Welcome to the 2018 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you at some point this year (at least at this time of writing). We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday through Friday to talk about their awards hopes and analyze the film’s chances for success. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.
FILM: “If Beale Street Could Talk”
PRODUCERS: Megan Ellison, Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski
DISTRIBUTOR: Annapurna Pictures
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Barry Jenkins
CAST: KiKi Layne, Stephen James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry, Dave Franco, Pedro Pascal, Finn Wittrock, Diego Luna, Ed Skrein
SYNOPSIS (via IMDB): A woman in Harlem desperately scrambles to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child.
WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:
Barry Jenkins leading the way as the director and writer is enough. Jenkins absolutely lit the world on fire with “Moonlight” in 2016, and the resulting Best Picture win gave him carte blanche. He used that clout to develop the adaption of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name. Baldwin’s novel takes place in 1950s Harlem, and assuming Jenkins keeps the setting, he gets to try his hand at telling an essentially American story.
The cast that Jenkins has assembled looks special across the board. KiKi Layne will lead the ensemble, and the film will undeniably be hers. If the film is as brilliantly scribed as “Moonlight,” she’s going to stand a real chance at becoming the newcomer with an eye on winning the prize. Keep your eye on Regina King, who could run away with the Oscar if she delivers to her potential.
The men’s side is overcrowded, but Brian Tyree Henry will likely get a profile boost from “Atlanta.” Colman Domingo is a stage veteran and should assume the mantle of the actor’s pick if given enough screen time. Stephan James may fluctuate between lead and supporting category placement. His arrest kicks off the film, which also makes it the emotional center of the film. The deep cast of the film may siphon votes, but expect it to help when it comes to SAG and Best Picture consideration.
As if that weren’t enough, Jenkins brought back the crew from “Moonlight,” and added to the crew. James Laxton, Nicholas Britell, Joi McMillion, and Nat Sanders could all find themselves with nominations again. Production designer Mark Friedberg is hot off designing “Wonderstruck” last year. Costumes and the sound categories look tough in 2018. Yet bringing 1950’s Harlem neighborhood to life should give cinephiles reason to be excited.
WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:
Expectations can sink any film, and this one has a lot to live up. One of the reasons that “Moonlight” became such a sensation was that it came from seemingly nowhere. However, Barry Jenkins is a known filmmaker now, and eyes are on him to see how he develops. There is little doubt that he is an extremely talented director, but “Moonlight” was only his 2nd feature. Returning most of the crew also means that there’s likely to be some stylistic carryover. There’s a chance that even if Jenkins makes a strong movie, the expectations may create the perception of a lesser achievement.
There’s also a chance that the film is simply spread too wide. The cast is exciting on paper, creating a nice mix of new faces and season veterans. However, to give this many talented actors screen time is difficult. If Jenkins struggles with the large ensemble, characters may take away focus from the rest of the film. It’s possible that Diego Luna, Dave Franco, or Pedro Pascal could become the John Krasinski of the film.
POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:
- Motion Picture (Megan Ellison, Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski)
- Director (Barry Jenkins)
- Actress in a Leading Role –KiKi Layne
- Actor in a Supporting Role – Stephen James, Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo
- Actress in a Supporting Role – Regina King, Teyonah Parris
- Adapted Screenplay (Barry Jenkins)
- Cinematography (James Laxton)
- Production Design (Mark Friedberg)
- Costume Design (Caroline Eselin)
- Score (Nicholas Britell)
- Sound Mixing (Joe White)
- Film Editing (Joi McMillion, Nat Sanders)