When you take a look across Sony Pictures’ impressive slate for the upcoming fall movie season, it becomes clear that the studio has a lot to work with. There’s George Clooney, fresh off “Argo”‘s Best Picture Oscar win with his directorial effort “The Monuments Men.” There’s also another heavyweight from last year’s Oscar race, David O. Russell, back in the saddle with a big cast in “American Hustle.”
Those two would be more than enough for any awards campaign to handle, but then there’s Paul Greengrass’s “Captain Phillips,” the true-life account of a 2009 Somali pirate raid starring Tom Hanks. And finally, “Moneyball” director Bennett Miller will be back with “Foxcatcher,” the bizarre true story of convicted millionaire murderer John duPont with Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum. Something might need to blink, and the way I hear it, it may just be “Foxcatcher.”
Multiple sources have told me the film could be distributed through Sony Pictures Classics, no stranger to juggling numerous films during an awards season. However, it’s also possible the film, which hasn’t been dated yet, doesn’t make it out for 2013 at all. Sony would certainly like to hold onto its prestige/potential awards product, so in that case, it may just stay with the studio.
Sony Classics wouldn’t confirm a move and Sony Pictures did not respond to a request for comment, so treat all this as (awful, terrible, rumor-mongering) speculation for now, but it seems to me it would be a good fit. “Foxcatcher” would give SPC a latter year release with real meat on its bones, and Miller is hot, coming off of 2011’s “Moneyball,” which went out through Sony. Plus, the director has a history with Sony Classics: his 2005 debut “Capote” was distributed by the art house shingle and picked up Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. Philip Seymour Hoffman went on to win the Best Actor award for his performance as the eponymous author.
Elsewhere this season, SPC’s best bet for awards might just be Ralph Fiennes’s “The Invisible Woman,” which will be released at the end of the year. The Abi Morgan script is adapted from Claire Tomalin’s book about the latter years of Charles Dickens’s life, when he took on an 18-year-old mistress, Nelly Ternan, long since effaced from the public record. Fiennes stars as Dickens with Felicity Jones as Ternan.
There’s also Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” (a Best Actress possibility for Cate Blanchett) and Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” (easily one of the year’s best films that could figure into the acting and adapted screenplay races). But those are early-to-mid 2013 releases in danger of being forgotten by short-sighted Academy members.
Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot to work with. Pedro Almodóvar is a prestige staple who is nevertheless drawing mixed reviews for his latest, “I’m So Excited!” The frothy Sundance pick-up “Austenland” is likely a better play for box office than awards. Robert Redford’s “The Company You Keep” was a mixed bag that didn’t draw audiences and Ramin Bahrani’s “At Any Price” starring Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid fizzled on arrival.
Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past” was picked up out of Cannes, however, and that could be spun into some major categories (perhaps for festival Best Actress winner Bérénice Bejo or for Farhadi’s original screenplay, much like 2011’s “A Separation”).
Last year Sony Classics ushered Michael Haneke’s “Amour” from a Palme d’Or win at Cannes to nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. The film won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and was one of the company’s biggest awards successes since 2000’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” In recent years, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and their team have landed Best Picture nominations for films like “An Education” (2009) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011) as well as the aforementioned “Capote,” with other notices coming for “Junebug” (2005), “The Lives of Others” (2007) and “Frozen River” (2008).
Sony, meanwhile, landed five nominations for Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” last year, including Best Picture, but hit a snag when the film was criticized by US Senators for its depiction of torture. Critics stood up for it by and large, but at the end of the day, it walked away with half an Oscar, tying with “Skyfall” for Best Sound Editing. Miller’s “Moneyball” was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill) and Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011, but like “Zero Dark Thirty,” failed to pick up a Best Director nomination and managed zero Oscar wins. The last major Oscar the studio won was Best Adapted Screenplay for 2010’s “The Social Network,” but that could certainly change this year with the promising crop of films on the horizon.
We’ll find out where “Foxcatcher” ends up in due time. More on the forthcoming Oscar season on Monday when we take stock of 2013 at the mid-way point.