Keep in mind, that since most of these movies don’t even have trailers yet, the information on them is still fairly vague and it’s not totally clear (in all cases) which rolls will be “leading” and which rolls will be “supporting” so a lot of my predictions are guesstimations from the little bit of research I’ve done. I am totally aware that this might be a bit premature, but my inner movie nerd started researching films coming out in 2015 (so I can get a jump-start on viewing all the Oscar contenders) and this is what came of it… P.S. I fully intend to update this regularly throughout the year as more information is announced and more films are released 😉
BEST PICTURE: “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl”: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directs this story about High School introvert Greg Gaines (played by Thomas Mann) who spends his time making different versions of classic movies with his [only] friend, Earl (played by RJ Cyler). At the urging of his mother, Greg befriends a girl named Rachel (played by Olivia Cooke) who has been diagnosed with leukemia. “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl” received both the grand jury prize and the audience award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. (Release Date: July 1st)
“St. James Place”: From director, Steven Spielberg – a film based on the true story of American lawyer, James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), who is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot detained in the Soviet Union after he was accused of espionage when his plane was shot down over Russia in 1960. Co-starring Alan Alda, Amy Ryan and Eve Hewson. (Release Date: Oct. 16th)
“The Hateful Eight”: Quentin Tarantino directs this post-Civil War Western set in Wyoming. Traveling by stagecoach, bounty hunter John Ruth (played by Kurt Russell) and his fugitive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are trying to stay ahead of a blizzard when they encounter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) a former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) a southern renegade claiming to be the new town Sheriff. The four seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they aren’t greeted by Minnie, but by four more strangers: Bob (Demian Bichir) who is taking care of Minnie’s in her absence, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) the hangman of Red Rock, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) the cow-puncher, and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside, the eight travelers begin a plot of betrayal and deception that just might end their journey and their lives. (Release Date: Nov. 13th) NOTE: If “The Hateful Eight” turns out to be a contender, SOMEONE will likely be nominated as a best actor/actress (either lead or supporting) when it is made clear who the stand-outs are.
“The Revenant”: This year’s Oscar winning filmmaker, Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman”) teams up with Oscar winning cinematographer, Emmanuel Lebezki (“Gravity”) to tell true story of Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo Dicaprio), an 1800s frontiersman and fur trapper who sets out into the wilderness with his three companions (played by Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson). While on the hunt, Glass is mauled by a bear, so his companions rob him and leave him for dead. He somehow survives the 200+ mile trek back to civilization to exact revenge on the men that abandoned him in the wilderness. (Limited Release: Dec. 25th)
“Suffragette”: Written by Abi Morgan (“The Iron Lady”) and directed by Sarah Gavron, “Suffragette” centers on the members of the British Women’s Suffrage Movement of the late 19th Century and everything they risked to confront a corrupt government that denied their input and demands for representation. The story revolves around Maud (Carey Mulligan)—“The story of her fight for dignity is as gripping and visceral as any thriller, it is also heart-breaking and inspirational.” Meryl Streep co-stars as Emmeline Pankhurst, who is regarded as the leader of the British suffragette movement and has come to be seen as one of the most influential people of the 20th century. The supporting cast includes seasoned professionals as well as some talented “new-comers”: Helena Bonham-Carter, Romola Garai, Anne-Marie Duff, Geoff Bell, Natalie Press, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson. (UK Release Date: Sept. 11th)
“Carol”: A British-American romantic drama based on the novel, The Price of Salt (a.k.a. Carol) by Patricia Highsmith— directed by Todd Haynes, and screenplay written by Phyllis Nagy. In 1950s New York, Therese Belivet (played by Rooney Mara), a young woman working in a department store who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman named Carol Aird (played by Cate Blanchett) who longs to leave her loveless marriage but fears losing her daughter in the process. (Rumored to release at Cannes in May)
“The Sea of Trees”: Directed by Gus Van Zant—The film follows Arthur Brennan (played by Matthew McConaughey) an American man who has found the perfect place to kill himself in The Aokigahara Forest (aka “The Sea of Trees”). Located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan— also called “The Suicide Forest” due to the high number of suicides committed there every year. In the forest Arthur encounters Takumi Nakamura (played by Ken Watanabe), a Japanese man who has also come to the forest to kill himself. The two men begin a journey of self-reflection and survival, which affirms Arthur’s will to live and return to his wife (played by Naomi Watts). (Filming Completed with no official release date)
“Trumbo”: Directed by Jay Roach—this biopic tells the story of Hollywood
screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), when he’s blacklisted in the 1940s for being a Communist and struggles against gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper (played by Helen Mirren) in a war over words and freedom that entangled virtually everyone in Hollywood during the “Red Scare”. Other stars include: Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K., and John Goodman. (In Post Production with no official release date.)
