18 Must See Movies of Oscar Season

Summer has finally come to a close. We saw some entertaining blockbusters and some disappointments, and just plain bad movies, but now it’s time to look ahead to what’s in store for us this fall, a.k.a Oscar Season. I’ve looked at all the upcoming films and the first word that came to mind was: loaded. We’ve got films from big name director’s such as Sidney Lumet, Ridley Scott, Robert Redford, Ang Lee, Robert Zemeckis, Kenneth Branagh, David Croenberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, Marc Forster, James Mangold, and Wes Anderson. We also have films from directors who are red hot coming off their previous film’s such as Noah Baumbach, Terry George, Joe Wright, and Susanne Bier. This fall could very well be the most competitive Oscar season in quite some time. One thing I must point out is that there’s a good chance that Focus Features will be releasing the Best Picture Winner. Here are 18 films that you should not miss:

Oscar Sleepers (All Release Dates subject to Change)

3:10 to Yuma: The early reviews to this remake of the classic western are very positive thus far. Mangold raked in the nominations for Walk the Line and he looks to do the same here. Plus, how could a movie be bad when it has Russell Crowe AND Christian Bale in it? Opens September 7th. Lionsgate Films.

Into the Wild: I’m really excited to see actor/director Sean Penn’s new film about the life of Chris McCandless and his journey to Alaska. It’s a very scenic film, rumored to be shot entirely on location. Emille Hirsch will once and for all prove himself as a star and could we be talking about Best Supporting Actor for Vince Vaughn? Opens September 21st. Paramount Vantage.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: The year’s second highly anticipated western stars Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. The new extended trailer has just been released and it looks really good. The cinematography is great and the storyline seems to have a lot of depth. We could be looking at possible nominations for both Pitt and Affleck. Opens September 21st. Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Darjeeling Limited: The trailer for this movie is very mysterious, with Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman running around India and Wilson looking like he just got the crap beat out of him. But hey, it’s Wes Anderson. Opens Septmeber 29th. Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Margot at the Wedding: This is writer/director Noah Baumbach’s follow up to the critically acclaimed The Squid and the Whale. I’ve seen the trailer and the movie looks to be nothing special but it does have a great cast with Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I’m sure it’s better than it looks. Opens November 16th. Paramount Classics.

Beowulf: I’ve seen the trailer for this as well and it looks awesome. Early in the year I said nothing would beat 300 for it’s special effects but I now realize I could be wrong. Then when you see the name Robert Zemeckis, you have to be thinking Academy Award. Opens November 16th. Paramount Pictures

Things We Lost in the Fire: Foreign film director Susanne Bier exploded onto the scene with the Oscar nominated After the Wedding and now she looks to make her first American feature film about a man that looks to help his dead best friend’s widow cope with her loss. The film will star Halle Berry and Bencio Del Toro. Opens October 26th. Paramount Pictures.

Films That Will Be Critically Acclaimed but Will Miss Out on a Best Picture Nomination

Eastern Promises: I’m not sure what to expect from this one. I thought A History of Violence was overrated, but I love Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortenson. Two straight years Naomi Watts has starred in a film that made my top 5 lists (“King Kong” and “The Painted Veil), can she pull off the hat trick and make it three? Opens September 14th. Focus Features.

In the Valley of Elah: This movie just has Oscar written all over it. The scary thing is I left it out my prediction for the five nominated films for best picture, but just barely. The movie is from Academy Award winning writer/director Paul Haggis and has an all-world cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and James Franco. Opens September 21st. Warner Bros. Pictures

Sleuth: This remake of the acclaimed 1972 original stars Michael Caine (who also starred in the original) and Jude Law. The movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh. Need I say more? Opens October 12th. Sony Pictures Classics.

American Gangster: Scott, Crowe, Washington, again it’s hard to believe I would leave this off the list of Best Picture nominees, but that’s just how tough it’s going to be. Directly Ridley Scott looks to recover from last year’s A Good Year, as does Russell Crowe. And it helps to have the best African American actor working today. Academy Award Winning Director, and two Academy Award Winning Actors. Is “American Gangster” this year’s “The Departed” ? Opens November 2nd. Universal Pictures.

The Kite Runner: One of my favorite directors working today is Marc Forster because the guy turns out a good if not a great film every time. This is a guy who took a movie starring Will Ferrel, and made it really good. The Kite Runner will be no exception. Opens November 2nd. Dreamworks Pictures.

No Country For Old Men: The Palme d’Or Runner Up at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the early reviews indicate that this is Joel and Ethan Coen’s finest film since Fargo. It is also said that the movie is driven by Oscar caliber performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. Opens November 9th. Miramax Films.

So what films will end up being nominated for Best Picture at the 2008 Academy Awards and which film will win? It was tough to choose just five, but here’s what I think will happen. First the four other nominees:

The Four Other Nominees Are

Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Shekar Kapur’s 1998 film Elizabeth was excellent and received a nomination for Best Picture. There’s no reason to think this sequel about a plot to assassinate the queen won’t do the same. Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush are back on board and now Clive Owen has been added to the mix. Opens October 12th. Universal Pictures.

Reservation Road: It took me some guts to put this film above some of the ones I left out, but I think this will be the character drama of the year. Joaquin Phoenix reunites with Hotel Rwanda director Terry George in this drama about a man losing his son to a fatal hit and run accident. Mark Ruffalo will play the man who kills Phoenix’s son, who happens to be Phoenix’s attorney. Jennifer Connely, who gave one of the best supporting performances of the year in 2006’s Blood Diamond also stars. Opens October 19th. Focus Features.

Lions For Lambs: There were some giants looking ahead to this Oscar season, but none bigger than this. Robert Redford directs and co-stars along with Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep in this political drama about a congressman, a journalist, and a professor being drawn into an investigation about two injured soldiers in Afghanistan. This could very well be the A Few Good Men of this decade. Opens November 9th. MGM.

Atonement: Like Reservation Road, I just have a feeling about this one. Plus, it’s being released in December so it will be more fresh on Oscar voters mind than any of the other previously mentioned films. We could be looking at this year’s war classic as Kiera Knightley re-teams with Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright and Irish actor James McAvoy. Opens December 7th. Focus Features.

And the Oscar for Best Picture Will Go To…

Lust, Caution: Ang Lee will retaliate and get the Best Picture Oscar that was robbed from him by an inferior film known as Crash. And boy does this look like my kind of film. A political/espionage thriller set in 1940’s Shanghai, starring rising international superstar Tony Leung Chiu Wai (2046). The only thing this movie has going against it is that it has received and accepted a NC-17 rating from the MPAA. Opens September 28th. Focus Features.

*Note: Two releases worth mentioning but continue to stay under the radar are master director Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and the late december release Charlie Wilson’s War starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

With Lust, Caution, Atonement, Reservation Road, and Eastern Promises, Focus Features looks to have a great fall season in 2007. I’m looking forward to seeing all of these films and I’m very interested in seeing how close my predictions are come next February.

Nate Deen is a 20-year old aspiring film critic/essayist from Pensacola, Fla. He just graduated with an AA degree in journalism from Pensacola Junior College. He will be attending the University of Florida soon to continue his studies in journalism and film. His goal is to either pursue a writing career in entertainment, sports or perhaps both, but his dream is to write and direct his own movies. Recently, he's been devouring classic films, American and foreign. His favorite directors include Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Alfred Hitchcock. If he had to make a top 10 list of the greatest films of all time, they would be: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather I and II, Vertigo, The Third Man, Schindler's List, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Raging Bull, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and City Lights. He runs his own movie review website, www.cinemaitis.com.

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