Anderson is back this year with "The Master", a project five years in the making that reaches us this fall. I must admit a high degree of excitement, mostly surrounding the project's mystery. For so long we didn't even really believe it was called "The Master". It was just Paul Thomas Anderson's 1940s religion project, but even that arouses all kinds of fun debate. It's one of plenty major films the Weinstein Company is opening towards the close of the year, also including Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained". Tarantino has been off for quite some time, not in terms of making films, but making great films. Since "Kill Bill Vol. 1", the guy's skewed a little over-indulgently.
Mind you, I don't think the Academy will care. They certainly didn't back in 2009 when "Inglourious Basterds" had quite a dark horse vibe throughout the season, to the point of me being somewhat sure it was gonna pull an upset in the top category. It didn't, but it felt entirely possible. The western aspect to the film gives it some points for period setting, and he had often tickled the Academy's fancy before. I am actually quite interested in Leonardo DiCaprio's odds of snagging a supporting actor nod. He's got some strong possibilities going for him with "The Great Gatsby", but I think Tarantino's flick is where he'll really get the most traction. Playing the villain isn't exactly something he's done too often, but it's a hat he'd fancifully wear.
Jamie Foxx too has a potential nod coming his way, assuming his character is intriguing enough and given enough focus. Seeing as it's in the damn title, I'd say so. I wouldn't put odds on Christoph Waltz, since his work in "Inglourious Basterds" was very much a blast-from-the-blue performance, and that's what gave it so much zing. Continuing with the trend of Weinstein releases vying for Oscar potential, Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly", just recently announced for an appearance at Cannes, could factor. I'm not going to draw against it, since "The Assassination of Jesse James" had several supporters when it was in the running. It's hard to tell where to be on his latest.
It's fine to bet on Brad Pitt gaining some traction for his lead performance, depending on the impression it makes. A contemporary criminal seems like it would fit like a glove for him, especially since he's spent such a time away from it, or maybe it just seems like a while with "Moneyball" swinging so safely. Not sure who, if anyone, would be available for supporting. James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins stick out, but it really depends on if they've make enough reason for contention, or if it's purely Pitt's show. It wouldn't be so bad if it was.
Another Cannes entry backed by the Weinstein Company is "Lawless" from John Hillcoat, who has never been in the conversation as far as Oscar is concerned. He had some backers for "The Road" a few years back, but that seemed to fall as something of a moderate disappointment. I'm not so certain "Lawless" will be much of a change, considering Shia Labeouf in the pot. Of course the rest of the film's actors do quite a bit to offset his awkwardity. With such recent hits like Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, and Jessica Chastain, the film could find some footing in the performance categories, but I don't see it having much of a play in the big races.
Closing out our dissection of the Weinstein side of the board is "The Silver Lining Playbook", which isn't exactly a film that Oscar would go far. In fact, it's almost a certainty that they won't fall for it the way they did David O. Russell's previous flick, "The Fighter". However, are the performances necessary out of the book? Perhaps on Bradley Cooper's end, but Jennifer Lawrence seems primed for a strong performance after some less than stellar sojourns. I can't see Robert De Niro ever being in the conversation again. It's not gonna happen, but for Jacki Weaver it might. She was quite the presence in 2010's race. She could be again.