Film festival season (which is not over yet) blows in fast and furious, then just as quickly, dissipates. We still don’t know what the audience favorite at Toronto will be. It could be A Star is Born. Widows. Green Book. The Hate U Give. It could be Roma. Or even Boy Erased. The audience winner has a pretty good track record with Oscar’s Best Picture, though it does sometimes fly off the rails.
2017 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2016 – La La Land
2015 – Room
2014 – The Imitation Game
2013 – 12 Years a Slave+
2012 – Silver Linings Playbook
2011 – Where Do We Go Now?
2010 – The King’s Speech
2009 – Precious
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire
Then it scatters somewhat – but come on, 9 out of the last 10 winners have been a Best Picture nominee. Kris Tapley made a good prediction on Twitter that Green Book has a real shot at this and that sounds about right, though I would not be surprised if Widows takes it.
For Green Book – future potential shitstorm as yet unknown (see: Three Billboards), it would mean that the enthusiastic response from Oscar bloggers like Jeff Wells and Scott Feinberg was right – this would be a major player – with nominations across the board. Heck, it still might get in with nominations before a shitstorm tsunami catches it. It likely won’t be attacked unless it becomes a threat. If it’s a threat, it’s a threat and a shitstorm will ensue.
Either way, we have the beginnings of what our Best Picture lineup might look like. It’s always hard to tell what will WIN Best Picture on account of the preferential ballot. It really did look like Three Billboards would take the prize, even if Guillermo Del Toro won Best Director. But of course, The Shape of Water took both. Still, it’s hard to predict this far out what film will enter the race with the least amount of baggage attached to it, which is how Best Picture is mostly decided now. Liked the most, hated the least. A shitstorm or “controversy” can sometimes make the difference on a preferential ballot.
But since The Shape of Water won last year, which was a film many believed was somewhat divisive – it seems that, at least for now, we can pencil out “divisive” as a barrier. The Shape of Water has 29 unfavorable reviews on Rotten Tomatoes – which is relatively high for a Best Picture winner on the preferential ballot. It had even more than Three Billboards, which only had 27. And it certainly had more than Get Out, which only had 4 rotten reviews. Last year really was a stat buster in many regards and this was likely due to many factions at play. There were the Get Out supporters, the Lady Bird supporters and a huge amount of Three Billboards supporters. But when all was said and done, all of those people pushed The Shape of Water towards the top of their ballots, which is likely how it came in first in a relatively competitive year.
Will this year be competitive? Is it already? What films do we think even have a shot to win? Did we know last year at this time what movie was going to win? Probably we didn’t. I think people still had their eye on films that hadn’t yet been seen, like The Post.
What hasn’t been seen yet?
Mary Queen of Scots
Welcome to Marwen
On the Basis of Sex
Just from my perch, I think that there are some films that did surprise beyond our usual predictions. I would say one of those was Green Book but I’d been hearing about that as a possible surprise Best Picture contender before Toronto. Can You Ever Forgive Me and Boy Erased are the two that, I think, did much better than I expected they would.
The current rundown:
First Man – Damien Chazelle’s moody space epic that takes you on two journeys at once: to the moon and back, and deep inside the heart of Neil Armstrong awash in grief. A triumph of collaborative cinema but absolutely driven by Chazelle’s singular vision.
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical tribute to the women who raised him in Mexico. Because he did not know their pain as a young boy, he takes a fond look back at how hard their lives were after men left them wrecked.
A Star is Born – Bradley Cooper’s surprisingly good reboot of a classic Hollywood myth, anchored by an electrifying performance from Lady Gaga.
BlackKklansman – Spike Lee’s shattering but somehow funny indictment of Trump and the Klan. Really, though, what it’s about is building up the black community in spite of how little things change.
If there were only five slots for Best Picture, those might be four of them. Then we would need a fifth slot — likely that would be one of the following:
If Beale Street Could Talk
Can You Ever Forgive Me
So far, that’s 11 titles not even counting the movies that haven’t been seen. Maybe 50% of the movies named here will ultimately get into the Best Picture race.
And then if the critics push it hard enough, if the members mobilize strong enough, then Black Panther might just squeak through for Best Picture. But it will take a village.
Often, though, you can find Best Picture by looking for Best Director. It’s extremely rare to have a Best Director nomination and not a Best Picture nomination, although it has happened once or twice.
The directors who seem to have the strongest shot right now:
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Can the next two be:
Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
And then we get back again to that fifth slot:
Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Steve McQueen, Widows
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased
Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
The thing is, the key is, what will be the story of Oscar 2019? What will be the forces driving the race? Whose Oscar story will be told? Whose film will be thrown under the bus? Will hype destroy any of these?
Will be a split year? Will it be a sweeps year? Will the eruption and then erasure of the popular film category motivate voters to vote for a superhero movie for the first time in Oscar history, and will that movie be Black Panther and will Ryan Coogler get in for Best Director? Will box office come into play at all?
What movie will the Gothams push? What movie will the critics push? What movie will the large consensus voters like most? What movie will the Golden Globes anoint? These questions will all be answered in the next couple of months as the Oscar season shifts gears.
The only thing we know for sure is that somehow, some way, the disaster that is Donald Trump will be somehow involved in shaping the reactions of industry and Oscar voters.
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