In a post-Venice/Telluride/TIFF world there’s a lot of green to be seen on this month’s Best Picture chart. Some films found their places locked and bolted in while others broke free of their tenuous grasp and are now struggling to exist on the list.
All of the top 5 this month moves up with Netflix’s Marriage Story as the new #1. With an astonishing 95 on Metacritic and a bolstered theatrical release (a full month before its streaming debut) and the only film to hit all fall festivals (Venice, Telluride, TIFF, NYFF) it makes the case every day as the Best Picture frontrunner.
Sony/Columbia’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is going to give it chase though, especially after being able to stay afloat post-festivals. Quentin Tarantino has been close to Best Picture once before, with 1994’s Pulp Fiction, but lost out to Forrest Gump. He’s in a very good position this year to finally get that win.
In this decade there have only been two non-English language film nominated for Best Picture; 2012’s Amour and 2018’s Roma (both of which won Foreign Language Film) but this year has the chance to see two. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite from Neon (the Cannes Palme d’Or winner) and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell from A24 could make history if they both get in (the studio also has Waves and Uncut Gems this fall so it needs to make some priority decisions). Last season almost got there with Amazon’s Cold War getting close to a Best Picture nomination after securing a Foreign Language Film and Best Director nod. In the expanding membership base of the Academy, which includes hundreds of new international voters, this is the best chance this category has ever had for two (largely) non-English language films.
With Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit winning the People’s Choice Award at Toronto last week, it’s impossible to not give it a good berth in the top 5 and that’s exactly where it is, moving up to #3 this month. With what could be the beginning of a trend and paradigm shift, the Toronto International Film Festival last year hosted the world premiere of the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner in Green Book, taking away Telluride’s hold on premiering or showing what would go on to win the Academy Award. Was it just a one off? Possibly. But this year Toronto saw such a huge batch of high-profile world premieres (compared to Telluride) that it feels like we are in a sea change.
That said, being a TIFF premiere is usually only good for one film. In the last eight years, only one film per year that made its world premiere at Toronto ended up being nominated for Best Picture. So where does that leave things like Sony/TriStar’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Focus Features’ Harriet and Warner Bros’ Just Mercy? Not in a good place. Reviews for each of those films are all over the map and the latter two will see other festival appearances. But why is ABDITN a TIFF only show? It’s hard to imagine a film with more possibilities to engage festival audiences and to build buzz for its box office but the film isn’t showing up anywhere else. I held onto it as a top contender as long as I could (it was my #1 last month!) but have to drop it down. There is still a very good chance it becomes a box office hit – especially over Thanksgiving – and if it does, it’s back/still in the race.
With Harriet earning bad to mediocre reviews at TIFF, will Focus Features move over to their back up plan of Dark Waters? The studio dropped the first trailer for the Erin Brockovich meets Spotlight drama this week and it could show up at AFI ahead of its Thanksgiving release. Warner Bros also found itself with a back up, and a surprising one, when Joker won the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival. That puts Just Mercy and Motherless Brooklyn in jeopardy, especially since Joaquin Phoenix is such a strong Best Actor contender. Then there’s Lionsgate’s Bombshell, the Roger Ailes/Fox News whistleblower drama with Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie. I’ve heard some very good things about, especially Theron, but it might not end up being a Best Picture player.
Newcomers this month: STX’s Hustlers, Roadside Attractions’ Judy and Lionsgate’s Knives Out.
Here are my 2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions in Best Picture for September 20, 2019.
Green – moves up Red – moves down Blue – new/re-entry
1. Marriage Story (Netflix – 11/6, theatrical / 12/6, streaming) Venice world premiere/Telluride/TIFF/NYFF
2. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Sony/Columbia – 7/26) Cannes
3. Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight – 10/18) TIFF world premiere
4. Parasite (Neon – 10/11) Cannes world premiere/Telluride/TIFF/NYFF
5. 1917 (Universal – 12/25)
6. The Farewell (A24 – 7/12) Sundance
7. The Two Popes (Netflix – 11/27, theatrical / 12/20 streaming) Telluride world premiere/TIFF
8. The Irishman (Netflix – 11/1 theatrical / 11/27 streaming) NYFF world premiere
9. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/TriStar – 11/22) TIFF world premiere
10. Ford v. Ferrari (20th Century Fox – 11/15) Telluride world premiere/TIFF
NEXT UP (alphabetical by film)
The Aeronauts (Amazon – 12/6, theatrical / 12/20, streaming) Telluride world premiere/TIFF
Dark Waters (Focus Features – 11/22)
Hustlers (STX Entertainment) TIFF world premiere
Joker (Warner Bros – 10/18) Venice world premiere/TIFF/NYFF
Little Women (Sony – 12/25)
WATCH OUT FOR (alphabetical by film)
Bombshell (Lionsgate – 12/20)
Cats (Universal – 12/20)
Harriet (Focus Features – 11/1) TIFF world premiere
A Hidden Life (Fox Searchlight – 12/13) Cannes//Telluride/TIFF
Just Mercy (Warner Bros – 12/25) TIFF world premiere
OTHER CONTENDERS (alphabetical by film)
Ad Astra (20th Century Fox – 9/20) Venice world premiere
Avengers: Endgame (Disney – 4/26)
Judy (Roadside Attractions – 9/27) Telluride world premiere/TIFF
Knives Out (Lionsgate) TIFF world premiere
Motherless Brooklyn (Warner Bros – 11/1) Telluride world premiere/TIFF/NYFF
Pain and Glory (Sony Classics – 10/4) Cannes world premiere/Telluride/TIFF
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (Disney – 12/20)
Us (Universal – 3/22) SXSW
Waves (A24 – 11/1) Telluride world premiere/TIFF