92nd Oscars: Ten Best Potential Oscar Contenders

Although we won’t be making our first formal Oscar predictions until May, we thought we’d take a look at some of the potential Oscar contenders of the year. Each contributor was asked to submit ten films that they felt were major players for this year’s Oscars.

Only one film appears on all four lists, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman; however, a number of films receive three mentions: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and The Woman in the Window. Several more are mentioned twice: Ford v. Ferrari, Gemini Man, Little Women, The Goldfinch, Toy Story 4, and Us. That’s eleven films with just slightly more, twelve, that were mentioned only once.

After the break, take a look at what everyone thought.

The Introductions

Wesley Lovell: It might be a bit early to know for sure, but this year could have a number of high profile contenders from high profile directors while the possibilities of unheard of contenders is also quite strong.
Peter J. Patrick: It’s way too early to say what should be in the Oscar conversation this year, but not too early to say what could be. Based on past successes, strong hopes for the future and early expectations, here are ten that certainly could be.
Tripp Burton: These lists are always impossible to make. After all, last year who had even heard of Green Book?
Thomas LaTourrette:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

(dir. Marielle Heller) Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – I didn’t grow up watching Mister Rogers on TV, but by all accounts, he was someone we could use now. With Tom Hanks playing him, a film about kindness triumphing over cynicism is something to look forward to in these uncertain times. Here’s hoping lightning will strike twice for Marielle Heller following last year’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Commentary By Tripp Burton – Marielle Heller proved this year that she was a major American filmmaker, and with a bigger budget and Tom Hanks in the lead, she could finally become an Oscar nominee this year.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – Tom Hanks has not done well with Oscar nominations over the last few years, but this one certainly sounds like it could put him back in contention. Playing the amiable Mister Rogers feels right for him, and the recent documentary will have generated more interest in this project.

Cats

(dir. Tom Hooper) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – This will be Tom Hooper’s sixth big screen effort. His last three have all been nominated for multiple Oscars. This suggests he’s a certain nominee for several more. This musical adaptation of Broadway’s legendary musical Cats could be as popular as his modestly received Les Misérables.

Downton Abbey

(dir. Michael Engler) Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – Whether Oscar voters will be as overjoyed as Emmy voters were in its earlier TV incarnation remains to be seen, but those vintage costumes look spectacular and Maggie Smith, who won three Emmys out of five nominations for the run of the series, could well be in line for her third Oscar as the family dowager.

Fair and Balanced (Untitled Roger Ailes Project)

(dir. Jay Roach) Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – A timely movie about Roger Ailes and the toxic environment he ruled over at Fox News before his downfall should be Oscar catnip for the mostly left leaning Academy. It dovetails nicely into the Time’s Up and Me Too movements. It probably helps that it is not about Harvey Weinstein or anyone else in Hollywood.

The Farewell

(dir. Lulu Wang) Commentary By Tripp Burton – People are already putting Awkwafina down as a Best Actress contender next year for this Sundance hit.

Ford v. Ferrari

(dir. James Mangold) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – James Mangold is a celebrated Hollywood screenwriter and now has become a sought-after Hollywood director, suggesting if this film is good, it could be in play.

Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – James Mangold earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for his last film, “Logan.” With Matt Damon as the American auto giant Ford’s visionary designer and Christian Bale as his driver who set out to end Italian car maker Ferrari’s dominance of the 24 hour Le Mans car race in 1966, this has all the earmarks of another crowd-pleaser.

Gemini Man

(dir. Ang Lee) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – Ang Lee might have misfired with his previous film, but he’s still one of the biggest names in cinema. His two previous major failures, “Hulk” and “Taking Woodstock” were followed by two of his most Oscar-acclaimed films, Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi respectively. That suggests that the flop of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk could presage the rise of one of his great pictures.

Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – Sci-fi is not a genre often in the Oscar conversation, but this one is from two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee. It is, however, Lee’s first attempt at the genre since he bombed with his 2003 film, “Hulk.” With Will Smith and Clive Owen in the leads it could go either way as both have had career highs and lows.

