OSCARS: Has a Frontrunner Emerged in the Best Picture Race Yet?

blade runner 2049

As we get knee deep into the October days, films like “Blade Runner 2049” from Denis Villeneuve and “Last Flag Flying”  from Richard Linklater got their first views in front of critics.  In the case of the former, it has emerged as a true spectacle, along with being declared the technical achievement of the year.  The comparisons to “Mad Max: Fury Road” were plentiful and could spill over into a double nomination morning if the stars align.  This is all interesting in a year “without a frontrunner.”

In the case of Linklater’s film, the NYFF bow was mixed to positive, but Oscar-nominee Steve Carell remained constant and will urge himself into a less than satisfying Best Actor race.  There’s huge potential of him making the lineup, and even benefiting his co-star Bryan Cranston.

As seen in the newest prediction updates, films with little to no marketing and/or titles have been cooled on.  The still-untitled film from Paul Thomas Anderson seems like one of those films that may be struggling to find its footing, though Focus Features hasn’t spoken about any doubts on the film yet.  Breaking late in the year becomes harder for you to be recognized in an awards race hence, we’ll pull back on the Daniel Day-Lewis run until further notice.

Same goes for Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.”  A source shared earlier in September that we would see a trailer before the end of the month.  Fast forward to Oct. 5, we’ve only seen a few pictures of Meryl Streep and little else.  With a likely run in Original Screenplay (though don’t be surprised to see a Moonlight/Syriana switcharoo if it occurs), the film will also be looking to capitalize on buzz during the precursor run.  In a film that will likely be heavy on Kay Graham (played by Streep), a gut feeling surrounds an overshadowed Tom Hanks waiting in the wings, resulting in him, once again, missing out on Oscar attention.

The buzz and reviews for David Gordon Green’s “Stronger” has propelled star Jake Gyllenhaal into the fray, hoping to finally snag his second Oscar nomination after countless snubs for films like “Prisoners” and “Nightcrawler.”  Can we also find the buzz to pull in co-star Tatiana Maslany and possibly a Screenplay/Picture play?

Bleecker Street is gearing up to push the pedal to the floor for their films “Breathe” from Andy Serkis and “The Man Who Invented Christmas” from Bharat Nalluri.  In the case of the former, stars Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy have plenty of goodwill within the industry to carry them through despite not a lot apparent passion from critics at the moment.  In the case of Garfield, he will be capitalizing off his first nod for “Hacksaw Ridge” last year and could start a wave of multiple nominations over the next few years.  With Foy, she has a loss for “The Crown” under her belt at the Emmys, and seems to have the buzz saying “she’s the best thing about it.”  Phrases like that can go a long way.

With runner-up spots at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Call Me By Your Name” from Luca Guadagnino and “I, Tonya” from Craig Gillespie may be stronger entries on the year.  Sony Pictures Classics feels confident in the chances for Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg becoming the first duo Supporting Actor nominees since “Bugsy” and they feel Timothée Chalamet can become the third youngest Best Actor nominee ever.  Big hurdles to jump but doable.

In the case of “I, Tonya” with Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, the two stars seem prime to become frontrunners in their respective categories and the last time two acting winners came from a film not nominated for Best Picture was 1962 and 1963 with “The Miracle Worker” (Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke) and “Hud” (Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas) – thank you to reader Avi Saks for pointing that out on our newest podcast episode.  The film could also pull the “Dallas Buyers Club” playbook and completely overperform, scoring key nominations like Editing and Original Screenplay.

Other updates worth noting is GKIDS submissions of five films in the Animated Feature race.  “The Breadwinner” has already been on our radar from executive producer Angelina Jolie but the buzz is high on films like “The Girl Without Hands” and “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children.”  Can anything top “Coco” at the moment though, even sight unseen?

Finally, for the second time this year, we’ve moved to a new predicted winner for Best Picture, emulating last year’s exact model.  Considering that we haven’t had a December release win Best Picture since “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004, we could be looking for a surprise, more “consensus” film to enter the fray.  Currently, we’re expecting the TIFF Audience winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” can be that film, scoring just two other Oscars on the night: Original Screenplay for writer/director Martin McDonagh and Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell.  Last year’s winner “Moonlight” won those 3 awards (except winning Adapted instead of Original), and a more “technical achievement” took home the rest.  What film will that be?

The two films that could pull that “technical card” are “The Shape of Water” from Guillermo del Toro and “Blade Runner 2049” from Denis Villeneuve.  It’ll be interesting to see how the chips fall when NYFCC announces at the end of November (early much?).

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