Film companies are banking on many films based on awards pedigrees. This month brings Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" (Sony Pictures Classics); "Prisoners," in September, from WB-Alcon, directed by Denis Villeneuve ("Incendies") and starring Hugh Jackman (who BTW, I still think deserved the Oscar for "Les Mis," no offense to DDL); and "Gravity," from Alfonso Cuaron (WB, October).
There is a quartet for November: Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" (Fox) from Cormac McCarthy's book; John Wells' "August: Osage County" (TWC); Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace" (Relativity); and Jonze's "Her" (WB).
David O. Russell's "American Hustle" (Sony); Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (Fox); Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" (Paramount); and Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug" (New Line-MGM, distribbed domestically by WB), which I'm proud to admit, I'm looking forward to, despite that title.
4. Festival faves.
The 2012 Cannes gave us this summer's "The Hunt," with a socko perf by Mads Mikkelsen (Magnolia). The 2013 Cannes had the Coens' "Inside Llewyn Davis" (CBS Films), Payne's "Nebraska" (Paramount), Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" (Sony Classics), James Gray's "The Immigrant" (TWC), and the Robert Redford starrer "All is Lost" (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions).
And, of course, Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" (IFC, fourth quarter), which will undoubtedly stir up talk for its hotsy sex scenes.
In January, Sundance had "Mud" (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) and "Before Midnight" (SPC) which have opened, and the imminent "Fruitvale Station," "Prince Avalanche" (Magnolia) and "Kill Your Darlings" with Daniel Radcliffe (SPC).
Berlin offered Chile's "Gloria," which gained admirers especially for Paulina Garcia's perf (Roadside Attractions). SXSW premiered Destin Cretton's "Short Term 12" (Cinedigm); the L.A. Film Fest offered the Saudi "Wadjda" (Sony Classics).
Many of these seem like fodder for Indie Spirit Awards and critics groups. As for Oscar, who knows? However, last year, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" seemed like an extreme dark horse, and that wound up with four key Oscar noms.
The January-June period also witnessed first-class craft work for "Iron Man 3," "Man of Steel," "Oz, the Great and Powerful," "World War Z," "Star Trek Into Darkness" and even "Jack the Giant Slayer" (and kudos to the perfs of Zachary Quinto in "Trek" and Stanley Tucci in "Jack").
FYI, I'm emphasizing directors' names as a way to ID the films, not to diminish the contributions (or kudos chances) of others involved.
And, for the record: Rudin's trio are "Captain Phillips," "Llewyn" and "Frances Ha"; Ellison has "American Hustle," "Her," "Foxcatcher" and "The Grandmaster"; Cumberbatch has "Hobbit," "Osage," "Fifth Estate" and "12 Years" in addition to "Trek."
And we will tackle docus, toons, and foreign-language later.
Meanwhile, Oscars will be held March 2. So go take a nap. You have to save your strength for the next eight months.