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Boyhood led the New York Film Critics awards with Best Picture, Director and Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress. The NYFCC may not be the biggest predictor of the Oscars, but it helps to solidify Boyhood as a major contender.

Best Picture: Boyhood
Best Director: Richard Linklater
Best First Film: Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard (for The Immigrant and Two Days, One Night)
Best Actor: Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Best Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Cinematography: Darius Khondji (The Immigrant)
Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie
Best Foreign Language Film: Ida
Best Nonfiction Film: Citizenfour
Special Award: Adrienne Mancia

Because he needs to host every awards show, Neil Patrick Harris is your host for the 2015 Oscars telecast.

The Telluride Film festival wrapped up on Monday. Telluride is known to be more relaxed than most of the festivals. It has had a good track record for debuting the years Best Picture winner.

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BIRDMAN-The most Oscar buzz to come from Telluride is BIRDMAN. It is a safe bet to say that Michael Keaton will earn his first Oscar nomination for his performance as a faded film star best-known for playing a superhero, who hopes to stage a comeback on Broadway.  Fox Searchlight is going full on Oscar campaign. It played in Venice, it will skip Toronto, but will close out the New York Film Festival.  If you buy into the early hype, BIRDMAN could go on nominations in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) and Best Editing.
BIRDMAN opens October 17th.

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WILD-Movies about solo survival-in-the-wilderness, or space, may be getting stale (GRAVITY, 127 HOURS, ALL IS LOST). The reviews for WILD were mixed, but most agreed that Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern could be Best Actress contenders.
WILD opens December 5th.

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THE IMITATION GAME-Struck some a Best Picture contender. Benedict Cumberbatch‘s performance as code-breaker Alan Turing will definitely land a Best Actor nomination.
THE IMITATION GAME opens November 21st

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ROSEWATER- Written and directed by John Stewart is about A journalist is detained in Iran for more than 100 days and brutally interrogated in prison. Early reviews were mostly positive, but as Open Road also plays ROSEWATER in Toronto film John Stewart may end up adding an Oscar to his collection of 20 Emmys.
ROSEWATER opens November 7th

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FOXCATCHER-May be too dark for the academy, but great reviews coming out of Telluride. Director Bennet Miller won the Best Director prize at Cannes, and is already a strong Oscar contender. Sony Pictures Classic is making sure that FOXCATCHER is seen in Toronto, The New York Film Festival and London Film Festival. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are all being positioned for acting nominations.
FOXCATCHER opens November 14th. 

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THE HOMESMAN- A western directed by Tommy Lee Jones has mixed reviews (RottenTomatoes 71%), but Hilary Swank is getting some attention for her portrayal of a woman who helps escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa. Harvey Weinstein promised Swank a Best Actress Oscar for AMELIA in 2009.  She might have better luck this year.
THE HOMESMAN Opens November 7th.

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We are a little more than 5 months and 3 weeks until Oscar night. For months now “Oscarologists” have posted their predictions which at this point are a complete guess. Last year at this time most were predicting AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY for Best Picture.  Julia Roberts ended up being the one and only nomination from Osage County.

Right now UNBROKEN, GONE GIRL and BOYHOOD are the predicted front-runners. With BOYHOOD as being the only one that has been seen. Predicting any Oscar winner before the film has been viewed by anyone is risky. Right after the first showings of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY last year the internet was abuzz with bad reviews. Proclaiming a movie Best Picture this early in the season is usually the kiss of death. The expectations of both UNBROKEN and GONE GIRL are so high that they will have challenges living up to the hype.

Angelina Joelies UNBROKEN is A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II. It has everything that an Oscar movie needs;  a true story, a big name director and WWII.  The academy loves WWII movies. Plus Louis Zamperini passed away this year, adding to the back story. We already know that Fox is planning a full on Oscar campaign for UNBROKEN.  Add that with the possibility of Jolie up against husband Brad Pitt for FURY, the Academy may orgasm! All of this is why many are predicting UNBROKEN as your 2014 Best Picture winner. Everyone calm down because all of this hype is exactly why UNBROKEN will not win Best Picture.

Regardless of which actors and actresses win on Sunday night, everyone has their own personal favorites. Here are some of mine:

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave)

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave)

Leonardo Dicaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight) **spoiler***

Forest Whitaker (The Butler)

Sarah Paulson (12 Years A Slave)

Bruce Dern (Nebraska)

2014 Oscar Logo

 BEST PICTURE
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

With only a few days left before the Oscars, we are down to a 3 way race for Best Picture. GRAVITY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and AMERICAN HUSTLE. The majority of Oscar pundits are predicting 12 YEARS A SLAVE for Picture and Alfonso Cuaron (GRAVITY) for Best Director. Picture and Director splits are rare, but they do happen. If there was any year for a split to happen, it would be this one. AMERICAN HUSTLE could be the upset. Remember 51% of Oscar voters have to put it at number 1.  If there is not a majority then they go to the film with the most number 2 votes that has the majority. It is possible that 12 YEARS and GRAVITY will be numbers 1 and 2, but not have the majority. That would then make their third choice, AMERICAN HUSTLE your Best Picture of 2014. Most agree that AMERICAN HUSTLE is the weakest movie of all the 9 nominees, but we know that Actors loved it and they make up the majority of voters. (ugh!).

With all of that said, I am still going with GRAVITY for Best Picture and Cuaron for Director. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the better movie and The Academy would be breaking down the berriers that black film makers have been up against for the last 86 years. They actually can’t win in this situation. If they don’t choose 12 YEARS as the best of the year, they run the risk of looking racist. If they do vote it Best Picture it will be perceived as a “white guilt” vote. This makes GRAVITY the safe movie that The Academy loves to reward.

BEST DIRECTOR
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity”
Alexander Payne, Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Cuaron has won the most awards leading up to Oscar night including the DGA. His groundbreaking work on GRAVITY won’t be ignored.

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey has also won most of the precursor awards, but some say Bruce Dern is long overdue. I still think that McConaughey is a lock.

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Blanchett has been the front-runner all year. The recent controversy with Woody Allen could keep her from winning.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Her
Nebraska
Dallas Buyers Club

HER has won every screenplay award that it has been nominated for this year. I expect it to continue, but AMERICAN HUSTLE still lurks.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

12 YEARS A SLAVE will take home some Oscars on Sunday night. I dont think that it will be completely shut-out.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
June Squibb, Nebraska
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine

Nyong’o won the SAG, Jennifer Lawrence won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA. But for the love of god Lawrence has enough.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

BEST ANIMATED FILM
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

GRAVITY was made to win cinematography.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

AMERICAN HUSTLE will win a few. Costume could be one of those.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
CaveDigger
Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack

BEST FILM EDITING
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club J
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Williams, The Book Thief
Steven Price, Gravity
William Butler and Owen Pallett, Her
Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone
“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years a Slave

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Feral
Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Possessions
Room on the Broom

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) Esteban Crespo
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)
Helium
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
The Voorman Problem

All of the Live Action Short nominees can now be seen on iTunes and VOD.

BEST SOUND EDITING
All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

BEST SOUND MIXING
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

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You can look at back story of almost every movie made and wonder how it ever get’s done. So many great movies are put on the back burner until someone takes a chance. The first and hardest part, getting financed. Investing in a movie is a HUGE risk. All you can hope for is to at least get your original investment back, but most of the time that doesn’t happen. If a film is lucky enough to get financing, chances are it will fail. The story below tells of the obstacles this years Oscar nominated films faced. It’s amazing that any movie gets made.

NEW YORK (AP) — This year’s Academy Awards nominees reflect a Hollywood truism: The margin between the dust bin and the Oscar red carpet is often razor thin.

The development process of any film can be lengthy and arduous, full of challenges in obtaining financing or a studio executive’s stamp of approval. The biggest obstacle on the road to the Academy Awards is, for many films, simply getting a green light.

That’s especially true nowadays, when studios have pulled back on their output and turned their focus almost exclusively to blockbusters. It makes for an annual Oscar irony: When Hollywood gathers to celebrate itself at the Academy Awards, it fetes not its standard business, but its oddities, its rarities, its freaks that somehow managed to squeeze through the cracks.

