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Looking at potential Best Picture contenders

billy lynns long halftime walk slice-600x200
We’re coming to the very end of June folks. Much like I said last year at the start of July, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions to see what folks like myself think will happen at the end of the year, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know which films will be in contention. To that end, once a week (or maybe twice a week in certain situations) for the next month or so I’ll be running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls. Consider this a sort of pre awards season cheat sheet for you all.

Today I’m beginning with the big one, of course…Best Picture.

Here are the ten films that I have right now cracking the Best Picture lineup:

1. La La Land – At this point, more or less any fall/winter release is a viable Best Picture winner, but something has me thinking that this modern musical could be the one to beat. Writer/director Damien Chazelle, along with stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone seem like a tremendous team, so I’d watch them in anything, but this sort of tribute to a time in Hollywood gone by? I’m all in, and if the early word turns out as positive as I think it might, we might have a juggernaut on our hands. It’s just a hunch, but this is as good as any to label a frontrunner.

2. Silence – Easily the most widely predicted early winner, this passion project from Martin Scorsese has plenty going in its favor. A juicy role for Liam Neeson, plum ones for Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield as well, along with Scorsese scratching an itch to finally put this project before cameras. It’s easily the classiest player in 2016, so it’s hard to argue with, and certainly could be a huge contender. Watch out for this one, obviously.

3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Ever since I read the book, I saw lots of potential in Ang Lee adapting this novel, but the early Trailer makes it seem like he’s outdone himself. Newcomer Joe Alwyn, Steve Martin, and Kristen Stewart have baity roles, while Lee shooting war in a whole new way strikes me as something rife with exciting possibilities. Since it can combine heavy material with very high tech filmmaking, you could also put this up as a top tier contender and get no quarrel from yours truly.

4. Manchester by the Sea – One of the big hits from the Sundance Film Festival, Kenneth Lonergan’s melodrama could definitely be the big independent contender this year. At the very least, Casey Affleck seems like a big time player in the Best Acting category, so it’s possible that Affleck brings the movie itself along for the ride. Reviews were good enough to keep it in play until it winds up before us in the winter. Sit tight for more on this one.

5. Loving – Back at the Cannes Film Festival, many pundits spoke of how Jeff Nichols’ biopic is an overt awards contender from the normally more idiosyncratic filmmaker. Cannes more or less anointed cast members Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as players, while Nichols could be in line for his first nomination. I doubt we have a winner here, but a nominee in Picture? I’d be surprised if that’s not the case.

6. The Birth of a Nation – The other huge Sundance player is Nate Parker’s directorial debut, another high profile biopic, this one of slave Nat Turner. Parker pulls triple duty, writing, directing, and starring, so voters who dug it could fuel it towards some sort of citation for him, piggybacking off of the praise back in Park City. This is a giant X factor to me, but I wouldn’t bet against it right now.

7. Lion – Sort of under the radar, The Weinstein Company has huge plans for this one. Garth Davis directs Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and Dev Patel in what could be a moving and heartwarming drama. The Thanksgiving release date bestowed upon this flick by Harvey Weinstein suggests a ton of confidence. Watch out for it and stay tuned for more on it in the fall…

8. Passengers – A science fiction romance could be a hard sell, but I think this is a dark horse for a lot of attention. Morten Tyldum is already an Oscar nominee, while Jennifer Lawrence is a favorite son (or more specifically, daughter) and Chris Pratt is a rising superstar. Everything here suggests a possible player if it becomes the Her of this year, for example. Personally, I just can’t wait to see it.

9. Nocturnal Animals – The sophomore outing from Tom Ford, this drama has a cast led by Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, which is more than enough for me. We’ll have to see how Ford functions as a filmmaker this time around, but A Single Man certainly suggests that he’s got the goods. This is one with some big time upward mobility, so sleep on it at your own peril…

10. The Light Between Oceans – For the second year in a row, Derek Cianfrance’s period piece has a spot on the upper echelon of this list. Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz make for a big time cast of Academy Award nominees/winners, so it’s definitely going to be a possible player. The question is just how big it will be, and your guess is as good as mine. Stay tuned!

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my commentary) for Best Picture:

11. Arrival
12. War Machine
13. Fences
14. Cafe Society
15. Collateral Beauty
16. The Founder
17. Bleed for This
18. Sully
19. The Lost City of Z
20. Allied

cafe society
Finally, here are ten more to give us a top 30 to cull from, sans commentary as well:

21. A United Kingdom
22. Rules Don’t Apply
23. Snowden
24. Hands of Stone
25. The Lobster
26. Everybody Wants Some
27. The Promise
28. The Circle
29. Suicide Squad
30. The BFG

Well, that’s what the Best Picture race could be made up of this time around. Stay tuned in a few days/next week for my look at the Best Director race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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