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Taking a look at potential Best Picture contenders

Folks, it’s that time again. In case you haven’t noticed, we are coming to the tail end of July, which means more and more attention is starting to be focused on awards season. Much like I have said in previous years around 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, a staple of the site is returning. Yes, 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. First Man – At this early point, almost any fall/winter release is a viable Best Picture winner, but for now, it’s hard not to play it safe. On paper, this is clearly the early frontrunner. Damien Chazelle, fresh of Oscar wins for La La Land, tackling a Neil Armstrong biopic? With a top notch cast, including Ryan Gosling? Yeah, that sounds like a contender. What we know about the way voters are voting these days, it may not run the field, but going by old school Oscar trends, this would be the runaway favorite. So, for now at least, it remains in the pole position.

2. BlackKklansman – I’ll be seeing this Spike Lee joint in a couple of days, so I shall be able to comment more then, but the buzz here is incredible. Considered a perfect combination of Lee’s sensibilities, timeliness, and potential to please an audience. If it does indeed live up to the hype, this could be a huge contender all throughout the year. Lee on the Academy Award stage? There’s a solid chance right now.

3. If Beale Street Could Talk – After the surprise win for Moonlight in Best Picture, all eyes are on Barry Jenkins’ follow up. A book adaptation, this may be a different sort of story, but the possibilities are still pretty strong. Fall festival runs will determine how big of a player this one is, but how can you not give Jenkins the benefit of the doubt today? Chazelle vs Jenkins could see a rematch…

4. Untitled Dick Cheney Biopic – Depending on what the tone for this biopic is, Adam McKay could easily be in play here for the big win. Whether it ends up being called Backseat or not, McKay tackling Dick Cheney has my attention. Perhaps this will be more of an acting vehicle for the ensemble cast, but that was what folks thought about The Big Short, and we know how that turned out. So, how can you not consider this a big time threat in Picture?

5. A Star is Born – If there’s a crowd pleaser that could run away with Picture, it may very well be Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut. Paired with Lady Gaga, not to mention a prime supporting turn supposedly for Sam Elliott, there’s so much to be intrigued about here. Theater owners who saw a special screening came out raving about it. Perhaps it’ll be too popcorn ultimately, but until proven otherwise, this is creeping up Picture rankings, almost by the week. Stay tuned!

6. The Front Runner – Jason Reitman goes political with this look at Gary Hart and how coverage of politicians in the media changed. I’ve been much more bullish on this one than most, so it could be an outlier, but the combination of Reitman and star Hugh Jackman has a lot to like about it. Sit tight, as once this one plays at a few festivals, we’ll know if it’s a true contender or not…

7. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Just two days ago, Netflix announced that their anthology miniseries with Joel and Ethan Coen was actually now a feature film. So, in accordance with movie law, this new Coen Brothers flick is officially an Academy Award contender. It’s a complete mystery right now, but it’ll be another title going to a fall film festival, so that should reveal itself in a month or so. Either way, Coen fans have a surprise new flick, and that’s very cool for them.

8. The Favourite – We’ve yet to see the Academy fully embrace Yorgos Lanthimos, which is a shame. That being said, could this movie do it? A period piece, done in his unique style? That may well be the secret sauce. Armed with another top tier cast, he’ll be giving the costume drama some presumably pitch black humor. He didn’t write this one, so watch out for that, but the New York Film Festival is very high on this one. They tend to play potential Oscar players, so make of that what you will.

9. Mary Queen of Scots – Just an acting showcase, or maybe more? A costume drama with Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan leading the cast, it could be the more traditional option, as opposed to The Favourite. Interestingly, this might be a test of how the new Academy votes. This one may favor older members, while Lanthimos’ title hits home with the younger ones. I’ll be very curious to see if there’s room for both in the race…

10. On the Basis of Sex – Another biopic, this one on the early days of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, it’s as timely as they come. Felicity Jones seems sure to be in play for acting accolades, but we shall see if the film itself ends up Picture worthy. With a real life fight over a spot on the court in play, as well as Ginsberg being a modern day political rock star, this is a fascinating contender to watch out for!

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

11. Boy Erased
12. Black Panther
13. The Old Man and the Gun
14. Widows
15. Beautiful Boy
16. White Boy Rick
17. Peterloo
18. Bohemian Rhapsody
19. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
20. Welcome to Marwen

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

21. The Sisters Brothers
22. Wildlife
23. Roma
24. JT Leroy
25. Disobedience
26. Life Itself
27. Eighth Grade
28. Sorry to Bother You
29. Mary Poppins Returns
30. Hearts Beat Loud

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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