It’s unknown yet if the true story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty’s grandson will turn out to be a major player but with the pedigree involved, don’t be surprised to see nominations in all the top categories — particularly for director Ridley Scott.
Battle of the Sexes
Directorial power pair Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton transformed the true story of Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King’s 1973 tennis match into Oscar bait. In addition to Faris and Dayton’s potential nomination for directing, Emma Stone and Steve Carell could score nods for lead roles, Nicholas Britell (“Moonlight”) for music, and Linus Sandgren for cinematography (he won the Oscar last year for “La La Land”).
The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani was known mostly to “Silicon Valley” fans before the year’s sleeper hit “The Big Sick.” The hit ($42 million B.O.) is being talked about for the screenplay noms for Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, while Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are possibilities for supporting actor and actress nominations.
Blade Runner 2049
Sequels are tricky, especially for pop culture staples like Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”; however, Denis Villenueve’s “Blade Runner 2049” expands upon that world, and Hampton Fancher and Michael Green could land a nomination for screenplay. Sylvia Hoeks and Ana de Armas would be interesting choices for supporting actress.
Andrew Garfield could earn his second consecutive lead actor nod for playing Robin Cavendish, a man paralyzed from polio at the age of 28. The well-received film could also land screenwriter William Nicholson a third nomination.
Call Me by Your Name
Sony Pictures Classics
Director Luca Guagdagnino may entice Oscar voters with this coming-of-age drama, and drawing two strong performances from Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet. Awards season voters may also fall for Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s cinematography, and Oscar nominee (but never a winner) James Ivory’s adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel.
Sony Pictures Classics
At first blush, it sounds like the purest of uncut Oscar-bait: Take a stylish, opulent director (Joe Wright), add a well-trod period of history (the nadir of Britain’s struggle in WWII), and garnish with a beloved yet Oscar-less actor making a dramatic physical transformation into a universally known figure (Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill). While it succeeds on all those counts, “Darkest Hour” also manages to transcend its prestige trappings in its portrait of a leader.
The Disaster Artist
Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 drama “The Room” is the epitome of “so bad that it’s good,” but critics and fans seem to agree that James Franco’s film about the making of the world’s worst film is all good. “Disaster Artist” has already gotten standing ovations, Wiseau’s seal of approval, and has won a best film award at the San Sebastian festival. Franco’s nominated for a Gotham Award for lead actor, so he stands a good chance of making some headway in the actor and director Oscar categories. The Golden Globes voters should also throw some love at the film.
Courtesy of A24
Alexander Payne has a strong track record with Oscars, so his latest could be a strong player. He has two screenplay Oscars so a nom for his quirky but human script (with Jim Taylor) would make sense — it definitely puts the “original” in original screenplay, telling the story of people who willingly shrink themselves. Newcomer Hong Chau is a likely supporting actress nominee, while one should never count out Matt Damon, playing a sweet Everyman, for a lead actor nom.
There may be two other movies in release this year on the World War II “miracle,” but Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is still a force to be reckoned with. Aside from possibly a best picture nomination, Nolan’s direction and screenplay, as well as performances from Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance, all look to score in their categories. And that’s in addition to cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s sweeping lens work and Hans Zimmer’s grand score.
Kathryn Bigelow’s visceral take on the 1967 Detroit riots might get a bit lost in awards season — its August release didn’t register as strong counter-programming, and critics were divided. However, don’t discount standout performances in the ensemble cast from Algee Smith, Will Poulter and John Boyega. Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography is exceptional.
The Florida Project
The little film that could just might surprise on Oscar night. While Willem Dafoe looks like a lock for supporting actor, don’t be surprised if it pulls a “Moonlight” and lands all the big noms — picture, director (Sean Baker), screenplay (Baker and Chris Bergoch) — and even take it all. And don’t underestimate lead actress Brooklyn Prince, only 6 when the film was shot.
Writer-director Jordan Peele’s acclaimed racial satire “Get Out” got the awards buzz rolling with four Gotham Award noms. The horror film opened to massive box office numbers and enthusiastic reviews after it premiered at Sundance in January and in the U.S. in February. Despite its early release, “Get Out” has been tossed around as a contender in the best picture and original screenplay categories.
Courtesy of Universal
The Greatest Showman
Little is known at this point about the musical biopic of P.T. Barnum but the trailer feels like a big, lavish spectacle that should at least land some below-the-line nominations — plus, original songs by Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Scott Cooper directed Jeff Bridges to an Oscar in “Crazy Heart” and buzz is high on the performances by Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike in this epic Western. Below-the-line noms could also be earned for the period costumes and gorgeous cinematography.
With “I, Tonya,” screenwriter Steve Rogers, star Margot Robbie and director Craig Gillespie manage to humanize figure skater Tonya Harding, now best-known for being embroiled in a plot to hurt rival Nancy Kerrigan. The drama could net screenplay, actress and director noms, respectively. Don’t forget Allison Janney as Tonya’s mom, a role that could net supporting actress kudos.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Screenwriters Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou earned a nod for their screenplay for “The Lobster” and their latest is just as twisted and original. The film also features standout performances by Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Barry Keough.
Greta Gerwig may be known best for her acting, but that could change soon if she gains the recognition she deserves for her work behind the camera. Her new film centers around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a young misfit who turns out to be more like her mother (Laurie Metcalf) than she ever realized. Gerwig could be nominated for her original screenplay and direction, as could Ronan for her brazen performance.
Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater might expand his list of Oscar nominations — currently up to five — for his follow-up to Hal Ashby’s 1975 film “The Last Detail.” Linklater collaborated with Darryl Ponicsan, author of the novels upon which the films are based, for the adapted screenplay about three military veterans who, 30 years after serving together in the Vietnam War, reunite when one vet’s son dies in Iraq. Potential is brewing for both Linklater’s direction and the collaborative screenplay.
