As always when I talk about the Oscars, I want to make it known that being recognized by the Oscars is not the same as being a great movie. There are multiple movies coming out soon that I'm REALLY excited about and think will be great, but which I don't think the Oscars are going to respond to so I've not included here.
Why It Will Win: This is probably the most Oscar-friendly film yet to come out in 2018. Chazelle has had a great track record with the Oscars, with both Whiplash and La La Land picking up multiple awards even though neither won the top prize. First Man is his most Oscar-y film yet and could take Chazelle to the top podium. It's probably the odds-on favorite on paper.
Why It Won't: The Post seems like a good film to compare this too. That film seemed to have everything going for it leading into the Oscar season, and while it did get a Best Picture nomination, it never seemed to truly be in contention to win. This might be a project that just can't live up to its expectations. Also, in past years, the Academy has made great strides in trying to broaden its horizons and not just award films about white men. Well, of the 18 cast members listed on the film's wikipedia page, all 18 are white, and 17 are men. I think it's likely that First Man will score a ton of nominations, but it might be a more giant step to take home the biggest trophy of the night.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Why It Will Win: With Moonlight, Jenkins became one of the most sought-after directors in the business practically overnight. If he can bring the same level of artistry to If Beale Street Could Talk, it's tough to imagine this film won't be really amazing. Moonlight entered the Oscar race as a longshot, now Jenkins gets to tour the awards circuit as a bona fide frontrunner.
Why It Won't: Film adaptations of novels often get nominations, but don't actually win Best Picture as much as one might think. No adaptation of a novel has won Best Picture since No Country For Old Men in 2007. In recent years, acclaimed film adaptations of novels that seemed to be destined for Oscar glory (like Call Me by Your Name, Brooklyn, Room, and Silver Linings Playbook) have consistently ended up losing steam as the Oscars grew nearer. Also, the Academy likes to spread the love. A Barry Jenkins film winning Best Picture just two years ago might mean it's just too early for another Jenkins film to win again. Lastly, the cast is mostly made up of unknowns, and while that doesn't completely sink the film's chances, it does mean the film faces an uphill battle because it has to rely on Jenkins' clout alone.
Why It Will Win: Again, the pedigree here is hard to beat. A potential contender for directing, writing, and acting, fans of McQueen have been waiting for this movie for a really long time. If it can fire on all cylinders, it should be a fixture of the awards season.
Why It Won't: Like most of the films on this list, it hasn't been released yet. So it remains to be seen if this film can actually live up to its incredible promise. But, I'm reaching--the outlook for Widows looks really good.
Why It Will Win: This film looks really promising, and Bale has received Oscar buzz ever since an unrecognizable picture was released of him as Cheney. Plus the supporting cast features a few heavyweight Oscar contenders, including Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, and last year's Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush. If these roles are weighty and not just cameos, it seems like there will be a huge Oscar campaign behind this film. And, it's topical: a lot of Hollywood will relish the chance to award a film about a manipulative Republican in the White House.
Why It Won't: The topical nature of the film's subject matter might work against it if voters feel it hits too close to home. And we don't know the film's tone. While it's unlikely the film is going to cast Cheney in an especially positive light, if McKay tries to go for any sympathy towards the reviled figure, he might face quite a bit of backlash. As great as The Big Short did during awards season, I personally was not a fan of the film, and so I'm skeptical of whether or not this film will navigate the tricky task of making a biopic of a reviled figure.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Why It Will Win: Even though we know very little about it, what we know is exciting. The Coen Brothers have done well with the Oscars before, and their Westerns in particular tend to be among their most acclaimed films (like Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men and Best Picture nominee True Grit). We'll know more when we see a trailer, but for now The Ballad of Buster Scruggs seems like a promising enigma.
Why It Won't: Well, like I said, we don't know much. This might be a comedy, and the Coen Brothers' comedies tend to not do as well at the Oscars as their dramas. We just don't know enough about this movie to firmly call it a frontrunner yet.
Why It Will Win: Conversion therapy is a terrifying practice, that still happens today a lot more than we realize, and as a subject matter it feels ripe for cinematic treatment. Indeed, this year there are two films set in conversion therapy centers, the other being the recently-released indie The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Hedges has been on fire lately--after receiving a deserved nomination for Manchester by the Sea two years ago, he had principal roles in both Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri last year, and this project seems on track to continue his Oscar streak. The subject matter and caliber of actors behind the project just scream Oscar, so it's easy to see why it's one of the more anticipated prestige films of the year.
