We’re right on the verge of Oscar season. The movies populated with explosions and people in tight costumes punching each other are slowly disappearing from screens, being replaced by “prestige” pictures – you know, the ones that tell the stories of famous British men, to oodles of critical raves and tons of little gold men.
That doesn’t mean the the Academy can’t think a little outside the box and reward a picture from outside the September-December “Gold Zone,” though. It has happened before – most notably, in the case of Silence of the Lambs, which came out in February of 1991 and ended up sweeping all of the big five categories in March of 1992.
It’s doubtful that anything in 2015 will match Lambs’ monstrous haul, but this year has already seen a few movies that could sneak their way into the Oscar race. Here are five that might pop up on the radar when the Ceremony comes around next year.
Mad Max: Fury Road (Picture, Director, Actress)
The triumphant and long-awaited Mad Max sequel earned a great deal of well-earned raves for its virtuoso action sequences and a strong, female-empowering story at its core. George Miller’s direction is the best bet for Oscar recognition, and that might bring the movie a Best Picture nomination – it’s rare that action movies get into the category, but this is one is transcendent. It’s a strong year for Best Actress nominees, but Charlize Theron’s fierce Furiosa is easily worth one of the five slots.
Love and Mercy (Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay)
An uncommonly thoughtful and watchable musical bio-pic, this trek through the life of Brian Wilson should get recognized for Michael Alan Lerner and Oren Moverman’s excellent screenplay. Elizabeth Banks (having one heck of a year), as Wilson’s wife, and Paul Dano (playing the younger Wilson) could also be primed for their first nominations.
Ex Machina (Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay)
Alex Garland’s trippily unforgettable sci-fi thriller might be too much acquired-taste for a Picture nomination. However, Garland could easily pick up a nomination for his memorably unique screenplay, and there are a pair of great supporting performances here – Oscar Isaac, as a bro-ishly creepy CEO, and Alicia Vikander, as the seductively gripping android Ava.
Inside Out (Picture, Screenplay, Animated Feature)
It’s a shoo-in for Best Animated Feature, unless The Good Dinosaur turns transcendent, but could it get a Best Picture nomination? Up and Toy Story 3 did, and Inside Out is at their level. It’s a good bet to get an Original Screenplay nomination, at least.
The End of the Tour (Actor, Supporting Actor)
If Jonah Hill can be a two-time Oscar nominee – and Seth Rogen can be mentioned as a nominee for Steve Jobs – than why not Jason Segel? He’s excellent as the author David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour, as is his traveling companion Jesse Eisenberg (as David Lipsky); it’s not forecasted for nominations on both awards.
Any potential noms you think have a shot at the gold? Add your guesses to the comments below!