We’re hardly done with the summer season at the movies, what with Suicide Squad still a few weeks off, but it’s never too early to think about Oscar qualifiers, right? There have been plenty of great American films that have been released so far this year, from Hail Caesar! and Knight of Cups to Everybody Wants Some!! and Love & Friendship, but with the possible exception of the Coen brothers’ extraordinary Hollywood comedy, there’s little likelihood that any of these will get an Oscar nomination at the end of the year. Knight of Cups and Love & Friendship are too arty by half, and Everybody Wants Some!! is a comedy, but beyond that, the biggest reason that these films will almost certainly not receive any Academy Awards attention is that they were released before September.
If you want to take a good look at who we will be seeing at the Oscars in 2017, put your eyes towards major dramatic works with a controversial twist, such as Clint Eastwood‘s Sully, Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation, Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Mel Gibson‘s Hacksaw Ridge. There’s also smaller hopefuls like Manchester by the Sea, American Pastoral, Loving, Midnight, Nocturnal Animals, and La La Land, but today brings news of what will likely be a major new contender in the form of Denzel Washington‘s Fences, which has finally secured a 2016 release date.
Variety reports that Washington’s adaptation of the great August Wilson‘s famous play will hit theaters in a limited capacity on December 16th, before expanding on Christmas Day, putting it up against such works as David Frankel‘s troubled Collateral Beauty, Peter Berg‘s Patriots Day, Passengers, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Considering the fact that Washington’s first two directorial efforts, Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters, were both estimable, if not exactly unique historical dramas, one can see how Fences might very well find a place in the race, which is dictated exclusively by politics and political perception.
In that sense, Wilson’s story of a poor, Southern-born African-American family could drive plenty of voters its way, depending on where Washington diverges from the original text and what thematic element – there are more than a few in Fences – Washington decides to highlight. We’ll know better when December rolls around, but for now, I would consider Washington in the running at the very least.