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Look, Oscar season is long. We know this. With nominations in January and the awards in early March (plus all the campaigning and precursors and speculation that pretty much starts at the beginning of September) it’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint.
First, we have to engage in one of the most ridiculous (and therefore fun) parts of the Oscar game: making year-ahead Oscar predictions despite the fact that nobody has seen these movies (and some of them are not even done filming yet).
So, yes, it’s early. But it’s plainly not true that you can’t have at least some success predicting Oscar nominees fully blind. The Academy voters have idiosyncratic and increasingly diverse tastes, it’s true, but there are still tendencies. There are types of roles and types of films that make stronger cases for awards than others. There are actors and actresses who we know Oscar loves. Ditto, directors. Obviously, a movie can have all the ingredients on paper and still come up empty, but that’s what’s fun about making insanely early predictions. It’s like a game of chance. Which roll of the dice will pass muster?
What are we looking at for the films of 2018? If we’re looking ahead for films that will have some resonance or cultural urgency.
Black Panther: We should probably get this out of the way up top: we may well have already seen one of next year’s Best Picture nominees, as the drumbeat has already begun for Black Panther to get Marvel its very first Best Picture nomination. The precedent everybody is pointing to is Get Out, which opened last February, was a massive hit especially among under-served black audiences, and has gotten rave reviews. But Get Out was a horror film, a genre which, while rarely recognised in the Oscar firmament, has a few high-profile successes (The Silence of the Lambs), while the costumed superhero genre is 0-for-forever in Best Picture. It is very likely that Black Panther will be deserving of a Best Picture nomination. But Marvel will have to work for it.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post: Don’t expect the Sundance Film Festival to produce as many Oscar nominees as they did last year, when Call Me By Your Name, Mudbound, and The Big Sick kicked off their bound-for-Oscar runs (and where Get Out aired a sneak preview). This year’s festival in Park City didn’t really have that many breakout films that felt destined for Oscar, but this film, which won the Grand Jury Prize, likely stands the best chance. Directed by Desiree Akhavan and starring Chloe Grace Moretz, The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of a young girl in the early ’90s who’s forced to attend a gay conversion camp by her parents. There’s quite a bit of urgency to the premise, though The Post might end up losing a same-theme face off with …
Boy Erased: Directed by actor Joel Edgerton (whose film The Gift was a confident and tense feature directing debut), this film centers on the son of a Baptist preacher who is sent to gay-conversion therapy. Recent Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea but also Lady Bird and Three Billboards) stars as Garrard Conley (upon whose real-life memoir the film is based), with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman as his parents, Edgerton as the head of the conversion program,and Troye Sivan, Xavier Dolan, Cherry Jones, and Joe Alwyn rounding out the cast.
If Beale Street Could Talk: Moonlight director Barry Jenkins has a Best Picture trophy to his credit, and he’s following that up with an adaptation of a novel by the late James Baldwin (himself the subject of a recent Oscar-nominated documentary). Stephan James (who played future Congressman John Lewis in Selma) and newcomer KiKi Layne play the central characters in this story of a Harlem woman trying to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child. The supporting cast includes Teyonah Parris, Regina King, and Brian Tyree Henry.
The Best of Enemies: Taraji P. Henson plays a civil rights activist who takes on the Ku Klux Klan in court over school integration in 1970s North Carolina. Sam Rockwell, freshly gleaming from his Oscar win, plays the head of the KKK.
Roma: It’s a family drama set in 1970s Mexico City, which doesn’t sound all that Oscar-baity, but the draw here is behind the camera, as Alfonso Cuaron, 2013 Best Director winner for Gravity, returns to Mexico for the first time since 2002’s Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Gloria: Director Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. For his first English-language film, Lelio will be re-making his 2013 film Gloria, which propelled star Paulina Garcia to the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival that year. Taking up that award-winning role in the American version? Oscar-winner Julianne Moore, who will have one heck of a platform to get herself a follow-up nomination.
Meanwhile, if biopics are still working for acting nominations, these seven films are ones to watch out for:
First Man: Best Director winner Damien Chazelle reunites with his La La Land star Ryan Gosling for this biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong. Gosling will play the titular first man to walk on the moon, with The Crown‘s Claire Foy as his wife and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin.
