Well, that put the cat among the pigeons, didn’t it? The Academy of Motion Pictures has shaken Hollywood with the news that a new award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film is to be introduced at the Oscars. Details are yet to be announced on eligibility and when exactly it will be implemented, but suffice to say the film world is a bit taken aback. While we wait for more information to emerge, we are getting ready to step aboard the Awards Season train again as a plethora of new and exciting films vie for the golden statues next February.
There’s Damien Chazelle’s First Man starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy; Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star Is Born, which also sees him in the lead opposite Lady Gaga; Adam McKay’s star-studded Dick Cheney biopic, Backseat, with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell; Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest, The Favourite, with Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman; and Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk. These are just a handful of movies in with a shout — but what about the underdogs that could sneak in for big awards outside of the new category? Here’s just a few that we think could be in with a shout…
Anyone who has seen any of director Sebastián Lelio’s previous films, including 2013’s Gloria and A Fantastic Woman – which won Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s ceremony – will know how accomplished and highly regarded he is as a filmmaker and storyteller. We’re getting excited for next year’s Gloria Bell (starring Julianne Moore and set for a spring 2019 release in the US) which could also be an awards contender next time around. But while we wait to see that one, let’s consider Disobedience. While its release may be deemed “too early” to be considered, premiering last April in the US, it’s easily one of the year’s most critically revered. Starring Rachels Weisz and McAdams (in career-best performances), Disobedience tells the story a woman shunned by her Orthodox Jewish commune for her attraction to a female friend from her youth and explores faith, sexuality and human connection. The film opens in the UK this November.
The Sundance Film Festival always presents film fans with some of the best in independent cinema, not least from the US where in recent years films such as Little Miss Sunshine, Whiplash and Manchester by the Sea have gone on to triumph on Oscar night. There’s been plenty of brilliant work to emerge from this year’s festival but one that could go on to a surprise triumph is Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, Eighth Grade. His scarily realistic teenage comedy/drama has been met with rapturous applause and for its freshness and warm heart, and it deserves recognition for both its screenplay and the sensational lead performance of young Elsie Fisher who clearly has a successful career ahead of her. Call to UK distributors: snap this one up now!
Described by Tilda Swinton as a “cover” rather than a “remake”, Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming take on Dario Argento’s awe-inspiring 1977 horror film had reportedly been on the director’s mind for a decade or more. But the thought of someone remaking yet another classic feels some fans with dread. Having seen the first trailer for the film, this looks like one instance where the new version might just be worthwhile. Dakota Johnson and Swinton lead the cast (which also includes Chloe Grace Moretz and Jessica Harper, star of the original) and the film is already primed for an awards season push with an autumn release. Could this be the year the Academy embraces the darker side of cinema?
Sorry to Bother You
In something of a preposterous decision, it seems that Boots Riley’s eclectic rollercoaster of a movie won’t see cinema screens in the UK anytime soon because, according to the distributor, “Black movies don’t do well internationally”. Get Out, Moonlight and Black Panther are just three examples that prove him wrong but whatever happens to the film overseas, it’s safe to say that Sorry To Bother You is a one-of-a-kind experience; the kind of original film that deserves attention. Starring the sensational Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson as the leads, Sorry To Bother You is set in an alternate present day where Cassius Green (Stanfield) finds that using a “white voice” in his telemarketing job leads him down a path towards greed and destruction.
A Quiet Place/Hereditary
Following Get Out‘s recognition at last year’s ceremony, two more horror films have emerged as possible contenders this year. Both A Quiet Place and Hereditary are stories about families and the darkness both inside and outside of their respective homes. John Krasinski’s film, the sleeper hit of 2018, took everyone by surprise – a horror directed by Jim from The Office?! – and while it has a terrorising creature-feature facade, it’s also about the trials of parenting. Hereditary, meanwhile, is Ari Aster’s shocking tale of family tragedies and supernatural secrets and is reportedly THE scariest film of the year (so says science, anyway). After Get Out’s success winning Original Screenplay, both of these could be in for a shout, as too could Toni Collette for her staggering performance. Best Picture might be a stretch given the competition, but stranger things have happened…
Black Panther it is THE most popular film in the US this year with over $700 million grossed, the third highest of all time (unadjusted for inflation). While the popular film category has probably been designed so that superhero films, among others, can be recognised for their achievements. Black Panther should be nominated regardless, for both its brilliance and importance, and succeed where The Dark Knight was overlooked — becoming the first to superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture. After all, it was Christopher Nolan’s sequel that made the Academy double the Best Picture category in the first place.