All The Films Tipped For Oscars Glory
Now that we're into the stretch of the year with eighteen hours of darkness a day, it's safe to say 2018 is on its way out. But while it might be the end of the year, it's only the beginning of Big Film Season as we're on the cusp of releases which are tipped to win big at the Oscars.
The winners at Cannes, Venice, and Toronto Film Festivals earlier this year point to it being a year of stiff competition and no one clear win in any of the categories - least of all best picture. It's still early days to be putting money on the results, but here are the likely names be hearing from now until February 24th.
Director Alfonso Cuarón will be hoping to repeat the success of his multiple Oscar-winning Gravity and continue the hot streak of Mexican direction trio the 'three amigos', comprised of himself, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Roma is a black and white reflection on social upheaval set in 1970's Mexico City which takes its title from the 'Colonia Roma' district of Mexico. It is also Netflix's biggest play yet for a major award and has seen the streaming service give it an international cinematic release in order to contend for said awards.
After receiving strong reviews Roma went on to win the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival, the prize which del Toro's The Shape of Water took last year. Roma could well go on to take the coveted Best Picture at the Oscars, as del Toro did last year, and Cuarón is a frontrunner for the directing award.
Mahershala Ali's follows his Oscar-winning performance in Moonlight with the real story of a tour of the deep south Jamaican-American pianist Don Shirley (Ali) took with his driver, former bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) in the 1960s.
As well as receiving a standing ovation at London Film Festival in October, Green Book won the prestigious People's Choice Award at Toronto International Film Festival, an award whose previous winners include Oscar successes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, La La Land and 12 Years a Slave.
Balancing comedy and candor, Ali and Mortensen will likely both receive nominations for their performances and Green Book will almost certainly get a shot at Best Picture too. Audiences have loved its positive energy but, as Three Billboards was accused of, it has been criticised treating racism as something that can be packaged into a feel good film.
Director Damien Chazelle received a string of Oscars wins and nominations for his last two projects, La La Land and Whiplash. Now he turns his focus to the space race in a film where Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong in the story of NASA's mission to land a man on the moon and the astronaut's life leading up to the event. Claire Foy is cast as Armstrong's wife Janet Shearon and gives a career-defining performance while Corey Stoll (House Of Cards) intrigues as Buzz Aldrin.
As well as showing at Toronto, First Man opened Venice - the same spot occupied by La La Land and previous Oscar hits Gravity and Birdman. Esquire's review praised the "subdued, self-reflective and genre-defying film" as well as Gosling's portrait of a man "driven more by depression than any sense of glory or fatalism".
Despite the hype attached to the film as soon as people heard Gosling and Chazelle were teaming up again, First Man doesn't seem to have hugely captured audience's imaginations since landing in cinemas. It could be destined to be a film nominated in a smattering of categories (Director, Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Cinematography, Score etc) but go away with no major wins.
Chronicling a boy's spiral into meth addiction with endless loops of relapses, Beautiful Boy is told through the eyes of David (Steve Carell), a father who watches his son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet) as he falls into drug addiction. It's a gruelling watch as David laments seeing the son “thought he knew inside and out” disappearing in front of his eyes.
Beautiful Boy comes from Brad Pitt's Plan B studio who have had a string of Oscar successes including 12 Years a Slave, The Big Short and Moonlight. Chalamet last year earned a Best Actor nomination for his performance in Call Me By Your Name in which he perfectly conveyed the pain of young love and tenderness of sexual awakening.
While Carell feels a little wooden playing the desperate father, Chalamet is the trembling heart of the story who makes you worry about taking your eyes off him for a second. It is believed the young actor will be put forward for Best Supporting Actor, perhaps a category he could fare more strongly in.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Another Plan B production, this time from Moonlight writer and director Barry Jenkins (why change an award-winning formula?). A love story set in 1970s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is adapted from a James Baldwin novel of the same name. When 22-year-old Fonny (Stephan James) is falsely accused of rape he is imprisoned causing his 19-year-old fiancée Tish (KiKi Lane) to fight to free him before the birth of their first child.
Following something as beloved as Moonlight is a tall order and although this film doesn't match its intensity it aches with love and loss in a similar way. James and Layne are both impressive, as is Regina King as Tish's mother. It's a film which glows with love and pain and features gorgeous colours and costumes as well as serving as a timely criticism of the skewered justice system in America.
Perhaps Jenkins will actually get to make a proper Best Picture speech ... so long as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway aren't presenting again.
A period drama with Olivia Colman as mad Queen Anne and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as the ladies of the court who compete for her attention and try to manipulate her, The Favourite already sounds like, well, a favourite going into awards season.
It comes from Yorgos Lanthimos, the director who bought us The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, though fans fearing anything bizarre and high concept as those two may be relieved to hear it's a more conventional film, and one with plenty of humour. Could this be a chance for Colman, arguably Britain's most gifted actress, to finally catch some buzz in Hollywood?
