By Miles X. Logan
And the winner is . . . George Clooney. George Clooney. George Clooney. Is there an echo in here?
Actually, no. It's just that the actor/producer/director has a lot of coals on the fire, to put it mildly.
Clooney took a statue home last year – he was a producer of the Best Picture, Argo. This year he has a piece of the adaption of Tracy Letts Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, which has generated a healthy Oscar buzz already.
But that's small potatoes for Clooney. Consider his work on The Monument Men – he co-produces it, co-wrote it, directs it, AND stars in it. Hell, even if it stinks he's bound to get a little Oscar love for something.
He also stars in Gravity, a 3-D space thriller, opposite Sandra Bullock, another Oscar winner.
Those are but a few of the scores of films slated for release in the next three or so months, all the better to be fresh in the minds of voters when the Oscar ballots are mailed out.
Osage County, about a dysfunctional family in Oklahoma, has the kind of cast assembled with the Academy Awards in mind – did we mention Meryl Streep? Add Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, and Ewan McGregor to the mix and the film, directed by John Wells, looks like a formidable contender: hey, did we mention Meryl Streep?
David O. Russell previously scored with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. This time around his American Hustle, not coincidentally featuring a star from each of those movies, debuts amidst rave reviews. Pencil in Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale as contenders.
Martin Scorcese looks for another statue with The Wolf of Wall Street starring his muse, Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo also deserves to be in the Best Actor conversation for his tragically overlooked work in The Great Gatsby.
Tom Hanks is mining for more Oscar gold. He has the title role in the very topical Captain Phillips, a tanker captain held by Somalian pirates. He's also being talked up for his role in Disney's Saving Mr. Banks.
Other films on the short list for Oscar nominations are: Lee Daniels' The Butler, All is Lost, and Foxcatcher.
The Best Actor race is shaping up as a doozy. Besides the blue bloods mentioned above, such film royalty as Robert Redford (All is Lost) Forest Whitaker (The Butler) and Bruce Dern (Nebraska) are in the mix – and don't count out Matthew McConaughey, who is said to do excellent work in Dallas Buyers Club.
As for the Best Actress statue – did we mention Meryl Streep? Well, if Nicole Kidman's Grace Of Monaco is released on time, she could give Streep a run for her money. Cate Blanchett, Woody Allen's choice for the female lead in his Blue Jasmine, is always a contender. (Allen, by the way, might get yet another Screenwriting Oscar.) Then there is Oscar winner Kate Winslet, back in the mix for her work in Labor Day. Roberts, and Amy Adams (Hustle) are both Academy favorites; either or both could snare nominations.
There are plenty of big names looking for supporting actor nods, including Alec Baldwin, Josh Brolin, and Michael Fassbender. Best Supporting Actress favorites include Carey Mulligan, who is featured prominently in the new Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis and Cameron Diaz. Oprah will have her PR staff churning overtime to get a mention – she's in The Butler.
Of course, the Academy Awards aren't only about big names – the Academy prides itself on recognizing outstanding work by emerging artists as well as veteran character actors.
Michael B. Jordan, in Fruitvale Station, has earned rave reviews. And if Margo Martindale (Osage) is one of those veteran actresses who managed to be overlooked during her long career of excellent performances, young Lupita Nyong'o, a complete unknown, shines in Twelve years A Slave and may impress voters.
The big name films will start appearing in theaters right after the holiday weekend — it's good to be a film junkie this time of the year.