Why It Won't: Although it has a trailer and a release date, the film has yet to be included in any film festivals, which is really strange. The buzz it has is all based on hypotheticals as opposed to concrete reactions. As other Oscar contenders start being seen, Boy Erased might be left in the dust unless it finds a festival to debut it soon (some are speculating it'll headline Telluride, which doesn't announce its lineup in advance). The other thing is that Joel Edgerton isn't yet cemented as an Oscar director. His directorial debut, The Gift, is good, but not OUTSTANDING, and so it remains to be seen whether his behind-the-camera efforts can elevate the film.
Why It Will Win: The subject matter is really Oscar-y, and the true story nature of the film will make it even more appealing to the Academy. It's sure to be a real tearjerker.
Why It Won't: This is the English language debut of Felix Von Groenigan, who previously received an Oscar nomination for Foreign Language Film for The Broken Circle Breakdown. Von Groenigan is certainly acclaimed, but he's not a huge enough name yet to automatically draw the attention of the Academy. So despite the strong cast (which also features Amy Ryan and Maura Tierney), the main draw here is the film's subject matter.And while the Academy loves difficult subject matter like this, it's also a delicate line to walk when bringing such subject matter to film, because if a film is depressing and overwrought, it tends be tough to actually root for. It's uncertain just how well this film will do in the awards season, but it's undoubtedly one to watch.
On the Basis of Sex
Why It Will Win: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most beloved figures of the political left. And given the current battles waging in the court, and the acclaimed documentary RBG also released this year, she's an especially topical figure. It's really hard to imagine the Oscars not paying attention to a biopic like this.
Why It Won't: Biopics tend to be Oscar nominees rather than reliable Oscar winners. With Jones' leading performance, it's easy to compare this film to one like The Theory of Everything--a biopic that received mixed critical reception, and got a Best Picture nomination on principle but was never really in consideration for the win. Plus, director Mimi Leder's previous efforts (like infamously failed Oscar bait Pay it Forward) don't inspire much confidence.
Welcome to Marwen
Why It Will Win: This film has a lot of potential. It will tackle some serious subject matter, but also has opportunities for whimsy and fantasy, both of which are strengths of Zemeckis. It should be a crowdpleaser--a film palatable enough for all audiences while also appealing to more the more snobbish of film buffs. Plus, Steve Carell is set to have a great year, appearing in three different potential Oscar contenders, so his presence should also boost the film's appeal. Personally, I have to say I'm really excited for this one and think it might be a dark horse contender, but that's based on instinct more than anything else.
Why It Won't: Zemeckis is a brilliant filmmaker, but it's been a while since the Academy has really taken notice of him. His more recent potential Oscar contenders like Flight, The Walk, and Allied have just not gotten attention from the Academy. And while Carell's presence here could help, it also could hurt if his own Oscar campaign ends up focusing on another film. If, for example, it becomes clear that he's more likely to get an Oscar for Beautiful Boy, then why put money into boosting him here? Plus, the film's inevitable quirkiness might be more strange than charming. We'll have to wait and see.
|No images from Roma have been released yet, so here's Alfonso Cuaron with a camera.|
Why It Will Win: Cuaron is probably best known for big budget films like Gravity and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but he got his start and first earned his reputation by making quiet, powerful dramas (everyone should see Y Tu Mama Tambien). We know Cuaron can makes films like this really well, and now that he's on the Academy's radar, it would be great to see a film like this rewarded.
Why It Won't: For one thing, much of the film is in Spanish, and the Academy has still never awarded Best Picture to a foreign language film. But the biggest obstacle Roma faces on the way to the Best Picture podium is that it's being distributed by Netflix. The Academy has a lot of resistance towards streaming services, and has not been kind to any Netflix film that isn't a documentary. Even last year's excellent Mudbound, which because the first non-documentary Netflix film to earn any Oscar nominations, missed the Best Picture race. The Oscars just don't seem ready to validate Netflix as a legitimate film distributor.
A Star is Born
Why It Will Win: The movie musical can still bring in the Oscars when it's done well, and A Star is Born is speculated to be both a critical and commercial hit. Cooper has been an Oscars darling for a while and has a lot of Academy goodwill working for him. The secret weapon of the film just might be Lady Gaga, though, who has gotten a lot of great early buzz. Her musical numbers in the film, many of which she helped write, should be standouts, and having already won acting awards for her television work, the chances of seeing Lady Gaga at the Oscars next year seem really promising.
