The 91st Academy Awards are done and so now our lives have a big giant glaring hole. How do we go on without endless awards chatter and prognosticating? What else is there in life other than arbitrarily choosing who might take home a gold statuette? How do we spend our days if we can't angrily declare how overrated a Best Picture nominee is or deride people on social media that don't share the exact same thoughts on nominees? Fear not, I got word that there is going to be a 92nd Academy Awards in 2020 and so right now is the perfect time to start making picks on who will be nominated for the coveted Best Picture.
The Oscar nominees won't be announced for another 10 months. Most of the movies that will be nominated have not been screened by anyone, and most cases, haven't even been finished yet. Something that looks like a sure thing now, could end up being this year's version of Welcome to Marwen or The Monuments Men. There could always be the big surprises, for example this time last year I would have never guessed a buddy comedy directed by one of the guys who helmed Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary would win the Best Picture or I'd never have thought Yorgos Lanthimos would make something that would get nominated by the Academy.
It may be a little reckless to make Best Picture nominations this far out, but it is also a little fun trying to be fortune teller. Here are my predictions for the ten movies that will be nominated for Best Picture next January. Of course, I'd pick ten, because the Academy would never do something silly like leave two spots empty. If I do well (hit at least 50%), I'm sure I'll reference this article next year, and if I don't, this never happened.
Just for sake of ease, movies are listed alphabetically.
1. Fair and Balanced: Two things that the Academy gobbles up are movies that are socially relevant, and movies based on true events. You combine the two and you get Oscar magic. This movie is about the still discussed about discovery of former FOX News CEO Roger Ailes' sexual harassment of several female staff members. It was one of the major events that triggered the #MeToo movement, so if this is of any substantial quality, you know the Academy wants to shine a spotlight on it and show how progressive they are becoming. It has a powerhouse cast that includes Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow (playing Ailes). The only question mark is Jay Roach's filmography mostly consists of broad comedies of varying quality, but my bet is that he is about to pull an Adam McKay with a story he is passionate about.
2. The Farewell: Most years there is one or two Sundance hits that find themselves in the Best Picture race. This movie was not only a huge hit with critics at the festival, but it also will push forward Academy's attempts at being more inclusive and diverse. It is a story about a Chinese American woman who returns to China because her grandma has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, but this is being kept secret from the matriarch, instead the visit is under the guise of attending a wedding. This is a great look into another culture, while also representing a group that still doesn't get enough American movies on the big screen. If this ends up having a strong audience then along with the great critical reception, this seems like the type of movie that will garner big attention by year end. Awkwafina who was a break-out in comedy roles last year with Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians has already been praised by adeptly blending in some serious dramatic depth., It also has the added advantage of acknowledging a film from a Chinese-American female director in Lulu Wang.
3. Ford v. Ferrari: Director James Mangold has history of delivering critical and audience favourites with movies like Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and Logan. This is another movie looking like a contender due to an exciting cast with Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Jon Bernthal. Remember how I said Academy loves their true stories, well they like them even better when they're period pieces, so we have a real contender with it set in the 1960s. The story about the two iconic car companies battling it out at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans should be a mix of powerhouse drama along with some breathtaking action sequences. This has a strong chance of being the double punch power of being a box office hit and a critical darling.
4. The Goldfinch: If a movie isn't based on a true story, then the Academy will embrace adaptations of award-winning literary fiction. I was torn between choosing this movie and the Greta Gerwig directed Little Women, but there have already been several adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's classic, so I went with the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner by Donna Tartt. Director John Crowley has endeared himself to the Academy with the magnificent Brooklyn, and he is now challenging himself with a darker and more sweeping story. It's about a boy who survives a terrorist attack that kills his mother and then is taken in by a rich socialite family, which leads to a complicated life where he becomes a forger. It will be great to see Ansel Elgort back in a hefty lead role and it is always awesome to see Nicole Kidman showing why she is an acting treasure.
