Pundit Poll: Which Sundance 2011 Films Are Headed for Oscar Gold?

If you thought last year's Sundance bounty yielded a strong crop of Academy Award nominees, just wait 'til the 40+ films to get distribution out of Park City hit theaters and start campaigning for Oscar glory. Should breakout star Lizzie Olsen start composing her acceptance speech now? Which film will emerge the Winter's Bone of 2011? Movieline's panel of experts look back on Sundance and weigh in: Which Sundance films will make it to next year's Academy Awards?

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Peter Howell, @peterhowellfilm

Movie Critic, The Toronto Star

I think if Like Crazy gets a good push, it has a chance at Oscars next year. Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold could be this year's Exit Through the Gift Shop, and thus a documentary nomination is possible. If Life in a Day goes over as big as I suspect it will, it also has a shot in the docs category.

But it's still way early yet.

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Edward Douglas, @EDouglasWW

Associate Editor, Coming Soon

Sam Levinson's Another Happy Day, which only received an award for screenwriting at Sundance, should be able to get into the Oscar race, not only for screenwriting, but also Ellen Barkin in the Lead Actress category and any number of others in supporting including Ellen Burstyn and Kate Bosworth. It's a real crowd-pleasing movie (much more than the Audience Award winner) and I see it as this year's The Kids Are All Right. It's also destined for a SAG Ensemble nomination because it has such a great cast, all doing great work. I also think Martha Marcy May Marlene is this year's Winter's Bone, though I don't think it will get a Best Picture nomination.

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Kate Erbland, @katerbland

West Coast Editor/Film Critic, GordonandtheWhale.com

I suspect that, when it comes to the 2011 Oscars, we're going to see a hefty dose of Sundance documentaries earning nominations -- primarily the incredibly touching How to Die in Oregon, the searingly brave We Were Here, and the crowd-pleasers Senna and Being Elmo.

When it comes to features, I would be shocked if Elizabeth Olsen didn't lock up a Jennifer Lawrence / Winter's Bone-type Best Actress nod for Martha Marcy May Marlene. Similarly, I'd hope that John Hawkes could get another nod for MMMM.

I don't expect that a number of Sundance films that got hefty acclaim will break into Best Picture territory. The best bets would have to be MMMM or Take Shelter.

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Alex Billington, @firstshowing

FirstShowing.net

I haven't seen everything so I'm not sure if I'm missing a few performances that might break out, but my favorite film of the fest was Like Crazy, and I'd love to see it get some Oscar love. But I'm not sure it'll go that far. On the other hand, I honestly thought Michael Parks gave an Oscar worthy performance in Kevin Smith's Red State, but they'll need a good Oscar campaign to get him in the mix. I could also see Elizabeth Olsen from Martha Marcy May Marlene get a nomination, but it's truthfully very hard to tell which films will last through Oscar season (and even be released in time) and subsequently gain the awards momentum. Only time will tell!

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Laremy Legel, @laremy

Lead Film Critic, Film.com

Like Crazy could do some damage with The Academy, depending on release date. I could see a Felicity Jones Lead Actress nomination for her portrayal of "Anna," and Best Screenplay isn't out of the question if Paramount positions the film correctly. The closest comparable film I can think of is 2005's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- a moving film that received a couple of nominations. [Ed. note: And won Best Original Screenplay.]

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Mali Elfman, @malielfman

Editor, ScreenCrave.com

Films

Project Nim: Because if you don't cry in this, you don't have a heart.

Circumstance: High drama, controversial topics and locations, great acting and lots of nudity -- oh yeah, this one's Oscar bait if I've ever seen it.

Actors

Red State: Melissa Leo -- It's impossible for her to act and not get nominated. She's just too damn good.

The Guard: Brendan Gleeson -- He'll never get noticed, but he should. Who else could pull off saying racist comments to Don Cheadle's face and have it be funny?

Win Win: Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan -- The two of them are wonderful together and are able to play the audience like a fiddle. They'll have you laughing one moment and cheering for them the next. Job well done.

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Katey Rich, @kateyrich

Managing Editor, Cinema Blend

I'm drawing a real blank here, as there are so few films that seem like they'd be up Oscar's alley, even in the way Blue Valentine and Winter's Bone wound up making it in. The likeliest contender seems to be Martha Marcy May Marlene, both as a film and for Elizabeth Olsen's performance, but it's a far tougher sell even than Winter's Bone for being so based on atmospherics rather than plot.

Documentary is a little easier to predict, even though eligibility issues knock out a strong contender in How To Die In Oregon. I could see Project Nim definitely making it in, along with Page One and, if they're feeling as adventurous as they did when nominating Exit Through the Gift Shop this year, maybe Life in a Day.

Catch up with all of Movieline's Sundance 2011 coverage here and follow us on Twitter!



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