Toronto International Film Festival just got over. What that means is that the “Oscar season” has officially begun. For the next six months, a certain section of press, called Oscar pundits, will spend a lot of time speculating and guesstimating who our next Oscar nominees and winners are going to be. Though, if have followed Cinemaholic long enough, you already know that you don’t need to follow any other Oscar expert because no one does this better than us (our records prove that). With that said, why not directly jump into the mix and predict which films are going to get nominated for Best Picture in 2020.
15. The Laundromat
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Alex Pettyfer, David Schwimmer, James Cromwell, Matthias Schoenaerts, Antonio Banderas
Synopsis: Saga of journalists unearthing the Panama Papers scandal — a massive tax-evasion scheme involving 11.5 million files, secret banking accounts, powerful political figures.
Oscar Prospects: Steven Soderbergh, who took a temporary hiatus, seems to be back in his prolific form. The Laundromat is his second film this year. Unfortunately, for him and Netflix, the film didn’t set the stage on fire at TIFF. The reviews were mostly split, with most agreeing that the film is not among the best works of Soderbergh. With the kind of talent involved in the film, it could have traveled all the way, but I guess that seems a distant dream now.
14. The Report
Director: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Morrison, Annette Bening
Synopsis: While preparing his report on the CIA’s Interrogation Program, Senate staffer Daniel Jones found himself in disagreement with their methods and tirelessly worked to bring their actions to light. This film tells the story of one man who fought against both the CIA and the White House to get his report published.
Oscar Prospects: The film played at Sundance this year to super-positive critical response. Soon after, Amazon acquired film’s right at an astronomical price of $14 million. Everything was going well for the film till it hit TIFF, where it got a mediocre response. So, what happened exactly? Well, I am not sure why the film failed to impress journalists at TIFF, but my guess is that the film was never really tested up until now. TIFF had some really great films in its lineup and by being pitted against them, ‘The Report’ somehow lost its steam. I will be massively surprised if the film makes it to the final list of Best Picture nominees.
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Alexa Demie, Sterling K. Brown, Clifton Collins Jr.
Synopsis: Two young couples navigate through the emotional minefield of growing up and falling in love
Oscar Prospects: Waves is a phenomenal achievement in filmmaking. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have “big stars” associated with it, which means it have a tougher road to climb. Bigger names means immediate attention. Having said that, the film has the capability of making in the nominees list on its merit alone. I will have wait and see how critics and audeince react once it opens wide. (Read Review)
13. The Farewell
Director: Lulu Wang
Starring: Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo
Synopsis: A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.
Oscar Prospects: The Farewell absolutely deserves to be nominated. But the challenge it is facing right now is to stay in conversation, especially after the barrage of films that were shown at TIFF. Will there be supporters who will remember the film in January? Most definitely. But what I am not sure of is if the number of those supporters will be enough. Still, for the time being, The Farewell remains in contention.
12. Just Mercy
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx
Synopsis: Attorney Bryan Stevenson takes the case of Walter McMillian, a man wrongfully imprisoned for murder of a white woman.
Oscar Prospects: A film about America’s broken criminal justice system. I think that’s all you need why Just Mercy could be a serious Oscar contender. The film is well made, with an ending that will leave you in tears. I remember watching Lion a couple of years back and how everyone in the audience was crying in the end. I didn’t like Lion, but still I knew its potential — and it did get nominated that year. So, what I am trying to say is that you can never count out a film that makes you cry in the end, especially when it is issue based. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised, if Just Mercy gains ground over next few months and becomes a serious contender to win Best Picture. (Read Review)
11. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Enrico Colantoni
Synopsis: A timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor.
