The 2013 Sundance Film Festival is in the books, and we're all back to the business of arguing about the Oscars. But can't we do both? The "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Best Picture nomination spawned a hundred conversations about which was the "Beasts" of this year's Sundance crop. Not like it happens every year, but it's not exactly rare for a Sundance sensation to keep building throughout the year to a successful Oscar run.
Even when Best Picture isn't in the cards, you could still have a success on the level of "The Sessions," which premiered last year and survived long enough to get Helen Hunt back in the Oscar race. So which ten Sundance movies are you most likely to see on an Oscar ballot a year from now? (In no order of likelihood...)
"The Way Way Back"
When I made my foolhardy year-ahead predictions, I thought that if this indie comedy from the Oscar-winning co-writers of "The Descendants" broke right, it could be an outside contender. Thus far, that assessment is proving not entirely incorrect. Obviously, it's way early, but "The Way Way Back" is already showing all the signs: feel-good coming of age story; likeable star (Steve Carell) playing against type; aggressive and Oscar-savvy studio (Fox Searchlight). The most prevalent complaint about it at Sundance was that it was too safe. That is NOT a detriment when it comes to impressing the Academy. This is following the "Little Miss Sunshine" road map.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Steve Carell), Best Supporting Actress (Allison Janney)
I mentioned "Fruitvale" lead actor Michal B. Jordan as a possibility in my year-ahead picks, and now I'm really wishing I'd been more forceful about it. If any actor is mostly likely to emerge from Park City as an Oscar nominee-to-be, it's Jordan. You have to figure The Weinstein Company acquired the film with visions of building a campaign around this exciting young actor (if you watched the later seasons of "Friday Night Lights," you already know what he can do). Selling the film itself might yield some good results too. After all, it took both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, the first film to do that since "Precious."
Most Likely Nominations: Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer)
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
"Malick" was the watchword with this lyrical story of lovers/convicts that drew comparisons to "Badlands." It got picked up by IFC Films, which might position it better for Indie Spirit Awards than for Oscars. The other snag is that while the technical aspects of the film drew big praise, even indies that find great success at the Oscars find it hard to crack categories like, say Best Cinematpgraphy (just ask "Beasts of the Southern Wild"). Still, leads Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are both former Oscar nominees and could find themselves on the awards radar again. "Blue Valentine" could get one-half of its central pair nominated, after all.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Keith Carradine; Ben Foster), Best Cinematography
"Kill Your Darlings"
The Beat Generation is probably going from "So Hot Right Now" to "Enough Already," but John Krokidas' film is stylish and not as winky about its famous protagonists as some of its contemporaries. Great Sundance reviews and a Sony Pictures Classics pickup will certainly boost the film's profile, but it's probably destined to hit the mainstream media as a Daniel Radcliffe vehicle. Which, that's fine, Radcliffe is incredible, but it'd be a shame if that overshadowed brilliant performances by Dane DeHaan and Michael C. Hall. Krokidas told audiences at a Brooklyn screening that Sony Classics was eyeing a fall release, so look for a push of some kind.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Actor (Daniel Radcliffe), Best Supporting Actor (Dane DeHaan and Michael C. Hall)
The third film from director Richard Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy was met with the most rapturous of reviews by the Park City festival-goers. If history is any indication, the reach of the film won't go farther than critics, but "Before Sunset" snagged a most unexpected Screenplay nomination in 2004. Could happen again.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay
"The Spectacular Now"
Touching stories of teenage love aren't exactly an Oscar-bait genre, but this movie got some great reviews for its lead performers Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them show up at the Indie Spirit Awards. And hey, maybe some Oscar voters feel bad about leaving Woodley off the ballot last year?
Most Likely Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor
Jill Soloway's film took the Audience Award for Directing at Sundance, but I think its best chances lie with star Kathryn Hahn. Hahn's made the rounds on the comedy circuit over the last few years ("Parks and Recreation"; "Wanderlust"), but she drew raves for this dramatic performance as a bored housewife looking to find some passion in her life.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Juno Temple)
Sweeping the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Documentary automatically makes this story of an American who came to work with and care for HIV/AIDS-afflicted children in India a major contender in the Oscar race.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
"Don Jon's Addiction"
Frankly, this seems like a mess. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut was not met with great reviews, and the porn-addict plot will keep it from becoming some kind of crossover audience hit. Bit you just never know how Hollywood is going to respond to an actor/director effort like this. Plus, Scarlett Johansson had an outside shot at being a diamond in the rough. Relativity Media spent a good bit of money to acquire this, so look to them to push the hell out of it.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Supporting Actress
The Audience Award winner for World Documentary is incredibly vital -- it's an inside look at the continuing revolution happening in Egypt. Timely docs have seen a lot of Oscar success as of late, and it doesn't get much timelier than this.
Most Likely Nominations: Best Documentary Feature
Get more 2013 Oscar Predictions on NextMovie
This year's Oscar predictions, Oscar contenders and personal Oscar picks come from the eerily prescient mind of our Academy Awards expert, Joe Reid.