ByBrian Finamore, writer at Creators.co
I strive for mediocrity....Editor of Cinema Insiders (cinemainsiders.com). Reach me at @MovieFin & @CinemaInsiders
Brian Finamore

It's the end of September/beginning of October, and that only means one thing, Oscar season is upon us! Yes, the dreariness of late August to late September is nearly behind us, and starting next week major Oscar contenders will start to hit theaters.

These predictions/previews are based off of films that have already been released that have a chance of being considered strong Oscar contenders. Although this is all speculation, some of these films were shown at the Sundance, Telluride, Tribeca, Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals. Those festivals, which take place usually from the months of January-September, are the barometer for all Oscar buzz and previews. Indeed, many producers and studios build their Oscar campaigns based off the reactions from these festivals. (**Note: The New York Film Festival begins tonight 09/26-10/12, but a majority of the films have already been reviewed elsewhere.***)

So, with that said, let's begin the preview. The films are in order from when they were released/upcoming release dates in North America. These are films that have a strong chance at being nominated for Best Picture or any of the "Big Five" categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original/Adapted Screenplay

Films That Have Already Been Released

The Grand Budapest Hotel - Wes Anderson

Released back in early March of this year, Wes Anderson's film has gone on to receive laudatory praise from critics. Film aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 92% "fresh" rating, with an average score of 8.4/10, based on reviews from 220 critics. The consensus states: "Typically stylish but deceptively thoughtful, The Grand Budapest Hotel finds Wes Anderson once again using ornate visual environments to explore deeply emotional ideas." Metacritic reported a score of 88 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".

Not only that but the film was a box office smash and just as big a hit with audiences as critics, always a good combo. As of June 15th, 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel grossed $59,051,486 in the United States, and $111,995,635 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $171,047,121, with only a $31 million dollar budget.

Boyhood - Richard Linklater

By the time the year ends, you're going to be hard pressed to find a film that's received better reviews than Linklater's Boyhood. As a matter of fact, you can expand that to all time. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and was released theatrically on July 11th, 2014. The film also competed in the main competition section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, where Linklater won the Silver Bear for Best Director. The film was declared a landmark by many notable film critics, with particular praise for its direction, acting, and scope.

Boyhood received near-unanimous acclaim from film critics, with a 99% certified "fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 200 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition". The film has a full score of 100 on Metacritic (Wow!) based on 49 reviews, signifying "universal acclaim." It is the highest rated of all films reviewed upon their original release on the site. It also holds the highest number of reviews for a film with a score of 100, and is among the highest-scoring films ever reviewed. The praise for Boyhood extended beyond the Anglo-sphere. A collection of 25 French critiques on Allocate, including those from Le Monde and Cahiers du Cinéma, indicates near-unanimous approval.

Upcoming Releases

(Note: By upcoming releases I mean theatrically, most have already premiered at the film festivals mentioned above)

October

Gone Girl - David Fincher - Oct. 3rd

David Fincher is probably the best director working in the motion picture business today, and by that I mean he is still in his prime, still hitting his stride. He's been nominated for Best Director twice, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) & The Social Network (2010). Based on early reviews for Gone Girl, it seems Fincher has another resounding success to add to his already impressive resume. Factor in that Gone Girl is based on a hit novel, then you have a good recipe (normally) for success. Even though Fincher's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had somewhat disappointing box office numbers, it was still nominated for 5 Oscars.

The film will have its world premiere as opening night of the 2014 52nd New York Film Festival on September 26, 2014. However, the film has been previewed and reviewed by critics at the festival before its premiere. So far, on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 90%, based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The critical consensus reads: "Dark, intelligent, and stylish to a fault, Gone Girl plays to director David Fincher's sick strengths while bringing out the best of stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 84 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."

Whiplash - Damien Chazelle - Oct. 10th

Here's your potential Little Miss Sunshine or Juno of 2014, meaning a small independent film that rides a wave of ecstatic festival critical acclaim, to sleeper box office hit, to multiple Oscar nominations.

Shot on a budget of $3.3 million, the film premiered in-competition in the US Dramatic Category at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16th, 2014, as the opening film of the festival. It went on to win that festival's top prizes in the audience and grand jury category, a rare feat. The film has also been screened at the Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals. Shortly after the film's premiere screening, Sony Pictures Worldwide acquired the international distribution rights.

