A tale of two Kings…and two Lees.
Regina King’s One Night in Miami will land in Venice and Toronto, and presumably other fall festivals like Mill Valley, Middleburg and AFI, on its way to an Amazon debut and position on this list feels very good. The new king this month is Shaka King, director of Judas and the Black Messiah. With a powerful trailer behind it and performances from Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield that could also be awards worthy, it’s a good recipe for a director only on his second feature film.
Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods) has the only film in this group that’s already debuted, to great reviews and numbers from Netflix. He should be able to maintain a spot even in a longer Oscar season and Netflix will definitely shell out the ads to keep it in front of voters. Francis Lee’s Ammonite just released its first trailer for the Kate Winslet/Saoirse Ronan 19th century romance by the sea and Neon is sparing nothing to have this film everywhere. An official selection from Cannes, Telluride and Toronto, Neon CEO Tom Quinn recently said what I had mentioned before, that they’re taking Ammonite on the path of Parasite and feels its a rock solid Oscar contender.
We’re still in a state of flux with many potential contenders like Lila Neugebauer’s Red, White, and Water with Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry; Steven Karams’ The Humans with Beanie Feldstein, Richard Jenkins and Steven Yeun and Lee Isaac Chung’s Sundance winner Minari with Steven Yeun. The connection for all of these? They’re all A24 films the Oscar-winning studio has given us no clue about. No summer or fall festival announcements for any of them, no word on production completion, zip. The only A24 project we do have is Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks with Rashida Jones and Bill Murray, a film that’s a collaboration with Apple and who’ve fully taken over the reins of its marketing and release.
Like Ammonite, Nomadland from Searchlight and directed by Chloé Zhao is a film making a full fall festival run and I feel like the buzz for it and for her will get louder and louder as the season goes on. It’s set for release by Searchlight on December 4.
How will the directors of the big studio/big budget films do in the age of a pandemic and zero to minimal theater attendance? Denis Villeneuve (Warner Bros’ Dune), Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros’ Tenet) and Steven Spielberg (20th Century’s West Side Story) are all in jeopardy with the future of cinema attendance so up in the air. Tenet is still set for a September 3 release in the US but WB has put so many restrictions on how and where it can be presented that it’s hard to see the film being able to be any type of success and that will tell its own story. The trailer for Dune is set to premiere in front of Tenet so we’ll have our first look at the adaptation of the Frank Herbert books soon. Speaking of adaptations, it was reported by CNN that Spielberg’s West Side Story will be adding multiple Black characters to his version, characters not in the original version, in an effort to boost the film’s diversity – which is already about a race war between whites and Latinos told through a Romeo and Juliet story.
Here are my 2021 Oscar predictions in Best Director for August. These are once again alphabetized and unranked, for reasons I stated in July, with Red representing a move down and Blue representing a new entry in either the top 10 or other contenders.
- David Fincher – Mank (Netflix)
- Paul Greengrass – News of the World (Universal)
- Ron Howard – Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix)
- Regina King – One Night in Miami (Amazon)
- Shaka King – Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros)
- Francis Lee – Ammonite (Neon)
- Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
- Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
- Denis Villeneuve – Dune (Warner Bros)
- Chloé Zhao – Nomadland (Searchlight)
Other contenders: Wes Anderson – The French Dispatch (Searchlight); Lee Isaac Chung – Minari (A24), George Clooney – The Midnight Sky (Netflix), Sofia Coppola – On the Rocks (Apple/A24), Lee Daniels – The United States vs Billie Holiday (Paramount), Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Focus Features), Tom McCarthy – Stillwater (Focus Features), Christopher Nolan – Tenet (Warner Bros), Steven Spielberg – West Side Story (20th Century), Taika Waititi – Next Goal Wins (Searchlight), George C. Wolfe – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix), Florian Zeller – The Father (Sony Pictures)