Untitled Dick Cheney Film, a.k.a. Backseat: The Big Short director Adam McKay got a taste of Oscar glory, and now he wants more! So rather than make Anchorman 3, he’s going for a biopic on Dick Cheney, with Christian Bale as the former Veep, Amy Adams as his wife, and Sam Rockwell (there he is again) as former president George W. Bush. Amy Adams is one of three actresses (along with Glenn Close and Annette Bening) whose so-close-yet-so-far Oscar fortunes get talked about the most. Might this be the ticket? Also, if you’d always wanted to see Tyler Perry play Colin Powell, here’s your chance.
Mary, Queen of Scots: On Sunday night, they were Best Actress rivals; but later this year, they’ll be … okay, rivals again. Robbie will play Queen Elizabeth I, while Ronan will play the TITULAR role of The Tempest Mary Stuart. The last time two women from the same film were nominated in Best Actress together was 1991 and Thelma and Louise, but wouldn’t it be great if Ronan and Robbie brought those vibes back again?
On the Basis of Sex: Director Mimi Leder is helming this biopic of the career-formative years of current Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Felicity Jones (a Best Actress nominee in 2014 for The Theory of Everything) plays Ginsburg, with Armie Hammer and Justin Theroux co-starring.
The Frontrunner: Two-time Best Director nominee Jason Reitman (Juno; Up in the Air) directs the story of U.S. senator Gary Hart, whose 1988 bid for the Democratic nomination was derailed by a sex scandal. Hugh Jackman will play Hart, with Vera Farmiga as his wife and Sara Paxton as his mistress, Donna Rice. Reitman’s recent career has been a real rollercoaster, but he’s re-teaming with his Young Adult screenwriter Diablo Cody for the indie film Tully this spring, so perhaps he’ll get back on track.
At Eternity’s Gate: Former Best Director nominee Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) directs this Vincent Van Gogh biopic. Willem Dafoe, fresh off his should’ve-won Supporting Actor nomination for The Florida Project, will play Van Gogh, while Oscar Isaac will play the artist Paul Gauguin, whose fraught relationship with Van Gogh coincided with the latter cutting his own ear off.
Bohemian Rhapsody: The production of this one has been fraught, with Bryan Singer being fired from the production for absences and clashes with the cast. Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) replaced him, and if he can pull together a halfway decent movie, Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury could have some promise.
A handful of other possible contenders:
A Star Is Born: Bradley Cooper directs and stars in this oft-remade story of an up-and-coming talent who surpasses her mentor/lover. That talented woman stepping into the shoes of the likes of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand is none other than Lady Gaga, who’s going by “Stefani Germanotta” here, for maximum actress cred.
Norway: Director Paul Greengrass (Oscar nominated for United 93 and whose Captain Phillips got a Best Picture nod in 2013) tackles the real-life 2011 terrorist attack in Norway that killed 77 people. The all-Norwegian cast could prove a barrier for American audiences who like their movie stars.
Widows: Steve McQueen, who directed the 2013 Best Picture-winner 12 Years a Slave is back with this frankly awesome-sounding movie about the wives of four armed robbers who were killed in a failed heist who all team up to finish the job. Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo plays the widows, while the supporting cast dazzles: Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya, Andre Holland, Robert Duvall, Carrie Coon, Jackie Weaver.
The Wife: Glenn Close got Best Actress buzz after the fall festivals for this film about a woman questioning her choices as her husband (Jonathan Pryce) prepares to receive the Nobel prize.
The Irishman: Martin Scorsese should never be discounted for Oscars, even for this Netflix movie with a reportedly ballooning budget, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Could Melissa McCarthy make her stab at a serious awards run for playing a celebrity biographer fallen on hard times, for director Marielle Heller [The Diary of A Teenage Girl].
Beautiful Boy: Steve Carell plays the father of a meth-addicted son (Timothée Chalamet) in this novel adaptation for Amazon Studios.
A Star is Born
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina De Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born
Best Original Screenplay
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