Films to Look Out For This Awards Season (Part 1)

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This is my favorite time of year. Leaves are falling, the temperature is too. The holidays are on the horizon, and the year is drawing to a close. But, most importantly, it’s awards season. This is the time of year where film studios release all the films they want to promote for awards, so they’ll be fresh in voters’ minds when they decide the winners in January. 

These are some films that I, and awards experts, think will be the centerpieces of the Academy’s ceremony on February 9, 2020. The topics of these pictures range from dark social commentary, to divorce, to the horrors of war. So far, 2019 has been an exciting year for film, and I think these films are much of the reason why. 

Here are my first five; check back soon for five more!

  • 1917 (Warner Bros)

First up is a genre that is an Academy favorite, the war film. This one comes from director Sam Mendes, who made such awards favorites as American Beauty (1999), which won Best Picture, and won him Best Director, and Revolutionary Road (2008). He also recently made acclaimed James Bond film Skyfall (2012). However, the person involved that I’m most excited about is cinematographer Roger Deakins, who finally won his first Oscar after 14 nominations in 2018, for Blade Runner 2049 (2017). 

Overall, this has numerous elements that point to it being a big awards picture. No doubt the element of war and its effects on young men will enthrall awards voters. But also, this film will be presented as if it were one continuous take, with hidden edits. This is in order to pull the viewer into the action much more than they might otherwise. This helps its chances, as another recent film which did this very effectively, Birdman (2014), won Best Picture.

Likely Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing.

  • The Farewell (A24)

This Chinese-American indie pic is a bit of a wild card this awards season. The Farewell premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival to immense critical praise and awards buzz. However, showing your film that early in advance can often cause the film to burn out and lose steam before campaigning begins. I’m going to believe it still has a chance though, as it seems to have stayed fresh in the minds of many.

The Farewell’s story centers around a grandmother in China who is diagnosed with cancer, and her family who chose not to let her be aware of her illness. This is a powerful story, and one that is based in truth, as director Lulu Wang based the film on the story of her grandmother’s illness. The actress who plays the grandmother, Zhao Shuzhen, delivers a fantastic performance, and I think she is a shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actress nomination..

Likely Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Awkwafina), Best Supporting Actress (Zhao Shuzhen), Best Original Screenplay.

  • Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)

This box office hit stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale as the people that propelled Ford to beat Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a stylish movie, and as such, it’s a shoe-in for the editing and sound categories, and a frontrunner to win them, as for the past few years, one film has won all three (Dunkirk in 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody in 2019). To add to this film’s chances, it received the elusive A+ CinemaScore from audiences polled on opening weekend.

While Christian Bale has received acclaim for this film, I do not believe he will be nominated. This is because he is being campaigned for Best Actor, and that race is immensely crowded this year. 

Likely Nominations: Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing.

  • The Irishman (Netflix)

Everything about this movie screams Oscar Winner. It’s a gangster film directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. It spans decades, and contemplates the emotional toll a life in crime has on a man. It’s being hailed by critics as an instant classic. Scorsese is an awards juggernaut, having won Best Director in 2007 for The Departed, and been nominated 7 more times. This is going to be nominated for (and win) Oscars. But which ones?

Likely Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Scorsese), Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino & Joe Pesci), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing.

  • Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)

Jojo Rabbit is another wild card this awards season. Being a comedy set in wartime Germany during World War II, and lampooning the Nazi party, it was always sure to divide audiences. But its awards chances are surprisingly strong. It screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, and won the People’s Choice Award, which is a big deal. The previous seven winners were all Best Picture nominees, and a few were winners.

As such, its chances are a bit better than they might have seemed. I can’t see it being nominated for a whole lot, but it will still be in the conversation for numerous categories.

Likely Nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design.

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