Welcome to The Gold Rush, HuffPost Entertainment's weekly breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and Feb. 25, 2013, executive arts and entertainment editor Michael Hogan and entertainment editor Christopher Rosen will chat about awards season and which films will make the most noise at the 85th annual Academy Awards.
Rosen: Mike, do you have any KOOL cigarettes? Because Oscar season is already here, and based on the early buzz vibrating out of the Toronto International Film Festival over the last two weeks, we already have quite the two-horse race. There's "Argo," Ben Affleck's throwback thriller about politics and Hollywood (two topics Oscar voters seem to enjoy), and "Silver Linings Playbook," Harvey Weinstein's other big movie in Toronto (after "The Master"), which won the festival's audience award. That puts David O. Russell's comedy drama in the same company as "American Beauty," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The King's Speech" -- three previous audience award winners which also won Best Picture. This is to say nothing of "The Master," which mostly swept the awards at the Venice Film Festival and debuted to raves in Toronto.
About that film: Like "There Will Be Blood," it will get a Best Picture nomination and a Best Director nomination (for Paul Thomas Anderson). Like "There Will Be Blood," it probably won't win either. But Joaquin Phoenix should clear off some mantle space, because he's a lock to win Best Actor, even in the face of Daniel Day-Lewis' Lincoln impersonation in "Lincoln." (Can a film lose its Best Picture bona fides because of a trailer? Because, um, that "Lincoln" trailer ...) So, I guess that's it, huh? "Silver Linings" for Best Picture, maybe Affleck for Best Director, Phoenix for Best Actor. See you in 2013, Mr. Hogan?
Hogan: Chris, slow your roll just a minute there. What makes you so sure "The Master" won't win Best Picture? So far, I have seen The Weinstein Company treat the film as if Moses had just come down from the mountain carrying two 70-mm film canisters. And let's remember that P.T. Anderson didn't have Harvey Weinstein in his corner when "There Will Be Blood" went up against "No Country For Old Men." If you ask me, the record-breaking box-office numbers for "The Master" are at least as impressive as the TIFF audience award. (By the way, now seems like as good a time as any to give Harvey credit for his ingenious marketing strategy, talking up the 70-mm film-snob stuff in public and then, behind-the-scenes, shrewdly casting "The Master" as the movie Scientology doesn't want you to see.)
Having seen "Silver Linings Playbook," I would also submit that it's no "No Country For Old Men." More like "Flirting With Disaster" with a classier cast and a sharper script. I did not walk out of that screening thinking, "Look out, 'Lincoln.'" Then again, others certainly did -- and I'm the guy who rooted for "Avatar" over "The Hurt Locker" and "The Descendants" over "The Artist." However it turns out, I think we'll know reasonably soon which movie Harvey is backing to go the whole distance. As with Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams in last year's Best Actress race, he'll campaign hard for two nominations in a category but he's only going to invest in one to win.
Which brings us to Best Actor. I have it on good authority that Philip Seymour Hoffman will most likely submit for Best Supporting Actor, leaving the field open for Joaquin Phoenix. But while I agree with you that Daniel Day-Lewis' squeaky "Lincoln" voice lowered his odds of bringing home the gold, I also wouldn't count him out, given how unapologetically odd Phoenix' performance is -- and how fondly old white men like the ones who dominate the ranks of the Academy view Honest Abe. (Also, no: You can't count anyone out based on a trailer.) My big question is why is Disney waiting until after the election to open the movie? Wouldn't it be a great marketing coup to encourage voters to see the movie and remember why the presidency really matters before casting their votes this year?
More questions for you, Chris: Where does "Argo" fit into this? I spoke to a lot of people at Toronto who said it was their favorite movie of the festival. And how is Best Actress shaping up? I hear Greta Gerwig is gunning for a nomination for her performance in "Francis Ha," but the movie still hasn't even found distribution -- owing to the fact that it's black-and-white, which makes it DOA in the home-entertainment market. Will Marion Cotillard return to the podium for the second time in five years, thanks to "Rust and Bone"? I can see Jennifer Lawrence staying in the picture for "Silver Linings Playbook," but my gut tells me she goes for the sure nod in the Best Supporting category. Am I completely blanking on some huge performance that you know perfectly well will win?
