A Very Preliminary Shot at Oscars 2020 – Sundance

  When it comes to film festivals, Sundance is one the most reliable prognosticators for the year’s Oscar race. Often, of the varied treasures up on offer, several gems stand out and manage the weather the full season and finish strong at the Oscars. Last year, Sundance gave us Get Out and Call Me By Your Name, and by extension, introduced us to Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet, two actors who have broken out in a large way. 
Here, I’ll talk about some films which, on paper, either look to be contenders, or have a premise interesting enough that I’m excited to see already. A disclaimer that I, very sadly, have not seen any of these films, and am merely offering my immediate thoughts on these projects. I’m only listing a handful (because it’ll just be an almost full list of Sundance films otherwise!) that caught my attention.

Late Night
Possible nominations:

Best Original Screenplay
Best Actress – Mindy Kaling

Best Supporting Actress – Emma Thompson
Synopsis: A talk show host on the verge of losing her show hires in a female writer to help revitalize the program. (credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s comedic work for a long time, and when I saw that she both starred in this film AND penned its screenplay, this became a must-see for me. The premise is interesting and certainly verbose with social commentary about diversity, a hot topic in film this year. Reviews reveal it to hit the right comedic tones and be an enjoyable watch, which tells me this could really score with the Globes in Comedy, and perhaps even at the Oscars. Think: The Big Sick, a feel-good, comedic film about clashing cultures that snagged an Original Screenplay nomination at the Oscars last year. If this lands, and attention is duly paid to it, I think Mindy Kaling could be the first Indian-American Actress to be nominated, let alone win a Golden Globe (film) Award in a very, very long time. Excited for this!
Read the Indiewire review here: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/late-night-review-mindy-kaling-emma-thompson-sundance-1202038404/
The Report
Possible Nominations
Best Picture

Best Director

Best Original/Adapted Screenplay

Best Actor – Adam Driver

Best Supporting Actress – Annette Bening

Best Supporting Actor – Jon Hamm
Synopsis: Senate staffer Daniel Jones is assigned the daunting task of leading an investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. After analyzing extensive evidence, he learns about their ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’—proven to be brutal, immoral, and ineffective—that the CIA adopted after 9/11. When Jones and the Senate Intelligence Committee attempt to release the results from his investigation, however, the CIA and White House go to great lengths to prevent the truth from getting out. (credit: Sundance)
This looks like typical Oscar fare, and with a (albeit early) score of 100% on RottenTomatoes and rave reviews to boot, I think this film will be a major player in this year’s Oscars. With Adam Driver finally being nominated for BlackKklansman this year, I don’t see attention at him stalling anytime soon. The Report may just be the vehicle for his first Lead Actor nom, which critics are calling a commanding performance. I think Annette Bening could be a major player especially after her perceived snub for 20th Century Women 2 years back. She’s also a veteran, and somewhat overdue. Of course, I have yet to see the film so this is all speculation on my part, but we have the word of the critics that it’s a solid performance. As with conspicuously political films, what this will have to weather is likely not time, but controversy. Seemingly a response to the much acclaimed but also highly controversial Zero Dark Thirty, I expect this film to be highly revelatory and I can’t wait to be educated.
Read the Indiewire review here: 

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/the-report-review-adam-driver-annette-bening-sundance-2019-1202038732/

Brittany Runs A Marathon
Possible Nominations:

Best Actress – Jillian Bell
Synopsis: A woman tries to overcomes her life problems and in the process takes part in the New York City Marathon.
Jillian Bell steals EVERY scene she’s in. In 22 Jump Street for example, she elevated the comedy of the film by playing one of the funniest villains in recent memory, and as with other films she’s been in, I wished only that she had more screen time. In Brittany Runs a Marathon, she FINALLY gets a leading role. Critics have lauded both its raucous comedy and emotional resonance, which speaks of an amazing film. I CAN’T WAIT. Here’s hoping she breaks out like Amy Schumer did with Trainwreck… but actually gets things right from there.
Read the Indiewire review here:

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/brittany-runs-a-marathon-review-jillian-bell-comedy-sundance-1202039442/
Luce
Possible Nominations:
Best Actress – Naomi Watts

Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer
Synopsis: A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student. (credit: IMdb)
A film that touches on issues of race and class, this well-reviewed film could make waves if its themes resonate with Oscar voters. Naomi Watts, who somehow still hasn’t won an Oscar, could be recognized for her performance, and Octavia Spencer is one of the most reliable bets for a Supporting nod if her film does well.
Read the Indiewire review here: 

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/luce-review-naomi-watts-octavia-spencer-sundance-1202038874/
The Souvenir
Possible nominations: 

Best Picture

Best Director – Joanna Hogg

Best Actress – Honor Swinton Byrne

Best Supporting Actress – Tilda Swinton
This film seems really, really interesting, and going by what critics are saying, seems really, really good. Just imagine the mother-daughter duo of Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne in the Oscar race together. With the lack of female directors in this year’s line-up, perhaps Joanna Hogg could hold the torch next year.
Read the Indiewire review here: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/01/the-souvenir-review-sundance-2019-1202036960/
OTHER POSSIBILITIES:
Michelle Williams / Julianne Moore, After the Wedding

Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind