Most Promising Films 2007

An early look at next year’s possible Oscar contenders

Sister, sister… Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson star as rival siblings in “The Other Boleyn Girl”

Exactly one year ago, we were not even done with the 2005 – 2006 Oscar race and we were already discussing the top contenders for this year’s race. We are Oscar buzzers, prognosticators and above all, fans and we can’t help to constantly look forward to the most important awards of world cinema in advance.

Last year, I had Dreamgirls and The Departed in our Early Predicted Five (read our last year’s article here) and yes; I also had Marie-Antoinette, All the King’s Men and Guerilla in our Top 5 (you can stop laughing out loud now). The point of predicting the Oscars, from where I see it, is more about having fun and sharing our passion than getting the most right answers.

Just like I pointed out at the end of last year’s article: most films to be listed below will either: be good but not “Oscar”-good, pushed to 2008 or simply, flop.

Having that said, we hope you enjoy our very early look at the 2007 – 2008 Oscar race and we thank you for making us a part of your Academy Awards experience through the whole year. Here we go…

OUR EARLY PREDICTED FIVE
(Alphabetically)

1. AMERICAN GANGSTER (Universal Pictures)

Frank “Superfly” Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, was the biggest Heroin dealer on Harlem through the 70’s and narcotics detective Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, was the man who ultimately brought Lucas down. This film, directed by Ridley Scott and written by Steven Zaillian, tells the story of how this happened.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: While Ridley Scott, Steven Zaillian, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe haven’t had much luck on their particular recent projects, American Gangster could represent a return to shape for all the talent involved. A November release date shows the studio is confident to a point on the film’s awards prospects.

2. CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (Universal Pictures)

Based on the 2003’s best selling novel by George Crile, Mike Nichols directs this drama centered on Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman who conspired with a rogue CIA operative to launch an operation to help the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the eighties. Tom Hanks takes double duties as the film’s title character and producer. Recent Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, along with the recently nominated Amy Adams co-star.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Set to be released on Christmas Day by Universal Pictures, Charlie Wilson’s War has all the elements, talent and marketing wise, to be one of 2007’s stronger contenders including a prestigious director, a proven cast, an award-winning crew and a baity subject. TV guru Aaron Sorkin might be perceived as the film’s weakest link but while the Emmy Award winner has never scored an Oscar nomination for his screenwriting efforts, he has scored Golden Globe nominations for his writing works on A Few Good Men and The American President.

3. THE KITE RUNNER (DreamWorks SKG)

The compelling story of two Afghan men: the wealthy and California-raised Amir and his childhood friend and servant Hassan during the times of the Taliban regime in the country. Screenwriter David Benioff adapts the best selling book by Afghan American author Khaled Hosseini for acclaimed director Marc Forster.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Despite being the creator of Academy Award winning films like Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, young director Marc Forster has yet to receive his first Oscar nomination and perhaps, his work on this relevant and politically charged drama will earn it to him.

Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly have to deal with their son’s sudden death in “Reservation Road”

4. RESERVATION ROAD (Focus Features)

An intense drama about the outcomes of a hit and run car accident and how it affects the lives of the families of the fugitive driver and his victim. Oscar nominated writer Terry George directs and adapts the famed novel by John Burnham Schwartz. Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino and Mark Ruffalo star.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Oscar friendly by excellence, the adaptation of the best selling novel is poised to become a prominent contender in the acting categories. Characters full with flaws, fears and regret collide after an unfortunate car accident. Joaquin Phoenix plays the leading role as the father dealing with his son’s sudden death and Mark Ruffalo plays the baity role of the remorseful killer.

5. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paramount Pictures)

The famous 1927’s novel Oil! gets its first big screen treatment on the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation There Will Be Blood. The story revolves around a Texas oil developer (Daniel Day Lewis) and his thorny relationships with the town locals and his family.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Gifted director Paul Thomas Anderson directs Daniel Day Lewis, among others, in his own adaptation of the iconic novel by Upton Sinclair where baity topics like greed, religion and business power merge.

