With the Cannes Film Festival in full swing, and the highly anticipatedmaking its debut at the festival Tuesday, journalists, critics, andprofessional prognosticatorsare buzzing about potential frontrunners for next years Oscarseven though thats almost a year from now.
Its not unusual for Hollywood studios to lay the groundwork for an Academy Awards campaign far in advance, sometimes before a film has even started production. But this year, because the Oscar telecast will airtwo weeks earlier than usual, the so-called awards season is compressedand therefore, more intense than usual.
I subscribe to the 365-day-a-year awards season. Its never too early to start predicting Oscars, says Erik Anderson, founder ofAwardswatch, a website devoted to entertainment awards predictions. But this year feels different. When I look at my list ofBest Picture predictions, theres nothing on that list that has come out yet, which is unusual.
The Oscar buzz for the following year generally begins even before the current years Academy Award ceremony has aired.
The Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in early January, unleashes a number of prestige films that end up earning Academy nods. In recent years, the festival has served as an unofficial launching pad for Best Picture nominees such asGet Out,Call Me By Your Name, andBoyhood.
At this years Sundance,The Report, a taut political thriller with a star-studded cast picked up byAmazonearned strong reviewsandearly buzz.
The Reportmight be a contender for Amazon, says Anne Thompson, editor-at-large, IndieWire. Starring Oscar-nominated Annette Bening and Adam Driver, if it continues its momentum into the fall festivals, it has a shot. Thompson should knowlast year shetoppedall experts, with a 78% rate of accurately predicting the 2019 Oscar nominations.
Amazon purchasedThe Reportat Sundance for a reported $14 million in hopes that it would rack up awards like the companys previous Sundance purchases,Manchester by the SeaandThe Big Sick. While at Sundance, Amazon also purchased another potential nominee, the comedyLate Night, written by star Mindy Kaling.
Late Nighthas Emma Thompson in a great role and shes an Oscar perennial. IfLate Nightdoes well and gets good reviews and really plays, then Emma Thompson is always a factor, says Thompson.
Another film that premiered at Sundance, Lulu WongsThe Farewell, starringCrazy Rich Asiansbreakout actress Awkwafina has a great shot at Oscars, says Anderson. He also points to a number of documentaries that premiered at Sundance and could end up in the Oscar conversation, includingAmerican Factory,The Biggest Little Farm,Apollo 11, andKnock Down the House.In 2018, four out of five of the Academy Award-nominated documentaries initially premiered at Sundance.
Though buzz can begin at Sundance, awards season generally begins in earnest in September. Thats when studios begin to release their Oscar bait, movies that are designed with awards prospects in mind. In early fall, top tier film festivals in Telluride, Venice, Toronto, and New York help to generate Oscar chatter.
The Cannes Film Festival, which kicked off May 14, is premiering several titles that are already being talked about as Oscar contenders, including Quentin TarantinosOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie. Set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s when Charles Manson and his family were striking terror, the film features DiCaprio as a fading television actor and Pitt as his stunt double. Robbie plays DiCaprios neighbor, the ill-fated Sharon Tate.
Im most excited about TarantinosOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood. Hes got a great track record with Oscars and theres a lot of anticipation about it, says Pete Hammond, Deadline awards columnist and chief film critic.
Once Upon a Timehits Cannes exactly 25 years after TarantinosPulp Fictionpremiered there. That film went on to win the Palme dor and was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Tarantino, who was nominated for Best Director, won Best Original Screenplay along with Roger Avary. Will his latest film repeat history come Oscar season?
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated Elton John biopic,Rocketman, premiered in Cannes late last week to a standing ovation and strong reviews likely to propel it towards awards season.
The film has been on Oscars radar since the last Academy Awards. Thats when the films starTaron Egerton, joined John onstage for a duet of Tiny Dancerduring the legendary singers Oscar viewing party. Since then, Johnand the filmseem to everywhere. The musician and fashion icon was the inspiration behind a recentProject Runwaychallenge, and the final five contestants onAmerican Idolcompeted for the finaleby singing Elton John songs.
At Cannes, Egerton and Taron performed the title song to an enthralled crowd, a performance theyll likely repeat many times before Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 13.
Rocketmancould turn out to a contender. Taron Egerton does his own singing, says Hammond. We saw what happened withBohemian Rhapsodyand Rami Malek [who won Best Actor for his role] didnt even do his own singing.
Egerton may have received standing ovations after the films Cannes premiere, but the real test will involve seeing if audiences respond to it when it hits theaters on May 31.
With the date of the 92nd Oscars telecastbumped two weeks earlierto Feb. 9 (from the previously announced Feb. 23), Oscar season will be more abbreviated than usual. Its going to be intense. Its going to be the shortest Oscar season weve ever had, says Thompson.
As a result, studios will likely release their most promising films earlier than usual.
The prevailing wisdom has been that films released later in the calendar year tend to have a better shot at Oscars. But if a film is released too late in the year, Academy votersand audienceswont have a chance to see it and it wont have time to gain awards-season momentum.
Christmas was once seen as the ideal time to release a potential Oscar contender, but November seems to be the new sweet spot.
Last years Best Picture winner,Green Book, premiered in November, as did fellow nomineesBohemian Rhapsody,Roma, andThe Favourite.
Among the films Hammonds got high hopes for are twoNetflixprojects: Martin ScorsesesThe Irishman, starring Oscar perennial Robert DeNiro, and the star-studdedThe Laundromatfrom Steven Soderbergh.
Netflix, which earned its first Best Picture nomination withRomalast year,reportedlyseesThe Irishmanas its best shot at bringing home gold. The gangster film features a cast of Scorsese regulars, including De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel with a script by Academy Award-winningSchindlers Listscreenwriter Steve Zaillian. Netflix plans a big theatrical awards-friendly release forThe Irishmanin the fall, but hasnt yet set a specific date. Theres no release date set forThe Laundromat, which features Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman.
Other Oscar possibilities due in theaters in the fall include: Marielle HellersIts a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a fictional take on Fred Rogers life featuring Oscar-winner Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers and two-time Oscar winner (The Life of Pi,Brokeback Mountain) Ang Lees latest film,Gemini Man, starring Will Smith.
Hammond says hes looking out for several big screen adaptations of acclaimed novels, including a new adaptation ofLittle Women, directed by Academy Award-nominated Greta Gerwig and featuring a star-studded cast led by none other than multiple Oscar winner Meryl Streep.
Of course, theres no such thing as a sure bet. There are plenty of examples of films that got early Oscar buzz after impressive reviews at fall festivals and then fizzled out long before Oscar nomination time.
Its all a guessing game at this point because we havent seen most of these movies, says Hammond.
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