlier this week, which suggests trouble beyond prom dresses stained in pigs’ blood. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone lead action flick Escape Plan, an obvious awards nonstarter. Select locations get two major Oscar contenders, 12 Years a Slave and All is Lost. Expect at least the former to roll out across the U.S. in the coming weeks.

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Festival and Campaign News

Saving Mr. Banks debuts on Sunday as the BFI London Film Festival’s closing film and plays the AFI Fest on Nov. 7. Lone Survivor debuts at the latter fest. Also playing AFI are August, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and The Past.

Spike Jonze’s Her, which played at the New York Film Festival, also plays AFI. Warner Bros. will push Scarlett Johansson’s supporting performance for a nod, which sounds like business usual until you realize it’s a voice-only performance. Daniel Montgomery of Gold Derby argues that she’s the sole aspect of her character, Samantha, which sets this apart from notable voice performances, like Robin Williams in Aladdin. If Johansson gets in, it’ll be the first voice-only performance to do so.

The Croods became the second screener of the Oscar season (following Jeff NicholsMud) and the first for an animated film this year. That should give it an advantage in the animated feature category, where it might sneak in for one of the last spots alongside Ernest and Celestine.

Sony Pictures Classics unveiled that Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine will compete as a drama at the Golden Globes, and Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight will compete in the musical or comedy categories. SPC seems to have more confidence in the former, as the drama race is far more crowded than the musical or comedy race is. Paramount will push Alexander Payne’s Nebraska in the musical or comedy race. The distributor will also campaign Will Forte’s work in the film as a supporting performance.

Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter says The Weinstein Co. will push August: Osage County as a musical or comedy at the Globes. This move inspires little confidence, as Weinstein once planned to push it as a drama. Depending on genre placement of films like American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks, the race for musical or comedy actress might be more competitive than the race for drama actress.

Check out my Oscar predictions on the next page. Feel free to chime in with a comment.

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The Author

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren loves the wonderful world of film and all that comes with it. He specifically loves long takes, fabulous actresses, and keeping up with the Oscar season - even when it's far too early to make sense of anything.