Oscars: 11 Contenders on Track for a Nomination From the First Half of 2019

With the Fourth of July holiday in the rearview mirror, it’s time to get back to work. That means it’s high time to take a look at Oscar contenders from the first half of the year.

This list is comprised of films that have already been released, plus some of the top titles from festivals — even if they haven’t hit theaters yet.

The breakdown, however, doesn’t include complete unknowns and still-in-the-works films like Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical “Cats” or Greta Gerwig’s take on “Little Women.”

There’s still a lot more to see before Oscar voting begins (preliminary voting kicks off on Dec. 6), but until then, here are 11 contenders who could or should be on track for a nomination.

Courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Best Picture

Avengers: Endgame
Marvel finally broke into the best picture race last year with “Black Panther,” so why not recognize the culmination of a decade’s worth of planning and brilliant storytelling, which also happens to expertly blend genres from drama, comedy and action. (JR)

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Quentin Tarantino made a splash at Cannes with his ode to vintage Hollywood starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. None of his previous eight films have won best picture. Perhaps this is his time to take home the big prize? (MM)

Also look for: “Booksmart,” “The Farewell,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Credit: Antje Taiga

Best Director
Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”
In her sophomore feature, Wang gets autobiographical to tell the story of a family hiding a fatal diagnosis from their beloved matriarch. Wang (pictured, above) knows how to tell a story with humor and heart, and draws rich performances from a wonderful ensemble. (JR)

Also look for: Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Joe Talbot “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Courtesy of Neon

Best Actress
Jessie Buckley, “Wild Rose”
The Irish actress-singer (pictured, above) delivers a star turn as a Rose-Lynn Harlan, a young mother recently out of prison in Glasgow who dreams of singing stardom in Nashville. Uncompromising, difficult and endlessly charismatic, Buckley never hits a false note. (JR)

Lupita Nyong’o, “Us”
It feels like a lifetime ago that the Oscar winner was attracting awards buzz for her performance in the Jordan Peele-directed horror film. Even so, time shouldn’t hurt her chances of being in the race. (MM)

Also look for: Charlize Theron (“Long Shot”), Florence Pugh (“Midsommar” and “Fighting With My Family”), Awkwafina (“The Farewell”), Emma Thompson (“Late Night”)

Best Actor

Robert Pattinson, “The Lighthouse”
The former “Twilight” heartthrob continues his penchant for going the indie route with director Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” follow-up. Pattinson, who plays one of two 19th century lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe is the other) who descend into insanity while on a deserted New England island, earned some of the best reviews of his career when the film premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival (MM)

Credit: David Appleby/Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”
Put aside any comparisons to that other musical biopic that landed a best actor statue this year because Egerton’s brave, go-for-broke turn as Elton John stands on its own as a stunning technical and emotional achievement. The actor (pictured, above) artfully straddles the line between realism and fantasy, and nails the superstar’s voice, manner and emotional journey. (JR)

Also look for: Robert Downey Jr. (“Avengers: Endgame”), Jack Reynor (“Midsommar”), Winston Duke (“Us”)

Best Supporting Actress
Julia Butters, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
She may only be 10 years old, but Butters holds her own and then some opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in one short but powerful scene in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film about a fading Hollywood star (DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt). (MM)

Zhao Shuzhen, “The Farewell”
As the beloved grandmother being kept in the dark about her health, Shuzhen will break your heart. Her scenes with her onscreen granddaughter Awkwafina are some of the best of the year — here’s hoping we see more of this 76-year-old breakthrough. (JR)

Also look for: Margot Robbie (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, “The Lighthouse”
The legendary actor is sure to earn his fifth Oscar nomination for his performance as a 19th century lighthouse keeper. There’s no reason he can’t be up for best actor, but we’re going to guess that the studio isn’t looking for a showdown between him and his co-star Robert Pattinson. (MM)

Keanu Reeves, “Always Be My Maybe”
The Keanuaissance is long overdue and the laidback actor stole the movie with the role he was born to play: himself. Or rather, an unbearably pretentious version of himself. Anyone who thinks this is what the real Reeves is like isn’t recognizing the subversive, clever work being done here that walks a fine line of being outrageous yet just believable. (JR)

Also look for: Jamie Bell, “Rocketman”

Also in the mix:
Best Original Screenplay: “Late Night,” “Booksmart”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Fighting with My Family,” “Toy Story 4”
Best Cinematography: “Midsommar”

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