Definitely glad I waited until after Cannes to do July Oscar predictions because the festival, and the winners in particular, really gave the race a shot in the arm for some to strengthen their chances and for others to give them room to break into it as non-English language helmers. And guess what, everything’s coming up NEON.
I’m maintaining that Asghar Farhadi (A Hero, distributed by Amazon) has the best chance to follow Paweł Pawlikowski and Thomas Vinterberg to a Best Director nomination and his film’s Grand Jury prize solidified that for me. I had predicted the film to earn the Palme, but 2nd place is nothing to sneeze at. Interestingly enough, since we’re here to talk about Best Director, Leos Carax earned that Cannes prize for his audacious original musical Annette, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Annette is also an Amazon film but it’s set for a limited theatrical release on August 6 then debut on the streamer August 20 so this will be its first and only festival appearance this season. That makes Carax a much less likely contender than Farhadi, or others, for that matter.
Back to the Palme, director Julia Ducournau (Titane) made Cannes history this year by becoming the first woman to win the festival’s top award solo. Director Jane Campion (The Piano) shared the Palme in 1993 with Farewell My Concubine‘s Kaige Chen and then in 2013 actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux shared the award with their director, Abdellatif Kechiche, for Blue is the Warmest Color – the first time ever the prize was also officially awarded to two of a film’s actors. For Ducournau, it will be an uphill battle for a film as bizarre and divisive as hers is but it’s also backed by NEON and you know they are going to work hard for it and for her.
Speaking of NEON and Cannes, the studio also has the Jury Prize winner Memoria from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (and starring Oscar winner Tilda Swinton) and Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, with the festival’s Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve. Of those, the Trier may be the most accessible film so it will be interesting to see how NEON manages all of these films (and so many more) this season in terms of festival appearances as well as in-person meet and greets, such as they are or will be this year in the U.S. If the film picks up a few audience awards along the way, I could see Trier pushing himself ahead of Farhadi.
Looking outside of Cannes, but staying firmly in the NEON camp, there are two titles just waiting to explode. Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival (it was supposed to WP at Cannes 2020 but the pandemic squashed that) to universal acclaim and immediately got backing from Academy Award nominee Riz Ahmed and Emmy Award nominee Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who boarded the film as executive producers and will provide the voices for an English-dubbed version of the film later this year. I expect NEON to go hard for this film, as they should, it could break all kinds of Oscar records by showing up in Documentary Feature, Animated Feature and International Feature Film. They also have Pablo Larraín’s Princess Diana pic Spencer with Kristen Stewart, but that might be more of just an actress play. The film will world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September and could also pop up at Telluride (as I suspect Flee, The Worst Person in the World and Titane will).
TIFF announced their Gala and Special Presentations lineup this morning, which included previously announced films like Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast (Focus Features) as well as world premiere reveals of Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight Pictures) with Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, Theodore Melfi’s The Starling (Netflix) with Melissa McCarthy and Timothy Olyphant and Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty (Netflix) with Jake Gyllenhaal and Riley Keough. Other than Branagh I’m not seeing a best director contender from that list. Dear Evan Hansen (Universal Pictures) is opening the festival, but that’s not going to factor either. Circling it all back to NEON once again, they also just picked up the TIFF closer, One Second from the acclaimed Chinese director of Raise the Red Lantern and Hero, Zhang Yimou. Trier’s The Worst Person in the World will have its North American premiere at TIFF. He’s someone to keep an eye on this season…
Yesterday, Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro announced on Twitter that he completed a temporary first mix of Nightmare Alley. As we get near the end of July and festivals begin to announce their lineups, will it be ready in time for fall or find itself one of the films each year that plays no fests and then squeaks in at the end of December?
Here are my ranked Best Director Oscar predictions for July 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ◊ Black – no movement ↔
1. Guillermo del Toro – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) ↔
2. Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog (Netflix) ↔
3. Joel Coen – The Tragedy of Macbeth (Apple/A24) ↑
4. Ridley Scott – House of Gucci (MGM/UA) ↓
5. Asghar Farhadi – A Hero (Amazon Studios) ↔
6. Denis Villeneuve – Dune (Warner Bros) ↑
7. Kenneth Branagh – Belfast (Focus Features) ↑
8. Steven Spielberg – West Side Story (20th Century Studios) ↓
9. Jonas Poher Rasmussen – Flee (NEON) ↑
10. Joachim Trier – The Worst Person in the World (NEON) ◊
Other contenders: Leos Carax – Annette (Amazon Studios), Siân Heder – CODA (Apple), Joe Wright – Cyrano (MGM/UA), Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up (Netflix), Wes Anderson – The French Dispatch (Searchlight Pictures), Paolo Sorrentino – The Hand of God (Netflix), Denzel Washington – A Journal for Jordan (Sony Pictures), Ridley Scott – The Last Duel (20th Century Studios), Taika Waititi – Next Goal Wins (Searchlight Pictures), Pedro Almodóvar – Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics), Rebecca Hall – Passing (Netflix), Julia Ducournau – Titane (NEON), David O. Russell – Untitled David O. Russell aka Canterbury Glass (20th Century Studios), Paul Thomas Anderson – Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson aka Soggy Bottom (MGM/UA) ↓
Will it be out this year?: Alejandro González Iñárritu – Limbo (TBA), Park Chan-wook – Decision to Leave (TBD), Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter (TBD)