As a general rule, it's pretty stupid to make Oscar predictions in July. With 2014 only halfway over and the knowledge that most "Oscar-worthy" movies don't come out until the last few months, deciding which movies are the year's best is not only silly, but impossible. Still, it's hard not to wonder which films released so far will be in the running when awards season eventually rolls around. Will Boyhood take home Best Picture, or at least snag a nomination? Will The Lego Movie dominate its animated competition, even though it'll have been released a year before the Oscars even air? Only time will tell, but for now, it's just fun to guess.
Like most years, the movies that've come out from January-July 2014 have been a mixed bag, to put it lightly; just look at the films released this past weekend to get a sense of the type of quality we've been dealing with in 2014. Still, there have been a few pleasant surprises among the junk, great, important movies I expect we'll still be talking about six months from now when award season is underway. Whether they actually win any Oscars is another story — unfortunately, getting released before October seems to be the kiss of death for movies these days, no matter how good they may be. As of now, though, these, at least according to me, are the five movies that deserve some major recognition come 2015:
Why: There's never been anything like it. It's not just the 12-years-in-the-making concept, though; Boyhood is a genuinely great movie.
Possible Oscars: Best Picture; Best Director (Richard Linklater); Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette).
Best Bet: All of those. Unless something goes seriously wrong, Boyhood is the year's first shoo-in Oscar nominee. It'd be a shame if any of those nominations didn't happen, but if Arquette got snubbed, after giving the best performance of her career, it'd be a travesty.
Why: Let's be clear: in all likelihood, Obvious Child won't get any Oscar nominations. It's too indie and too controversial. Still, it deserves a shot, mostly because of Jenny Slate's natural, affecting performance.
Possible Oscars: If anything, Best Actress (Jenny Slate), but that's unlikely.
Best Bet: Again, Slate, but it's much more probable that Obvious Child's recognition will come in the form of a few Indie Choice Awards.
Why: The documentary is poignant and exuberant, a moving, compelling look at the life of the late Roger Ebert.
Possible Oscars: Best Documentary.
Best Bet: Documentary will likely be its only category, but I'd be shocked if it didn't win. Life Itself is a wonderful ode to one of the film world's most influential figures.
The Fault in Our Stars
Why: The Fault in Our Stars isn't a perfect movie, but it is heartbreaking, not to mention powerful and important.
Possible Oscars: Best Actress (Shailene Woodley); Best Adapted Screenplay.
Best Bet: Woodley. The film's screenplay is certainly good, but not flawless; Woodley's performance, on the other hand, is simply phenomenal. This is her career-making role.
The Lego Movie
Why: It's just so fun.
Possible Oscars: Best Animated Feature; Best Original Song ("Everything is Awesome").
Best Bet: Both. Some other good animated movies might arrive later this year, but it's doubtful any of them will top the pure, unadulterated joy of The Lego Movie and its equally fantastic song.
And a few possible contenders...
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Not Wes Anderson's best, but still a funny, original, and gorgeously designed movie.
X-Men: Days of Future Past: The best X-Men movie in years, and a shoo-in for visual effects nominations.
The Lunchbox: As of now, the Indian romantic crowd-pleaser is the best bet for Foreign Language Film.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Please, oh please, let someone create an Oscar specifically for Andy Serkis.
Images: IFC Films (2); A24; 20th Century Fox; Magnolia; Warner Bros.