As Oscar season really starts ramping up, films will be hitting theatres that don’t just want your money, they want your vote. They want people clamoring over the performances, direction, writing, and everything else wrapped into these films to help push them into Oscar glory. And for the first time in years, several films with proven box office success or predicted box office success are rumored to be in the mix. So let’s take a look at the films you need to pay the most attention to. No release dates are given, as we all watch films differently. Many films start limited, and gradually expand, so they reach your city later on. Others, head for streaming services. Some have already been released.
1) The Fablemans
Pretty much, on paper, an easy lock to be a multiple nominee this year. It’s considered by many to be the early front runner for Best Picture after impressing audiences at Toronto. Steven Spielberg hasn’t won a directing Oscar since Saving Private Ryan, and this autobiographical work is the thing Oscars dream of. It’s a film about the love of making film, directed with the always talented hand of Spielberg, from a script by Spielberg and Tony Kushner (a duo that is certain to get a Best Original Screenplay nomination). Aside from being a virtual lock for picture, Director, and Screenplay, the film has an interesting predicament with Michelle Williams, who until recently was the front runner in Supporting Actresss, which would have given her that elusive Oscar. Instead, Williams is being lobbied by the studio for Best Actress, a baffling move considering the film is not centered around her at all. Will this cause a vote split?There have been past cases where voters go their own way, like nominating both leads of Judas and the Black Messiah in supporting actor, when Lakeith Stanfield was being pushed in lead. Aside from Williams, it’s quite likely Paul Dano, somewhat overdue for a first nomination, will land in the supporting actor race, while Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch are possibilities. Expect this film to get some technical awards as well.
2) Everything Everywhere All At Once
Ther is still quite a huge fanbase for this film, and they’re not letting this die. It overperformed at the box office this spring, and has given itself a solid shot at a Best picture nomination, and a Best Actress nod for Michelle Yeoh. Best original Screenplay seems likely as well. It’s a bit more of a dark horse in Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, and a long shot for The Daniels in director. I’ve already reviewed this movie, and you can watch it now On Demand.
3) The Whale
The movie that is currently most well known for people timing just how long the standing ovations have been for Brendan Fraser. Pretty universally, everyone agrees this is his career best, and for a guy who has been around forever, never nominated (partially his fault as he has some truly terrible films on his resume), Fraser fought himself with weight, and has really started to turn his career around recently with a string of well received performances. He’s guaranteed a nomination at this point, and is considered the front runner for Best Actor. A rising tide carries, and this tide is likely to put The Whale in the Best Picture race, and Darren Aronofsky in the director race. It’s been a while, since Black swan, for him to be considered here, but by keeping it somewhat minimalistic he has a strong chance. From what I understand, the film has two supporting actress performances worth looking at, between Stranger Thing’s Sadie Singh and Hong Chou, who narrowly missed out on this category a few years ago for Downsizing. A nomination for Adapted Screenplay is also on the table.
4) The Banshee’s Of inusharon
Just as Brendan Fraser has never been nominated, neither has Colin Farrell, and after winning an acting prize at Venice, this is looking more likely. Director Martin McDonaugh may land in the director race, after missing out on his last film, Three Billboardds Outside Ebbing, MO. Best Picture isn’t a lock, but it’s in the mix. The big question mark here is co-star Brendan Gleeson. Supposedly Gleeson and Farrell share equal screentime, but it’s unlikely both will be submitted in lead. Can Gleeson manage a Supporting nomination for a lead performance like the aforementioned Stanfield?
Believe it or not, but it’s been a long time since Todd Field has released a feature film. His last film, Little Children, basically revived the career of Jackie Earle Haley, and wound up an Oscar contender, but not on the same level as his first project, In The Bedroom. Since it’s festival debut, tar is gaining steam, mostly for its lead performance from Cate Blanchett. Some consider her the front runner in Actress, though i push back on assuming that a third win for any actor/actress is ever “the front runner”. Certainly, for what will be an 8th career nomination Blanchett is now a lock. Also likely, Picture, and maybe Todd Field, as well as some technical races.
6) Women Talking
Sarah Polley, who years ago earned a screenplay nomination for her feature directorial debut Away from Her, is behind the camera again in a film that is gaining a lot of buzz. The problem here is that it has such a deep ensemble, that predicting who will rise to the top for a potential Supporting Actress nomination is hard. Those who have seen the film say it looks to be Jesse Buckley, though an easier nomination might be Ben Whishaw in Supporting Actor as he has less to compete with from the same film, and is said to be quite good, and never nominated. Could Polley get a director’s nomination? That likely depends on the success of the film, though there has been a larger push to nominate women, and she might be the best poised.
7) Top Gun Maverick
A film I still haven’t seen, because i feel like it’s coming to Paramount Plus any day now. Right? Surprisingly, this one isn’t being talked about as a pipe dream, but rather an actual real contender, which is shocking. Many people consider this film to be the big reason the box office is back. it considerably over performed at the box office, and if nothing else, is guaranteed Visual Effects and Sound nominations. But, some people have it in their Top 10 for Best Picture, and Tom Cruise is even a dark horse in Best Actor. how far Maverick goes will likely depend on whether the Cinemattography and Editing branches take this seriously, as it will be hard to get just Best picture with only Sound and Visual Effects.
