OSCAR PREDICTIONS: We’re in the thick of the summer, looking down the barrel of a new awards season as major festivals begin to make their announcements. NYFF is first out of the gate with the announcement of Richard Linklater’s latest film, “Last Flag Flying,” with Bryan Cranston and Steve Carell opening the festival, while Todd Haynes’ follow-up to “Carol,” titled “Wonderstruck,” will sit as the centerpiece. Both titles come from Amazon Studios, which had major success last year with “Manchester by the Sea” netting two Academy Awards for Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan).
The first half of the year left much to be desired as we struggled to find anything resembling “Grand Budapest Hotel” or “Crash.” There are beloved films, however, the question is, will Oscar remember or care about any of them?
The four highest rated films of the year according to Rotten Tomatoes are going to have their own hurdles to jump in the awards circuit.
Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” surprised as not only a near unanimous critical darling but a huge box office draw. A source close to the Universal Pictures awards team says there will be a serious campaign mounted for the horror comedy. Twitter chatter has declared the film a contender for a Best Picture nomination, but we remain very skeptical of such a claim. Looking this early, I would put an Original Screenplay nod as its best shot.
The team behind “Logan” is very optimistic about the superhero film’s chances in major categories including Best Picture and Best Director for James Mangold. In speaking with more than half a dozen awards publicists and consultants, the general consensus seems to be that this ever expanding Academy is going to offer up quite the wildcard in terms of diversity and choices. Can they see their way to “Logan” in a major way? Hugh Jackman, who will have another chance at a nomination as P.T. Barnum in Michael Gracey’s “The Greatest Showman” later this year, is outstanding in his farewell performance. Will the Academy see fit to reward him with his second nomination since “Les Miserables”? And what to make of Patrick Stewart’s chances? A veteran actor who has continued to show his range for decades, he is long overdue for his time in the spotlight.
There’s also hope for films like “Baby Driver” (possible tech love including Editing and Sound categories), “Wonder Woman” (another superhero film with hopes in major categories like Director for Patti Jenkins), and “The Big Sick” (a heartfelt comedy looking for love from the writer’s branch).
With all this said, let’s break down the next few months and see what the year has left to offer.
We’ve already seen the opening of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” one of the best reviewed films in the MCU yet. As we’ve seen with past Marvel films at the Oscars, its best chances will lie in Makeup, Sound Mixing and Editing, and Visual Effects. “War for the Planet of the Apes” has some of the best reviews for the franchise yet, and the drum is already beating for its star Andy Serkis. Can the film finally nab itself a Visual Effects win after losing its previous statues to “Hugo” and “Interstellar”?
Christopher Nolan has struck out with the Director’s branch more times than one can count. “Memento,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Inception” all seemed likely before coming up short. With his latest, “Dunkirk,” that may not change but the film’s technical chances seem to be on par with his previous efforts based on the early word. Who knows if it can translate outside of the few tweet reactions so far.
We can look for “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” likely making it to the Visual Effects bakeoff, while the new expansion of Animated Feature voting will give higher chances to “The Emoji Movie.”
Surprisingly, one of the biggest releases of the month will be “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” looking for love not only in Documentary Feature but also for its Original Song, “Truth to Power,” as performed by OneRepublic. The song is written by Oscar-winner T Bone Burnett (steamrolled in 2009 for “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”) and OneRepublic’s lead singer Ryan Tedder. Could it repeat the same wins as its predecessor?
The eighth month of the year tends to look for a surprise moneymaker, a la “The Help” or “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” in years prior. Once in a while, there’s something you think can get to the finish line (i.e. “Straight Outta Compton” or “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) but ends up coming up short. Other times, the films set their own paths ablaze (i.e. “Inglourious Basterds” and “District 9”).
This August, we are keeping a close eye on Kathryn Bigelow’s long-awaited follow-up to “Zero Dark Thirty.” Taking on the Detroit riots of 1967 in the aptly titled “Detroit,” the film is rumored to offer up a compelling case for the year, and for its stars John Boyega and in particular Will Poulter. Bigelow herself, a former Oscar-winner for 2008’s “The Hurt Locker,” is said to be back in the thick of the race. This comes five years after her shocking omission for “Zero Dark Thirty.” She partners back up with Academy Award winning screenwriter Mark Boal, who is probably a good bet for some love along the way.
The Sundance hit “Wind River” from Taylor Sheridan is finally getting released and hopes to land some love for its star Jeremy Renner and possible Screenplay attention. Lionsgate will bounce back with “The Glass Castle” and put Brie Larson back in the thick of an awards race alongside co-star Woody Harrelson, who has four projects to choose from this year.
The small indies will creep along the beat during the month. Robert Pattinson is looking to get his “Twilight” years behind him with “Good Time” from A24 while “Patti Cake$” from Fox Searchlight already has a legion of followers.
Steven Sodebergh is back with “Logan Lucky,” though it is rumored not to be an awards player but simply a great time at the movies.
The month will round out with lesser anticipated flicks before Telluride unleashes Labor Day weekend.
The month for TIFF and NYFF is always as busy as can be expected. Always presumed to be a “dump month,” you can find a few contender sneaking their way through the fray and emerging on the other side.
While non-awards plays will pique our interests like “It” and “American Assassin,” films like “All I See is You” from Marc Foster and “Woodshock” from Kate and Laura Lulleavy are hoping for attention.
A few months after “The LEGO Batman Movie” laid out its case for Animated Feature, “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” hopes to solidify one more spot in the race on Sept. 22.
Speaking of Sept. 22, that will be a big weekend as Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris hope to enter the awards race once again with “Battle of the Sexes” from Fox Searchlight. Stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell, at least based on the trailer, look to be performing at their very best, and rumor has it they should be a force during the season.
The first trailer for “Stronger” from David Gordon Green got many excited at the prospect of Jake Gyllenhaal finding Oscar love after so many omissions (i.e. “Nightcrawler” and “Prisoners”). Can this Boston bombing movie do the trick for him and possibly co-star Tatiana Maslany?
Rounding off that weekend will be Stephen Frears’ “Victoria and Abdul,” putting Judi Dench front and center again for a Best Actress nod. The seemingly feel-good movie could even show strength for co-star Ali Fazal and some below-the-line categories. A source shares that the film may not be the “major player” that we all think.
September will end with Universal Pictures’ “American Made,” hopefully putting Tom Cruise in the running for the Academy Award for the first time in eighteen years. He’ll do battle the same weekend with Liam Neeson, who will play the lead in the now-titled “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (formerly titled “The Silent Man” and before that simply “Felt”). Could its timely subject matter help him?
Check back tomorrow as we look into the months of October, November, and December and what they can offer the Oscar landscape. The official Oscar Predictions will also be updated during the next two days (with an updated layout). Make sure to check back.