Rosen: OK, fine. The race isn't over for "The Master" just yet, and only a fool would argue with how Harvey has handled the rollout thus far. (I do, however, question pushing "The Master" out to 800 theaters on Friday, instead of letting the record-breaking limited release percolate a little longer; the champagne problems caused by having too many legitimate Oscar contenders, I guess.) But, it's just not an "Oscar movie," whatever that term means here in 2012. It's confounding, it demands thought and attention and ends with a whimper. "The Master" is a movie we'll be talking about for the next 30 years, but Oscar movies don't have to last 10 years, let alone 30. (Quick: What film won Best Picture in 2002?) If Harvey is going to spin his Oscar magic on this one for anything other than Phoenix, it'll probably be to get Anderson a long-deserved Best Director win. Unless, Affleck gets the Kevin Costner-Clint Eastwood push for "Argo," of course.
Speaking of "Argo," Warner Bros. will probably mount a campaign similar to the one they did for "The Departed" in 2006: It's the popular film that critics love! Of course, Warner Bros. didn't have to go against Harvey Weinstein and another popular film in 2006. Which brings me to "Silver Linings Playbook," a movie that seems destined to earn a lot of money at the box office.
Here's where I stand on "Silver Linings Playbook," sight unseen: David O. Russell really could have snagged Best Picture in 2010 for "The Fighter," which was more audience-friendly than both "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech," and with Harvey behind him in 2012, that only makes his new film more of a threat. Not to call you crazy about Jennifer Lawrence -- especially since you're totally on-point about Phoenix vs. Hoffman -- but, you crazy. She's a lock to run as Best Actress, especially since the field is weak. There's Cotillard, who just won at the 2008 ceremony, and ... no one else? Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour"? The little girl from "Beasts of the Southern Wild"? Naomi Watts for "The Impossible"? Lawrence has precious little competition and with Harvey behind her -- plus the fact that it's "her time" in 2012 with "The Hunger Games" and all -- I don't see how anyone can beat her. Even Gerwig could lose when stacked up against Lawrence, should "Frances Ha" even come out: There's only room for one ingenue at this ball.
Not to make this into a Weinstein Company PR email, but if "Silver Linings Playbook," Anderson, Lawrence, Phoenix and Robert De Niro (for Best Supporting Actor in "Silver Linings Playbook") all won Oscars this February, would anyone be surprised? With such huge titles -- plus Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" -- this feels like a Harvey year, unless Harvey's last project, Tom Hooper, wows everyone with "Les Miserables."
So, a question for you: Which non-Weinstein films have a shot this year, besides "Argo"? "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln"? (Why isn't "Lincoln" coming out before the election? My only guess is because it's not as political as everyone assumes and maybe would get slapped around for not being enough of a polemic during this polarized time.) Or will Kathryn Bigelow make all of this moot with "Zero Dark Thirty," and sweep Best Picture and Best Director once again, leaving Harvey to collect the acting prizes?
Hogan: First things first: "A Beautiful Mind" won Best Picture in 2002. I actually knew that!
Second, I think you're right. I am crazy. J-Law has an open path to Best Actress in her breakout year, and Harvey will no doubt guide her there. That said, the role itself is definitely on the brink between lead and supporting.
Third: If Quvenzhané Wallis doesn't get nominated for "Beasts of the Southern Wild," I will personally dynamite the levees protecting AMPAS from the surging tides of multicultural modernity.
I looked over the release schedule for the rest of the year, and I think you nailed the big non-Weinstein threats in the Best Picture category: "Zero Dark Thirty" (which could be huge, especially if -- as seems likely -- Obama wins), "Life of Pi," "Lincoln" and "Les Miz" (which supposedly knocked the socks off of Universal execs when they saw it earlier this month). I think the Academy will agree with me that "Cloud Atlas" is too hectic and confusing, Tom Hanks notwithstanding, but I suppose it could sneak in and grab a nod. As could "Beasts of the Southern Wild," please. It's still too early to count out "The Hobbit" and "Flight," and I'm still trying to get a straight answer concerning "Anna Karenina": one minute I hear it's great, the next I hear not so much. Joe Wright and Kiera Knightley picked up a Best Picture nomination with their last collaboration, "Atonement," so there's certainly some pedigree there.