DON’T COUNT OUT
(In order of likelihood)

6. LIONS FOR LAMBS (MGM / United Artists)

Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep star in the Robert Redford war drama focused on the lives of a group of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. This film marks the first production by Tom Cruise for MGM’s United Artists since he was named chief of the division.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Tom Cruise doesn’t rule the world yet but he, at least, rules Hollywood and his clout should be enough to give this upcoming drama a high profile release date and a lot of buzz. Having Meryl Streep and Robert Redford attached to your project can’t hurt either.

7. 3:10 TO YUMA (Lions Gate Films)

A remake of the 1957’s western classic by Walk the Line’s director James Mangold and starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Peter Fonda.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: It’s been a while since a western has caused any impact on the Awards Season and things are not likely to change anytime soon. Nevertheless, this adaptation could break out of the mold and earn some attention thanks to its pedigree cast and crew.

8. EASTERN PROMISES (Focus Features)

Oscar nominated screenwriter Steven Knight is behind David Cronenberg’s latest project about crime and prostitution in London. Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel star.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Crime, sex and violence have been successfully explored by acclaimed director David Cronenberg on his past projects and after the favourable reception of last year’s A History of Violence, this project could go even further with the right push from Focus Features.

9. THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (Columbia Pictures)

The divisive but best selling historical novel about the rivalry between the aristocrat sisters Anne and Mary Boleyn gets its first film treatment by screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen) and director Justin Chadwick. The film is told through the eyes of Mary, played by Scarlett Johansson, who always lived overshadowed by her famous sister Anne, played by Oscar nominee Natalie Portman.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Recent female-centric period pieces dealing with topics such as rivalry, high-class life style and jealously like Memoirs of a Geisha and Marie Antoinette have proven there’s a small gap between making a good, accurate film or a catty and superficial one. Screenwriter Peter Morgan is poised to receive an Oscar nod this year for his acclaimed work on The Queen and maybe, his upcoming look at the 16th century aristocracy will be closer to that project than to the Sofia Coppola’s one. Fans will go crazy but with the novel itself being harshly criticized, there’s a lot to prove for this project (which is better than starting with unreachable expectations).

Cate Blanchett reprises her star-making role as Queen Elizabeth I in “The Golden Age”

10. THE GOLDEN AGE (Universal Pictures)

A sequel to the critically acclaimed Elizabeth, Cate Blanchett reprises her role as Queen Elizabeth I and the film focuses on her relationship with another noble Sir. Walter Raleigh, played by Clive Owen; during the Golden Years of her reign. Geoffrey Rush also reprises his role as Walsingham. Director Shekhar Kapur and writer Michael Hirsch return for the sequel too.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: With most of the key talent involved on Elizabeth back for the sequel, most of the film’s success will rely on Hirsch’s screenplay and Blanchett’s performance as The Virgin Queen.

ALSO IN COMPETITION

11. MICHAEL CLAYTON (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The worst four days in the career of NY top attorney Michael Clayton are told in this story written and directed by Tony Gilroy and starring George Clooney as the lead character along with Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack.

Oscar Potential: Acting Categories

We think: More likely to gain acclaim for its performances than for itself, the film could mark the return of former nominees (and winners) to the Oscar race.

12. SILK (New Line Cinema / Picturehouse)

A passionate love story about a French silkworm smuggler, played by Michael Pitt, who falls in love for a Japanese concubine during a trade trip and begins to have an affair with her, leaving his wife; Keira Knightley, alone. Canadian director Francois Girard adapts and directs, Alfred Molina co-stars.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Having New Line Cinema as distributor is never a good sign for a project with Oscar hopes but the acclaimed source material, the confident fall release date and the solid cast will definitely place the film in the spotlight.

13. SWEENEY TODD (DreamWorks SKG)

Tim Burton directs the long awaited Broadway adaptation with Johnny Depp playing the infamous title character. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen co-star.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: The key to a good Broadway adaptation is a good screenwriter adapting it for the big screen. Concerning the upcoming Tim Burton project, everything seems to be in good hands with Oscar nominated writer John Logan in charge. From that point, the overall success of these genre films depends on the their tone.

14. I’M NOT THERE (N/A)

An unconventional biopic of legendary musician Bob Dylan by Oscar nominee Todd Haynes and starring, among others: Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Julianne Moore as Dylan, through different stages of his life and career.

Oscar Potential: Acting & Writing

We think: Atypical AMPAS to the least, the film is poised to debut at Cannes next May and it will probably attract lots of attention given its strong cast and unusual concept.

15. RENDITION (New Line Cinema)

A CIA analyst in Cairo witnesses an unorthodox interrogation of a foreigner by the Egyptian secret police in director Gavin Hood’s first Hollywood project. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep and Alan Arkin.

Oscar Potential: Acting & Writing

We think: After winning the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last March for Tsotsi, Gavin Hood’s first directorial effort in Hollywood has been blessed with a suggestive release date and a cast of Oscar winners and nominees. It’s hard to tell if the film will be Oscar friendly material though.

NEVER SAY NEVER…

16. MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (The Weinstein Company)

World renowned filmmaker Wong Kar Wai directs his first English language project about a young woman’s road trip across the country to resolve her questions about love and the meaning of life. Singer Norah Jones, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, David Strathairn and Natalie Portman star.

Oscar Potential: Acting & Directing

We think: Wong Kar Wai has earned acclaim for his work on the Hong Kong film industry and this could be the director’s chance to introduce his work to a wider audience with this Hollywood project.

Oscar nominee Javier Bardem stars in “Love in the Time of Cholera”

17. LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (New Line Cinema)

Oscar winner Ronald Harwood adapts the world famous novel by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez about a lifelong love triangle in the late 19th century’s South America. The TV film stars Javier Bardem, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Benjamin Bratt and John Leguizamo.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Films based on award-winning print sources can only go wrong if they are ruined during the adaptation process. Screenwriter Ronald Harwood won the Oscar for his work on The Pianist and he is now in charge of Mike Newell’s ambitious film so it seems the project is in good hands.

Controversy Ahead: Lindsay Lohan and Jared Leto on the set of “Chapter 27”

18. CHAPTER 27 (N/A)

Jared Leto plays Mark David Chapman, the much despised man who is responsible for John Lennon’s assassination on the debut of writer and director Jarrett Schaeffer. Lindsay Lohan co-stars.

Oscar Potential: Acting Categories

We think: The very controversial Chapter 27 is about to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and will probably acquire distribution soon after. Expect Jared Leto to become an early contender if his performance is well received at the festival (and also expect a lot of loathe to the film and its depiction of Chapman’s motivations).

19. AN AMERICAN CRIME (First Look Studios)

The kidnap, torture and murder of Sylvia Likens (Ellen Page) in the 60’s through the eyes of her murderess Gertrude Baniszewski (Catherine Keener).

Oscar Potential: Acting Categories

We think: What’s more Oscar friendly than a female killer? A female serial killer… But in this case, a solid performance by the well respected Kenner as the housewife turned murderess Baniszewski could earn the actress her third Oscar nomination.

20. EVENING (Focus Features)

Vanessa Redgrave is Ann Grant, a 65-year old woman about to die of cancer who remembers her life through hallucinations induced by morphine. Awake, she has to deal with her grown-up children and asleep, she remembers the best and worst moments of her life. Patrick Wilson, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Glenn Close and Meryl Streep co-star.

Oscar Potential: Acting Categories

We think: Superb is the best way to describe Evening’s cast but its summer release date is dooming its Oscar hopes way in advance.

YOU NEVER KNOW…

21. IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (Warner Bros. Pictures)

A career office played by Tommy Lee Jones investigates the disappearance of his son, an exemplary soldier who mysteriously disserted the forces after his return from Iraq. Paul Haggis writes and directs the war drama also starring Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and James Franco.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: Paul Haggis is one of the most popular names within the Academy these days thanks to his work on the Oscar winning films Million Dollar Baby and Crash. Will he repeat his success with this upcoming project or will Elah go the same route as his most recent project, the loudly buzzed but poorly received Flags of our Fathers?

22. THE BUCKET LIST (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Two terminally ill men played by Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they die in the latest film by director Rob Reiner.

Oscar Potential: Acting Categories

We think: Arguably the best pairing of actors for any 2007 release, Nicholson and Freeman seem likely to gain buzz if the film gets a decent release date… and positive reviews.

Risky Business? Nicole Kidman stars in the big budget epic “The Golden Compass”

23. HIS DARK MATERIALS: THE GOLDEN COMPASS (New Line Cinema)

The first part of Philip Pullman’s acclaimed trilogy His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass is directed by Chris Weitz and stars Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Eva Green. It will be New Line Cinema’s biggest budget project since The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Oscar Potential: All Categories

We think: After The Lord of the Rings films, the bar for fantasy epics has been set way too high and while this adaptation is set to be another feast for the eyes, it’s uncertain if it can reach the same level of its predecessor films.

24. MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (Paramount Classics)

Oscar nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach directs Nicole Kidman on this dramedy about a mother who takes her son out to visit family for a weekend and ends up discovering more about her and her life choices. Jack Black, Jennifer Jason Leigh and John Turturro co-star.

Oscar Potential: Acting & Writing

We think: Baumbach got acclaim and multiple awards for his treatment of complex family relations in the successful The Squid and the Whale so there’s no surprise that his follow-up project is packed with very strong buzz. When more details about the project are revealed, we’ll know what this film’s main goals are.

“Becoming Jane” stars Anne Hathaway as the famous novelist Jane Austen

25. BECOMING JANE (Columbia Pictures)

The stormy biopic of English novelist Jane Austen, played by Anne Hathaway, author of classic books as Pride & Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Maggie Smith and Julie Walters costar.

Oscar Potential: Acting, Artistic & Technical Categories

We think: Fresh from her commercial success with The Devil Wears Prada and her introduction to more mature films with Brokeback Mountain, Anne Hathaway is already collecting buzz for her portrayal of the iconic Austen but she’ll have to face the big challenge to convince critics she can pull a British accent.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES

26. Youth Without Youth
27. Atonement
28. Georgia Rule
29. Savage Grace
30. The Ice At The Bottom Of The World
31. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
32. The Brave One
33. The Bourne Ultimatum
34. Keep Coming Back
35. Marriage
36. Spider-Man 3
37. Shrek The Third
38. Ratatouille
39. Awake
40. Bronte
41. Logan’s Run
42. Emma’s War
43. The Crusaders
44. Vantage Point
45. Manolete
46. A Mighty Heart
47. Catch & Release
48. Hairspray
49. Spinning Into Butter
50. Untitled Alan Ball Project (Based on the novel Towelhead)

Despite good buzz, “Zodiac” has been pushed back to March

DOOMED BY A RELEASE DATE

The following films could be good or not, but the studios have decided to release them on dumpy months or they remain canned:

51. The Wind That Shakes The Barley
52. Zodiac
53. Goya’s Ghosts
54. Next
55. Across the Universe
56. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
57. Lonely Hearts
58. Reign Over Me
59. Premonition
60. Quiet Type

SHOCKING OMISSIONS?

Are we missing anything? Let us know what and why and we’ll add it! Email Us!

61. Cassandra’s Dream
62. Beowulf
62. In Bloom
63. The TV Set
64. Dark Matter
65. Rescue Dawn
66. Bug

20 ACTORS TO KEEP AN EYE ON…

From serial killers to historical figures, there are some roles that seem made directly to please the Academy. Here are some of the most Oscar friendly characters to be featured on 2007’s cinema:

The Ladies (In no particular order)

1. Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl
2. Cate Blanchett in The Golden Age
3. Sarah Jessica Parker in Spinning Into Butter
4. Reese Witherspoon in Rendition
5. Catherine Keener in An American Crime
6. Naomi Watts in Eastern Promises
7. Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane
8. Salma Hayek in Lonely Hearts
9. Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights
10. Vanessa Redgrave in Evening

The Gentlemen (in no particular order)

1. Denzel Washington in American Gangster
2. Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War
3. Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
4. George Clooney in Michael Clayton
5. Jake Gyllenhaal in Rendition (And Zodiac)
6. Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd
7. Joaquin Phoenix in Reservation Road
8. Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
9. Mark Ruffalo in Reservation Road
10. Jared Leto in Chapter 27

AND CONSIDER THIS…

While we can predict what films will be good judging them by the talent attached to them, we can’t really predict what will be of the Academy’s taste. Most of the films we have featured on this special are likely to disappoint or disappear from the release schedule but there’s probably at least one here that will eventually win an Oscar.

Thank you for sharing Awards Season 2006 with us, the best is yet to come…

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