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The Oscars: Films possibly in line for cinema’s most prestigious award

Kieran Turner-Dave

With the 85th Academy Award nominations set to be announced on January 10, Kieran Turner-Dave previews the films most likely to be in contention for cinema’s most prestigious prize

Lincoln

Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a bio-epic covering the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency in which he attempts to have the 13th Amendment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. A collaboration between a two-time Oscar-winning director, three Oscar-winning actors, and six-time Oscar-winning composer John Williams (who is chasing his 48th nomination) – Lincoln is a serious contender for Academy Awards this season.

Argo

Director: Ben Affleck

Stars: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston

Ben Affleck’s third feature film as a director is based on the declassified account of how CIA operative Tony Mendez led the operation to rescue six U.S. diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Argo is not only a true story of American bravery and intelligence, but is also partly a lighthearted Hollywood insider comedy. It is therefore bound to impress Academy voters and could see the former Pearl Harbor star become a serious contender for Best Director.

Zero Dark Thirty

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Stars: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty chronicles the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, leading to his assassination in 2011. Political reaction to the film has been divisive, with liberal commentators claiming that the movie is strongly pro-torture; whilst conservatives have alleged that Bigelow’s unprecedented access to classified information, and the timing of the film’s American release, make it pro-Obama propaganda. Critical reception has been more unified – hailing Zero Dark Thirty a gripping and intelligent success.

Les Misérables

Director: Tom Hooper

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried

Also directing his first film since winning an Academy Award (The King’s Speech), Tom Hooper presents the big-screen adaptation of the phenomenal worldwide hit musical Les Misérables. Featuring an all-star leading cast, plus supporting performances from Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, Les Mis is a sung-through musical set in revolutionary France that explores burly peasant Jean Valjean’s search for redemption whilst he avoids the relentless police inspector Javert.

Life Of Pi

Director: Ang Lee

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gérard Depardieu

Ang Lee will be hoping that his latest movie brings him the same Oscar success as Brokeback Mountain did in 2005. Based on Yann Martel’s supposedly unfilmable novel, Life Of Pi focuses on a teenage boy who is stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Whilst the project may have seemed overly ambitious, critics have praised its astonishing 3D visuals and rewarding emotional depth.

The Master

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Ambyr Childers

After missing out on an Oscar for There Will Be Blood in 2008, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest effort is a beautifully shot and powerfully acted piece that addresses how the post-war government failed to deal with mental illness, and how the appeals of cult and pseudo-science effect the vulnerable sufferers. Featuring two standout performances from actors who have previously courted Academy attention, The Master is an intoxicating film for a serious audience.

Silver Linings Playbook

Director: David O’Russell

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker

Another director whose last effort missed out on an Oscar (The Fighter), David O’Russell has again thrown his hat into the ring with the romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook. The film follows the relationship between two people who are both struggling with mental illness and seeking to rebuild their lives. The cast’s sensitive performances helped the film win the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and may lead to Robert DeNiro being nominated for his first acting Oscar for over 20 years.

Amour

Director: Michael Haneke

Stars: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud

After winning his second Palm D’or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Michael Haneke’s Amour has been praised by critics worldwide for being a tender and honest depiction of the challenges that face love during old age. Although non-English language films tend to struggle at the Oscars, the ageing Academy voters could nominate Emmanuelle Riva for the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar at the age of 85.

Django Unchained

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson

Still yet to win a ‘Best Director’ Oscar after a 20-year career of critical successes, writer-director Quentin Tarantino returns with his seventh feature film, which has already received five Golden Globe nominations. Django Unchained has won over American audiences thanks to its brutally frank and stylistically violent depiction of slavery within the genre conventions of a spaghetti western. The film sees a freed slave, Django enlist the help of a German bounty hunter in order to rescue his wife from a maniacal plantation owner.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Gina Montana

The winner of the Grand Jury prize at Sundance Film Festival, Beasts Of The Southern Wild follows the fantastical journey of a courageous young girl who is forced to cope with family loss and the pressures of maturity after her bayou home is flooded. The imaginative and emotional indie darling could help youngster Quvenzhané Wallis beat more established stars to a ‘Best Actress’ nomination.

Flight

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Stars: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Nadine Velazquez

Oscar-winner Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) returns to live action filmmaking after a 12-year absence to direct Flight – a character study that focuses on an airplane pilot who is hailed a hero after pulling off an impossible emergency landing, only to fall under scrutiny after his sobriety is questioned. Although the Oscar buzz surrounding Flight has been fairly quiet, Denzel Washington’s compelling performance could see him compete for his third acting Oscar.

The Sessions

Director: Ben Lewin

Stars: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H Macy, Moon Bloodgood

Led by actors who are no strangers to the Academy, this low-budget movie about sexual connection in the face of physical disability won the Audience Award at the Sundance film festival and has earned both John Hawkes and Helen Hunt Golden Globe nominations. The Sessions follows the tender and uplifting true story of polio sufferer Mark O’Brien who seeks the help of a therapist, a priest and a sex surrogate in order to lose his virginity at the age of 38.

Cloud Atlas

Directors: Andy & Lana Wachowski, Tom Twyker

Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant

As its nearly six-minute trailer indicates, Cloud Atlas is a film of immense ambition and scope. Covering six interwoven narratives, spread across five centuries, this epic sci-fi drama sees an all-star cast (including Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon and Ben Whishaw) explore how an individual’s actions can permeate the past, present and future. Although the film’s huge ambition is likely prove too much for Academy voters, it received a 10-minute standing ovation at the Toronto Film Festival, and ignoring Cloud Atlas will undoubtedly leave a very large elephant in the room.

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