By the way, fair warning: If "Django Unchained" is half as good as "Inglourious Basterds," I'm going to spend the height of Oscar season irrationally rooting for it to go the distance.
Till next week.
Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher star as the three worst bridesmaids this side of Kristen Wiig in "Bachelorette." Based on the stage play by director and writer Leslye Headland, the hilarious film debuted on video on demand and iTunes in early August and earned nearly $500,000 during its first weekend.
The Fareed Zakaria story? "The Words" stars Bradley Cooper as an author who stole the work of another man (Jeremy Irons). Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid and Ben Barnes co-star in the CBS Films release.
Find Nemo again, this time in three dimensions.
The fifth (!) "Resident Evil" film has the tagline "Evil Goes Global." OK, then. Milla Jovovich once again stars, while Michelle Rodriguez returns to the franchise for the first time since the original "Resident Evil" in 2002.
If you believe the strong reviews "Liberal Arts" received after it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, Josh Radnor's second film is a major leap from the "How I Met Your Mother" star's directorial debut, "happythankyoumoreplease." In "Liberal Arts," Radnor stars as a college admissions officer who falls for a student named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen).
"The Master," Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature since "There Will Be Blood" in 2007, is already one of the most discussed films of the year. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix star as a religious zealot and his protege, respectively, in a story that reportedly mirrors L. Ron Hubbard's formation of Scientology in the 1950s. Oscar buzz is already humming around "The Master," which should also become one of the most discussed films of 2013 by the time awards season comes to a close next year.
Karl Urban is the law in this gritty reboot of the popular comic "Judge Dredd." Expect fanboys to be out in force for this one: The hyper-violent "Dredd" debuted at Comic-Con in July to mostly high praise.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star as L.A.P.D officers who stumble onto a drug ring in "End of Watch," the latest cops-and-robbers thriller from David Ayer ("Training Day"). Go ahead and google what the term "end of watch" means if you want some insight on where this film might end up.
Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson star as three Pittsburgh teens coming of age with the help of David Bowie and The Smiths in Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own seminal novel.
A rising superstar isn't a rising superstar unless they've got an oft-delayed horror film coming out <em>after</em> they hit the big time. Enter "House At the End Of the Street" with "Hunger Games" star Jennifer Lawrence.
Clint Eastwood returns to the screen for the first time since "Gran Torino" in 2008 for "Trouble With the Curve." The film -- directed by Eastwood protege Robert Lorenz and not the acclaimed actor/director himself -- focuses on the relationship an aging baseball scout (Eastwood) has with his daughter (Amy Adams). Justin Timberlake co-stars and takes off his shirt. Just FYI.
Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Cee-Lo Green, Steve Buscemi and many more provide voices in "Hotel Transylvania," an animated comedy about what happens when Dracula's daughter (Gomez) falls for a mere mortal (Samberg). Sandler voices Dracula.
Rian Johnson's twisty sci-fi action thriller stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mob hitman tasked with killing his future self (Bruce Willis). Gordon-Levitt -- who also starred in 2012 films "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Premium Rush" -- spent hours in make-up each day to look like a younger version of Willis. Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt co-star.
"Inspired by actual events," "Won't Back Down" tells the story of two mothers (Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal) who attempt save the the school that their children attend. This marks Davis' first major role since losing Best Actress to Meryl Streep at the 84th annual Academy Awards.
Tim Burton's second feature of 2012 (the first was the derisible bore "Dark Shadows") is based on his own 1984 short film of the same name. "Frankenweenie" tells the story of a young boy named Victor Frankenstein, who brings his recently deceased dog back from the dead. Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Christopher Lee and Martin Short provide the vocal talent while Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O performs one of the songs on the film's soundtrack. This one will be huge with the Hot Topic crowd.