Whiplash was acclaimed by critics upon its premiere on the opening night of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 91%, based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 85 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Alejandro González Iñárritu - Oct. 17th

I've already written about the near universal acclaim this film received at the 2014 Venice Film Festival last month. Needless to say this film is a MAJOR contender come Oscar season for a variety of reasons: The resurrection Michael Keaton, Alejandro González Iñárritu, the film's cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (who won an Oscar for Gravity), in which the camerawork and editing of Birdman were manipulated to give the appearance that the film is one continuous long take, have been especially highlighted by critics.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 94% rating, based on 17 reviews, with an average score of 7.8/10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gave it an average score of 90, based on 11 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."

Nightcrawler - Dan Gilroy - Oct. 31st

This dark satire has received a considerable amount of buzz for star Jake Gyllenhaal's gonzo performance. He also lost quite a lot of weight (20 lbs might not seem like much but it's not like Jake was fat to begin with), which for better or worse the Academy likes, i.e. physical transformations. Other than Gyllenhaal, I don't really know how much of a contender this film is in other major categories. This is a film that will likely alienate some and be hailed by others, as early reviews from the Toronto Film Festival indicated.

Nightcrawler has received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 82%, based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 77 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."

November

The Theory of Everything - James Marsh - Nov. 7th

Bio-pic of a well known figure, check, inspiring and emotional story, check, great lead performance, check. The Theory of Everything seems to have all the measurements of a major Oscar contender. The film was screened at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival to much acclaim. It received praise for its acting (particularly for Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones), James Marsh's direction, Anthony McCarten's screenplay, Benoit Delhomme’s cinematography, Johann Johannsson's musical score, and its production values. Redmayne, so far, is well known, but not a household name, that could change immediately on November 7th.

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 78% of critics gave the film a "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 18 reviews with an average score of 7/10, with the site's consensus currently pending. Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 68 (out of 100) based on 9 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "generally favorable".

Rosewater - Jon Stewart - Nov. 7th

Yes, you saw that right, that's a film by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, his feature film writing/directing debut. Stewart's film has a couple of things going for it besides a strong response out of Telluride and Toronto: the surprise factor, meaning a film made by someone (a comedian like Stewart) you wouldn't expect, it's a story about resistance and survival, and political relevance, which in Hollywood is sometimes hit or miss.

On Rotten Tomatoes, so far, Rosewater has a 78% "Certified Fresh Rating" based on 18 reviews. On Metacritic, based on six reviews, the film has a 68 (out of 100).

Admittedly, I'm not sure if this can compete with the major players come Oscar season, but this film certainly should not be counted out. A lot will depend on the reviews after a wider release and audience reaction. No matter what happens, it appears that Stewart has at least solidified himself as a filmmaker to be taken seriously.

Interstellar - Christopher Nolan - Nov. 7th

MANY, many people have this date circled on their calendar for this film alone, and I am one of them. Nolan is brilliant at keeping details of the film and it's plot secret, although that hasn't stopped information leaking, or people (including me) from speculating. It's all part of the fun and excitement of anticipating what Christopher Nolan's new film is going to give us. Nolan has evolved from the cult filmmaker of Following (1998), and Memento (2000), into the biggest, massively successful auteur in Hollywood with his Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception (2010).

Like Inception, Interstellar is a HUGE gamble that is being made based on Nolan's name and resume alone, only Interstellar is even bigger and more ambitious than anything Nolan has done.

The premise for Interstellar was conceived by film producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who collaborated together on the 1997 film Contact. Based on Thorne's work, the two conceived a scenario about "the most exotic events in the universe suddenly becoming accessible to humans," that would attract filmmaker Steven Spielberg's interest in directing. The film began development in June 2006 when Spielberg and Paramount Pictures announced plans for a science fiction film based on Thorne's treatment. Obst was attached to produce the film, which Variety said would "take several years to come together" before Spielberg directed it. By March 2007, Jonathan Nolan was hired to write a screenplay for Interstellar.

The film remained in development for several years. In January 2013, Christopher Nolan entered negotiations with Paramount and Warner Bros. to direct Interstellar. Nolan said he wanted to encourage again the goal of human spaceflight. He intended to write a screenplay based on his own idea that he would merge with his brother's screenplay. He cited the films 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Blade Runner as influences on Interstellar (that's a good start I'd say!). By the following March, Nolan was confirmed to direct Interstellar, which would be produced under his label Syncopy and Lynda Obst Productions.

Even with a filmmaker as assured and brilliant as Christopher Nolan, nobody really knows how well Interstellar could perform Oscar wise. Incredibly, Christopher Nolan has NEVER been nominated for Best Director, but perhaps Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar win for Gravity, and public outrage will change that. There's a whole bunch of things Interstellar has going for it, including recent Oscar winner and everyone's favorite Renaissance man, who is red hot right now, Matthew McConaughey starring. The cast is impeccable, A list from top to bottom, including Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine (Nolan regular), Ellen Burstyn, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Wes Bentley, William Devane, Bill Irwin, Mackenzie Foy, and a cameo by Matt Damon in an unspecified role.

