Spike Lee Still On Top
Spike Lee remains at #1 with BlacKkKlansman, which just opened in theaters last weekend. It’s one of only two films in my top 10 this month that’s even been seen yet. The reviews are in for BlacKkKlansman and they’re overwhelmingly positive with many calling it the director’s best work to date. More timely than probably any film that will be released this year, coupled with the possibility of Spike Lee being the first ever black Best Director winner makes for an undeniable (at this point) mix. Sasha Stone at AwardsDaily agrees, she also has Lee in her top spot right now.
After his first jump last month, Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón makes his biggest leap, all the way to #2, with ROMA. The film, his first in five years and a personal passion project (the Oscars just love those), is already booked for Venice, Toronto and NYFF (as the Centerpiece film) and the release of its first trailer this week only solidifies his placement.
Cuaróns move up (one of four in the top 10) means others must move down, even if incrementally. Former #2s Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) and Adam McKay (Backseat) find themselves in the #3 and #4 spots, respectively. The Favourite is set for Venice and NYFF and Backseat so far has no festivals lined up for the mid-December release. While that is often enough for me to keep bumping a film down, for McKay it could just be playing out like his Oscar-winning The Big Short did and show up at AFI.
Each new festival announcement gives me more faith in Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Telluride and Toronto will be its main festival bows and it’s already a top contender in Best Actress (Melissa McCarthy), Supporting Actor (Richard E. Grant) and Adapted Screenplay.
So much mystery has shrouded Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer and then it suddenly popped up in the Platform section of Toronto (called that, btw) as a ‘Canadian Premiere,’ which means it’s also hitting Telluride. Despite literally nary a production still available (not even the TIFF website has one) this is a major push by Annapurna, which has two other major contenders in Backseat and If Beale Street Could Talk.
Barry Jenkins ekes back up the chart, from #8 last month to #7 this month. If Beale Street Could Talk won’t hit Telluride but with showing at NYFF and a world premiere at Toronto (and that gorgeous trailer) he’s very much back in the mix.
Falling big this month is Steve McQueen (Widows). A former #1 for me, I think I’ve moved to the thought that the film will be a major box office hit but probably won’t be the awards juggernaut I had predicted back in March. It could still turn out that way, especially if reviews align with receipts. McQueen lands in the Next Up section for August.
Damien Chazelle (First Man) falls out of the top 5 for the first time but his film’s Venice and Toronto showings before its October release keep him in the game. Box office may be the key for his film.
Falling all the way down to Other Contenders though are some former top 10s: Mike Leigh for Peterloo (despite Venice and Toronto bows) and Josie Rourke for Mary Queen of Scots. Rourke’s directorial debut has been a conundrum this season with no festival mentions at all, and for a film and director that really needs that boost and early view to gain traction. It’s still quite possible it will show up at Telluride but that would be its only festival, which seems odd.
The two debuts this month come from Netflix: the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers with their anthology-turned-feature The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which will world premiere at Venice before hitting NYFF and Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which reunites his Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo.
Here are my 2019 Oscar Predictions in Best Director for August 17, 2018.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – chart debut
1. Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features)
2. Alfonso Cuarón – ROMA (Netflix)
3. Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)
4. Adam McKay – Backseat (Annapurna)
5. Marielle Heller – Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight)
6. Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born (Warner Bros)
7. Barry Jenkins – If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna)
8. Damien Chazelle – First Man (Universal)
9. Karyn Kusama – Destroyer (Annapurna)
10. Ryan Coogler – Black Panther (Walt Disney)
James Gray – Ad Astra (20th Century Fox)
Joel Edgerton – Boy Erased (Focus Features)
Jason Reitman – The Front Runner (Sony)
Orson Welles – The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix)
Steve McQueen – Widows (20th Century Fox)
The Coen Brothers – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix)
Felix van Groeningen – Beautiful Boy (Amazon)
Susanne Bier – Bird Box (Netflix)
Nadine Labaki – Capharnaüm (Sony Pictures Classics)
Jon M. Chu – Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros)
Alice Rohrwacher – Happy as Lazzaro (Netflix)
Ari Aster – Hereditary (A24)
Wes Anderson – Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight)
Debra Granik – Leave No Trace (Bleecker Street)
Paolo Sorrentino – Loro (Focus Features)
Rob Marshall – Mary Poppins Returns (Disney)
Josie Rourke – Mary Queen of Scots (Focus Features)
Jonah Hill – Mid90s (A24)
Jennifer Kent – The Nightingale
Paul Greengrass – 22 July (Netflix)
David Lowery – The Old Man & the Gun (Fox Searchlight)
David Mackenzie – Outlaw King (Netflix)
Mike Leigh – Peterloo (Amazon)
Chloe Zhao – The Rider (Sony Pictures Classics)
Jacques Audiard – The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna)
László Nemes – Sunset
Luca Guadagnino – Suspiria (Amazon)
Jason Reitman – Tully (Focus Features)
Pippa Bianco – Untitled Pippa Bianco aka Share (A24)
Dan Gilroy – Velvet Buzzsaw (Netflix)
Robert Zemeckis – Welcome to Marwen (Universal)
Benh Zeitlin – Wendy (Fox Searchlight)
Amma Asante – Where Hands Touch
Lynne Ramsay – You Were Never Really Here (Amazon)