We’re still about three months away from the next Academy Awards. However, that also means we’re right in the thick of the season when most of the films that will contend for major honors are being released. Given that, and with consideration that many of these films haven’t reached the cinemas yet, here are some early thoughts on film titles and individuals names you may see in contention for key Oscars categories in a few months’ time.
Films To Watch: “Dunkirk,” “The Shape Of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Greatest Showman,” “The Post,” “Darkest Hour,” “Get Out”
Early Observations: It’s going to be a weak year, relatively speaking, for Best Picture nominees. That is to say, it seems very unlikely that we’ll reach the maximum of 10 nominations (and we could fall closer to five). “Dunkirk” appears to have the inside track early on, and could serve as a very pure winner during a dark time for Hollywood. Indeed, as one interview put it, director Christopher Nolan put his artistry where his optimism was with this film, which he views as a strong counter to the narrative that the film industry is surrendering to TV.
Any of the above films could be considered however. If there is a true heavyweight yet to be released it’s probably “The Greatest Showman,” a massive performance drama about P.T. Barnum; “The Post,” a Steven Spielberg film telling a true story of journalistic courage and starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep; or “Darkest Hour,” in which Gay Oldman will play Winston Churchill (in what could be quite a fitting follow-up to “Dunkirk”).
Early Prediction: Though it isn’t out yet, “The Post” could ultimately overtake “Dunkirk.” 2017 has been viewed by many as the most important year for journalism in generations, and Hollywood loves a timely Best Picture. Plus, the Spielberg/Hanks/Streep trio is about as powerful as it gets.
Names To Watch: Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Joe Wright, Jordan Peele, Patty Jenkins, Steve Spielberg, Michael Gracey, Alexander Payne
Early Observations: This is one of the toughest awards to predict in advance. Nolan will certainly be in the running for “Dunkirk,” and “The Shape Of Water” seems the sort of film that might be recognized more for Del Toro’s direction than for anything else. Jordan Peele made an incredible directorial debut with “Get Out,” and Patty Jenkins earned a great deal of praise for bringing “Wonder Woman” to life. Spielberg (“The Post”) and Payne (“Downsizing”) have had awards season success before, and Gracey will be rewarded if “The Greatest Showman” winds up being a powerhouse.
Early Prediction: This seems like it may be headed Christopher Nolan’s way, either in a “Dunkirk” sweep, or because it’s narrowly edged out for Best Picture. However, don’t sleep on Jenkins. It would be an unconventional pick, but in a year when Hollywood’s problems regarding men in power have come to light, there could be a swell to give this award to the talented female director who made “Wonder Woman.”
Names To Watch: Gary Oldman, Timothee Chalamet, Denzel Washington, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jake Gyllenhaal
Early Observations: Chalamet is about to be the big new name in Hollywood once people see “Call Me By Your Name,” but he may be almost too new for this award. Oldman, Jackman, and Hanks all appear to be gunning for it in early trailers of their respective films. And Washington is an interesting dark horse. Just last year, pre-Oscars analysis suggested that the “#OscarSoWhite” issue could be enough of a push to get Mr. Washington an Academy Award for “Fences.” He narrowly lost out to Casey Affleck, but could have an impressive rebound if he wins with “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” It looks like a less challenging but perhaps more accessible role.
Early Prediction: This is actually a fairly loaded category in what most see as a mediocre year in film. But it’s hard not to see Daniel Day-Lewis coming out on top if “Phantom Thread” is anything but a flop. The actor has indicated it’s his last film.
Names To Watch: Jessica Chastain, Sally Hawkins, Margot Robbie, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, Carrie Fisher
Early Observations: Fisher may be a long shot, but it’s worth noting that JJ Abrams has already talked up Mark Hamill as a potential Oscar contender for his work in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Fisher is supposed to have a smaller role, but you never know. She was deeply beloved in Hollywood, and could earn a fitting posthumous honor. That said, the other actresses above all look formidable. Streep is always tough to beat when she earns a nomination, and Stone is coming off her own first Best Actress win (though “Battle Of The Sexes” isn’t quite the Oscar film some expected it to be). Chastain will have the benefit of reading Aaron Sorkin’s words in “Molly’s Game,” and Sally Hawkins should shine in Del Toro’s “The Shape Of Water.”
Early Prediction: It’s an outside-the-box pick, but Margot Robbie could well end up looking like the favorite. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch the trailer for “I, Tonya.” A darkly comedic chronicle of infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, it looks to be a total breakout for Robbie.