The #TimesUp conversation was the dominant one during the 2018 awards season, and for the first time since Million Dollar Baby in 2004, Best Picture went to a film with a female lead. Runner-up films such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and Lady Bird also told very female stories, and told them well.
What I glean from this is an industry that has become more politically charged and aware than before, and I think a large part of this has to do with the new reign under the Trump administration. In 2017, Moonlight won Best Picture amidst the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and films such as Hidden Figures gained far more attention than pundits had originally predicted.
In both years, we see that the originally held frontrunners, which were more in-line with typical Oscar movie fare (La La Land and Three Billboards), with La La Land especially being one of the most baity type Oscar Best Picture films (a musical, about the industry, about actors) lost out to the more political choice of Moonlight. I’m certainly not looking down on the winners of the past two years – they were both completely deserving, and were the movies of the moment; they were both incredible cinema and harboured important political messages for their time.
Looking forward into 2019, I think we can similarly expect a more politically aware Oscars. With that in mind, I’m going to list out my very preliminary and wild guesses at next year’s Academy Awards.
Damien Chazelle’s First Man seems to be the very early frontrunner based on what experts are saying, which stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, who definitely seems like he could land his third acting nomination. One has to wonder though whether a film like this would be in line with the Oscar’s more in-the-moment streak; this is a historical film that Oscar voters typically would love, but it is about a well-known white man and a very well-known segment of American history. The Academy certainly seems to have shifted their focus to recognising different and once unheard voices in cinema, and this one rings of old Oscar fare. Indeed, one has to wonder how a film titled “First Man” would have stood up amongst the #TimesUp movement this year.
One noticeable thing about the Oscars is that there is a lot of spillover love year-on-year, especially in the case of Oscar breakout stars. I think a lot of it has to do with them finally being noticed by the industry at large. Looking at the past few years, a few of such breakouts include Eddie Redmayne and Jennifer Lawrence. Indeed, Lawrence was nominated almost consecutively year-on-year following her star turn in Silver Linings Playbook, while Redmayne’s Oscar-winning Theory of Everything performance certainly propelled him forward in the Oscar race the next year with his nomination for The Danish Girl.
One of the main breakouts of the year is undoubtedly Timothee Chalamet, who many considered to be the runner-up to Gary Oldman’s career-defining performance. Certainly, he’s proven himself to be the lovable, wide-eyed ingenue navigating through this year’s awards season, and I think the industry definitely has their eyes set on him, ready to take the bait if he gives them one. This year, he stars in Beautiful Boy alongside Steve Carrell, which sounds promising, and could get him his second Oscar nod. Timothee’s Call Me By Your Name co-star Armie Hammer may also enter the race this year after many thought him to be snubbed last year, this time in On the Basis of Sex, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg film that’s been featured aplenty on various film websites.
A breakout from the year before, Lucas Hedges, (nominated for Manchester By The Sea) also present last year in a big way as Danny in Lady Bird, stars in Boy Erased, a coming-of-age story about a boy forced through gay conversion therapy. Flanked by supporting performances from industry heavyweights Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, this looks to be a film that could make some serious waves this year, and a lot will be dependent on Lucas Hedges. He’s certainly proven himself before, and I think he’ll do it here again. An interesting though unreliable thing to note is that in the past few years, the Best Picture winner has consecutively had nominations in both the Supporting Actor and Actress category, and this film definitely seems poised to feature strong supporting performances.
At this point, one has to wonder whether the LGBT conversation will be one to permeate this year’s Oscars, with 2017 being a far from ideal one in relation to LGBT and Trump. Last year, a number of prominent films that featured LGBT characters portrayed them as ostracised by society; Giles in The Shape of Water is the closeted neighbour who can’t find his place in the bigger world, Danny in Lady Bird breaks down in shame at his sexuality to Christine. They were all important but supporting players, and perhaps this year, their stories could come to the forefront, in the vein of Call Me By Your Name.
Another breakout of 2017 is Saoirse Ronan – though this one is arguable as I think Oscar voters as well as moviegoers have already noticed her over the past years for her impressive resume of films, including her Oscar-nominated turns in Atonement and Brooklyn. As the established runner-up in the Best Actress race for both Brooklyn in 2015 and in Lady Bird, as pundits on sites such as Gold Derby have shown, one has to think that her time will come soon. This year, she stars alongside Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots, about two queens fighting for control of England, drawing an amusing parallel to this year’s concluded Oscar race, where both Robbie and Ronan were nominated in Best Actress.
At the same time, another narrative this year at the Oscars is the Oscar’s proclivity towards smaller, arthouse films, and its shunning of blockbusters. The film that comes to mind instantly from last year is Wonder Woman, which certainly gained attention during awards season and was nominated by the often reliable PGA, yet was completely shunned by the Oscars. Indeed, Jimmy Kimmel himself joked about how Black Panther’s record-breaking box office numbers mean that it’s Oscar chances were effectively doomed. Yet in light of very widely reported falling Oscar ratings, one has to wonder if the Oscars will be more welcoming in recognising blockbusters deserving of acclaim, because it’s likely the admirers of these large film that will push ratings up greatly with their often cultish fanbase. If that’s the case, we may well see Black Panther gain some traction, or perhaps Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, starring the overdue Emily Blunt, who may well earn her first nomination in the sequel to a film that earned 13 Academy Award nominations, and the most recent Best Picture one for Disney to date.
Other films that seem promising based on the 2018 lineup as shown on Wikipedia:
Tully, in theatres April, teams director Jason Reitman with writer Diablo Cody; both who have had kind of hit-and-miss films recently (Reitman’s Men, Women and Children, and Cody’s Ricki and the Flash), but one can’t help but think back to the films featuring this director-writer duo, Young Adult and Juno, the latter earning Cody an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. With 2 promising and amusing trailers featuring Charlize Theron, I think this could make some waves at the Oscars if it delivers.
A Star is Born, in theatres October, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a third-time remake, and the first two were certainly very well-received by the Oscars. While the prospect of Lady Gaga getting an Oscar may seem kind of ridiculous, her Golden Globe winning turn in American Horror Story: Hotel may be an indication of her promise here, while Bradley Cooper is definitely well-liked among voters.
On the Basis of Sex, a film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer.
Untitled Dick Cheney Film, by The Big Short director Adam McKay, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carrell among others, about the 46th President of the United States, this sounds like typical Oscar fare.
Widows, starring Viola Davis amongst a very talented ensemble cast, directed by 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? From Boyhood director Richard Linklater, based on an acclaimed bestseller and starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig among others, this looks to be an interesting addition to the mix.
Watch out for the sidebar where I’ll put down my extremely early predictions in some of the main categories.