5. Harriet: This may be my second biggest long-shot (later in this piece, I really take a risk by picking a big, giant, popcorn blockbuster franchise movie), but if this ends up being of substantial quality then I sense a home run. It is a biopic about famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery and then played a huge part in the Underground Railroad that led hundreds of slaves to freedom. I can't believe it is 2019 and this is one of the first movies about the life of such an iconic figure (the second is an HBO movie also coming out this year). The Academy loves their biopics, and if this one is crafted carefully, it can still carry a lot of social importance for today. Cynthia Erivo, who I loved last year in Bad Time at the El Royale, get the title role and I am confident she will blow us away. It will also be a significant movie because it is directed by a black female filmmaker in Kasi Lemmons (whose previous work I'm not familiar, so therefore I'm not as confident). I'm excited about this one, and I hope Focus Features pushes for a wider release and backs this one strong.
6. The Irishman: Netflix finally was allowed at the big person table this year with the nomination for Roma and even ended up being a heavy favourite to the point Green Book winning was considered an upset. They already have a new strong contender by backing Martin Scorsese's hotly anticipated return to gangster pictures with a story about an alleged hitman who played a part in killing Jimmy Hoffa. It has an exciting cast of gangster movie veterans including Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Al Pacino and a coming out of retirement Joe Pesci. Scorsese has one of the best percentages for crafting high quality pictures, and I have huge confidence that he wouldn't return to his most famous genre unless he had an amazing story to tell. This may not only be a huge Oscar favourite, but it could even land high on the much more highly coveted Christopher Spicer Best of the Year list.
7. It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: A huge portion of the Academy is probably very nostalgic for the iconic children's show, Mister Roger's Neighborhood. The Academy in their warped logic may also see a nomination for this movie as an apology for missing the boat on last year's critically revered documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? Tom Hanks gets the coveted lead role, and when he is in a great movie, his name usually does a lot for the movie's recognition and awards consideration. Also, if I am correct on these picks, a lot of the nominees next year are going to be emotionally heavy, so it will be good to balance it out with a feel-good picture. Director Marielle Heller has already helmed two critically praised movies in The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? so part of me thinks she is due for the big recognition. This will by far be her widest released film and my guess is it will be a decent box office hit for the fall.
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino helmed movies aren't nomination sure-things like a Scorsese picture, but he is such a high-profile filmmaker that if his movie is great then there is no way it can fly under the radar. This picture has already gained some controversy with its story about an actor and his stunt double trying to break into Hollywood during the time of the infamous Manson Family murders. The actual story beats are still unknown, but if Tarantino weaves his magic in taking edgy material but swirling it into something unique and entertaining then it can be a huge hit. It has an all-star cast in Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie who make anything riveting. No matter what, it should at least be one of the most memorable movies of 2019
9. The Report: This is the second Sundance darling on my list, and my second movie to be distributed by a streaming giant (this time Amazon Studios). Though Amazon announced some of their movies will go directly to the streaming service, my guess is a strong contender like this one will still get the tradition release model like their previous movies. As I've said many times, Academy loves based on true stories, and if it has political relevance to today's climate then that is just a sprinkle of more Skittles on nomination cake. The story here is a Senate staffer who uncovers findings about brutal interrogation technique implement after 9/11 and how the CIA and White House try to silence the truth from getting out. This has already got heavy critical praise, and this subject matter has been a hit in the past with the Academy (Zero Dark Thirty), so this seems like a sure-fire contender. It also is said to have amazing performances from usual powerhouses like Adam Driver and Annette Bening.
10. Star Wars Episode 9: Big popcorn blockbusters are not obvious Best Picture picks most years, but after the 'Most Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film' fiasco of last year, it is obvious that the Academy wants more big box office hits to be involved in the conversation. Black Panther made history by being the first Marvel movie to be nominated, so I think Disney will now push hard for another of their big franchises to be recognized in the top category. This also can be a way to reward what has been a great trilogy, and I feel like J.J. Abrams will want to end strong and tackle some of the deeper social themes that have been hinted at in the previous movies. If this has the depth that I expect, then this could slip into the 'won't win but being acknowledged is enough' slot.
I'll be happy if I get two or three of these right. It is almost impossible to know what will be hot and buzzy by the end of the year. It is still unknown if most of these will even be good and some may even end up getting pushed to 2020. It is still fun to take a chance. What 2019 movies do you think will get nominated for Best Picture?
Edit March 6: Somehow, I accidentally deleted my original entry for The Goldfinch. It is now the ten predictions as advertised.