“Black Mass”: Scott Cooper directs the biopic of Whitey Bulger (played by Johnny Depp), the brother of state senator, Bill Bulger (played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Whitey is the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, but when other mob families began invading his turf he became an FBI informant to agent John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton) in exchange for immunity. Supporting cast includes: Dakota Johnson, Adam Scott, Sienna Miller, Jesse Plemons, Julianne Nicholson, and Rory Cochran. (Release Date: Sept. 18th) NOTE: Johnny Depp movies make me nervous… BUT with a director like Scott Cooper who is equipped to take full advantage of a talent like Depp (and his supporting cast) and who focuses on making his films the best they can be (think 2009s “Crazy Heart”) the stars just might align and make this movie the contender it definitely has the potential to be.
“Joy”: Director David O. Russell teams up [again] with leading lady, Jennifer Lawrence to tell the story of Joy Mangano—the single-mother of three who became a multimillionare with her invention of the “Miracle Mop”. Throw in Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro as co-stars and a screenplay by Annie Mumolo (“Bridesmaids”) and “Joy” sounds like it has the potential to be thoroughly entertaining even if it doesn’t end up in Oscar contention… but if the past two Russell/Lawrence pair-ups are any prediction, it just might stand a chance. (Release Date: Dec. 25th)
“Steve Jobs”: Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin pair up to pay tribute to one of the greatest minds of our time, Steve Jobs (played by Michael Fassbender). Though based on the biography by Walter Isaacson, what part of his life the film will focus on remains a mystery… imdb blurb reads, “His passion and ingenuity have been the driving force behind the digital age. However his drive to revolutionize technology was sacrificial. Ultimately it affected his family life and possibly his health. In this revealing film we explore the trials and triumphs of a modern day genius, Steven Paul Jobs.” Seth Rogan will play Steve Wozniak (hoping this roll does for Rogen what “The Wolf of Wall Street” did for Jonah Hill) and Kate Winslet will play Joanna Hoffman (one of the original members of Macintosh and NeXT). (Release Date: Oct. 9th)
ACTRESS—in a leading roll:
- Rooney Mara – “Carol”
- Jennifer Lawrence – “Joy”
- Ricki & The Flash – “Meryl Streep”
- Saoirse Ronan – “Brooklyn”
- Carey Mulligan – “Suffragette”
ALTERNATES: Cate Blanchett – “Carol”; Meryl Streep – “Suffragette”; Helen Mirren – “The Woman in Gold”; Alicia Vikander – “Tulip Fever”; Alicia Vikander – “The Light Between Oceans”; Jennifer Jason Leigh – “The Hateful Eight”; Julianne Moore – “Freeheld”; Nicole Kidman – “Queen of the Desert”; Jessica Chastain – “The Zookeeper’s Wife”; Maggie Smith – “The Lady in the Van”; Zoe Saldana – “Nina”
ACTRESS—in a supporting roll:
- Cate Blanchett – “Knight of Cups”
- Emma Stone – “Irrational Man”
- Olivia Cooke – “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl”
- Keira Knigtley – “Everest”
- Naomi Watts – “Sea of Trees”
ALTERNATES: Kate Winslet – “Steve Jobs”; Natalie Portman – “Knight of Cups”; Ellen Paige – “Freeheld”; Shailene Woodley – “Snowden”; Helena Bonham Carter – “Suffragette”; Rachel McAdams – “Southpaw”
ACTOR—in a leading roll:
- Leonardo Dicaprio – “Revenant”
- Tom Hanks – “St. James Place”
- Michael Fassbender – “Steve Jobs”
- Bryan Cranston – “Trumbo”
- Christian Bale – “Knight of Cups”
