As Guillermo del Toro takes a well-deserved victory lap for The Shape of Water, it’s time to prematurely turn our attention to next year’s Oscar race, because you know you’re already curious about Black Panther‘s Best Picture chances. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, really.
Hollywood continues to make strides in terms of hiring female directors, but it pains me to say that there aren’t many obvious female contenders for this year’s Best Director award, simply going by the films I think will be nominated for Best Picture and the fact that there are five fewer slots. Of course, no one was predicting Greta Gerwig would wind up with two Oscar nominations for Lady Bird at this point last year, so who knows what will ultimately happen.
Patty Jenkins, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola and Dee Rees may not have movies on the docket for 2018, but we’ll see new films from Ava DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time), Nicole Holofcener (The Land of Steady Habits), Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Jennifer Kent (The Nightingale), Reed Morano (I Think We’re Alone Now), Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), Karyn Kusama (Destroyer), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Julia Hart (Fast Color) and Desiree Akhavan, whose gay conversion therapy drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and will surely be in the awards conversation along with the similarly-themed Boy Erased.
What would feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg have to say about all this? Well, we’ll find out in the RBG drama On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as the Supreme Court justice, and directed Mimi Leder — a respected veteran who may have the best Oscar chances of the aforementioned bunch.
It also looks like another deep year for Best Actress contenders as far as I can tell, and that’s even with Meryl Streep out of the picture with two supporting performances in the musical sequels Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Hollywood’s top actresses can breathe easy this year, as the category appears to have dodged a Streep bullet… for now.
Meanwhile, as pumped as I am to see female-driven heist movies like Widows and Ocean’s 8, the female ensemble that has me most excited is Robert Zemeckis’ The Woman of Marwen, which finds Steve Carell surrounded by Diane Kruger, Leslie Mann, Gwendoline Christie and Janelle Monáe. That one could be a stealth contender, but for now, we have it just outside our projected Best Picture field. That could change, and frankly anything can (and likely will) happen over the next 12 months, so join us on what this ridiculous journey into super-early awards punditry.
If Beale Street Could Talk
On the Basis of Sex
Don’t Sleep On: Either of Jason Reitman’s films — Tully and The Front Runner
Wonder Woman may not have been able to manage the feat, but I do think that Black Panther has enough support within the industry to become the first comic book movie nominated for Best Picture. And speaking of firsts, if Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is nominated for Best Picture, it would be the first original Netflix movie to be up for that prestigious award. Yes, The Departed won and Goodfellas was nominated, but Casino got shut out besides Sharon Stone, so you never know. New films from Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins will inevitably be pitted against each other, along with the latest from Steve McQueen and Adam McKay. I feel like Beautiful Boy and Boy Erased are bound to be confused with each other all season long, but each seems like a strong candidate for a nomination. That’s a lot of testosterone for the category — two Boy movies, two Man movies, and films about male politicians and superheroes and singers — so thank goodness for Mimi Leder’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg drama On the Basis of Sex, as well as McQueen’s female-driven heist movie Widows and Beale Street, which introduces promising newcomer Kiki Layne. As for the Reitman films, Tully premiered as the secret screening at Sundance and I personally loved it, but it may be too small to generate serious Best Picture buzz. Don’t count it out though, and the same goes for The Front Runner, which stars Hugh Jackman as disgraced presidential candidate Gary Hart.
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Steve McQueen, Widows
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Don’t Sleep On: The women behind the films with five-word titles — Mimi Leder, On the Basis of Sex and Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
It’s shaping up to be another heated year for the Best Director race, which could very well pit old foes against each other. Damien Chazelle beat out Barry Jenkins for Best Director last year, while Alfonso Cuaron beat out Steve McQueen several years ago, though it was Jenkins and McQueen who ultimately got the last laugh when Moonlight beat La La Land for Best Picture and 12 Years a Slave beat Gravity. As for Scorsese, while his best years may be behind him, and it’ll be hard for him to top Goodfellas and Casino (to which The Irishman will inevitably be compared), but I just can’t write him off here, not with this story, and armed with this cast of golden oldies. He has earned the benefit of the doubt, so here I am, giving it to both him and Netflix. Elsewhere, you can bet that Adam McKay (Dick Cheney), the always-provocative Spike Lee (Black Klansman, which has me sensing a comeback), and of course, Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), will almost certainly be in the conversation next year. And while I don’t necessarily see a female director following in Greta Gerwig’s footsteps and landing a nomination next year, I certainly think it’s possible that Mimi Leder and Marielle Heller could upset the field.
