10 Films That Could Be in Next Year’s Oscar Race
I know, I know. We just finished up with this most recent Oscar season (which ended in the most insane way possible). But it’s apparently never too early to start thinking about next year’s Oscars, and before I retire Oscar Beat for a spell to recharge the ol’ awards season batteries, it’s time for one last check-in, this time trying to predict what films we’ll be talking about this time next year.
Right now about all we have to go on is talent and logline potential—although one of these movies I’ve already seen and can attest is up to snuff. But it’s fun to look ahead and try and get an early lay of the land, only to have some late-breaking film like Moonlight or Hidden Figures throw a wrench into your predictions.
So I broke out my trusty crystal ball and came up with the following 10 films that I think could be part of next year’s Oscar conversation.
'Call Me By Your Name'
This is the one I’ve seen, as A Bigger Splash filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s 80s-set summer romance made a tremendous debut at the Sundance Film Festival this past January (read my full review here). Call Me By Your Name features a star-making turn from Timothee Chalamet as a young man living in Italy for the summer who falls in love with his father’s research assistant, played by Armie Hammer. Chalamet is nothing short of phenomenal in a role that deserves Best Actor consideration, while Hammer delivers the best performance of his career yet. The film is a sensual, overwhelming coming-of-age and coming-out story that is masterfully crafted by Guadagnino. If Sony Pictures Classics plays this right, they could have a serious contender on their hands.
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Film
And now we dive into the unknowns. Pretty much everything we know about filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film is that it’s set in the 1950s fashion world of London and stars Daniel Day-Lewis as an uncompromising dressmaker commissioned by royalty and high society. While Anderson’s last feature, Inherent Vice, didn’t hit big with the Oscars, that film was a bona fide comedy and not in line with the prestige drama of The Master or There Will Be Blood. At the very least we can probably earmark a Best Actor nod for Day-Lewis, but this is one of the most anticipated films hitting theaters this year.
The Oscars love a good biopic, and boy does Gary Oldman look to be transformed in Atonement filmmaker Joe Wright’s World War II drama Darkest Hour. Oldman plays Winston Churchill in the true-story drama, which recounts Churchill’s move to resist Adolf Hitler’s army in the early days of the war. Wright hasn’t been in the awards race for some time, and Pan was a high-profile box office bomb, but the guy’s a versatile filmmaker so we can reasonably assume that Darkest Hour won’t be your typical dry period drama—although that didn’t stop The Theory of Everything or The Imitation Game from landing Best Picture nominations.
But Darkest Hour isn’t the only WWII drama of 2017, as Christopher Nolan is going full on actioner with Dunkirk. The film is explicitly described as an “action-thriller” and not a drama, but it’s still Christopher Nolan we’re talking about and Mad Max: Fury Road scored a Best Picture nomination, so there’s ample awards possibility. The film recounts the harrowing evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II with a stellar supporting cast that includes Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy. The summer release date means it’ll need a serious push by Warner Bros. to stay fresh in the minds of Oscar voters as the fall onslaught gets underway, but a Christopher Nolan movie is hard to forget. Could this finally be the film that lands Nolan a Best Director nod?
2017 also sees the return of Alfonso Cuaron, who took a significant break after Children of Men and returned with the masterful, technically groundbreaking 2012 film Gravity. He’s scaling things back this time around with Roma, a character-centric, Mexico-set story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City. He’s working again with three-time Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and a cast of largely unknown actors, but this is one of the greatest storytellers working today, so hopes are high.
Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Detroit Riots Film
Speaking of filmmakers who’ve been gone for a bit, Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow also returns with her first film in five years, an untitled drama recounting the Detroit race riots of 1967—an event that resulted in one of the largest and deadliest citizen uprisings in history. Bigelow once again works with her Oscar-winning Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal, and the massively talented ensemble cast includes John Boyega, John Krasinski, and Anthony Mackie. Potentially the biggest question re: awards with this film is Annapurna Pictures, which is handling marketing and distribution for the first time on this project. If they can play the awards race right, Bigelow might be back in the Oscar fray with another timely drama.
Filmmaker Alexander Payne’s last three films in a row all scored Best Picture nominations, so clearly the Academy is a fan. Downsizing, his latest, puts Payne into sci-fi social satire territory as Matt Damon stars as a man who realizes his life would be better if he were to shrink himself. It’s an odd premise to be sure, and the departure may not work for Payne, but it’s excitingly refreshing material for the filmmaker who has a knack for character, and is one to watch out for regardless.
A return to smaller-scale territory looks to be something of a theme for 2017, as director Darren Aronofsky is also scaling down for his Noah follow-up mother!. Plot details for the film are under wraps, but we know it revolves around a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home. Oscar darling Jennifer Lawrence leads an impressive ensemble that includes Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Domhnall Gleeson, and while this may be more of a thriller, you never quite know what you’re going to get with a Darren Aronofsky film until you see it for yourself.
Legendary writer Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut this year with Molly’s Game, a film about a woman who ran a famous poker ring in Los Angeles, and he’s stacked the deck with a terrific cast. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba lead the ensemble, and while Sorkin was wrongly overlooked for his terrific Steve Jobs screenplay, he’s one of the best writers who’s ever lived, so all eyes will be on how his directorial debut shapes up. The Social Network landed him his first Oscar, so could Molly’s Game count two?
One of the more surprising late entries into this year’s awards race was the emotional true-story drama Lion, from first-time director Garth Davis. He wasted no time in putting together his follow-up as he’s already wrapped the Biblical drama Mary Magdalene, which stars Rooney Mara as the titular character and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. Not much is known about this take on the story, but Davis is again working with his Oscar-nominated Lion cinematographer Greig Fraser, and Mary Magdalene could have the makings of something extra special.
This only scratches the surface, as there are a number of promising films hitting theaters this year that could dominate the awards race, from Denis Villeneuve’s stylish Blade Runner 2049 to Richard Linklater’s comedy Last Flag Flying to Nightcrawler filmmaker Dan Gilroy’s highly anticipated follow-up Inner City to Carol director Todd Haynes’ new movie Wonderstruck. There’s also Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy director Tomas Alfredson’s long-awaited follow-up The Snowman starring Michael Fassbender, the star-studded The Current War, and the impressive Sundance Southern epic Mudbound from Pariah director Dee Rees.