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Don Cheadle’s directorial debut “Miles Ahead” will close the New York Film Festival

Don Cheadle miles ahead
Last week, the 2015 New York Film Festival gave us potentially another piece of the awards season puzzle when they announced their Closing Night selection for the fest. In a bit of a surprise, it’s Don Cheadle’s directorial debut Miles Ahead, a biopic about musician Miles Davis. Cheadle co-wrote the screenplay and stars as Davis as well, making this not just a passion project of his, but the sort of film that Academy members can sometimes really gravitate to. The fact that NYFF put it in the super prestigious Closing Night spot only makes it more of a movie we really need to pay attention to…

Getting to be the closer at NYFF is a big deal for a flick. Unless this year is an anomaly, it more or less launches you straight into the heart of the Oscar race. Over the past 15 years, almost nothing in this slot has failed to garner at least one citation from the Academy, with everything being true contenders in multiple categories. In fact, we have one Best Picture winner, five Best Picture nominees, and over a half dozen that have taken home Academy Awards in one category or another. It’s probably even more important of a spot to be in than the Opening Night Selection, even if that one is a bit glitzier. Just look at what last year’s pick to finish off the fest was…Birdman. Enough said. Below you can see what the past 15 years (including this one) have looked like with this slot at NYFF:

2015 – Miles Ahead
2014 – Birdman
2013 – Her
2012 – Flight
2011 – The Descendants
2010 – Hereafter
2009 – Broken Embraces
2008 – The Wrestler
2007 – Persepolis
2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
2005 – Caché
2004 – Sideways
2003 – 21 Grams
2002 – Talk to Her
2001 – In Praise of Love
2000 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

That’s some great taste on the part of the festival programmers, right?

Anyway, in terms of Miles Ahead, if you don’t know who Miles Davis is, well…read a book, but he’s a legendary jazz musician. This film will look at the life and music of the legend, with Cheadle in the title role. He directs and co-writes with Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson, while the cast includes Ewan McGregor, Keith Stanfield, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and more. Biopics tend to be awards catnip, and with Cheadle having already gotten an Oscar nomination for Hotel Rwanda about a decade ago, this could be the perfect vehicle for getting him back in the Academy’s good graces, as well as potentially their winner’s circle.

In terms of awards, you now have to consider this one in a number of places. X factors like Flight, Her, and The Wrestler have gone from this spot at NYFF to multiple Oscar citations, so Miles Ahead could certainly follow in those footsteps. As such, you must think about its candidacy in Best Picture, Best Director (for Cheadle), Best Actor (for Cheadle), Best Supporting Actor (McGregor or Stanfield), Best Original Screenplay (for Baigelman, Cheadle, Rivele, and Wilkinson), as well as possibly Best Original Score (which is being composed by Herbie Hancock). It might be Cheadle or bust here, but recent history suggests that bust is the longer shot than anything else.

Of course, this is all just conjecture and speculation right now. Sure, I’m using some information to make as educated a guess as possible, but Cheadle and Miles Ahead are certainly X factors at the moment. In the fall, once NYFF wraps up, we’ll know what we have here. I’ll be at the fest, so I’ll without question bring you all the latest, but right now, take this news as the fuel to consider a new possibility in the awards race. I now have, and in next month’s predictions update, I’ll probably be reflecting it in some small way. Sit tight until then…

Stay tuned for more on Miles Ahead as well as the 2015 New York Film Festival!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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