Oscar Prospects: ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ is the feel good film that everyone is going to like. After all, how can you not like a film about a super-likable guy who is played by another super-likable guy. Though, I am not convinced, it is a film that will evoke passionate support. Yes, Mr. Rogers was a lovely person. But everyone already knows that. The film doesn’t offer some deep insight into Mr. Rogers that isn’t already out there. And in any case, the film is about Lloyd Vogel and not so much about Mr Rogers. So, even though, I know how easily this film could find a place on majority of the ballots, I am not sure if there is enough support out there. (Read Review)
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong
Synopsis: Two young British soldiers during the First World War, are given an impossible mission: deliver a message, deep in enemy territory, that will stop their own men, and Blake’s own brother, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Oscar Prospects: Sam Mendes is already an Oscar winner for American Beauty, but he hasn’t made anything Oscar-worthy in at least last 10 years. Will that change this year with 1917? Well, it looks certain if you believe the buzz about the film, which is reportedly is in real time and has just one continuous shot. Mendes seems to be trying to one up Inarritu’s Birdman — which ended up winning the Oscar. Whatever he is trying to do, one thing is for certain. There’s a hell lot of talent involved here to ignore its Oscar prospects. And top of that it is a World War film? We all know how much the Academy loves them.
9. The Two Popes
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Juan Minujín
Synopsis: Behind Vatican walls, the traditionalist Pope Benedict and the reformist future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.
Oscar Prospects: The Two Popes is a film that older Academy members are going to fall head over heels in love with. Not just them, but every ex and practicing Catholics are also going to adore the film. After all, the film in a way tries to redeem Catholicism — “look, our Pope is so progressive”. Criticism aside, the film does offer a few memorable moments. Is that enough to warrant film’s place on nominee list? My answer is no. But I am afraid, most of the Academy members will have a different opinion than me.
8. Jojo Rabbit
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson
Synopsis: A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
Oscar Prospects: An “anti-hate satire”. That’s how ‘Jojo Rabbit’ has been promoted by Fox Searchlight, the studio behind the film. While that description of the film is certainly true, what is not certain at this point is how will Academy members react to the film. Critical reception has been split and audiences, too, haven’t been over-the-moon about the film. Though winning the TIFF Audience award is surely a stamp of how likable the film is. Things will become more clear as more and more Academy members see the film, but at this point I won’t bet the farm on it.
Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro
Synopsis: A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.
Oscar Prospects: When I first saw ‘Joker’, I was not very sure about its Oscar prospects despite having loved the film. I knew that the film definitely deserves to be nominated because of the courage that both Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips showed in making the film the way they did. At the time, I also knew that many, if not most, Academy members are going to despise the film. But all my doubts have been quashed since now that ‘Joker’ is an international box office phenomenon, collecting over one billion dollars at the global box office. It is now that highest grossing R-rated movie ever and also the most profitable comic book movie ever. Basically, what this means is that the Academy members who were on the fence about the film will proudly vote for it. At this point, ‘Joker’s nomination looks guaranteed. (Read Review)
6. Little Women
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Bob Odenkirk and Meryl Streep!
Synopsis: Louisa May Alcott’s autobiographical account of her life with her three sisters in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1860s. With their father fighting in the American Civil War, sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth are at home with their mother, a very outspoken women for her time. The story tells of how the sisters grow up, find love and find their place in the world.
Oscar Prospects: Greta Gerwig made the best film of 2017. ‘Lady Bird’ was among the three Oscar frontrunners for Best Picture that year. Will she repeat her success this year? Isn’t this a remake? Well, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born is also a remake. And look how well it did on all fronts — box office, critics and Oscars. So, why not Gerwig? Over the years, Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of the same name has acted as an inspiration for several stories, having been officially adapted onscreen seven times. The eighth adaptation comes in the form a Greta Gerwig film. If you go by the trailer released last month, it looks like Gerwig might have done it again: deliver a serious Oscar contender. The question is can she beat her boyfriend, Noah Baumbach, and take the top prize.
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Malcolm McDowell, Mark Duplass, Alice Eve, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Liv Hewson, and Alanna Ubach
Synopsis: This film is based on the novel of the same name by A.J Finn and follows an agoraphobic child psychologist who witnesses a crime while spying on her neighbors, leaving her to determine whether to alert the police.