Elizabeth Banks produced this a capella comedy, which stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow and Anna Camp as an all-female singing group trying to defeat their male counterparts at a college choir competition. Judging from the trailer, "Pitch Perfect" looks like "Bring It On" with songs, so it should be awesome.
Liam Neeson still has a very particular set of skills in "Taken 2."
Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" stars Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack and 2012 It-Boy Matthew McConaughey, but you'll probably want to see this fever dream because Kidman's character pees on Efron's character. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/30/nicole-kidman-paperboy-urination-efron-lee-daniels_n_1555386.html" target="_hplink">Yep</a>.
Because "Paranormal Activity 4" doesn't come out until the middle of October, "Sinister" is here for all your haunted house needs. Ethan Hawke stars in the low-budget horror film, which debuted to strong reviews at SXSW back in March.
Ben Affleck directs and stars in "Argo," a drama about how the CIA used the guise of a fake film to extract six Americans from Iran during the hostage crisis. (The story is so unbelievable, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Caper" target="_hplink">it could only be true</a>.) Warner Bros. is so high on "Argo," they moved the film from its original September release date to October to take advantage of growing Oscar buzz. Affleck's latest will debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Paul Blart: Ultimate fighter? Kevin James goes boom in "Here Comes the Boom," which looks like "Warrior" mixed with a Happy Madison comedy.
A rogues' gallery of character actors (Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson) star in Martin McDonagh's follow-up to the critically acclaimed "In Bruges."
Co-written by Lena Dunham, "Nobody Walks" tells the story of an impetuous young girl (Olivia Thirlby) who moves to Los Angeles to finish her student film, but gets caught between a suburban married couple (John Krasinski and Rosemarie DeWitt).
It's Tyler Perry like you've never seen him before! The cottage industry drops his Madea drag for the time being to play the title character in "Alex Cross." A grotesquely jacked Matthew Fox co-stars as the film's antagonist, while Edward Burns provides support as Cross' possibly doomed partner. The film is based on the James Patterson novel "Cross." Morgan Freeman previously played Cross onscreen in "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came A Spider."
Brad Pitt reunites with his "Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" director Andrew Dominik for the more succinctly titled "Killing Them Softly," a crime drama based on the 1974 George V. Higgins novel "Cogan's Trade."
Fourth verse, same as the first, second and third. At this rate, count on "Paranormal Activity 5" to hit theaters in October of 2013.
Based on a true story, "Chasing Mavericks" follows Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a California high school student in search of the massive waves known as mavericks. Gerard Butler is Jay's onscreen spirit guide, while one-time "O.C." nemesis Taylor Handley plays one of the film's bad guys. The trailer for "Chasing Mavericks" is aces, though that might have something to do with the outstanding use of Gym Class Heroes' hit single "Fighter."
<strong>UPDATE</strong>: "Big Wedding" has moved to April of 2013. A night of too many stars? Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried and Topher Grace star in "The Big Wedding," which surprisingly isn't a sequel to "New Year's Eve."
"Cloud Atlas" has one of the year's best trailers and casts (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent). However, can Andy and Lana Wachowski (back behind the camera for the first time since "Speed Racer") and Tom Tykwer bring David Mitchell's sprawling 2004 novel to life on the big screen? That question is one of the biggest of 2012, and its answer will go a long way to deciding whether or not "Cloud Atlas" becomes a major Oscar player next year.
Director Josh Schwartz ("The O.C." and "Gossip Girl") makes the leap to the big screen with "Fun Size," a Halloween-set one-crazy-night movie that could recall the shaggy charm of "Adventures In Babysitting."
Formerly titled "The Surrogate" (as well as "Six Sessions"), "The Sessions" is an Oscar contender under any name. The film is a true-story account of a man (John Hawkes) stricken with polio who hires a sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity. Both Hawkes and Hunt are already among the favorites for Best Actor and Actress, respectively, and supporting star William H. Macy could have a shot at a nomination as well.
Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film since "Cast Away" in 2000 casts Denzel Washington as a hero pilot who may have been drunk when he safely crash-landed a tumbling airliner. "Flight" is set to close the New York Film Festival in October, and could be on the short list for Oscar. Regardless of awards bona fides, it's good to have Zemeckis back with the living after his sojourn to the uncanny valley for films like "Polar Express" and "A Christmas Carol."
RZA. Russell Crowe. Kung-fu. Be there.
It's "Toy Story" for video games! "Wreck-It Ralph" tells the story of a video game villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) who wants to become a hero. The charming trailer -- which features real video game characters from the past -- sets "Wreck-It Ralph" up as the type of kids' movie that adults will love too.
The long-delayed "This Must Be the Place" stars Sean Penn as a rock star-cum-Nazi hunter looking for the man who killed his father. But it's funny?
Or: "James Bond Rises"? Sam Mendes directs the latest Bond, which sort of looks like "The Dark Knight Rises" in all the best ways. Fingers crossed, however, that villain Javier Bardem doesn't ever speak through a ridiculous mask.
Steven Spielberg's epic historical drama "Lincoln" casts Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president. Translation: Here's your Best Actor frontrunner.
The final installment in the "Twilight" franchise will also provide fans with the chance to remember stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in better times. Ah, memories.
Following "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement," director Joe Wright teams with Keira Knightley for a third novel adaptation with "Anna Karenina." The melodrama should be an Oscar player in all categories, and might provide Knightley with her first Academy Award. After all, Oscar voters love the young ingenue. (See also past winners Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron.)
Like Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," "Life of Pi" comes from an acclaimed auteur (Ang Lee), is in 3D, and opens just before Thanksgiving. Twentieth Century Fox is likely hoping the similarities don't end there: "Hugo" went on to earn 11 Academy Award nominations and $184 million in worldwide grosses. Can Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel turn the same trick?
David O. Russell's last film was the crowd-pleasing, Oscar-winning drama-comedy "The Fighter." The Weinstein Company is betting that lightning strikes twice with "Silver Linings Playbook," a drama-comedy about a man (Bradley Cooper) recently released from a mental institution who forms a relationship with one of his parents' neighbors (Jennifer Lawrence). Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker co-star in this adaptation of Matthew Quick's 2008 book.
When this long-delayed remake of "Red Dawn" was first conceived in 2008, stars Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson weren't actually stars. So, this one has that going for it, which is nice.
Not to be confused with "The Guardians of Ga'Hoole" (or the upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy"), "Rise of the Guardians" imagines a world where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and other "Guardians" watch over the children of Earth and protect them from evil. Featuring the voices of Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman and Jude Law.
Because, this fall, one sports-themed Gerard Butler-led drama isn't enough.
Bill Murray, Oscar winner? It could finally happen thanks to "Hyde Park on Hudson," a historical drama that stars Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Murray's "Rushmore" co-star Olivia Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt and Laura Linney as Margaret Suckley, FDR's cousin and secret lover. Scandal! Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") directs.
Your precious is back. Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth for the first of three "Hobbit" films.
Tom Hooper's last film, "The King's Speech," won Best Picture. Will his follow-up, an adaptation of "Les Miserables" do the same? If the 90-second teaser trailer has any say in the matter, "Les Miserables" very well might. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks star in the musical, which features <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/story/2012-05-28/les-miserables-singing/55253056/1" target="_hplink">all the actors singing live</a>. In case you needed an added jolt of gotta-see.
Tom Cruise gets his vigilante on "Jack Reacher," an adaptation of Lee Child's best-selling "Jack Reacher" book series.
Judd Apatow returns to the world he created for "Knocked Up" to check-in on the lives of Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) as they turn 40. The "This Is 40" trailers make the film seem like another winning dramedy from Apatow, who continues to cast his features to perfection: In addition to Rudd and Mann, Albert Brooks, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Lena Dunham and John Lithgow all co-star. No word yet whether original "Knocked Up" stars Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl will appear.
Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to "The Hurt Locker" focuses on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Because simply being the next "Kathryn Bigelow movie" wasn't enough? Stop being such a show-off, "Zero Dark Thirty"!
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star as a couple torn apart by the 2004 Thailand tsunami in "The Impossible." The film seems like a sneaky Oscar dark horse -- especially if the complete feature packs as much of an emotional wallop as its stellar trailer.
Follow Michael Hogan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/m1keh0gan