OPINION: Every Studios' Major Awards Contenders and Their Oscar Potential
The middle class of movies has become somewhat nonexistent with studios either banking on the high end or the low end of cinema. You really only see major studios focus on blockbusters or awards contenders. The beauty of these awards contenders is that no matter how big or small the studio is they can compete with each other as long as the material is great. The focus on these films is let about the money and all about the actual quality and craft. From Warner Brothers to A24, anyone can compete with anyone. The buzz almost always starts at TIFF and continues all the way until the awards show start, leading up to the finale of the Oscars. So today, I’ve decided to break down every studio’s major awards films and what their potential is of nabbing the coveted Academy Award.
For the last two years, A24 movies have played a big factor in the awards season with Moonlight, 20th Century Women, Lady Bird, and The Disaster Artist. But this year is a bit different, they don’t really have a film that you can bank on being a factor when it comes to awards. They do have the April horror masterpiece Hereditary, which could grab a nomination for screenplay or some technical awards. The other film that A24 might be able to push is First Reformed, but the only category that this film will be a mainstay in is Best Actor for the powerhouse performance of Ethan Hawke. We will have to really wait until films like Stan & Ollie and Welcome to Marwen to see what A24 can do this season.
Two years after Amazon Studios won two Oscars for Manchester By The Sea (Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay), it really does seem like they will have a good shot at winning some awards yet again. They have Beautiful Boy positioned as their main awards contender, which is rounded by a true story with outstanding performances and seems like the perfect package for the Academy. Both Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell are very likely to recognized, but may not win. The film is adapted from a memoir from the point of view of the father, so it could get nominated in the Adapted Screenplay area, considering the Academy’s affliction for true stories. The next film on Amazon’s plate could be You Were Never Really Here, lead by Joaquin Phoenix's performance. He’s brutal, dark and yet revealing, all the hallmarks of a fantastic performance. The final film here is Cold War, which will be vying for the foreign film categories during the awards season. A romance film that uses the Cold War as its backdrop. It’s spearheaded by a heartfelt performance from Joanna Kulig. She has real potential to break into the actress race much as Isabelle Huppert did.
Annapurna Pictures have been making headlines recently for all of the wrong reasons. The company is floundering to make any cash. They had to drop their planned Fox News Roger Ailes picture altogether and the worrying factor ahead of them now is whether or not they be able to promote their major two films during awards season. The first film is of course If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight. This film is a tale that follows the novel by the same name by James Baldwin, and it will likely bring the studio awards in the adapted screenplay, direction, and performance categories. Barry Jenkins, much like Damien Chazelle, will likely best staples in awards season now and in the future. Annapurna also has Vice, the sharp political comedy directed by Adam Mckay, which chronicles the rise of Dick Cheney on his way to the seat of the vice presidency. The film has all of the hallmarks of a perfect awards contender, with Adam Mckay’s direction, a transformative performance by Christian Bale, an interesting supporting cast led by Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Carell all leading the pack. Be sure to keep an eye out for Vice when releases at the end of this year, as it could dominate the awards space this season.
Now Focus Features may be the studio that has the most success across the entirety of awards season due to the vast variety of films they have. They’ve already released Won’t You Be My Neighbor, BlacKkKlansman, and will be releasing Mary Queen of Scots and On the Basis of Sex. The subject matter that all of these films tackle are different from the rest. For Won’t You Be My Neighbor, this will be competing for the documentary category with the likes of Three Identical Strangers, RBG, Fahrenheit 11/9 and Free Solo. Likewise, BlackKklansman is a raw and powerful film that is Spike Lee at his absolute best, showcasing the prejudice African-Americans faced and continue to face in the United States. This will be a film that will be a factor in many aspects except for the performances, as that is its weakest aspect when in comparison to other films. The other two films are ones that most people are yet to see, but both have an extreme amount of buzz. One is an English period piece, Mary Queen of Scots, with both of the main leads being female and having delivered awards-worthy performances in the past, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan. The other female-led film here is On the Basis of Sex, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic about a court case that had a lasting impact on the United States court system.
Warner Brothers, for the most part, this year is banking on one film only, that being A Star is Born. The classic musical tale was told for the fourth time this year and is tracking as the frontrunner for this upcoming awards season. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut does a fantastic job bringing this classic story and reinvigorating it for a modern generation. He and Lady Gaga have given fantastic performances and will likely be nominated respectively. They will also likely sweep up and the song and music categories and will get more nominations likely leading to many wins over the entirety of the season. The unknown for Warner Brothers here, however, is The Mule, the Clint Eastwood directed film in which he is the lead. This, of course, hasn’t been done by him since Trouble With the Curve. The true story aspect is, of course, one that Oscar voters enjoy and Clint Eastwood is Hollywood royalty in many ways. However, there have been reports that Warner Brother sees this film as a financial success rather than their major awards contender, so we have to wait and see until the buzz for the film really starts.
Universal has two films that are perfectly packaged to be contenders during awards season. Firstly, they have First Man, starring Ryan Gosling and directed by Damien Chazelle, based on the life of Neil Armstrong. What Damien Chazelle does here that is different is stripping down the glitz and glamour to truly showcase the dangers of space travel, especially in that time period. The cinematography is spectacular, Linus Sandgren truly does an amazing job showcasing the beauty of the space travel, the moon landing, and the trial runs on earth. Ryan Gosling plays Neil in a very toned down way in a spectacular performance, which could easily land him an acting nomination. The other film that they are banking on is Green Book. Again, this film contains the true story aspect that people and voters adore, and the story just has a tone and subject matter that audiences jump towards. This has the makings of what Hidden Figures had a couple of years ago, and contains awards caliber performers in both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
20th Century Fox
Lastly, 20th Century Fox has teamed up with Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn to create their film that will be vying for potential accolades, Widows. McQueen and Flynn have crafted this film based off of the 1983 British television series and have set it in modern day Chicago. The all-female leads are well positioned to possibly be in contention for possible awards, with Viola Davis being the known awards contender of the female contingent. The likes of Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo, being the not well known actresses, also have serious potential. The film is packaged to be an awards contender, but we will really have to see if it can keep its momentum right through the entire season.