Foxcatcher - Bennett Miller - Nov. 14th

Of all the films I've listed in this article, this is the one I'm most excited for. I was a huge fan of Bennett Miller's Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011), both those films received considerable acclaim and Oscar nominations/wins, and Foxcatcher looks to be no different.

When I spoke of Gyllenhaal's transformation for Nightcrawler, I was merely setting up an appetizer for Steve Carell's transformation in Foxcatcher. By all accounts, this could truly be a career changing performance for Carell, a popular comedic actor, who has shown range in the past, but nothing like this. Along with Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne, Steve Carell I believe is a lock for a Best Actor nomination. He has all the right formulas going for him as well as tremendous reviews.

The film has received some very strong reviews and buzz after it competed for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Miller won the Best Director Award. It also featured in the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, to much acclaim.

The film has received acclaim from critics, with many praising the performances of Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a score of 88% based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10 and a critical consensus: "A chilling true crime drama, Foxcatcher offers Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum a chance to shine - and all three rise to the challenge." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 91 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating 'universal acclaim.'

Despite the strong word of mouth, there's been some dissenting opinions as of late, notably from Rope of Silicon's Oscar prediction page, which has rarely ever been accurate in it's predictions, that perhaps the buzz won't hold on and the film will be too dark for Oscar taste. While that may be true in terms of it's chances at winning Best Picture, I don't think it will hurt the film come nomination time. Expect Foxcatcher to be a major player at this years awards circuit.

The Imitation Game - Morten Tyldum - Nov. 21st

Destined to be a major player this coming awards season, The Imitation Game has a lot of favorables going for it. Chief among them is that it's being distributed by The Weinstein Company, and if there is anyone who knows how to properly release and market films to maximize Oscar potential, it's the Weinstein clan. Also, plot wise, the film is based on the true story of Alan Turning, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany's Enigma code that helped the Allies win World War II, who was later criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.

Several words in that last sentence spell Oscar contender: true story, Nazi, British, code breaking, World War II, and homosexuality. No wonder Harvey Weinstein's eyes must have lit up when he heard about this film. The film's screenplay topped the annual Black List for best unproduced Hollywood scripts in 2011. After a bidding process against five other studios, The Weinstein Company acquired the film for a record $7 million in February 2014, the highest ever amount paid for US distribution rights on the European Film Market.

Match that with Benedict Cumberbatch, who after this film gets released you'll be able to call a bona fide star, and (by word of mouth) it seems the Weinstein's will have their regular seat at the Oscar ceremony.

The film has received positive reviews with critics, particularly lauding Cumberbatch's lead performance as Turing. It currently holds an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.4/10 based on 27 reviews. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 71 based on 9 reviews.

December

Wild - Jean-Marc Vallée - Dec. 5th

Fresh off his multi-Oscar winning film Dallas Buyers Club, a Jean-Marc Vallée film could be making the awards rounds again. Like Dallas Buyers Club, much of the focus of this film has been regarding the performances, especially for lead actress Reese Witherspoon, who won an Oscar for her work as June Carter Cash in 2005's Walk the Line. Many are predicting she'll be nominated again this year for Wild. Several reviewers have stated that this is her career best performance.

Other potential major nominations for Wild are a bit up in the air right now. Laura Dern has been singled out by several reviewers which is always good to hear (Big Lynch Fan Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, INLAND EMPIRE + praise for Laura Dern = Me Happy). It seems as if this film is more in line with recent movies like Sean Penn's Into the Wild (2007), Rodrigo Cortes's Buried (2010), Danny Boyle's 127 Hours (2010), and three films from last year All is Lost, Gravity, and Captain Philips, in that we spend nearly the whole movie with one character. Earlier this year a film called Locke featuring Tom Hardy in a car for 90 minutes was released to acclaim. So it depends, some of these loner/survival films like 127 Hours and Gravity have been hits with the Academy. Some like Buried and All is Lost, while critically acclaimed, weren't. Whether Wild can tap into that success or transcend that, no one really knows as of now.

The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 29th, 2014, to acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reported a 82% approval rating with an average rating of 6.7/10 based on 17 reviews. Metacritic assigned a score of 75 (out of 100) based on 8 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."