The Wolverine is old, broken down and drunk, but Hugh Jackman gives us a reason to follow him along in this semi-dystopian Western/road movie, skillfully directed by James Mangold. And make no mistake, the screenplay by Mangold, Michael Green and Scott Frank is an engaging drama that happens to revolve around a lead character with blades in his knuckles. And in a bumper crop year for young actors, Dafne Keen, as Logan’s charge, is a standout.
They Meyerowitz Stories (New and Collected)
People who are surprised by Adam Sandler’s nuanced turn in this pic must not have seen him in “Punch-Drunk Love,” the film in which Sandler showed he can act. Ditto for Ben Stiller, playing his brother (see “Flirting With Disaster” for a companion perf). In fact, this film is loaded with great performances, from Elizabeth Marvel to Emma Thompson to Grace Van Patten and Dustin Hoffman as the family patriarch. Also credit Noam Baumbach’s screenplay and sure directing hand.
“Molly’s Game” could earn Aaron Sorkin nominations for both his adapted screenplay and his directorial debut. And if the buzz from the Toronto festival is any indication, lead role nominations may go to Jessica Chastain (for her performance as Molly) and Idris Elba (for his portrayal of lawyer Charlie Jaffey).
The timely period piece has earned raves and could be a player across the board in picture, with noms for director Dee Rees and adapted screenwriters Rees and Virgil Williams. Mary J. Blige has been building supporting actress buzz since the film’s Sundance premiere, while co-stars Jason Mitchell and Carey Mulligan could also figure into the mix.
Bong Joon-ho’s quirky drama is full of offbeat performances, from Tilda Swinton to Paul Dano to Jake Gyllenhaal. But it’s up to Ahn Seo-hyun to carry the emotional weight of film on her young, capable shoulders. The animated “super pig” Okja is a wonderful creation by vfx supervisor Erik-Jan de Boer (who won an Oscar for “Life of Pi”) and his team at Method Studios.
Paul Thomas Anderson already has six Oscar nominations under his belt, but his screenplay and direction of Daniel Day-Lewis in what the actor claims to be his final role may land Anderson another nom. Day-Lewis, the only male to ever win three lead actor Oscars, may earn a nomination for his part in this high-fashion period drama. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who composed the music for several Anderson films including “There Will Be Blood” (one of Day-Lewis’s wins), might also land recognition for his score.
Steven Spielberg directs this drama about the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. It’s a topic — freedom of an independent press — that’s especially timely now in the U.S., and “The Post” could strike a nerve with voters, who may reward Spielberg’s directing as well as Oscar veterans Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep for their lead performances. Also watch out for the original screenplay by rising screenwriter Liz Hannah and Oscar-winning writer Josh Singer (“Spotlight”), score by John Williams and cinematography by Janusz Kaminski.
20th Century Fox
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro won Venice with this unusual love story and could be looking at nominations for screenplay and director, and Alexandre Desplat’s score won at the Venice Film Festival, so an Oscar nomination is a good possibility. Sally Hawkins may grab an actress nom.
Jake Gyllenhaal succeeds where even native Bostonians (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon) have not — nailing the Boston accent in a tearjerker that chronicles the determination of 2013 Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman. Director David Gordon Green is likely to field notice for evoking gut-wrenching yet nuanced performances from both Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany. John Pollono may also curry favor for his heartbreaking but never maudlin adapated screenplay.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh seems to have hit the perfect blend of dark comedy and crime drama with this film, which has already won an award for its screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. McDonagh could be in the running for director and screenplay, while Frances McDormand is gaining critical praise for her powerfully angry portrayal of a grieving mother who wants nothing more than justice for her daughter. Sam Rockwell could net a supporting actor nom.
Victoria and Abdul
The last time Judi Dench and Stephen Frears collaborated, on 2013’s “Philomena,” it led to four Oscar nominations. The little-known story of the empress and her Indian subject, a scandal back in those prudish late 19th century times, may yeild similar results. Dench is superb playing the queen, and Frears’ direction brings out the best in other cast members including Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon and Ali Fazal.
“Wind River” came out of Cannes on a wave of terrific reviews, where it played in Un Certain Regard, and helmer Taylor Sheridan won a directing prize. Jeremy Renner was nominated in 2011 and 2010 for supporting actor and lead actor, respectively, and his subtle yet emotionally rich performance in “Wind River” makes a third nomination a real possibility. Written by Sheridan, whose screenplay for “Hell or High Water” received a nom last year, “Wind River’s” somewhat predictable but still impactful writing could make it a contender in the same category.
The best-selling book about a disfigured boy attending school for the first time has a huge built-in audience that could put this crowd pleaser over the top. In addition to screenplay and makeup nods, Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay could be surprise contenders in the acting categories.
Todd Haynes’ time-jumping pic melds two worlds and genres, setting one story in a black-and-white silent era and the other in the 1970s. At the very least, Edward Lachman’s gorgeous cinematography deserves a nod, along with the criminally overlooked Carter Burwell, whose music plays a vital role in the storytelling.
Woody Allen is hit-or-miss with the Academy (for every “Blue Jasmine” there’s a “Cafe Society”) but he’s written a showy role for Kate Winslet, who could land her eighth nom. Other categories feel less certain after a middling critical response, but cinematographer Vittorio Storaro has been rightly singled out for his stunning camera work.
Superhero movies are still a genre that awards voters shy away from, but the cultural impact of “Wonder Woman” cannot be ignored, and Gal Gadot’s creation of a fully realized woman shouldn’t be ignored. Nor should Patty Jenkins’ deft direction. The below-the-line teams in the production design, art direction and costume arenas should be noticed.