You’re weary. You’ve suffered through months of campaigning, backbiting, frustration, joy, tears, and maybe depression. And then, just like that, it’s all finally over. The Oscars obviously took place this past Sunday, with investigative thriller “Spotlight” the surprise and well-deserved Best Picture winner. It was a bit of a shock that the Academy would award a film this deserving, but one also as mannered, subdued and a bit unsexy. But…. at this point you really don’t want to talk about it. You’re just relieved the season is over and you’d like to move on and maybe sleep for a few months.
Surprise! We have a great “recovery” feature just for you. Too soon! Yes, we know it’s ridiculous to be thinking about the next Oscar season just a couple of days after the previous one ended. It’s also a little masochistic and sadomasochistic, but being that it’s become something of a warped tradition here at the Playlist, we always take what should be our switching-off coma week to look forward to the movies we might be talking about over the next twelve months as having awards potential. Yes, we are highly aware these are very early, very premature predictions and that anything can happen.
But when you think about it, the 2016/2017 awards season has already been underway for a couple of months. As its wont to do in recent years, the Sundance Film Festival has already unveiled some potent titles that could be very viable back in January and which have already began bubbling in the awards-season narrative (like it or not).
It should be an interesting year ahead, particularly after the most closely contested Best Picture race in years and following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Plus, it’s a bit of a nice head cleanser to talk about some different movies for a bit. So with all that mind, below you’ll find our eleven Best Picture picks, mostly sight unseen. And be forewarned: we’ll be making premature predictions all week, though remember, they’re all in loose, good fun, and nothing you should take too seriously. Let us know your own long-range predictions and stay tuned for more.
“Birth Of A Nation”
A Sundance sensation the likes of which has rarely ever been seen, the directorial debut of actor Nate Parker regarding the slave rebellion of Nat Turner blew the roof off Park City in January and was immediately snapped up by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, the biggest deal in Sundance history (or of any festival). Clearly the Oscars fit into the plan for the studio —which had success with “12 Years A Slave” in 2013— and with Parker’s film drawing comparisons to both that film and “Braveheart,” and with a prime October release date, the studio is not messing about with it. With the #OscarsSoWhite controversy dominating proceedings this past season, Parker’s film (read our review) seems primed to redress the balance. Expect to see it pop up at other festivals like Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival to keep its momentum up through the fall, but this is as close to a lock as you can get with 363 days to go.
Steven Spielberg is always a force to be reckoned with —even his less-loved prestige pictures like “War Horse” or even last year’s “Bridge Of Spies” still manage to rack up multiple nominations and Best Picture nods, with only the occasional “Amistad” or “The Terminal” left entirely out in the cold. His summer releases tend to fare less well —in the last thirty years of his Best Picture nominees, only “Saving Private Ryan” had a summer date— but “The BFG” could well have the right stuff. This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved classic reunites Spielberg with this year’s Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as the titular Big Friendly Giant, with the director working from a script from Melissa Mathison (who sadly passed away last year) for the first time since “E.T.” It looks to be true Spielberg awe-and-wonder territory, and in a year with few awards-friendly blockbuster prospects, few would bet against it. That said, there is a potential spoiler lurking, with Focus’s similarly-themed “A Monster Calls,” which has a prize-winning, emotionally potent and much-lauded source material, and an Oscar-friendly cast including Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson.
“Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk”
Though he’s a two-time Best Director winner, Ang Lee’s never had one of his films win Best Picture —“Brokeback Mountain” was beaten by “Crash,” and “Life Of Pi” by “Argo.” Could “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” be the one to break the curse? Based on Ben Fountain’s award-winning novel, it’s a story about a group of soldiers from the Iraq war set during a salute to the soldiers during a football game, a sort of mix of “The Hurt Locker” and “Flags Of Our Fathers,” but with a lightly satirical tone. Lee’s pushing things forward technically with the film —shooting in 120 FPS 3D—and has attracted A-list collaborators with a script from “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy. His usual against-the-grain casting is in full force too: only Lee could bring together Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker and Garret Hedlund in a cast led by a complete newcomer, Joe Alwyn. Lee’s not above the occasional “Taking Woodstock”-style misfire, but if this works, expect it to be a big player.
The last two Best Picture winners starred Michael Keaton, which means that all eyes are on “The Founder” this year, which stars the “Birdman” and “Spotlight” actor in the lead role. The film’s a biopic of Ray Kroc, the man responsible for transforming McDonald’s from a handful of California restaurants to a world-beating exponent of American-style capitalism, while screwing over the McDonald brothers in the process. Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson and Nick Offerman also star in the film, and though it comes from “The Blind Side” helmer John Lee Hancock, expect something a little more “The Social Network” than “Saving Mr. Banks,” if reports of the script from Onion veteran and “The Wrestler” writer Robert D. Siegel are anything to go by. After a couple of disappointing years and with rumors of difficulties, The Weinstein Company will be looking to make a splash in the coming year, and “The Founder” definitely looks like their best prospect, especially with Keaton as its lucky charm .
The busiest filmmaker around right now might be the Chilean helmer Pablo Larrain, who has three movies due for release in 2017. “The Club” and his poetry biopic “Neruda” are probably unlikely to register in a big way on the awards circuit, but his English-language debut “Jackie” could well follow his Foreign Language nominee “No” to the Oscar party. The project, which follows Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the days following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, has been kicking around for a few years, with names like Steven Spielberg and Darren Aronofsky attached, but it’s Larrain who got it over the line, and he’s a perfect fit for the material. We looked at the script by Noah Oppenheim way back in the day, and it was a very strong piece of work even then, and Larrain’s cast it with ringers like Portman, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard and John Hurt. The movie wraps shortly, and should be ready for the fall festivals: it doesn’t have a distributor yet, but assuming this lives up to expectations, it’ll be a contender.