The Goldfinch

(dir. John Crowley) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – The director of “Boy A” and “Brooklyn” is tackling a celebrated novel with acting powerhouses Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson on board, which means this could be one of the major Oscar players.

Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – This looks another heartfelt New York drama from John Crowley, the director of “Brooklyn.” Donna Tartt’s novel about a boy taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art spent 30 weeks on the New York Times’ Bestseller List.

Harriet

(dir. Kasi Lemons) Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – Cynthia Erivo takes on the role of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in this film from “Eve’s Bayou” director Kasi Lemons. The American abolitionist and political activist, who was born a slave in 1822 and died a legend 91 years later, should be a tour-de-force role for Tony winner Erivo whose big screen career is just starting to take off.

The Irishman

(dir. Martin Scorsese) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – Even at his worst, Martin Scorsese is a god in Hollywood and that means every film he makes will be an Oscar contender. This one, which pulls together a who’s who of Scorsese and mob film players will be his biggest film yet unless Netflix finds a way to screw it up.

Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – With its theatrical distribution still uncertain thanks to Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster film may or may not get the awards attention the prognosticators are predicting, but it’s certain to be in the conversation with such big names as Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Joe Pesci, and Anna Paquin attached.

Commentary By Tripp Burton – Now that Netflix has broken through with the Academy in a big way, look for their collaboration with Martin Scorsese to come out with guns blazing. If it is any good, it will be a major player.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – Although he is not my favorite director, Martin Scorsese has always been favored by the Academy. Returning to the gangster film genre with an all-star cast makes it probable that there will be a few nominations sprinkled around.

Late Night

(dir. Nisha Ganatra) Commentary By Tripp Burton – Emma Thompson could be back on the Oscar stage for this comedy that was a Sundance favorite. Many are calling it this year’s “The Big Sick.”

Little Women

(dir. Greta Gerwig) Commentary By Tripp Burton – People love this story, people love Greta Gerwig, and this is a film filled with Oscar favorites or rising stars waiting to become Oscar favorites. It could be the holiday hit no one is fully expecting.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – I am not certain that the world needs another adaptation of “Little Women,” but Greta Gerwig got Oscar nominations for her cast in “Lady Bird.” If she can get the same type of believable performances from a rather strong cast including Saorise Ronan, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson, and Laura Dern, there may well be a number of nominations for the film.

Midway

(dir. Roland Emmerich) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – This is the biggest gamble on my list. Roland Emmerich is a director best known for his bombastic disaster spectacles. The director of “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow” has tried a couple of times to make movies that the Oscars take seriously (“Anonymous” and “Stonewall”) and failed. How could he possibly succeed knowing the quality of his movies? With a war movie that’s filled with bombastic spectacle. Ultimately, it’s likely to fail in the big categories, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the techs.

1917

(dir. Sam Mendes) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – Sam Mendes has been away from the director’s chair for four years. Tackling World War I, unlike most of the filmmakers working today who dabble in World War II, could set his war film apart from others and give him a straight shot to Oscar glory.

Commentary By Tripp Burton – Sam Mendes seems like the sort of director who could make a comeback with the Academy, and this war film could be the film to bring him back to the awards ceremony. After all, it worked in recent years for Mel Gibson and Christopher Nolan.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – A World War One-set film by Sam Mendes and produced by Steven Spielberg definitely feels like an awards contender. The fact that Spielberg called it a “daring and ambitious” movie certainly piques the interest.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

(dir. Quentin Tarantino) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – Quentin Tarantino has a solid streak going at the Oscars and this period drama about the Charles Manson murders of actress Sharon Tate and others will play well into Hollywood’s self-gratifying ways and, while it will be incredibly graphic (it’s Tarantino after all), this is his first film based around historical events, which could give him a boost towards that directing Oscar he’s always wanted.

Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – Quentin Tarantino’s eagerly anticipated film about a fictional TV star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stand-in (Brad Pitt) who cross paths with the Manson family around the time of the murders of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), also features Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, and a host of other stars of both today and yesterday.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – Quentin Tarantino is never one to bet against. His last three films all garnered multiple nominations and each won at least one award. Hollywood also likes tales about itself, which could help it come Oscar time. Margot Robbie has already been noted for stills that make her look incredibly like Sharon Tate, so she easily could be in the mix when acting noms are announced.

