| Valerie Hamilton |
LOS ANGELES (dpa) – True stories, war epics, dark comedies, bio pics, blockbusters and indies will compete for top honours in the 2014 US film awards season, which opened in earnest Monday with the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
Unlike 2013 where 12 Years a Slave and Gravity dominated from early on, this is a year with many contenders and no clear favourites – making for a suspenseful season even before many nominations are announced.
Richard Linklater’s coming of age drama Boyhood, filmed over 12 years with the same actors, won an early lead at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, taking best picture, best director and best supporting actress for Patricia Arquette.
The film has already picked up five nominations for the February 21 Film Independent Spirit Awards, and is also expected to be a strong Oscar contender.
The Oscars on February 22 are the grand finale of an awards season that kicked off with the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and includes the high-profile Golden Globes, Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) Awards, and Film Independent Spirit Awards, among many others.
SAG Awards nominations will be announced December 10, and the Golden Globes nominations follow them on December 11.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce Oscar nominations January 15.
So far, Birdman, Alejando Gonzalez Inarritu’s dark comedy starring Michael Keaton as a has-been movie actor trying to reinvent himself on Broadway, was passed over in New York, but scooped up six Spirit award nominations, for best feature, actor, director, supporting actor, supporting actress and cinematographer.
Selma, the US civil rights era drama starring David Oyewolo as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, has also garnered a cluster of Spirit nominations. Awards watchers see Oyewolo as a favourite in the best actor races.
The Imitation Game, a drama about the life of the gay British code breaker Alan Turing who cracked the German Enigma code during World War II, has won critical acclaim and best actor buzz for Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role.
It opened last weekend in New York and Los Angeles to packed theatres.
The Theory of Everything tells the real-life love story of famed British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane Wilde. Eddie Redmayne has won accolades for his physically demanding portrayal of a man afflicted by motor neuron disease, and critics say Felicity Jones’ transformative performance may win her nominations for best actress.
Also among the potential best picture nominees for this awards season are Gone Girl, an enigmatic thriller about a man implicated in the disappearance of his wife, based on the Gillian Flynn bestseller; American Sniper, director Clint Eastwood’s soon-to-be released war drama about an Iraq war era sniper; Foxcatcher, a drama starring Steve Carell as a dangerously unstable millionaire wrestling enthusiast; and director Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, based on the true story of a US Olympic runner and World War II fighter pilot who survives weeks on a life raft and internment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Critics say Redmayne, Cumberbatch, Oyewolo, Keaton and Carell could score best actor nominations in the upcoming awards season.
Also mentioned are Bradley Cooper for the title role in American Sniper and Ralph Fiennes as a meticulous and eccentric European hotel concierge in the comedy Grand Budapest Hotel.
If there’s stiff competition for the top nominations, it’s even stiffer for the foreign films. A record 83 films are in the running for best foreign language film Oscar nominations.