By BARRY HERTZ
Friday, March 9, 2018
Congratulations to Guillermo del Toro, his fish friend, the Hardboiled Egg Council of America and everyone who helped propel The Shape of Water to Oscar gold on Sunday night.
Now, let's get down to serious business: Which film is going to triumph at next year's Academy Awards?
The dust has barely settled at the Dolby Theatre, but that doesn't mean we can't get into some semi-serious prognosticating. Herewith, the top 10 contenders for the 91st annual best-picture trophy, listed alphabetically - and at the earliest moment possible.
After The Big Short, director Adam McKay proved he could tackle real-world drama just as much as he could Will Ferrell-starring absurdity (Step Brothers, Anchorman). But with Backseat, McKay finds himself in stranger territory than Wall Street: His new film chronicles the ups and downs of Dick Cheney, centred on his years as George W. Bush's veep. Christian Bale packed on the pounds à la Gary Oldman as Churchill to star as Cheney, with the still Oscar-less Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Dubya played by newly certified Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell.
Amazon Studios is reportedly backing away from smaller, more awards-friendly films in its bid to become a blockbuster king - but the upstart studio might be leaving the indie arena on top if Beautiful Boy fulfills the promise of its source material and cast. In this adaptation of two bestselling non-fiction memoirs, Steve Carell (again!) stars as journalist David Sheff, who struggles to support his son Nic (played by recent Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet) as he becomes addicted to meth. Sheff's story has been circled by various directors - including Cameron Crowe - since it was acquired by Paramount in 2008.
Finally, Belgian director Felix van Groeningen took on the task.
THE BEST OF ENEMIES
Could the next 12 months be the best of Sam Rockwell's career since, well, the previous 12 months? The Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri Oscar winner not only has Adam McKay's Backseat coming up, but also a starring role in this awards-bait biopic. Writer-director Robin Bissell's feature debut focuses on the relationship between civil-rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P.
Henson) and reformed Ku Klux Klan "exalted cyclops" C.P. Ellis (Rockwell).
For those keeping track, this will be the second time in two years that Rockwell's taken on the role of a repentant racist. But if it ain't broke ... FIRST MAN
The 91st Academy Awards could turn out to be a reboot of the 89th edition, with La La Land director Damien Chazelle bringing his Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling to theatres the very same season as Barry Jenkins is planning to release his follow-up to Moonlight (more on that film, If Beale Street Could Talk, in a moment). PricewaterhouseCoopers is already on high alert, for both envelope slip-ups and obvious jokes like this.
After a four-year absence from film, writer-director Jason Reitman returns this year with two movies - but while this spring's dark comedy Tully looks more like a showcase for regular collaborator Charlize Theron, his late-2018 drama The Frontrunner hints (or rather top-volume screams) at higher Oscar aspirations.
Dramatizing U.S. Senator Gary Hart's 1988 sex-scandal-plagued presidential campaign, Reitman's film hits all the talking points and features a stacked cast including Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga and J.K. Simmons.
GLORIA What should Chilean director Sebastian Lelio do for an encore after his film A Fantastic Woman took home the Oscar for best foreign-language film? Well, how about remake his own 2013 drama, focusing on a late-life divorcée wading into the dating scene?
The original film was a festival hit, earning star Paulina Garcia the best notices of her career, and Lelio seems to offer a similar path for his new English-language star, Julianne Moore. Co-stars include Michael Cera, John Turturro and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Speaking of the Chazelle-Jenkins rivalry, all eyes will be on the latter as he brings this adaptation of James Baldwin's novel to the screen. Focusing on a pregnant woman (relative newcomer Kiki Layne) scrambling to clear her fiancé's name after he's wrongly imprisoned, If Beale Street Could Talk has been a long-simmering project for Jenkins. (The filmmaker started writing the screenplay in 2013, the same time he was working on Moonlight.) The film co-stars Regina King, Dave Franco and Canadian actor Stephan James (last seen as Jesse Owens in Race).
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
And on the topic of friendly rivalries: Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were both up for best actress last Sunday (and both lost to sure-thing Frances McDormand), but may find themselves at opposite sides of the Dolby Theatre again in 2019, as they both star in this historical drama.
Ronan has the edge, playing the title character, while Robbie stars as Queen Elizabeth I.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX
Although some will be disappointed that this Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic isn't starring Saturday Night Live's Kate McKinnon, having Oscar nominee Felicity Jones in the role ain't bad, either. Boasting a female director (Mimi Leder), an awards-friendly supporting cast (Armie Hammer, Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston) and focusing on Donald Trump's least-favourite person in Washington, (and it's a long list) surely can't hurt the film's Oscar chances.
TRIAL BY FIRE
Adapting David Grann's legendary New Yorker article investigation of how a Texas man was wrongly convicted for the arson deaths of his three children, this drama has all the hallmarks of an Academy contender. It stars Jack O'Connell, who has yet to truly capitalize on the early buzz of his British film efforts, as well as industry favourite Laura Dern. Yet it's also directed by Edward Zwick, who has a track record that's both enviable (Glory, Legends of the Fall) and shaky (Blood Diamond, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back).
WILD CARD: THE IRISHMAN
There are a few reasons why Martin Scorsese's forthcoming gangster epic may not make next year's Oscars cut. For starters, it's still technically being dated as a 2019 release, although no one will be shocked if Netflix squeezes this into awards contention in late December. Oh, but right, about that - The Irishman is a Netflix original production and it's an open question as to how the streaming giant will release it in bricks-and-mortar theatres (to meet Oscar eligibility) and whether the Academy will play nice with a company that's not exactly a friend of old-fashioned theatrical exhibition, a.k.a. the business model that the Oscars runs on.
Then again, this is Scorsese - and not only that, but Scorsese's first collaboration with Al Pacino and his latest with old friends Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel.
Sam Rockwell displays the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Academy Awards on Sunday.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES