×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The 30 Hottest Oscar Contenders: Most Competitive Race Ever?

This year's 30 leading candidates to earn at least two nominations for Oscar

Hollywood’s new math doesn’t add up. The studios are making fewer films, and four-quadrant tentpoles are easily outnumbering thoughtful, personal pictures.

So why are there more terrific awards possibilities than ever?

We’re not being generous. And we’re not alone.

PHOTOS: This Year’s 30 Leading Awards Contenders

“There are more strong films than almost any year in our memory,” Michael Barker, co-topper of Sony Pictures Classics, told Variety recently. And he’s been in the business for decades. Harvey Weinstein in Zurich concurred: “This is the most competitive season I’ve ever seen.”

What’s even better, there is a wide spectrum of films. They range from two-character road-trips to jaw-dropping VFX spectacles, from historical sagas to meditations on our digital age. In recent years, the conventional wisdom has said studios are getting out of the awards business, ceding it to their specialty arms or the indies. Yet every studio has several strong contenders, and these are not vanity projects, or cynical “prestige” efforts — all have a personal stamp of artistry and creativity.

There are also a few animated and foreign-language films that merit best-pic consideration. And the documentary category is particularly strong.

This is not to say that the film scene is rosy. In 2013, plenty of high-priced studio films crashed and burned (Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” Sony’s “After Earth,” Universal’s “R.I.P.D.” and WB’s “Jack the Giant Slayer” to name a few), and franchises dominated the B.O. In June, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, no less, predicted a “massive implosion” as studios concentrate on fewer and more expensive films. UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer echoed that in September, saying Hollywood is focusing too much on digital spectacles, box office grosses and marketing but ignoring the fundamentals of storytelling.

They’re all correct. Which means we should appreciate the year’s great work even more.

There are several theories why the quality is so high:

1. It’s fate — it’s just cyclical.

2. Periods of stress bring out creativity. The studios’ mindset may be demoralizing, but it’s inspiring more renegade ideas from filmmakers.

3. The recession forced people to be more innovative in terms of funding and subject matter. Now that money is loosening up, people are taking chances on more interesting projects.

4. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences expanded the best picture category to include up to 10 films. That helps promote more films, and is encouraging audiences and the industry to get more adventurous.

5. As TV channels find success with risky, artistic projects, decision-makers on the film side are feeling bolder.

Maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever the reasons, let’s salute the bumper crop of 2013 films. It’s going to be a very interesting season.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content