“The Wolf of Wall Street,” for example, might seem like a no-brainer: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, loads of sex and drugs. But even “The Wolf,” nominated for five Oscars including best picture, came very close to never getting made. After developing the film, Warner Bros. dropped it in 2008. Scorsese would later lament having “wasted about five months of my life” waiting for the Warner Bros.’ OK that never came.

It wasn’t until years later (and after other directors were considered) that the project came together, with independent film company Red Granite Pictures financing the film’s $100 million budget, and Paramount Pictures distributing.

“It’s actually kind of a miracle that this movie happened, especially the fact that we were allowed to keep the tone that we wanted all the way to the end,” says DiCaprio. “When was the last time you saw a film like this happen? I don’t know. It doesn’t fit into any specific category or box. It’s an epic. It’s a giant Hollywood epic. It’s almost like a film you’d have to make 30 or 40 years ago when directors had free rein.”

The bet paid off not only in accolades, but at the box office. “The Wolf of Wall Street” has made more than $335 million worldwide.

The case of “Dallas Buyers Club” (six nominations, including best picture) is even more remarkable. A film that’s now counted among the nine best of the year by the Academy took nearly two decades to get made. Co-producer and co-screenwriter Craig Borten first sold the script in 1996 after meeting and interviewing Ron Woodroof, a Texan who combated AIDS with drugs smuggled from other countries.

View galleryThis image released by Focus Features shows Jared Leto …
This image released by Focus Features shows Jared Leto as Rayon in a scene from “Dallas Buyers …
At one time, Woody Harrelson was attached to star with Dennis Hopper directing. Later, after the script was sold to Universal Pictures, Brad Pitt was lined up to play Woodroof, with Marc Forster directing. Another iteration brought in Ryan Gosling and director Craig Gillespie.

It was only revived with Matthew McConaughey (the best actor front-runner) and director Jean-Marc Vallee after the rights to the screenplay went dormant and Borten and co-producer Melisa Wallack were able to buy them back. And still, just weeks before filming began, investors pulled their money.

The breach was filled partly because McConaughey gave it an air of inevitability. He had already begun losing weight for the role and discussed it on TV talk shows.

Made for just $5 million and shot in 25 days, “Dallas Buyers Club” finally got made, long after AIDS dwindled from the headlines. Specialty division Focus Features acquired the film, which has made $30.5 million worldwide.

Several of the Oscar nominees have relied on a single person to change their fate. When “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen accepted the Golden Globe award for best drama, he thanked producer Brad Pitt: “Without you, this film would have never got made.”

Similar kudos have gone to the young producer Megan Ellison, whose Annapurna Pictures bankrolled two best-picture nominees: David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” (jointly with Sony Pictures) and Spike Jonze’s “Her” (released by Warner Bros.). The 28-year-old Ellison, daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison, has been roundly hailed for backing the kind of edgy, auteur-oriented films that are struggling to find financing. (In recent years, she’s produced “Zero Dark Thirty,” ”The Master” and “True Grit.”)

But such deep-pocketed, director-friendly financiers are few, and the route is exceptionally narrow for the kind of prestigious pictures honored at the Oscars.

With “Nebraska” (nominated for six Oscars, including best picture), filmmaker Alexander Payne managed a seemingly impossible feat: getting a studio (Paramount) to produce a black-and-white film. But it took lengthy negotiations, and had to survive a series of film division closings. “Nebraska” was first with Paramount Classics, then Paramount Vantage, and finally ended up with Paramount Pictures.

The domino-effect journey of “Nebraska” reflects a larger shift in the industry. Particularly over the last decade, studios have moved away from smaller and medium-sized dramas, instead concentrating resources on blockbuster and genre releases that can earn hundreds of millions globally.

Payne’s mantra is advocating for the $20-25 million adult comedy or drama. Instead of always swinging for the fences, he believes in the more reliable double.

In the current climate, the handful of ambitious, adult-oriented films that do get produced are almost exclusively appraised through the prism of Hollywood’s awards season. The strange effect is that these few films that have clawed their way onto screens are then set against each other for months of Oscar wrangling.

“The eight, 10, 12 good English-language films are all released in the last quarter of the year and expected to gird for battle for Oscars and Golden Globes and all that stuff,” says Payne. “And they’re just movies. They may be fragile movies, human movies. They just need to find an audience on their own without having comparative judgment made along with it.”