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Looking At Potential Best Picture Contenders

As I always like to say when I start this series in the middle of the summer, 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. However, 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. It’s a good way to prep for Oscar season. 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, before it all begins in earnest in the fall/winter.

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. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – I see Quinten Tarantino’s latest in a few days, so I’ll have a better idea about it then, but building off of some solid buzz at the Cannes Film Festival, this does seem to be a player. The Academy does love movies about the movies, so perhaps they’ll finally give Tarantino the big one?

2. The Irishman – Netflix will be looking to avenge their Roma loss last year with Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic. Obviously, right now it’s sight unseen, but it’s hard not to have a Scorsese picture high up in the category. Could Marty be battling it out with QT for the top prize? Stay tuned to see!

3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – If a crowd pleaser like Green Book is to again take the big Oscar, maybe it could be this Mr. Rogers centric title? Plus, Tom Hanks could really help propel this one high up there. If voters are in the mood to to smile and feel emotional, this could be the best bet for their enthusiastic love and support.

4. Untitled Noah Baumbach Project – The other big Netflix player is this slightly under the radar dramedy. Noah Baumbach is said to have outdone himself with this one, potentially hitting on Annie Hall type territory. If The Irishman isn’t likely to take Picture, watch out for the streaming giant to give this one a huge push, as folks behind the scenes are really buzzing about it…

5. 1917 – War films are Academy Award mainstays. Sam Rami, armed with cinematography from the great (and now finally Oscar winning) Roger Deakins, seeks to give World War I its cinematic due. As one of the last titles likely to screen in 2019, it will either arrive on the scene too late in the game to make an impact, or it will be the one to upend everyone’s predictions at the eleventh hour. The possibilities are equally likely, at least here in July.

6. The Report – Topical dramas can cut both ways with Oscar. This will be Amazon Studios’ baby in 2019, so expect a huge push from them. It’s also this year’s Sundance Film Festival contender, in all likelihood. A winner? Probably not. A nominee? It feels like it could wind up safer than a lot of other players when all is said and done. Time will tell though, right?

7. Lucy in the Sky – I’m higher on this one than most, but something about the project suggests that it could wind up being a big deal. Something slightly quirky (aside from Tarantino’s effort) would give the potential lineup some character, which could bode well for this offbeat character study. It’s kind of a shot in the dark, but one to keep in mind as the season progresses.

8. The Goldfinch – If there’s a prestige flick that could fall by the wayside, this may well be the one. It certainly has the pedigree, but there’s always a slam dunk player that comes up short. The Trailer looks good, and Deakins is the DP here too, but there’s an odd sense that it won’t be long for this list. Still, for now it remains…

9. Harriet – A biopic of Harriet Tubman seems like it should at least be under consideration, assuming it has the goods. It might be one of the smaller contenders to be in the top tier, meaning it will have to work harder for attention, but it may well be championed more than others as well, helping to close the gap. Sleep on this one at your own risk!

10. Ad Astra – Sure, the odds suggest that James Gray will have an uphill battle for his heady science fiction tale, which could open the door to something like Ford v. Ferrari, A Hidden Life, or Knives Out to move up, but at this early stage, why not be bold? If Gray has truly made something the Academy can embrace, that will be a joy to witness, plain and simple…

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

11. Knives Out
12. Untitled Roger Ailes Project
13. The Laundromat
14. Ford v. Ferrari
15. Untitled Todd Haynes Project
16. A Hidden Life
17. Little Women
18. Dolemite Is My Name
19. Rocketman
20. Jojo Rabbit

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

21. Parasite
22. Cats
23. Us
24. The King
25. The Pope
26. The Good Liar
27. Star Wars Episode IX
28. Avengers: Endgame
29. Frozen 2
30. Toy Story 4

Well now, that’s what the Best Picture race could be made up of this time around. Stay tuned in the next week or so 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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