ALTERNATES: Johnny Depp – “Black Mass”; Tom Hardy – “Legend”; Matthew McConaughey – “The Sea of Trees”; Jake Gyllenhaal – “Southpaw”; Thomas Mann – “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl”; High Rise – “Tom Hiddleston”; Colin Firth – “Genius”; Joseph Gordon-Levitt – “Snowden”; Joseph Gordon-Levitt – “The Walk”; Don Cheadle – “Miles Ahead”; Andrew Garfield – “Silence”; Liam Neeson – “Silence”
ACTOR—in a supporting roll:
- James Franco – “Queen of the Desert”
- Christoph Waltz – “Tulip Fever”
- Tom Hardy – “Revenant”
- Ken Watanabe – “Sea of Trees”
- Ben Kingsley – “The Walk”
ALTERNATES: Seth Rogen – “Steve Jobs”; Bradley Cooper – “Joy”; Robert DeNiro – “Joy”; Ben Foster – “Icon”
Other films that show promise based on plot, acting talent, and/or quality of director/ writer/ cinematographer:
January: (26th) “Brooklyn”: In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey (played by Saoirse Ronan) has to choose between two men (played by Domhnall Gleeson and Michael Zegen) and two countries.
April: (3rd) “Woman in Gold”: Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee (played by Helen Mirren), takes on the government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family. Ryan Reynolds co-stars.
July: (24th) “Irrational Man”: Woody Allen; On a small town college campus, a philosophy professor (played by Joaquin Phoenix) in existential crisis gives his life new purpose when he enters into a relationship with his student (played by Emma Stone).
(31st) “Southpaw”: Director Antoice Fuqua; Boxer Billy Hope (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him. Rachel McAdams plays wife, Maureen Hope.
August: “Icon”: Irish sports journalist, Bill Stapleton (played by Lee Pace) becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong’s performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. With this conviction, he starts hunting for evidence that will expose Armstrong. Ben Foster plays Lance Armstrong.
September: (18th) “Everest”: edited and directed by Baltasar Kormákur; A story based on the real events of 1996 Mount Everest disaster which led to the deaths of several climbers. Starring Jason Clarke as Rob Hall and Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fisher (the expedition leaders) with a supporting cast consisting of Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Clive Standen, and Keira Knightley as Rob Hall’s pregnant wife.
October: (2nd) “The Walk”: Robert Zemeckis directs the story of Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the French high-wire artist who attempts to cross the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.
November: (13th) “The Lady in the Van”: A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman (played by Maggie Smith) living in her car that’s parked in his driveway.
(25th) “The Martian”: Directed by Ridley Scott; During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Also starring: Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
December: (11th) “Knight of Cups”: Terrence Malick; A screenwriter (played by Christian Bale) living in LA tries to make sense of the strange events occurring around him. Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman co-star
(25th) “Snowden”: Oliver Stone directs; CIA employee Edward Snowden leaks thousands of classified documents to the press.
2015 (No Release Date as of yet):
“Freeheld”: New Jersey car mechanic Stacie Andree (played by Ellen Page) and her police detective girlfriend Laurel Hester (played by Julianne Moore) both battle to secure Hester’s pension benefits after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. NOTE: Not sure if there’s room for more than one “lesbian-themed” movie on the Oscars list (unfortunately), and the Cate Blanchett/ Rooney Mara pairing might hold a bit more promise – only time will tell though. I’ve wanted Ellen Page to win an Oscar since she was nominated for “Juno” and I would LOVE to see that happen this year.
