Off the Carpet: Half-time

It seems like just yesterday Ben Affleck was on stage at the Dolby Theatre accepting his Best Picture Oscar for “Argo” and one of the more dramatic awards seasons was drawing to a close. Since then we’ve had a refreshing handful of months away from the fray, but today, we’re going to ruin all of that, just for a moment.

Last week Greg, Guy and I offered up our “for your consideration” Oscar picks from the year’s first half that we’d like to see remembered come year’s end. With that as a launching off point, and with today marking the actual mid-way point of 2013, let’s really dig in. How has the year shaped up for awards hopefuls so far?

January proved to be the typical dumping ground for new films and expansion area for December limited releases, but the Sundance Film Festival brought a number of possibilities. The Weinstein Company struck first, picking up (for VOD shingle RADiUS-TWC) the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” and later the tear-jerking Grand Jury and Audience Award winner “Fruitvale Station” (née “Fruitvale”). The latter went on to Cannes and is set for a late-July release, but we’ll just have to see if it can be viewed as more than a strong Independent Spirit player.

Sundance also brought Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” which Sony Pictures Classics picked up after the fest. It could yield a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination like its predecessor, “Before Sunset,” but stars Ethan Hawke and particularly Julie Delpy could find room as well. As of right now it would appear the film is SPC’s most suitable awards player, unless rumors of Sony’s “Foxcatcher” being shuffled over to the indie shingle pans out.

Those were probably the biggest players coming out of Park City this year, though certainly there are idle possibilities in this and that, from “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” to now-playing controversial doc “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.” Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” also popped back up after a Cannes 2012 debut, but more on that in a moment.

RELATED: Which 2013 Sundance films might find Oscar traction next season?

February was more drought in the multiplexes. Steven Soderbergh’s supposed final foray into theatrical, “Side Effects,” was a curiosity, but really, not much to discuss beyond Jude Law’s performance and the stunning digital photography.

March brought the first animated feature film contender of the year, “The Croods,” as well as the first major box office draw, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” The latter may be able to find its way through the crafts races. Landing on the art house side of things were “Ginger & Rosa” (potential Indie Spirits player with a top-notch Elle Fanning performance and gorgeous photography from rising star Robbie Ryan), as well as Focus Features’ “The Place Beyond the Pines” (a screenplay hopeful among other pushes). Harmony Corine’s “Spring Breakers” also landed, bringing with it a fun potential nomination for supporting actor James Franco.

Things got a little more serious in April with the arrival of “Mud.” The Mark Twain-inspired Jeff Nichols drama currently sits at a whopping 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, easily the first significant Best Picture player of the year, with a supporting performance from Matthew McConaughey that could make him a double nominee come year’s end. Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” also made its way to screens (a possible cinematography nomination for Emmanuel Lubezki, who has “Gravity” coming later this year), but it was mostly dismissed, while baseball biopic “42” also landed, bringing with it a supporting performance from Harrison Ford that will be looking for traction.

In May, the summer movie season announced itself with releases such as “Iron Man 3” and “The Great Gatsby.” The latter was mostly savaged but could still end up remembered for its design, while the former was mostly appreciated and might pop up in sound and visual effects races.

Also in May, three films from the 2012 Telluride Film Festival finally hit theaters: Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” (a screenplay and Best Actress player for Greta Gerwig but it could end up relegated to the Spirits bin), Ariel Vromen’s “The Iceman” (a showcase for actor Michael Shannon) and Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” (a definite documentary feature contender). It’s also worth mentioning Zal Batmanglij’s “The East,” an effective thriller that could show up at the Indie Spirits like his debut last year, “Sound of My Voice.”

Mostly, though, May was all about the Cannes Film Festival, which brought a few things to the table. As mentioned, “Fruitvale Station” was reprised, but the Coen brothers’ Grand Prix-winning “Inside Llewyn Davis” seemed to have the most awards prospects coming off the Croisette. Scott Rudin, Terry Press and CBS Films will be priming it to gather momentum throughout the fall festival season and we could see nominations across the board, from Best Picture to Best Actor (Oscar Isaac) to Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman) and notices throughout the crafts as well.

Elsewhere at the fest, J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost” stirred buzz, particularly for lead actor Robert Redford, while Paramount brought Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” looking for more international interest. The legendary Bruce Dern walked away with the Best Actor prize for the latter, and he already has a slew of Hollywood staples lining up to support him in the season. But will he be moved over to the supporting category? The decision is still being made.

Also worth mentioning from Cannes is Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives,” which may not be a big player overall, but Kristin Scott Thomas’s outrageous performance could certainly figure in. And, of course, on the TV awards side of things, Soderbergh’s supposed swan song in features came in the form of “Behind the Candelabra.” Expect Michael Douglas to be hitting stage after stage. Palme d’Or winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” can hope for foreign language film recognition, but that’s about it. And can Sony Classics translate the fest’s Best Actress winner Bérénice Bejo from Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past” into latter year awards success? Time will tell.

VIDEO: Oscar contenders coming out of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival

Finally, June kept the summer flowing with Zack Snyder’s critically smacked “Man of Steel.” It was never going to be a prestige-level superhero thing like Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, but it could still figure into the crafts races. A second animated feature hopeful came in the form of Pixar’s “Monsters University” (also a player for Randy Newman’s original score) and another curiosity, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” found supporters as well. But mostly, it was more bubblegum and popcorn, from “World War Z” to “White House Down.”

There have been a handful of other films that could be mentioned: “The Bling Ring,” “I’m So Excited!,” “The Sapphires,” SXSW debut “Short Term 12,” “Stoker,” “Unfinished Song,” “What Maisie Knew,” etc. But mostly, that’s how the awards hopefuls break down for the year’s first half.

Alright, take a breath. What does the rest of the year hold in store?

Let’s not go there quite yet. We’re all looking forward to the same stuff at this point and we’ll just have to let it all come to us as it may. I’ll be interested to see if McConaughey’s rumored amazing work in “Dallas Buyers Club” forms a perfect storm with his performances in “Mud” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (as well as his stellar year in 2012) to give him a huge platform. And speaking of Martin Scorsese’s adaptation, I’ll also be curious to see if Jonah Hill finds his way to a second nomination (and more ammunition when press attempt to break the ice with humor when he’s trying to be SERIOUS, OKAY? in interviews).

But there’s time to chew on all of that, so let’s let it lie for now. We have, however, polished off the Contenders section, which you may have perused already throughout the weekend. And even though we weren’t going to do this yet, we’ve gone ahead and offered up our first set of predictions for the season, too. Please don’t take these too seriously quite yet.

You will also notice that the Contenders section is a little bit different. We’ve done away with the overly obsessive tiered system and boiled it down to a simple top 10 “frontrunners” in each category, with a wealth of somewhat curated (rather than anything and everything) list of other hopefuls below them. Check out all of that here and remember you can click through to look at each category via the photos in the predictions sidebar to the right.

And that should bring us up to speed for now. I’ve got another month-and-a-half in New York and I’d like to enjoy it Oscar-free, but believe me, we have some fun things planned for you in the season, which will be here before you know it!