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Awards Profile: Frances Lee’s ‘Ammonite’ from NEON

Ammonite 5

Welcome to the 2020 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material. Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profiles.”

FILM: “Ammonite”

DIRECTOR: Francis Lee
PRODUCERS: Iain Canning, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, Emile Sherman
WRITER(S): Francis Lee
CAST: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, Claire Rushbrook

SYNOPSIS: 1840s England, an infamous fossil hunter and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea, develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever. (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: To Be Announced, 2020


Ammonite 6It’s hard to find a better pairing than Kate Winslet and Saorise Ronan. Winslet has been racking up Oscar nominations since “Sense and Sensibility” in 1996. To date, Winslet has one win under her belt (“The Reader” in 2008) from seven nominations. She came closer than we might have thought to a second Oscar for “Steve Jobs” in 2016 in Supporting Actress. It is not out of the question that we would hand Winslet a second Oscar.

Meanwhile, co-star Saoirse Ronan is following in Winslet’s footsteps. The 25-year-old actress already has four Oscar nominations to her name (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn,”Lady Bird,” and “Little Women”). In fact, if she earns a nomination for “Ammonite,” she would be the youngest actor to net five nominations. Of all people, Kate Winslet holds the record currently. She was 31 when she was nominated for “Little Children” in 2006. Not only could Ronan break that record, but she could also win the Oscar if the overdue narrative builds. It remains to be seen whether or not Winslet and Ronan are co-leads. Even if they are, one suspects they will place Ronan in supporting, much like Rooney Mara did for “Carol” in 2015.

NEON is on a roll in the film distribution world. The indie film company won their first Best Picture this past year (“Parasite”). Now that they’ve proven themselves at the Oscars, all eyes are on their 2020 slate of movies. “Ammonite” looks to be their most significant Oscar player. Additionally, they spent a record amount on “Palm Springs,” with Andy Samberg, this year at Sundance. However, the dark comedy seems like it will be Screenplay-or-bust, mainly going after an enormous box office. Josephine Decker’s “Shirley” may garner praise for Elisabeth Moss, though buzz for her in “The Invisible Man” is building. Likewise, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first English language film, “Memoria,” will likely find fans, but not be a huge Oscar player. In short, “Ammonite” could be Neon’s number one awards priority.

The film’s period setting doesn’t just give it added prestige factor in the top categories. These movies often do well across the craft categories. Costume Designer Michael O’Connor has already won an Oscar (“The Duchess” in 2008) and had two additional nominations (“Jane Eyre” in 2011, “The Invisible Woman” in 2013), all for period pieces. None of those films contended in other above-the-line categories. This shows O’Connor is a good bet to return, whether or not “Ammonite” becomes a major awards player. Production Design could also come with it if the sets are flashy enough.

Among other categories, it could also bring composers Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran back to the Oscars after their nomination for “Lion” in 2017. Films set in this era (“Albert Nobbs”) or starring Saoirse Ronan (“Mary Queen of Scots” and “The Way Back”) have also done well in Makeup.


Ammonite 1The Oscar’s history with LGBTQ+ romances is spotty. “Brokeback Mountain” won Best Director, but not Best Picture. “Moonlight” was able to triumph and beat “La La Land” for Best Picture. Even “Bohemian Rhapsody” was able to win four of its five Oscars (though that film’s gay content is also problematic in many respects). What’s the one constant between them? They’re all about gay men.

Lesbian romances face a much steeper uphill battle. In 2015, “Carol” earned six nominations, including Actress, Supporting Actress, and Adapted Screenplay, only to be snubbed for Picture and Directing. This marks the most nominations for a film that did not also show up for Best Picture since the category’s expansion. Even just last year, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was not chosen to compete in International Feature by France and also missed out on well-deserved Directing and Cinematography nominations. If “Ammonite” is good enough, hopefully, the Oscars will nominate it across the board. However, sexism and homophobia within the Academy could be a lethal combination.

The road to Picture or Directing nominations will only be helped if “Ammonite” runs the gauntlet with craft nominations. Costume Design should be a given, as stated above. There is also a road for Original Score, Makeup, and Production Design. Attention in Film Editing and Cinematography would cement its status as a frontrunner. However, those are typically filled with more male-focused films. If Stéphane Fontaine were to earn a Cinematography nomination for “Ammonite,” she would be only the second woman nominated in this category. Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) became the first woman nominated for Best Cinematography back in 2017. From the initial stills, “Ammonite” looks to use its seaside location beautifully. This fits in line with past ocean-side nominees like “The Lighthouse” (2019), “Dunkirk” (2016), and “Unbroken” (2014). Those movies were all either war movies or in black in white, which helps in this category.


  • Motion Picture (Iain Canning, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, Emile Sherman)
  • Director (Francis Lee)
  • Actress in a Leading Role (Kate Winslet)
  • Actress in a Supporting Role (Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw)
  • Original Screenplay (Francis Lee)
  • Cinematography (Stéphane Fontaine)
  • Costume Design (Michael O’Connor)
  • Makeup (TBD)
  • Original Score (Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran)
  • Production Design (Sarah Finlay)


  • Best Performance by a Supporting Female (SAG Awards): Can Saoirse Ronan win the SAG Awards? She’s won the Golden Globe before (for “Lady Bird”). The film’s location and Ronan’s Irish heritage could give her a leg up at the BAFTA Awards. However, if she prevails at the SAG Awards, she will likely be the Best Supporting Actress winner at the Oscars.
  • Best Feature Film (PGA Awards): The Producer’s Guild Awards always tends to favor larger movies in their 8th-10th slots. Whenever a smaller film sneaks into their big prize, that bodes well for their Best Picture chances at the Oscars. If “Ammonite” is going to be a major awards force, it will have to show up here first.

Are you excited or skeptical about Francis Lee’s “Ammonite?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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