Oscar season's kicking into high gear, as a number of contenders are making their way into limited release and expanding further, while Gravity and Captain Phillips continue to do well and have received excellent reviews, solidifying their top positions so far. Here's what's out there, if you're looking for something to see this weekend:
First up, there's 12 Years a Slave, which is doing well in limited release, but expands further this weekend, and is set to go wider next weekend. Right now, this movie is still the frontrunner for every major award, and just started receiving recognition with the Gotham awards yesterday, as they were the first to bestow nominations. It's gotten the best reviews of the year (along with Gravity) and being deemed the Schindler's List of slavery movies is not something to take lightly. The only question mark is how this film will do with the public, because many are wondering whether it's too violent for audiences to handle. That didn't turn out to be a problem for Schindler's List, obviously, but I suppose the issue of slavery comes with a deep-rooted American sensitivity that may put people off the brutal subject matter. Many reviews have stated there's never been such an uncompromising, unflinching look at the subject on film before, which has made some wary of seeing it (which is really unfair, as the quality of the film isn't in question here, and it's not as if violent films haven't won or gotten attention before, but that's the way it goes, I guess).
Next, Ridley Scott's The Counselor comes out this weekend, and this has gotten a pretty dismal critical reception (36% on Rotten Tomatoes), and will likely do nothing at the box office to be deemed a failure almost immediately. With such a big name cast and the first screenplay from No Country For Old Men author Cormac McCarthy, it was expected to do much better, but most critics savaged it as a slow, mystifying, confusing thriller that doesn't know what it wants to be. So, clearly it's a non-starter as far as Oscars are concerned.
Then there's All is Lost, Robert Redford's one man show- a struggle for survival out in the ocean. This film from director J.C. Chandor received stellar reviews (100% fresh with Top Critics) and the legendary Robert Redford is guaranteed a Best Actor nomination, perhaps even a win (his only other acting nomination was for The Sting back in 1973, where he lost to Jack Lemmon). He's the only person in the movie, has practically no dialogue, and yet the film's terrific reception also gives it an outside chance at a Best Picture nomination, since there's usually 9 nominees now. Definitely look for this one, which is in limited release across the country.
And finally, Blue is the Warmest Color, the French film that won the Palme D'Or in Cannes, is coming out this weekend. This love story between two young women has garnered amazing reviews as well, along with controversy and hype regarding its sex scenes, but because of those scenes, it was of course labeled with the NC-17 rating, which usually limits the amount of theaters that will play it. Still, it's out there now, and seems to be well worth seeking out (91% fresh), as it remains in contention for Best Actress (the 19-year-old lead, Adele Exarchopoulos, is said to have given one of the best performances of the year) and Best Screenplay. This won't be France's Oscar submission for Foreign Language Film though, since it debuted in France past the deadline for that. Which is unfortunate, because all year it seems to have been the only foreign film that was receiving any attention (I have no idea what the other contenders are in that category yet).
So, if you want to keep up with the Oscar race or are just looking for something good to see this weekend, seek out 12 Years a Slave, All is Lost, and Blue is Warmest Color, as all three will end up on top ten lists as some of the best films of 2013, and go ahead and skip The Counselor.