What a difference the fall festivals make. The top 10 for September is teeming with green as Venice, Telluride and Toronto brought the top Oscar contenders to critics, pundits and audiences and began separating the ‘good on paper’ films from actually good films that could go the distance.
For me, ROMA is the standout and inches up to claim the #1 spot from BlacKkKlansman, which had held it this entire year so far. Having ROMA at #1, seeing it as a potential Best Picture Oscar winner is a risky gambit. It doesn’t have simply one obstacle to overcome to cross that finish line, it has several.
First and foremost is the Netflix issue. The streamer finally broke through last year with Mudbound, earning above-the-line nominations in Supporting Actress (Mary J. Blige) and Adapted Screenplay in addition to Original Song (also Blige) and Cinematography. Each of those came with breaking through 90 years of Oscar history. Blige became the first person ever to be nominated for acting and original song in the same year. Ever. Dee Rees became the first black woman nominated in Adapted Screenplay. Ever. Rachel Morrison became the first woman nominated in Cinematography. Ever. Netflix mounted a major and impactful campaign and broke through but it still has the Academy’s glass ceiling of Best Picture and Best Director to conquer.
But, as I said above, that’s not the only obstacle for ROMA. The film is also in black and white, entirely in Spanish and features an unknown cast to American audiences and likely most of the Academy. Netflix is not making it easy on themselves but the film has already won the Golden Lion at Venice, was the 2nd runner-up for Toronto’s People’s Choice Award and is the only major contender appearing at every top fall festival (it’s also the Centerpiece at NYFF). The film is also Mexico’s official entry in the Foreign Language Film Oscar race. In some ways, that’s actually another obstacle. Only a handful of films have been nominated for both FLF and Best Picture; 2012’s Amour and 1998’s Life is Beautiful among them, both of which won the former but not the latter.
Looking at the rest of the top 10 is a rich sea of green, with Venice, Telluride and Toronto giving First Man some rocket fuel on the chart. Venice and Toronto were massive for A Star Is Born, which is continuing to soften even the hardest of cynical critics as the real deal. And TIFF world premieres of If Beale Street Could Talk, Green Book and Widows pumped new life into some of the most anticipated films of the fall.
Green Book was the biggest winner, snagging the TIFF People’s Choice Award and leapfrogging half a dozen films to land at #6 this month. In the last 10 years only one film that’s won that award hasn’t found itself with a Best Picture Oscar nomination (Nadine Labaki’s left-field win for Where Do We Go Now? in 2003) so it’s time to take it seriously.
Widows, Steve McQueen’s follow-up to his Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave, also came out with massive praise for its cast (most especially for Viola Davis but also a breakout for Elizabeth Debicki), style and technical mastery.
Speaking of Labaki, her newest film Capharnaüm finds itself working up the chart and lands in the Next Up section this month. It also recently became Lebanon’s official entry in the Foreign Language Film Oscar race. Joining it is John M. Chu’s August blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, which has proved to be a huge hit with audiences and critics alike.
Taking dips this month are a host of films, including Vice (the previously untitled Dick Cheney film) Boy Erased and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, among others. None of which are out of the race, by any means, just part of the moving parts of the post-festival race.
The sole debut is Cold War from Cannes Best Director winner Pawel Pawlikowski. Amazon is making a huge push for the film outside of simply its lush black and white cinematography but with ROMA so far ahead, is there room for TWO b&w, foreign language films in the Best Picture race?
Here are my 2019 Oscar predictions in Best Picture for September 21, 2018.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – chart debut/re-entry
1. ROMA (Netflix – December)
2. BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features – 8/10)
3. The Favourite (Fox Searchlight – 11/23)
4. A Star is Born (Warner Bros – 10/5)
5. If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna – 11/30)
6. Green Book (Universal – 11/21)
7. First Man (Universal – 10/12)
8. Widows (20th Century Fox – 11/16)
9. Black Panther (Disney – 2/16)
10. Vice (Annapurna – 12/14)
Beautiful Boy (Amazon – 10/12)
Boy Erased (Focus Features – 11/2)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight – 10/19)
Capharnaüm (Sony Pictures Classics)
Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros – 8/17)
Destroyer (Annapurna – 12/25)
22 July (Netflix – 10/16)
Ad Astra (20th Century Fox – 12/25)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix)
Bird Box (Netflix – 12/21)
Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox – 11/2)
Cold War (Amazon – 12/21)
The Front Runner (Sony Pictures – 11/7)
Mary Poppins Returns (Disney – 12/19)
Mary Queen of Scots (Focus Features – 12/7)
On the Basis of Sex (Focus Features – 12/25)
The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix – 11/2)