20th Century Fox
Christian Bale, Dick Cheney
Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy
Ryan Gosling, First Man
Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Don’t Sleep On: The Legendary Roberts — Robert De Niro, The Irishman and Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun
Steve Carell will be competing against himself with Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Marwencol, as will Joaquin Phoenix, who stars in three films this year — Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, You Were Never Really Here and Mary Magdalene. The idea of Brad Pitt in a James Gray film, Ad Astra, sure is intriguing, as is Andrew Garfield in the LA noir Under the Silver Lake. Would the Academy dare nominate Casey Affleck again, who may have a contender on his hands with Light of My Life? Meanwhile, Jason Reitman directed George Clooney to an Oscar nomination in Up in the Air, and Aaron Eckhart to a Golden Globe nomination in Thank You for Smoking. Could he do the same for Hugh Jackman, who plays disgraced Senator Gary Hart in The Front Runner? You’ll have two Hollywood legends, the Roberts — De Niro and Redford — duking it out on the circuit with The Irishman and what might’ve been its alternate title, The Old Man and the Gun, while rising stars John David Washington and Stephan James could surprise with their starring roles in Spike Lee’s Black Klansman and Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, respectively.
Sony Pictures Classics
Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex
Glenn Close, The Wife
Cate Blanchett, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk
Viola Davis, Widows
Don’t Sleep On: The other Sundance standouts — Charlize Theron, Tully and Toni Collette, Hereditary
It’s another very competitive year for the Best Actress category, where some heavyweights loom large. For starters, Glenn Close is said to be fantastic in The Wife, which Sony Pictures Classics decided to hold until 2018 to better prepare its awards campaign. At this point, we’ve seen standout performances from Charlize Theron and Toni Collette up at Sundance, but each will have their work cut out for them. Theron earned a Golden Globe nom for her scathing performance in Young Adult, but she was snubbed by the Academy. However, the stressed-out mom she plays in Tully is more relatable that her rough-around-the-edges character in Young Adult, so audiences may warm to here. And hey, speaking of mothers, the Academy has a long history of snubbing horror movies, but Collette delivers one of the genre’s best performances of the past decade in Hereditary. It’s chilling, committed work, so we’ll see if A24 can convince the Academy to overlook its horror stigma.
Elsewhere, Felicity Jones no doubt has her eye on a second Oscar nomination for her turn as future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Mimi Leder’s drama On the Basis of Sex, which will certainly be coming along at the right time(s up). The Academy loves its ingenues, and newcomer Kiki Layne would certainly fit that profile with the lead role in the next film from Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight. If the film delivers, and she delivers in it, I could see her edging out peers like Saoirse Ronan (Mary, Queen of Scots) Claire Foy (First Man) and Emma Stone (The Favourite). Amy Adams has been nominated five times and may score her sixth nom as Lynne Cheney, but will she run in lead or supporting? She’s an Academy favorite, but so are past winners Cate Blanchett (Where’d You Go, Bernadette?) and Viola Davis (Widows). I mean, we haven’t even mentioned Annette Bening in The Seagull or Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns, let alone countless others, like Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Julianne Moore (Gloria). It’s gonna be a loooong awards season, folks!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased
Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
Matthew McConaughey, White Boy Rick
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Don’t Sleep On: The Sundance standouts — Forest Whitaker, Burden and Jonah Hill, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Could Joe Pesci or Harvey Keitel edge out Pacino for a nomination? I suppose. But either way, sight unseen, The Irishman is angling for one of these slots. Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan seems likely to land another, given the reception of Killmonger as the best Marvel villain yet. I like McConaughey’s chances for White Boy Rick. After all… and remember I said this… it was Christopher Walken, not Leonardo DiCaprio or Tom Hanks, who earned an Oscar nomination for Catch Me If You Can. I have a feeling Beautiful Boy and Boy Erased will be battling all season, and each will offer up a strong contender for Best Supporting Actor. Elsewhere, don’t forget about Steve Carell’s turn as Donald Rumsfeld in the Dick Cheney movie. Carell has starring roles in Beautiful Boy and Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of Marwencol, but it’s possible that Adam McKay’s film could offer the actor his best shot at a nomination. And finally, Whitaker and Hill earned strong notices for their supporting turns at Sundance, and considering their history with the Academy, they should be safely in the mix.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kathy Bates, On the Basis of Sex
Cynthia Erivo, Widows
Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased
Margot Robbie, Mary, Queen of Scots
Amy Ryan, Beautiful Boy
Don’t Sleep On: The Favo(u)rites — Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman, The Favourite
This is the trickiest major category to get a handle on this far out, but if I had to make just one bet, it’s that Nicole Kidman will land a nomination for Boy Erased. It’s unclear how the screen time will be divided in The Favourite, so it’s hard to say whether Olivia Colman has the edge over Rachel Weisz, which is why I gave that last slot to Amy Ryan, based simply on the devastating source material behind Beautiful Boy. That slot could just as easily go to Regina King, who co-stars in If Beale Street Could Talk. Meanwhile, Vera Farmiga earned an Oscar nomination the last time she worked with Jason Reitman, so she could be back in the awards conversation this year, as could Saoirse Ronan (The Seagull) and Laura Dern, who plays Laura Albert in JT Leroy.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief