Ready to talk 2015 Oscar candidates? We are

Los Angeles TimesMarch 6, 2014 

Angelina Jolie showed up at the Academy Awards on Sunday night on the arm of partner Brad Pitt, who ended up winning an Oscar as one of the producers of 12 Years a Slave.

Don't be surprised if you see Jolie at the Oscars again next year, this time with Pitt applauding from the audience as Jolie wins the award for directing Unbroken, a survival tale depicting the life of World War II hero and former Olympic distance runner Louis Zamperini.

Too soon? Definitely. Even so, here's a peek at some movies that are likely to vie for next year's awards.

2015 CONTENDERS

Unbroken (Dec. 25): Jolie has already been on the trail, talking to Tom Brokaw on the Today show about adapting Laura Hillenbrand's best-seller.

"I imagine that for the last 10-something years, (Zamperini has) been sitting there having a coffee in the morning and wondering who's going to make this movie," Jolie told Brokaw. "And I've been sitting in my room thinking, 'What am I supposed to be doing with my life? I wanna do something important. ... I need some help. I need some guidance. Where is it?' And it was right outside my window." She said Zamperini lives in her Los Angeles neighborhood.

Zamperini, now 97, ran in the 1936 Olympics, wowed (and met) Hitler, flew a B-24 bomber during World War II, survived 47 days in the shark-infested Pacific Ocean after a crash landing, and then endured brutal treatment as a prisoner of war.

So, yeah, just a little drama. Get to know the name Jack O'Connell. Playing Zamperini, the young British actor will be the season's newcomer to know.

Interstellar (Nov. 7): Can Christopher Nolan's latest sci-fi brain-bender find the wormhole into voters' hearts? Details about the time-travel epic are scarce, but given the filmmaker and the cast — Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon and Casey Affleck — expectations are understandably sky-high.

Gone Girl (Oct. 3): The movie based on Gillian Flynn's popular mystery-thriller has Ben Affleck playing a husband suspected of killing his wife (Rosamund Pike) after she goes missing. Director David Fincher's last three movies — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — have all been in the best-picture conversation, although this one feels a bit more like the one preceding those: Zodiac. That's OK, because, for our money, that's the best of the lot.

Foxcatcher (unscheduled 2014): Bennett Miller follows his Oscar-nominated Moneyball with an altogether different true story: the relationship between paranoid chemical fortune heir John du Pont and Olympic gold-medal wrestler Dave Schultz, who was his longtime friend.

The film was scheduled to open the American Film Institute's AFI Fest in November last year, but at the last moment, was pushed to this year. We were told at the time that perfectionistic Miller just needed a bit more time to massage the final cut. Particularly for Steve Carell, who plays Du Pont, this has the potential to be a career-changer.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (limited release March 7): We've already seen Wes Anderson's latest, a mannered and manic caper movie about an elegant hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes), and we can happily report that it can take its place among the filmmaker's best works. Now all Fox Searchlight needs to do is remind voters, come autumn, that this wonderful movie deserves some recognition. No Anderson movie has been nominated for best picture. This would be a fine place to start.

Inherent Vice (Dec. 12): While we're on the subject of filmmakers long overdue for an Oscar, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest is an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's comic detective novel. Set in Los Angeles as the '60s bleed into the '70s, the film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a pothead private eye investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend. Phoenix, so good (and so different) in Anderson's The Master and Spike Jonze's Her, might be the most interesting actor working today.

The Giver (Aug. 15): No list of best-picture contenders would be complete without at least one entry from the Weinstein Co. Based on Lois Lowry's critically acclaimed young adult novel, The Giver concerns a utopian society that has eliminated pain and strife at the expense of love and exhilaration. The cast includes Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, with Phillip Noyce directing. It's not the kind of movie the academy normally falls in line behind, but Weinstein has a track record of salesmanship.

Jersey Boys (June 20): Clint Eastwood brings the Tony Award-winning musical biography of Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons to the screen. Really. This is either going to be the feel-good populist movie of the year or the film version of Eastwood talking to an empty chair. Either way, oh, what a night.

Exodus (Dec. 12): Christian Bale is Moses. Need we say more? OK. Ridley Scott directs. More? Aaron Paul is playing Joshua. Blow that horn, yo.

The Lego Movie (currently in theaters): Because everything is awesome. With Pixar not releasing a movie this year, it easily moves to the front of the list for animated feature.

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