Moonlight‘s surprise win in Best Picture just over a week ago should have lit a fire under the collective asses of Oscar predictors. Defying all possible odds to best the perceived frontrunner (even with its weak spots) means the Academy was ready for something different and weren’t about to be told what was going to win. Does that mean the make-up of Academy voters has pivoted so much that future Best Picture winners won’t look like previous ones either? This is going to be the question of the season; if last season’s results were a one-time reactionary thing or if the Oscars are on a simply different path right now. That makes Oscar predicting extra hard and I think that’s a good thing. Being too complacent as we march to the inevitable win of one film or another because it won SAG or PGA or if DGA is a stronger precursor was getting boring. Oscar watching is entering a renaissance now, where gut and instinct and reading the tea leaves and tapping the pulse of the Academy and the social/political climate of the country might be just as more important than simply tabulating statistics and precursors.
That said, the first round of Best Picture predictions feel a bit…stale? This time last year the Gold Rush Gang had Moonlight in our top 10 (#7, to be exact, with Manchester by the Sea at #5, Fences at #9, La La Land at #10, Lion and Arrival – then Story of Your Life – at #12) but went pretty deep in on Martin Scorsese’s Silence being a top, if not the major Oscar player of the year. A reasonable prediction to make, it was the director’s passion project, it had been in post-production for nearly a year at that time. We had no idea the terrible job Paramount was going to do with its release – although we should have learned our lesson from how they handled Selma. We also all thought Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was going to be a major player for two-time Best Director winner Ang Lee. Or Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation (no one knew how that was going to implode until late summer) But this was all on paper. Even with gut and instinct as I mentioned above, it ultimately does come down to a movie being seen and its reviews. Somewhere, the two merge and its where we get something like Moonlight.
Still, the current list of films that look like Best Picture candidates consists of biopics (Darkest Hour, The Current War), stories helmed by previous Best Picture/Director winners (Kathryn Bigelow’s Untitled Detroit Riots project), World War II (Dunkirk), a gay coming of age story (Call Me By Your Name) and sci-fi (Blade Runner 2049). While clearly a diverse slate in terms of subject, it’s not feeling as diverse in terms of stories of and by non-white talent as last season’s Best Picture nominees and winners, in front of or behind the camera.
Right now the gang is zeroed in on Kathryn Bigelow’s Untitled Detroit Riots Project and it lands at our first #1 spot. Detailing the aftermath of the Detroit police raid in 1967 that resulted in one of the United States’ largest citizen uprisings is going to have historical context and tremendous relevance to the current state of race, police, and politics right now. It’s also Annapurna’s first self-distributed film. Downsizing, from Alexander Payne, feels very Oscar-y and its ‘shrinking man’ metaphor could play well. Wonderstruck, from Todd Haynes, could be his Oscar redemption after being snubbed in Best Picture and Best Director for Carol and with Amazon behind it, we know they can do wonders with a campaign and have tons of cash to throw at it.
The Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour stars Oscar-nominee Gary Oldman, is directed by Joe Wright (Atonement) and being distributed by Focus Features. That’s a pretty healthy combination. Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic is his next and best stab at Oscar glory and could be a massive, Saving Private Ryan level hit.
But I think we’re all looking at newly-minted Best Picture studio A24 very closely this year. When Spotlight won all eyes were on Open Road Films and what they were going to do next. As it turned out, not much. Their main, and really only, Oscar push in 2016 was the boxing biopic Bleed for This which gained zero awards traction and even worse box office. This year, A24 has Lean On Pete from Andrew Haigh (Weekend, TV’s Looking). It has an eclectic cast (Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, and is about a young boy embarks on a perilous journey in search of his long-lost aunt and a possible home, his only companion the stolen racehorse Lean on Pete. There’s no release date yet but Moonlight worked well for them in October so that could be the sweet spot.
Steven Spielberg looks to make a dent with The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, which stars Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) and written by Oscar nominee Tony Kushner (Lincoln). Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) goes right back to sci-fi with the sequel to Blade Runner, which could be a massive box office hit and awards-friendly bait. The Current War, starring Oscar nominees Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals) about the battle for electricity between Thomas Edison and Geroge Westinghouse comes from The Weinstein Company and if this last season proved anything, even hobbled TWC is a force to be reckoned with.
Sundance hits Mudbound from Dee Rees and Call Me By Your Name from Luca Guadagnino have surprisingly low-level support right now. In truth, there isn’t much faith in Netflix changing their release model make Mudbound a competitive Oscar player. If they’ve learned anything from their main streaming rival Amazon, then maybe they’ll see the path. That remains to be seen. Call My By Your Name was bought by Sony Pictures Classics in a heated battle even before the festival began. The big question though is, how will audiences, critics, and the Academy respond to a May-Decemberish gay romance between a 24-year old and a 17-year old? It’s a film that could (will) court controversy before its even released so we’ll be watching this very closely.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1950s fashion pic starring three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis from Annapurna and Focus Features sounds like a juicy, rich drama that we can’t wait to hear more about.
Here are the first Best Picture predictions of the 2018 Oscar season from the new Gold Rush Gang:
|Bryan Bonafede||Greg Howard||Evan
|Şükrü Söğüt||Matt Dinn||TOTAL
|1||Unititled Kathryn Bigelow Detriot Riots Project (Annapurna)||1||1||1||1||7||2||1||1||2||1||92|
|4||Darkest Hour (Focus Features)||3||5||3||5||4||3||4||7||3||5||68|
|5||Dunkirk (Warner Bros)||4||4||4||4||5||7||8||6||9||3||56|
|6||Lean on Pete (A24)||7||6||6||6||6||7||4||6||8||43|
|7||Untitled P. T. Anderson Project (Focus Features)||9||6||7||5||4||7||28|
|8||Current War, The (The Weinstein Company)||8||1||5||9||10||7||26|
|9||Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, The (Dreamworks/The Weinstein Company)||7||8||5||2||22|
|10||Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros)||9||8||9||3||10||8||19|
|12||Inner City (Sony) (possibly 2018)||7||9||6||11|
|13||Happy End (Sony Pictures Classics)||8||9||10||6|
|14||Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight)||10||9||9||5|
|16||Last Flag Flying (Amazon)||10||1|
|16||Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)||10||1|