Why It Won't: It is really, really tough to direct yourself to win an acting Oscar. So far, the only person to have done so is Laurence Olivier in Hamlet, and Bradley Cooper isn't exactly Laurence Olivier. So much of the film is resting on Cooper's shoulders, and the truth is that he just is unproven as a director up until now, so the film's success is a bit of a mystery. This has the potential to be a real crowdpleaser, but even if everyone loves it, the story itself might be too lightweight to be a serious contender. Some see it as being the next La La Land, but I worry it might be more like The Greatest Showman.
The Front Runner
Why It Will Win: It's easy to forget just how great of a filmmaker Jason Reitman is. His films are really solid, and he's been recognized with Best Picture nominations in the past for Juno and Up in the Air. He's already released one of my favorite films of the year so far--the criminally underappreciated Tully--but it seems like his Oscar campaign is going to be devoted solely on The Front Runner, which shows his confidence in the project. This film is a bit of a dark horse. It could easily be forgotten, but if it's as good as we know a Reitman film can be, it might also sweep. It might be a longshot, but it could also be in contention for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Hugh Jackman as Hart) and Best Supporting Actress (Vera Farmiga as Hart's wife, Lee). Knowing Reitman, there will assuredly be some commentary on the fact that our current President has had multiple extramarital affairs, and the Academy is bound to respond to that.
Why It Won't: Again, since the film hasn't been released yet, it's tough to know how to respond. And even if the film is great, that doesn't mean that the Academy will take notice, as great Reitman films like Thank You For Smoking and Young Adult have been left out in the cold. Plus, if the Academy is looking at a political film, The Front Runner might lose votes in comparison to the better-financed Backseat.
The Other Side of the Wind
Why It Will Win: This is a no-brainer. How often is there a new film released by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, over 30 years after that filmmaker's death? The Other Side of the Wind's existence alone is remarkable. In the process of completing it, the film has been screened for many top professionals in the industry during various parts of the film's completion, and all have said it's extraordinary and incredibly moving to watch.
Why It Won't: Well, there's a question of whether it will even be eligible for the Oscars. Technically, it feels like it should be. Films are, after all, eligible for Oscars based on their release date, but this is going to be up for discussion with the Academy. And then there's the fact that most of the individuals who could win for the film are dead. That's certainly not a prerequisite, but some Oscar voters might feel it's unfair to award the work of someone from over 40 years ago as opposed to a contemporary, especially one who is actively campaigning. And, lastly, there's no telling how much the film actually holds up. This could be a film with niche appeal, and might fall short when compared side-by-side with more current films. It's a tough case--the Oscars have never been faced with a film quite like this one and it's tough to know what the result will be. But I wouldn't be surprised to see the film at least acknowledged; perhaps there will be a special Oscar given to the team that worked to finish the film.
Why It Will Win: Wildlife received nearly universal praise when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year. And every year, we see future Best Picture winners and nominees that creep up through word of mouth. If the acclaim that Wildlife initially received continues upon its October release, it could be like Room. Even better, it could be like Moonlight. Also, it's worth noting that while Paul Dano has now stepped behind the camera, he's not actually in the film, which tends to lead to better results for actors-turned-directors. Just like with Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig last year.
Why It Won't: Sundance has grown in acclaim over the years, but the phrase "lots of buzz at Sundance" still doesn't mean a lot. It's a festival that caters to a very specific type of film, and those films tend to not always find mainstream success. Even when a film out of Sundance is really great, it just tends to not have a lot of overlap with the Oscars. Each year, there's usually only one or two films to get onto the Oscars' radar, and those are almost always screened out of competition. In fact, only three films that competed at Sundance in the last decade have received Oscar nominations, and none have ever won. Wildlife might end up doing better at the Spirit Awards as opposed to the Oscars.
Why It Will Win: Suspiria is pretty beloved film. It's a masterpiece, which has been INCREDIBLY influential, especially in the horror genre, and is still the scariest film I've ever seen. Producers have been trying to remake it for years, and multiple remakes have been announced and then scrapped. But Guadagnino's has actually come through, and the trailer that was released looks really, really cool. It seems like it keeps the spooky, avant-garde spirit of the original while also announcing its own distinct vision. And while it's not a typical Oscar film, the early looks at the film have people excited.