Yes, if first reactions are anything to go by. It showed at New York Film Festival, with NYFF director Kent Jones describing it as, “an historical epic; a visual feast; a wild, wild ride; a formidable display of the art of acting ... And … it’s a blast.”
The Guardian's post Venice review raved about Colman's performance and describes the film "rousingly nasty, bleary, hungover punch-up". The Hollywood Reporter were equally praising of its "sumptuous visuals and delectable wit" adding that it "offers a balanced triumvirate of formidable female leads rich in surprising character shadings."
A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper's directorial debut sees him also write, produce and act alongside Lady Gaga. A Star Is Born follows a musician (Cooper) who helps a young singer and actress (Gaga) find fame while his own career collapses into alcoholism and hopelessness.
While track 'The Shallows', written by Gaga and Mark Ronson, already looks like a good bet for 'Best Song', reactions suggest it will be gunning for much grander plaudits.
Despite the cinema it showed in at Venice being struck by lightning and a 15-minute interruption, A Star Is Born received an eight minute standing ovation from audiences. It has received near-univerfsal four and five star reviews including one from Peter Bradshaw in which he calls Gaga's performance "mesmerising" and the film, "outrageously watchable and colossally enjoyable".
Steve McQueen's first venture since his Best Picture winning 12 Years a Slave, Widows is adapted from a Lynda La Plante television series about a group of women who conspire together after being left in debt when their husbands are killed in a robbery.
The hugely talented cast includes Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Jon Bernthal, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Daniel Kaluuya. Gone Girl and Sharp Objects author Gillian Flynn has co-written the script for the full-throttle escapade.
The British director's film premiered at TIFF where audiences where audience's praised the auteur's ability to pull of an action-packed heist film. The Guardian called it a "muscular, ferociously entertaining crowd-pleaser packed with superb performances" and Vanity Fair evocatively termed it "a polished product that has a barb-wire ribbon of tenacious political fury running through it".
A black detective in Colorado infiltrates the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and rises to the top of it in this latest venture from Spike Lee. Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth and his book about these events , the film stars Denzel Washington's son John David Washington as the lead detective and Adam Driver as a Jewish undercover police officer.
BlacKkKlansman received an eight minute standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival this year with audience members reportedly spontaneously bursting into applause during the film (only at Cannes...). Lee's searing anti-Trump tirade at the festival and dedication to Charlottesville victim Heather Hayer has only added to the film's sense of timeliness and won it potential votes with the Hollywood liberal set. Read Esquire's full review here.
Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with Zoe Kazan adapting the screenplay from American writer Richard Ford's novel of the same name. Through the eyes of their son we see a marriage fall apart when a couple, Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) move to Montana and she falls for another man.
Mulligan’s Jeanette is both heartbreaking and enraging to watch as she flits from joyful abandon to wild anger. It's a hell of a performance and one she'll surely earn a Best Actress nomination for. The film is also gorgeous to behold thanks to cinematographer Diego Garcia though Jake Gyllenhaal's performance of a man strangled by his own ego failings will prove either prove toxic or timely with audiences and Academy members.
There's no guarantee a 'method acting' body transformation will guarantee you an award, but it never hurts. Christian Bale has duly piled on the pounds for his role as the former second in command to , Dick Cheney.
Vice, directed by comedy veteran Adam McKay, also stars , and in a biopic charting Cheney's ascent to become 'the most powerful Vice President in history'. Cinema circles are speculating that Adams could finally take home an Oscar for her role as Cheney's wife, Lynne, for which she's also undergone a body transformation. A Best Actor nomination for Bale's Cheney as well as Best Picture are also rumored to be likely.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Coen brothers first Netflix venture is a Western anthology titled The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs which begun life as a six-part series but was released as one two hour feature.
The film is a collection of tales about the American frontier - the first days of European settlement on the Atlantic coast–with each episode focusing on a different storyline. In the titular instalment, the story of a "sharp-shooting songster" is explored. In 'Near Algodones', a wannabe bank robber gets his comeuppance and 'Meal Ticket' is a gothic tale about two weary travelling performers.
It earned excellent reviews from critics ahead of release which were cemented by audience reactions when it was released in November. Netflix have also given it a cinematic release which can only mean they're gunning for award season with it. The film's mostly likely win would be for screenwriting though Liam Neeson and Zoe Kazan also give impressive performances.
Surpassing Titanic to become the third highest-grossing movie of all time at the US box office and earning the respect of critics, Black Panther set a new standard for superhero films.
When the Academy announced they were toying with the idea of introducing a Best Popular film category, many thought this was a certain shoo in for Black Panther. However if Netflix are competing for big prizes, you bet Marvel want to get in on the action too and the studio behind the film confirmed they were still gunning for Best Picture, thank you very much.
What it will win is up in the air but Disney have announced their Academy Award hit list, with basically every category from Director to Adapted Screenplay to Costume Design to Original Song, six nominations for Best Actor and four for Best Actress. It seems likely they will be disappointed somewhere along the way.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.