Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina Focus Features

It may only be September but the 85th Annual Academy Awards, set to take place in February of 2013, are a hot topic. Since the wrap up of the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, a handful of films have emerged as Oscar frontrunners.

The Hollywood Reporter announced on Tuesday that Academy Award nominations will be revealed on Jan. 10—five days before they were initially set to be announced. The change was made so that voters would have more time to see the nominated films.

According to the magazine’s Scott Feinberg, the move forces studios releasing potential Oscar contenders at the end of the year to squeeze in screenings and promotional events prior to Jan. 3—when Oscar voting ends.

“…voters will need to pack a ton of screenings into their holiday break if they are going to factor the end-of-the-year releases into their voting decisions before returning their ballots by Jan. 3,” says Feinberg. “More than a half-dozen top contenders are set to be released around that time.”

These films include “The Hobbit,” “Zero, Dark, Thirty,” and “Atlas Shrugged.”

But for now, five films with earlier release dates are leading the of the 2013 Oscar race.


Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort wowed audiences at the Toronto Film Festival and has quickly become an awards season favorite.

The stranger-than-fiction true story is based on the autobiographical book “The Master in Disguise” by Antonio Melendez and the 2007 article “Escape From Tehran: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Iran” by Joshua Bearman.

The film begins in 1979 at a U.S embassy in Tehran where 52 Americans were taken hostage by Iranian revolutionaries. When six of the hostages managed to escape, the CIA needed a way to rescue them from the Middle East before they were hunted down by their previous captors. Headed by Melendez, the agency devised a plan to pose as a Canadian film crew preparing to shoot a science fiction movie on location in Tehran.

Oscar Potential: The last two films Affleck directed, “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” earned Oscar nominations for Amy Ryan and Jeremy Renner. The 40-year-old has been gradually putting his early 2000’s career follies behind him and voters are typically inclined to celebrate a comeback.

Several outlets, including Indie Wire and the Los Angeles Times, have predicted that Affleck will receive a Best Director nomination.

“The Master”

Paul Thomas Anderson’s controversial drama, which is definitely not (but most likely is) about Scientology, has become the must-see art film of the season. Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Lancaster Dodd, a post-World War II cult leader who recruits an alcoholic war vet (Joaquin Phoenix) to join his cause.

Oscar Potential: The film is almost guaranteed an acting prize, as it boasts Oscar caliber performances from Hoffman, Amy Adams (who plays Dodd’s resolute wife), and--most notably--Phoenix, who has earned raves for his “comeback” role. A FOX News report observed that the 37-year-old’s performance has “Oscar written all over it.”

Hoffman and Phoenix, who have wowed Academy voters in the past, earned top acting honors for “The Master” at the Venice Film Festival last month. Let’s not forget the fact that Anderson’s previous films, such as “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” and “There Will Be Blood,” have earned Oscar nominations in major categories.

“Silver Linings Playbook”

David O. Russell’s follow-up to “The Fighter” is fast becoming one of the most talked about releases of the year.

Based on Mathew Quick’s 2008 novel, the film follows a former schoolteacher (Bradley Cooper) who has just been released from a psychiatric facility. After he moves in with his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver), he befriends a depressed young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) and begins to rebuild his life. “Silver Linings Playbook” will hit theaters in November.

Oscar Potential: The film, which has earned glowing reviews, took home the coveted Blackberry People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Several films that have won the award have gone on to receive the Best Picture Oscar—including “American Beauty,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The King’s Speech.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, “Based on the buzz out of Toronto, it seems likely that the film will be a serious contender for Oscar nominations in the following categories: best picture, best director (Russell), best actor (Cooper), best actress (Lawrence), best supporting actor (De Niro), best supporting actress (Weaver), and best adapted screenplay (Russell).”

Christian Bale and Melissa Leo both took home the Oscar for their supporting roles in “The Fighter”

“Anna Karenina”

Leo Tolstoy’s epic 1877 novel has inspired countless film adaptations. Director Joe Wright’s version aims to deliver a bold new take on the Russian classic.

Anna (Keira Knightley), a well-to-do wife and mother, grows bored with her dull marriage to the frigid Alexei (Jude Law) and seeks excitement in the arms of the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Anna soon finds herself embroiled in a bitter scandal and is ravaged by the gossip and judgment of 19th century Russian society.

Oscar Potential: Wright’s last two collaborations with Knightley, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement,” both received Oscar nominations.

According to Indie Wire’s Oliver Lyttelton, the Knightley wows in the role of the doomed heroine.

“Knightley continues to go from strength to strength with each project, giving Anna a flightiness and impulsiveness that feel almost more like an Ibsen heroine than a Tolstoy one, but it's a smart take on the character, and she truly impresses when she lets the fireworks fly towards the end.”

Lyttelton has also noted that Knighley is a “strong contender” for the Best Actress Oscar, calling the performance “her best showcase in years.”


Michael Haneke's French import is a haunting, unsettling portrait of illness. An elderly couple, Anne and George, return home from a concert one night to find that someone had attempted to break into their apartment. The following day, Anne suffers from a stroke. From there, her condition grows frighteningly worse and George endures the pain and frustration of caring for her.

Oscar Potential: The film took home the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is considered a shoe in for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination.

“Amour’s” staging, magnificent cinematography, and powerful message make the film a frontrunner for awards season gold.

The Nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 3. The ceremony will air on Feb. 24.