Why It Won't: The Oscars don't like horror. Only one horror film has ever won Best Picture, and Suspiria is DEFINITELY going to be full-on horror. It's a real long shot here, even for a nomination. But, ever since the Best Picture field expanded to up to 10 nominees, this is the exact kind of film that has a chance it ordinarily wouldn't have had.
Why It Will Win: Lanthimos has gained a tremendous following in just the last few years, with a reputation for creating absolutely bonkers artsy films that are creative and twisted. The Favourite sounds like potentially his most Oscar-friendly film to date, and the Oscars LOVE when an arthouse filmmaker helms a more marketable film. The trailer looks really promising and it might be Lanthimos' time to finally enter the big race.
Why It Won't: If you've never seen a Yorgos Lanthimos film, you don't really understand just how fucking weird they are. The Lobster scored a screenplay nomination a couple of years ago, but his last film The Killing of a Sacred Deer was shut out, presumably for being just too strange and heavy. My guess is that Lanthimos will get to the Oscars eventually. But it's not certain that The Favourite is the film that will get him there.
The Old Man and the Gun
Why It Will Win: Did you read the description? It's Robert Redford's last ever film role before he retires. That alone is going to force the Academy to pay attention. Plus, it's directed by David Lowery, who is known for some really creative filmmaking, such as last year's A Ghost Story.
Why It Won't: Like a lot of these films, we just don't know a lot about it. And even if Redford is on the Academy's radar, that won't immediately translate to Best Picture glory.
|No images from 22 July have been released yet, so here's Paul Greengrass with a microphone.|
Why It Will Win: United 93 is an absolutely brilliantly made film, and many agree that it would have been a Best Picture contender had it not been released so soon after the World Trade Center attacks. The Norway attacks were devastating, but will not hit as close to home for most Academy voters. If Greengrass can make as good of a film as both United 93 and Captain Phillips, then he might finally advance from Oscar nominee to Oscar winner.
Why It Won't: The Norway attacks are just not as well-known to most Oscar voters as the subjects of Greengrass' previous disaster films. And, unlike Captain Phillips, it doesn't have the starpower of someone like Tom Hanks behind it. If there's a film it can be compared to, it would probably be Dunkirk. If there's glowing praise after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, it could definitely score a Best Picture nomination, and will probably do well in the technical categories, but without a big headliner in the acting categories, 22 July faces an uphill battle to winning Best Picture. And, much like Roma, being distributed by Netflix is only going to hurt it's chances.
Why It Will Win: The Academy likes period films, and this one seems like the rare period film that feels like it will resonate with modern audiences due to its feminist bent. The film received universal acclaim when it premiered at Sundance, and seems like the first genuine Oscar contender from fledgling indie film studio Bleecker Street.
Why It Won't: The film does feel destined for the Oscars, but maybe not in the Best Picture category. Just like director Wash Westmoreland's last film, Still Alice, this feels like it might get more attention for its star as opposed to Best Picture. The film is supposed to be good, but Knightley is supposed to be great. It's one to watch for Oscar season, but just doesn't have the buzz to get into the biggest race of the night at this point.
At Eternity's Gate
Why It Will Win: Schnabel might not be a household name, but he has serious cinephile cred, and received a Best Director nomination for the innovative The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. We know very little about this film, but Dafoe playing Van Gogh is a really intriguing idea, and the subject matter seems suitable to Schnabel's artistic sensibilities. And even if only a little information has been released about it, the release date and festival schedule for the film seems to suggest its distributors think it might be have Oscar chances.
Why It Won't: Schnabel is REALLY out there, and since no one has seen the film yet, it might be too wacky or too boring to genuinely be part of the conversation. I think there's a chance it'll be an Oscars film, but I think there's also a chance that this will be released and absolutely nobody will see it. Let's hope it's the former.
Why It Will Win: Black Panther was a landmark achievement. This blockbuster, the first Marvel film to be directed by and to star a person of color, received a lot of buzz. It's not just another superhero film, it's one with a message. Recently, the Academy has been fighting accusations that it's out of touch with audiences, and recognizing a film like Black Panther would show that it is not blind to commercial success.
Why It Won't: It's a superhero movie. In previous years, whenever a superhero movie does well with critics, people start saying it might be the first superhero movie to get a Best Picture nomination, and it just never happens. It happened with The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Wonder Woman, and now it's going to happen with Black Panther. There's buzz now, but once genuine Oscar contenders are released, Black Panther is just not Oscar-y enough.