“The Light Between Oceans”: A lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Rachel Weisz) living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat. Alicia Vikander also stars.
“Macbeth”: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in this film based on the play by Shakespeare.
“High-Rise”: Based on the 1975 J.G. Ballard novel of the same name; Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, and Elisabeth Moss
“Genius”: A chronicle of Max Perkins’s (played by Colin Firth) time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce), and others… Aline Bernstein played by Nicole Kidman.
“Demolition”: An investment banker (played by Jake Gylenhaal) struggling to understand his emotional disconnect after the tragic death of his wife begins to tear apart his life in a effort to see where he went wrong, is ultimately rescued by a woman (Naomi Watts) he meets in a chance encounter.
“Queen of the Desert”: Written and directed by Werner Herzog; A chronicle of Gertrude Bell’s life (played by Nicole Kidman), a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the twentieth century. Also starring: James Franco, Robert Pattinson, and Damian Lewis.
“The Zookeeper’s Wife”: The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan and Antonina (played by Jessica Chastain) Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the Nazi invasion.
“Legend”: Identical twin gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray (Tom Hardy plays both twins) terrorize London during the 1950s and 1960s. Taron Egerton and Emily Browning also star.
“Ricki & The Flash”: Ricki (played by Meryl Streep), a guitar player returns home to make amends with her family.
“Nina”: The story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone (played by Zoe Saldana) including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. David Oyelowo also stars.
“The End of the Tour”: Magazine reporter, David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) recounts his travels and conversations with author David Foster Wallace (played by Jason Segel) during a promotional book tour.
IF they make the 2015 release date:
“Silence”: Martin Scorsese directs the screenplay adapted from the 1980 novel of the same name written by Shusaku Endo. The film follows two 17th Century Jesuit priests (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor, Father Ferreira (played by Liam Neeson) who has been missing for 10 years and may have renounced his faith under torture during the severe persecution of Christian missionaries and converts. NOTE: Originally had this as a front-runner for 2015, but it looks like it’s most likely slated for 2016.
“Miles Ahead”: Don Cheadle directs and stars in this exploration of the life and music of Miles Davis. Ewan McGregor co-stars
“The Big Short”: Based on the non-fiction book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis about the build-up of the housing and credit bubble during the 2000s. Actors attached: Brad Pitt (also a producer), Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carrell.
“A Tale of Love and Darkness”: A drama based on the memoir of Amos Oz, a writer, journalist, and advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Written and directed by Natalie Portman who will also play Fania Oz.
“The Secret Scripture”: Based on the 2008 novel by Sebastian Barry; A 100-yr old woman named Roseanne McNulty who has spent 50+ years of her life in a mental institution writes her autobiography. Rooney Mara plays young Roseanne while Vanessa Redgrave plays old Roseanne. Eric Bana and Theo James co-star.
“Tulip Fever”: Set in early 17th-century Holland, during the period of the Tulip mania, an artist (played by Dane DeHaan) falls for a married young woman (Alicia Vikander) while he’s commissioned to paint her portrait by her husband (Christoph Waltz). The two invest in the risky tulip market in hopes to build a future together.
“The Untitled Terrence Malick Project”: Two intersecting love triangles. Obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas. Starring Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, & Cate Blanchett.
(Will probably release in 2016) “The Danish Girl”: Inspired by the true story of Danish artists Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), this tender portrait of a marriage asks: What do you do when someone you love wants to change? It starts with a question, a simple favor asked of a husband by his wife on an afternoon chilled by the Baltic wind while both are painting in their studio. Her portrait model has canceled, and would he mind slipping into a pair of women’s shoes and stockings for a few moments so she can finish the painting on time. “Of course,” he answers. “Anything at all.” With that, one of the most passionate and unusual love stories of the twentieth century begins. Amber Heard plays Oola.