Oscar Prospects: I can take the credit for identifying this as a serious Oscar contender from miles afar. Once its fantastic trailer came out, everyone else also realized how good this can be. It’s been more than two years since sexual harassment allegations against Fox News founder triggered a worldwide phenomena, which would be later known as #MeToo. Despite several feministic themed movies made during this time, there hasn’t been a single film that truly defined this #MeToo era. Could this be that film? Going by its strong female cast, I am pretty sure that if this hits all the right notes, we might be looking at our next Best Picture winner.
4. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Margot Robbie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Damian Lewis, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning and Lena Dunham.
Synopsis: A faded TV actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of the Hollywood Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.
Oscar Prospects: ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is everything that we have come to expect from Quentin Tarantino. And just like his other films, this one too was a little divisive. But to get nominated, the film just needs to have a large group of passionate supporters, which ‘Once Upon ..’ definitely has. And if that was not enough, great performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the film will make things a little less bumpy. Tarantino has won two Oscars before — both for Best Original Screenplay. He has not won Best Director or Best Picture prize. Can you believe that? Someone who arguably is the most influential director of past two decades has not been considered worthy enough to be rewarded with the topmost achievement for filmmaking. I am not sure if that will change next year. But at least, he will have a fair shot.
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo
Synopsis: All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.
Oscar Prospects: Those who follow Oscar race closely must be wondering right now: how can a foreign film be a guaranteed nominee at this point in the race? The answer is quite simple. Parasite is 2019’s best film and anyone who sees it cannot not be impressed by what a brilliant piece of work it is. Your next question could be: when has merit started mattering in the Oscar race? The answer to that is it is not just merit in favor of ‘Parasite’. There are several other factors going for it. Let’s start with the fact that it won Palme d’or at Cannes. That’s not a big deal all the time, but considering how much Western audiences have loved the film, the win matters. Also, Joon-ho Bong is a well known name in Hollywood circles, and there has been a history of Academy rewarding foreign auteurs, for example, Michael Haneke for Amour and Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, of course. (Read Review)
2. The Irishman
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Bob Cannavale, Stephen Graham, Ray Romano and Anna Paquin
Synopsis: The film is based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt that tells the story of Frank Sheeran, a WWII veteran, who becomes an American labor union official and alleged hitman for the mob. De Niro plays the lead role of Frank Sheeran.
Oscar Prospects: The film opened at NYFF to all-round universal acclaim, with several critics citing the film to be straight up masterpiece. So, it is very much clear that we are also looking at a major Oscar contender here. You might have to hold your breath for a while when I tell you that Netflix has spent close to $150 million on the production of the film. Yup, you read that right. That doesn’t even include the marketing cost of the film. And you can be rest assured that Netflix is preparing for a lavish Oscar campaign for the film too. With all the talent involved and with Netflix’s deep pockets, I would be really surprised, if ‘Irishman’ doesn’t score big at the Oscars next year.
1. Marriage Story
Director: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern
Synopsis: A stage director and an actress struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.
Oscar Prospects: Whether it is ‘Marriage Story’ or ‘The Irishman’, it seems like the Best Picture Oscar is heading Netflix way. Talking about ‘Marriage Story’, apart from the fact that the film has received almost perfect reviews, there are several factors that work in favor of the film. First and foremost, it is a story that every adult who has been in any kind of relationship can relate to. Secondly, it has two volcanic performances at its center that will melt the hearts of even the most ice cold person out there. Thirdly and most importantly, it is a film that everyone can get behind (Read: offends nobody). Having said that, there are a few challenges that the film has to overcome too. Several in the Academy haven’t yet warmed up the idea of Netflix films competing at the Oscars. As we saw this year with Roma, there’s still quite a significant resistance against Netflix. Have the attitudes changed since then? We’ll soon come to know. (Read Review)
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