Maybe they were reading our Premature Oscar Predictions? Just days after our series ended, looking way far at the horizon of next year’s potential Oscar nominees, The Weinstein Company has dated four films of their late fall awards season hopefuls. Obviously, those films were going to land in Oscar season regardless, but kudos to our features for being on point; Harvey and co. will be driving hard the very films we had touted as potentially strong contenders for next year’s Academy season.
Probably the “biggest” film of the bunch is “August: Osage County.” Now set for a November 8th release, the picture is an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ dark comedic play (a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama) and centers on a troubled family that tries to overcome their differences when their alcoholic patriarch goes missing. Letts wrote the deeply acidic play “Killer Joe” that William Friedkin adapted to fantastically bonkers effect last year and also penned the screenplay to both films. Directed by John Wells, it’s his follow-up effort to “The Company Men,” which starred Ben Affleck, after spending almost three decades in TV writing, producing and directing (notable credits include “Shameless,” and “E.R.” among many). The cast is unstoppable. The mother and father are played by Meryl Streep and Sam Shepard and the adult daughters are played by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson from “Boardwalk Empire.” The cast also includes Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin and Dermot Mulroney. Unless there is something botched in the execution, expect this picture to be a big awards player.
Following that picture is “Grace of Monaco,” set for a December 27th release date. That’s very late in the game, which suggests Weinstein may be more confident about a Best Actress nominee for Nicole Kidman than they are a Best Picture nod, but surely they’ll want both. It’s a strategy that’s risky, but worked last year. “Django Unchained” was released very late in the game, but it was still nominated for five Oscars and won two. Starring Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella and Parker Posey, the picture chronicles former Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s involvement with Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle dispute over tax laws in the early 1960s. That sounds a bit dull on paper, but it’s essentially her personal story told during this challenging period. It’s helmed by Olivier Dahan, who directed Marion Cotillard to a Best Actress Oscar in 2008 with “La Vie En Rose.” The picture sort of reeks of “My Week With Marilyn,” a biopic that also chose a brief window in time to document a famous celebrity’s life, but hopefully it won’t have the same Lifetime movie tendencies.
Arriving November 29 will be “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, and we’ve tipped both of them to be serious contenders. TWC is placing the same bet with this late November bow. Directed by actor/filmmaker Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) , it’s obviously a Nelson Mandela biopic and while the rest of the cast are largely unknown character actors, it’s still one to watch.
Last but not least is this year’s Sundance breakout hit, “Fruitvale.” It won the prestigious Grand Jury and Audience Award in Park City earlier this year and it was The Weinstein Company’s first big buy at the festival. It stars Michael B. Jordan (“Chronicle”), Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz and tells the the true story of a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
Expect all these films to start in small or limited release and crescendo in Q-factor as the year progresses much like “Silver Linings Playbook” did this season. That’s a film that several pundits questioned whether The Weinstein Company knew what they were doing with it. In November upon release, it barely made a dent, but in the longtail building game, TWC took it to $171 worldwide (and counting) and eight Oscar nominations in every coveted category.