Pain & Glory

(dir. Pedro Almodovar) Commentary By Tripp Burton – It has been a while since Pedro Almodovar has made a film that caught Oscar’s attention, but if this is truly a return to form, it could be a real contender.

The Report

(dir. Scott Z. Burns) Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – Any film with Annette Bening and Adam Driver might be in line for Oscar noms. And the fact that this film deals with a look into the enhanced investigative techniques that were done to people after the 9/11 bombings probably will stir up righteous anger.

Rocketman

(dir. Dexter Fletcher) Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – This highly publicized film from Dexter Fletcher, the uncredited second director of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a film in similar feel-good mode with Taron Egerton playing Elton John in the early stages of his career. Jamie Bell plays his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, and Bryce Dallas Howard plays the singer-composer’s mother.

Toy Story 4

(dir. Josh Cooley) Commentary By Tripp Burton – The last film was a Best Picture nominee, and although Pixar hasn’t had a lot of luck with sequels, this could turn their luck.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – If this is anywhere as good as the first three, this will definitely be a top contender for animated feature and perhaps even a best picture nominee. The third one ended on such an uplifting note that it is hard to picture where this one goes. However, I know that I am greatly looking forward to it.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

(dir. Richard Linklater) Commentary By Tripp Burton – A beloved novel brought to life by four-time Oscar nominee Richard Linklater could be a late summer sleeper hit that could propel itself into the Oscar conversation.

Us

(dir. Jordan Peele) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – His first horror film was a surprise hit with audiences, critics, and Oscar voters. His second film is buzzing like mad out of the festival circuit and is poised for an incredible box office debut. Next stop the Oscars.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – Jordan Peele came out of the blue with “Get Out.” That film went on to garner four Oscar nominations. I do not know much about his next film, but I would definitely list him and it as early contenders. People definitely are intrigued by this one.

The Woman in the Window

(dir. Joe Wright) Commentary By Peter J. Patrick – With that title, one might be anticipating a remake of Fritz Lang’s 1945 film noir of the same name, but, no, it’s a modern crime drama based on a bestseller published in 38 countries which has sold more than I million copies in the U.S. alone. Amy Adams may finally be looking at her first Oscar for what could be her seventh nomination.

Commentary By Tripp Burton – Sometimes Joe Wright makes Oscar contenders, and sometimes he makes films that fall flat and are forgotten, but with a Tracy Letts script and Amy Adams in the lead, this could be a major player.

Commentary By Thomas La Tourrette – Joe Wright’s films have received a number of Oscar noms in various categories over the years and this one sounds like it might too. The multi-nominated Amy Adams stars, and one should never rule her out when it comes to earning yet another one. I do not know how similar it will be to Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” but that scored four noms, and this might too.

Yesterday

(dir. Danny Boyle) Commentary By Wesley Lovell – Danny Boyle has an uneven history with the Oscars, but now that he’s an Oscar-winning director with a Best Picture winner under his belt, he may be taken more seriously. That said, he did direct the flops “Frankenstein,” “Trance,” and “T2 Trainspotting” in between and his “Steve Jobs” was largely a failure. Still, this Beatles-centric comedy could be a salve for drama-weary Oscar voters who have little humor on the docket for this year.

Wesley’s List

Peter’s List

Tripp’s List

Thomas’ List

  • Cats
  • Ford v. Ferrari
  • Gemini Man
  • The Goldfinch
  • The Irishman
  • Midway
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Us
  • Yesterday
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Downton Abbey
  • Ford v. Ferrari
  • Gemini Man
  • The Goldfinch
  • Harriet
  • The Irishman
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Rocketman
  • The Woman in the Window
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • The Farewell
  • The Irishman
  • Late Night
  • Little Women
  • 1917
  • Pain & Glory
  • Toy Story 4
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  • The Woman in the Window
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Fair and Balanced
  • The Irishman
  • Little Women
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • The Report
  • Toy Story 4
  • Us
  • The Woman in the Window

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