Inherent Vice - Paul Thomas Anderson - Dec. 12th

One of America's best and most lauded auteurs is Paul Thomas Anderson, who's given us Hard Eight (Sydney) (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), and The Master (2012). He's been nominated for 5 Oscars, while his films have been nominated 17 Academy Awards, winning twice (both for There Will Be Blood, Best Actor & Best Cinematography). So, as recent history has shown, when Anderson releases a new film, it's only right to include it on a list like this.

What's strange and different about Inherent Vice, is that no one has seen it yet. That doesn't necessarily mean trouble, but it makes my job a bit more difficult for now. Inherent Vice is set to premiere as the centerpiece at the New York Film Festival on October 4th, 2014. The film is set to do a limited release run on December 12th, 2014, before going wide on January 9th, 2015. It is the first adaptation of acclaimed, reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon.

The film has a hell of a cast, as one would expect for a PTA film, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, and Benicio del Toro.

Details about the film have only recently started to surface. The New York Times ran a fantastic piece about the film in an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson today. In the article, among other things, we learn that the film was influenced by classic slapstick, and by classic noir. That Anderson spent 5 years working on the movie, and there’s (probably) a pretty amazing cameo in the film, perhaps by the very reclusive Thomas Pynchon. Although, Anderson jokes that since he's so reclusive, maybe he doesn't even know if Pynchon appears in the film. It's a great bit of fun promotion for those excited about the project.

What this all adds up too? I have no clue. I do know this, Paul Thomas Anderson has never made a bad film in his still young career (he's only 44!). We'll see what kind of response the film gets on October 4th.

(**Note: There hasn't been a trailer released for the film itself yet, however, the New York Film Festival did release a compilation trailer of the films at their film festival, and we catch our first glimpses of Anderson's film.**)

Exodus: Gods and Kings - Ridley Scott - Dec. 12th

Normally, I'm ecstatic for a new Ridley Scott film, but while Exodus looks well made, as all Ridley Scott films do, I'm just not feeling any positive buzz coming from this production. One thing the film does have going for it is capitalizing off the recent wave of successful films based on stories from the Bible.

However, the film has a MAJOR issue, and that's the race of the actors casted.

The Sydney Morning Herald and Christian Today reported that the casting of white actors in non-white roles were being protested. Four white actors were cast to play the lead roles: Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton as Ramses II, Sigourney Weaver as Queen Tuya, and Aaron Paul as Joshua. Tariq Nasheed, who has made productions about race, protested the casting, "The storyline takes place in ancient Africa, but all the African Kings and Gods are portrayed by white actors and all the slaves, thieves and 'lower class' Egyptians are played by Black actors." Sydney Morning Herald also reported the online community's observations that the Great Sphinx of Giza in the film has a European profile. Christian Today reported that an online petition was underway. It also compared Exodus to the 1956 film The Ten Commandments with its all-white cast and said, "The racial climate, number of black actors, and opportunities provided to them were very different in 1956, however." Using a Twitter hashtag, some of the site's users called for a boycott of the film.

Yeah, that doesn't bode well for this film, and indeed while watching the trailer, it is a little silly to see Bale as Moses and Edgerton as Ramses. This isn't the first time a major Hollywood biblical/historical epic has made some questionable racial casting decisions (anyone remember John Wayne as Attila the Hun?), but in today's climate it's beneficial for a massive production like this to be racial sensitive. It could still be a good film, but I don't think it has the right buzz right now.

Mr. Turner - Mike Leigh - Dec. 19th

One of the most acclaimed films so far this year making the festival circuit has been Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner. British director Leigh is no stranger to acclaim, having been nominated for seven Academy Awards himself over his illustrious six decade career. Mr. Turner can be the film that gives popular character actor Timothy Spall his long overdue chance at the spotlight. Nearly all the reviews have highlighted his lead performance as the best thing about the film. I expect he'll be nominated for Best Actor.

The film concerns the life and career of British artist J. M. W. Turner (played by Spall). It premiered in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Spall won the award for Best Actor, and cinematographer Dick Pope received a special jury prize for the film's cinematography.

Mr. Turner currently holds a 100% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews, with an average score of 8.5/10. On Metacritic, the film holds an average score of 96, based on 10 reviews, indicating 'Universal Acclaim'.