Why It Will Win: BlacKkKlansman has garnered Oscar buzz ever since it premiered at Cannes, and many have said its recent release signals the start of Oscar season. It's the only already released film with believable buzz. Spike Lee hasn't made it to the Oscars since his masterpiece Do the Right Thing, and many are saying this is his best film since. It's a timely movie, and such a great story, and is bound to have a strong Oscar campaign behind it.
Why It Won't: Most Oscar films tend to be released later in the year, so the fact that BlacKkKlansman is being released in August means it might not have the staying power that it needs to remain in the Oscars conversation. And then, to get real, there's racism. The Oscars have gotten better at recognizing more diverse films, but with two Oscar frontrunners (If Beale Street Could Talk and Widows) already being helmed by black directors, the unfortunate reality is that Oscar voters are probably significantly less likely to remember BlacKkKlansman. I'd love to be proven wrong, though.
Okay, so what does this all mean? Who knows. But, I figured I should try and make some early predictions. Some of these are going to be way, WAY off, and there are bound to be some films I've never even heard of or am completely not expecting which will make their way onto the ballot. I've also made predictions for Director and the four acting awards. These are even tougher: the director award is going to be skewed by whatever films rise to the top of the pack for Best Picture, so that's a real shot in the dark, but of my predictions, I do think that there's a good chance Orson Welles will get a Best Director nomination even if The Other Side of the Wind doesn't get a Best Picture nomination (if, of course, it's even eligible). The acting awards are even tougher to gauge, and there are a few films with Oscar-buzz for performances even if the films themselves aren't generating the same attention (such as Glenn Close vehicle The Wife). So I offer these with no degree of certainty, but if you were forcing me to predict the Oscar nominees right now, this is what I'd come up with:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
If Beale Street Could Talk
On the Basis of Sex
But don't count out: 22 July, BlacKkKlansman, Colette, The Front Runner, The Other Side of the World, Roma, A Star is Born, Suspiria, and Welcome to Marwen
Damien Chazelle--First Man
Barry Jenkins--If Beale Street Could Talk
Yorgos Lanthimos--The Favourite
Orson Welles--The Other Side of the Wind
But don't count out: The Coen Brothers--The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Alfonso Cuaron--Roma, Paul Dano--Wildlife, Joel Edgerton--Boy Erased, Paul Greengrass--22 July, Luca Guadagnino--Suspiria, Spike Lee--BlacKkKlansman, Adam McKay--Backseat, Jason Reitman--The Front Runner, and Robert Zemeckis--Welcome to Marwen
Glenn Close--The Wife
Felicity Jones--On the Basis of Sex
But don't count out: Emily Blunt--Mary Poppins, Toni Collette--Hereditary, Olivia Colman--The Favourite, Penelope Cruz--Everybody Knows, Lady Gaga--A Star is Born, Kiki Layne--If Beale Street Could Talk, Melissa McCarthy--Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Charlize Theron--Tully
Steve Carell--Welcome to Marwen OR Beautiful Boy
Willem Dafoe--At Eternity's Gate
Ryan Gosling--First Man
Lucas Hedges--Boy Erased
Robert Redford--The Old Man and the Gun
But don't count out: Christian Bale--Backseat, Ethan Hawke--First Reformed, Hugh Jackman--The Front Runner, Stephan James--If Beale Street Could Talk, Tim Blake Nelson--The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and John David Washington--BlacKkKlansman
Best Supporting Actress:
Nicole Kidman--Boy Erased
Regina King--If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone AND/OR Rachel Weisz--The Favourite
But don't count out: Amy Adams--Backseat, Vera Farmiga--The Front Runner, Margot Robbie--Mary, Queen of Scots, Amy Ryan--Beautiful Boy, and Sissy Spacek--The Old Man and the Gun
Best Supporting Actor:
Steve Carell AND/OR Sam Rockwell--Backseat
Timothy Chalamet--Beautiful Boy
Joel Edgerton AND/OR Russell Crowe--Boy Erased
Daniel Kaluuya AND/OR Liam Neeson--Widows
But don't count out: Kyle Chander--First Man, Adam Driver--BlacKkKlansman, Brendan Gleeson--The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Russell Hornsby--The Hate U Give, Matthew McConaughey--White Boy Rick
So, those are my thoughts. Which movies are you most excited for? Which ones do you think have good Oscar chances? Are there any movies you think I missed? There are bound to be some genuine Oscar contenders that haven't even occurred to me. Let me know in the comments!