8) Empire Of lift
Sam Mendes has already managed Oscar glory with previous works, and here he has teamed up with Oscar Winner Olivia Coleman, someone who also would be on their third win should it happen. She’s considered a strong choice for Actress, with michael Ward being tossed about for Actor, and Colin Firth an outside shot for Supporting Actor. The reviews weren’t amazing, so it’s not really a lock for anything, but with the right push, it’s the kind of film the Oscars love to nominate.
The film unseen. Damien Chazelle has decided to skip the festivals, so everyone is making their predictions based on trailers and vibes. And, also the cast, for which Brad Pitt is apparently running in Supporting, with Margot Robbie in lead. Chazelle’s last film, First Man was supposed to blow up at the Oscars and didn’t, so Babylon is really a risky shot, but his other two films are Whiplash and La La Land, so his track record really isn’t that bad. Even First Man managed a technical nomination, so all his films have reached some level of Oscar glory.
Another film that is still unseen, and in the race based on what we know. Yes, the film is about Emmett Till’s murder, and it could land Danielle Deitweiler in Best Actress, and possibly Whoopi Goldberg in Supporting Actress after all these years. It kind of depends on what happens when people actually see it, because a lot of other hopefuls have lost a lot of ground since actually being seen.
11) She Said
Based on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, this film is another one that has buzz with people not knowing where to put it. It could Bombshell itself into the race, or Spotlight, but it has a solid cast led by Carey Mulligan, and a timely subject matter. It is not out of this race.
12) The Woman King
Not really considered a front runner for anything before critics and audiences went nuts, now people are scrambling to figure out where it could possibly be. It has several supporting actress performances, so trying to figure out who is on top will be a challenge. Viola Davis is now in the running for Best Actress. It’s still primarily an action film, but a hhistorical one. As this film and its true life story led to a lot of the influence behind Black Panther, it will be interesting to see if both can be in the race with very similar storylines.
No, Tom Hanks is not getting nominated this year. But, Austin Butler is very much still in the conversation for Best Actor, and while I don’t expect this to land in any other major categories, it’s the kind of film that could quite easily pick up multiple technical nominations. The good news is that if you have HBO MAX, you can already check this off your list.
14) Triangle Of Sadness
This one is a bit of a tough one to predict because it needs to be revived. It peaked back at Cannes in May, and since then a lot of other films have made people forget about it a bit. however, critics really did love this, and with the right Oscar push, it could come from behind. Most people didn’t see Coda happening until Apple made it happen. Same thing could happen here.
15) Avatar: The Way Of Water
Another sight unseen, it’s hard to predict where James Cameron’s sequel will land. This year, we just have too many damn sequels, and too many prognosticators think they have a shot at BBest Picture. There’s no way Maverick, The Way of Water, and Wakanda Forever ALL land in the top 10. It would be unusual if even one of them did. But, Cameron’s sequel is likely to be a strong technical contender, racking up several nominations there.
16) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Like i just said, a sequel unseen. Yes, the original did really well it’s first time out, even winning that SAG Ensemble. And, Angela Bassett is already slaying in the trailers. But, it’s still a sequel, and the last few Marvel films haven’t elicited confidence that they’ll get any nominations this year. There was quite a push lat year at the last minute for no way home, and that didn’t happen. Superhero movies are really tough, and a sequel to one? That’s why we have 10 nominees. Because Oscar voters couldn’t be trusted to nominate The Dark knight.
17) The Glass Onion
The sequel to Knives Out is actually supposedly better than the original. Really, that’s the only way it can get into the race, as I already pointed out, there are too many damn sequels on this list already.
18) I Wanna Dance With Somebody
I’ve dropped a lot of films out, because people saw them, and they weren’t well received. This Whitney Houston biopic is still unseen, and they are rereleasing The Bodyguard in October to get people excited for this. It will either be great, and get Naomi Aoki a nomination, or it will be awful. Respect had the struggle of opening in August. This opens Christmas Day. you cannot fuck that up.
19) The Son
Sure, I’ll play along. What was once considered a front runner in many categories has pretty much limited itself to “will Hugh jackman be nominated?” Critics blasted this film, and its Oscar chances are almost entirely out the window, except those few who hold out hope for Jackman.
20) Decision To Leave
If you’re trying to find the next Drive My Car, many have pegged this Korean entry as being the likely contender. However, as with most international entries, they are hard to predict outside of International Feature. But, if one did crack the top 10, the bet is currently on this one.
21) White Noise
Netflix gave Noah Baumbach far more money than anyone has ever given him, and that has turned into a tepid reception for this contender, which could still pull out a cast nomination for someone like Adam Driver. Netflix is likely to still give this a big push, since they spent so much on it, so maybe it can turn around.
Another long-shot that is losing steam is, shockingly, Alejandro Gonzalez innaritu’s latest effort. The director of The Revenant and Birdman hasn’t seemed to hit a home run this year, but he’s still a very respected director, and every Oscar voter will watch this and give him their full consideration.
23) Bones And All
Despite getting positive marks from critics, people just do not know what to do with a film that features cannibalism. Even though this reteams the director of Call Me By your Name with Timothee Chalamet, this is very much a long shot.
Also, the divisive Blonde is looking at trying to convince Oscar voters to do the unthinkable. Vote for an NC-17 film. I think Ana De Armas is on the rise, but in a tight category, I don’t think she’s destined to make history here with the first major NC-17 nomination. Then again, there is Midnight Cowboy…
25) The Menu
Rounding out my list is a rather new entry. It’s one people are getting excited about right now. Whether or not that can hold attention for the duration, or turn this little indie horror/comedy into something, that remains to be seen. I’ve heard Ralph Fiennes is tremendous.