Big Eyes - Tim Burton - Christmas Day

Yes! Tim Burton will be included, at least for now, in Oscar buzz talk this year. After several years out of the critical acclaim spotlight, Burton could very well be back in the mix with Big Eyes. The film has many intangibles associated with Oscar contenders. The film will focus on the true story of American artist Margaret Keane, whose work was fraudulently claimed in the 1950s and 1960s by her then-husband, Walter Keane. The film tells the story of their heated divorce battle wherein Margaret accused Walter of stealing her paintings. Margaret Keane will be played by Amy Adams, with Walter being portrayed by Christoph Waltz. Adams has been nominated for 5 Academy Awards over the past decade, and Waltz is 2 for 2 with the Academy, winning Best Supporting actor for two Tarantino films, Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012)

Most importantly, the film is being distributed by The Weinstein Company, and as I explained with The Imitation Game, the Weinstein's know how to bring home the gold. This is Burton's first time working with actors and crew that he's primarily never worked with before, yes, that means no Johnny Depp. However, the film does reunite Burton with the writing team Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote Burton's Oscar winning 1994 film Ed Wood.

All this bodes well for the film and the first trailer for it was released this past week.

Unbroken - Angelina Jolie - Christmas Day

Like other major Oscar contenders, Angelina Jolie's film has that formula as well. The film tells the true story of World War II hero Louis "Louie" Zamperini, a former Olympic track star, who survives a plane crash in the Pacific, spends 47 days drifting on a raft, and then more than two and a half years living in several Japanese prisoner of war camps.

True story, World War II, Olympics, prisoner of war, and survival are the key words here. The film has mostly an unknown cast but that's all right because the crew is very well known indeed. Angelina Jolie directs her second film, written by Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen, and Oscar nominees Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson. The film is shot by Roger Deakins, one of the best, if not the best cinematographer in the business, who has received an amazing eleven nominations for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, without winning once (The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, and Prisoners)

Like I said, this film has the right formula, it's all a matter of waiting until the film is released on Christmas Day.

Into the Woods - Rob Marshall - Christmas Day

Directed by Rob Marshall, who's film Chicago won Best Picture in 2002, and an incredible ensemble cast including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, and Johnny Depp.

It also helps that it's based on the Tony Award–winning eponymous Broadway musical by Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, the film is a fantasy genre crossover centered on a childless couple, who set out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch.

Disney certainly has the budget to help market the film to be a success both critically (pending reviews) and at the box office. I'm not that excited for this film but I almost have to include it for now because of the star power and potential. Whether that means it will be any good, who knows. Rob Marshall has bombed in this situation before also in 2009 with the musical Nine.

American Sniper - Clint Eastwood - Christmas Day

The book which the film is based off
The book which the film is based off

Not much has been said about this film so far, but make no mistake, if a film by two-time winning Oscar director Clint Eastwood is coming out on Christmas Day, it's foolish not to include it on the contenders list.

It is based on Chris Kyle's autobiography American Sniper. The film stars Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman, and Cory Hardrict. Principal photography began on March 31, 2014 in Los Angeles. The film is scheduled to receive a limited release on December 25th, 2014, before opening wide on January 16th, 2015.

Bradley Cooper made headlines a few months ago while this film was shooting because of the weight gain he put on to play Chris Kyle.

Cooper during filming on left, before on right.
Cooper during filming on left, before on right.
Eastwood, Cooper, & former Navy SEAL Elliot Miller
Eastwood, Cooper, & former Navy SEAL Elliot Miller

If you know anything about Chris Kyle's story then you know it's a terribly tragic one. He was a United States Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in American military history, with 160 "confirmed" kills out of 255 claimed kills. Kyle's claims are based on individual shooter logs. U.S. Special Operations Command treats sniper kill counts as "unofficial."

Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He was awarded the Grateful Nation Award by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Kyle claimed that Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the "Devil of Ramadi" and placed a bounty on his head. He was wounded twice, and was involved in six IED attacks.

Kyle was honorably discharged from the US Navy in 2009. He remained in the spotlight after leaving the Navy and wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography, American Sniper. Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range on February 2, 2013, near Chalk Mountain, Texas. The man accused of killing him is awaiting trial for murder.

There's great potential in this story that can touch on themes Eastwood has dealt with in the past with films like Flags of Our Fathers. The film has a good Oscar contender formula; true story, physical transformation, recent American history, emotional, sad, inspiring, etc. Not to mention Eastwood, who's won 2 directing Oscars, and Cooper, who's been nominated the past two years for acting awards.

We'll still have to wait and see when more promotional material is released. Interesting to note that the film is kind of being forced to have a pretty quick post production in order to get out by Oscar time this year. That shouldn't be a problem for Eastwood, who's known for finishing films on time and under budget, but that also means Eastwood's films sometimes have a slapped together feel to them. When his films work they work really well, when they don't, they come off really clunky. This is a great story though so I have hope.

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