Though it’s only been a week since Spotlight walked away as our Best Picture winner, several films have already been making a head start on the next Oscar race.
And what’s great about this news, is that we’re already seeing a bunch of films that could potentially leave us with a more diverse slate of nominees than the last two years have. Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Nate Parker, Ang Lee, Amma Asante and several others all have high-profile projects coming out later this year. And while that doesn’t fix the problem of diversity within Hollywood, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Here’s a list of films that could find themselves Oscar nominees come next year.
Possible Nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Song, Best Original Screenplay
Disney’s first real success story post-Frozen has already broken box office records in its first weekend, and doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon. That and an overwhelming support from the critics looks to secure an early lead in the Oscar race; Best Animated Feature is a no brainer. But the film’s mature, subversive wit and political commentary on issues such as racism might help it land a nomination in the Screenplay category like Inside Out this past season. Not to mention, “Try Everything” and its ear worm hook ,thanks to singer Shakira and writer Sia Furler, might make a case in the Original Song category.
The Birth of A Nation
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best… basically every category in existence
Nate Parker’s Sundance hit (which he directed, wrote AND produced) has everything going for it right now. It has distributor Fox Searchlight (Black Swan, 12 Years A Slave, Birdman) behind it after setting a Sundance acquisition record. It has an all star cast featuring How To Get Away With Murder’s Aja Naomi King (who is receiving standout notices from those who have seen the film), Armie Hammer and Gabrielle Union. It’s also being released in the prime Oscar release window: October 7th.
This is a film that has a wide reach; it could be present in almost every single category. The Academy loves their period pieces, but this passion project looks to be one of the highest rated films of the year that appeals to all of the branches: actors, producers, writers, directors. If there was a front runner at this time, I’d put my chips on this film.
Queen of Katwe
Possible Nominations: Best Actress, Best Actor
After winning an Oscar, Lupita Wyong’o has been enjoying flexing her acting muscles rather than chasing awards-bait. She’s got Star Wars under her belt, and is currently starring on Broadway and awaiting the release of the live-action version of The Jungle Book, which she is credited for voicing one of the characters. Her biggest project, however, looks to be Queen of Katwe, which is being distributed by Disney later this year.
Though Disney’s Oscar record is a little spotty, Nyong’o and co-star David Oyelowo (who was snubbed for his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. two years ago) might be able to attract some awards attention based on their star power alone. The story centers around the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who escaped her life in the slums to become a world renowned chess prodigy. Not much else is known about the film other than it’s being directed by Mira Nair and slated for a fall release. While this looks like more of an actors’ film, if its a hit, Nair could make a case for Best Director as well.
A United Kingdom
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress
Director Amma Asante made waves with her period film Belle in 2014, but looks to really establish herself amongst up and coming directors with her follow up. A United Kingdom focuses on the true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams Khama, played by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Pike’s previous nomination for 2014’s Gone Girl and Oyelowo’s multiple projects this year and his own snub make a strong case for the Academy to take notice. Brooklyn, a sweet coming of age romance drama, found its place in Best Picture in the most recent Oscar cycle. That and the film being “based on a true story” almost cement their chances for consideration, but with Asante’s assured hand, we could see history being made in the Best Director category if the film is enough of a hit.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
Ang Lee is one of the few directors who have two Best Director Oscars, and also has enjoyed a very esteemed career (Sense & Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Life Of Pi). His latest project, a satire about the Iraq War, might bring him back into the Oscar race. Based on the book of the same name by Ben Fountain, the film follows a band of former soldiers who prepare to return to Iraq. Featuring an all star cast: Vin Disel, Chris Tucker, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Steve Martin to name a few, the film has secured an Oscar friendly November release date.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Possible Nominations: Best Actress
Oscar favorite Meryl Streep had an off year with Ricki and the Flash and Suffragette, but she seems to be aiming for Oscar’s sweet spot with her latest film. Directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen, Philomena), Streep is playing Florence Foster Jenkins, a real life opera singer who gained notoriety for her awful bad singing skills.
Frears has directed several actors to Oscar nominations and wins before, plus Meryl Streep should never be discounted from awards season. Not only is she playing a real-life person, but the film has a Julie & Julia-likeness to it. It’s worked for her in the past, right?
Possible Nominations: Best Actor, Best Actress
Director Jeff Nichols has been on the verge of a breakthrough for some time now with past efforts Take Shelter and Mud. His latest project is much more Academy friendly than his last two; the real life story of Loving v. Virginia. Joel Eddgerton and Ruth Negga play Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who was sentenced to jail, which ultimately led to a ruling that made interracial marriage legal throughout the U.S.
As a courtroom drama and real life story, it’s right in the Academy’s sweet spot. Edgerton has yet to really break through, while Negga is not yet a household name (though she has starred on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Misfits in the past). That may not matter, however, as Oscar always loves to make “discoveries” with nominations.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Cinematography… another sweeper
Martin Scorsese should never be counted out. Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tabanobu Asano and Ciarán Hinds could all be potential acting contenders. The screenplay, adapted by Jay Cocks from Shüsaku Endō’s novel of the same name, focuses on a group of Portuguese Catholic priests facing persecution when they travel to Japan in search of their mentor. It’s got a Revenant type appeal to it: survival story, big name director, all male cast, etc.
The film has no official release date, though is scheduled for release sometime this year. If Scorsese holds onto this one as long as he did with The Wolf of Wall Street, it’ll probably be at the very end of the year.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay
Harvey Weinstein is already stomping the ground for his next awards contender starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and recent Oscar nominee Rooney Mara. Patel plays the real life Saroo Brierly, author of the novel A Long Way Home on which the film is based. Weinstein’s endorsement is never one to shy away from, and Patel is a Screen Actor’s Guild Award winner for Slumdog Millionaire who could receive his first Oscar nomination. Mara and Nicole Kidman’s own Oscar appeal adds to the films chances as well.
The Light Between Oceans
Possible Nominations: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress
Hot off an Oscar nomination and win, real life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander star in this adaptation of the best selling novel of the same name. Director Derek Cianofrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond The Pines) has directed Michelle Williams to an Oscar nomination in the past. Vikander, Fassbender’s and fellow Oscar winner/co-star Rachel Weisz’s star power might be enough to get this film awards recognition if it’s a hit. The trailer certainly suggests that it’ll tug on the heartstrings, which is always a plus when vying for Oscar consideration.