Gravity

Though critics and the academy act independently of each other, there’s a sense that one informs the other, or at least helps narrow the playing field. This week saw the release of Out of the Furnace, which was obviously intended to be in the Oscar conversation. And no matter how many screeners get sent out, with poor box office and no critical support, it’s going to be left dangling.

Both the LA Film Critics Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards were announced this weekend. The big winners were Spike Jonze‘s Her, Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity and David O. Russell‘s American Hustle as all were named best picture (LA had a tie). There was some word that Hustle, which screened last minute, may have been so fresh that it resonated stronger than it might have if it hadn’t. We shall see.

But, though Oscar tends to throw in some monkey-wrenches, the playing field is that much smaller. Bruce Dern and Chiwetel Ejiofor are definitely front and center for Actor, with Robert Redford getting support. Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine is definitely a front-runner, and so is — strangely enough — Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club. And 12 Years a Slave is definitely in the conversation, though it’s hard to say if it will take it home at this point.

Right now the biggest problem with the awards conversation is that nothing has gelled. The Wolf of Wall Street hasn’t been screened by a great many, and its box office could make or break it. There seems to be a lot of support for Her in some circles, but it’s just starting to be screened, and the people who like it, who think it’s a masterpiece, don’t line up with the Academy’s sensibilities, though you never know. American Hustle hits six screens this weekend, so it’s officially out (it will go wide shortly), and also in limited release is Saving Mr. Banks. Hollywood has shown a weakness of late for films about films (The Artist, Argo), perhaps there’s a hat trick in store as Oscar often plays it safe.

But Banks is — at least — still in the running. And we’re to the point now where there’s definitely front-runners like Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, and then the outliers, who haven’t found what their footing is yet. There are also films like Out of the Furnace and Jason Reitman‘s Labor Day, which seem to have been cast aside. Such is the award season.

What Oscar film can you not wait to see this year?