In order for a movie to wind up in the Best Picture race, everything has to go right.
Debuting in Cannes to rave reviews was the ninth film from auteur Quentin Tarantino. The 1969-set Los Angeles dramedy “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (July 26, Sony) boasts a starry ensemble led by Oscar-friendly Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie. The $90-million epic pulled global audiences ($372.4 million worldwide). This movie, like show-business Oscar-winners “All About Eve,” “The Artist” and “Birdman,” also plays well inside Hollywood. The acting branch responded enthusiastically to the movie’s superb performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, who went for supporting, and won the Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards in that category.
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As always for a Tarantino film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” boasts top-notch direction and production values, earning ten total nominations including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay.
Scoring a top Cannes prize, the Palme d’Or, was Bong Joon Ho’s comedy thriller about a poor family invading a wealthy home, “Parasite” (Neon), which became the first Korean foreign-language (international feature film) Oscar nominee. The popular movie played well at festivals–winning many critics prizes as well as the Foreign Film Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award– that it landed in six categories including Best Picture.
Breaking out of Netflix’s robust awards slate with rave reviews on the festival circuit is the David Heyman-produced, Noah Baumbach dramedy “Marriage Story,” starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple embroiled in a fractious divorce, in which two-time Oscar nominee Laura Dern (“Wild,” “Rambling Rose”) boasts a showy, Critics Choice and Globe-winning supporting role. The film scored six nominations.
Opening to raves at the New York Film Festival was nine-time Best Director nominee Martin Scorsese’s sprawling gangster saga “The Irishman” (Netflix), whose Oscar veterans Joe Pesci and Al Pacino are competing for Supporting Actor. “The Irishman” scored ten nominations.
Playing well at Telluride and Toronto was starry Fox import “Ford v Ferrari” (November 15), James Mangold’s fact-based racing drama starring Oscar-winner Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) as the Le Mans race car driver who in 1966 tests a souped-up sports car designed by Ford engineer Carroll Shelby (three-time acting Oscar nominee Matt Damon) in order to beat Ferrari. The film boasts four nominations.
After improbably winning the Golden Lion in Venice, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” wowed audiences but divided critics in Toronto and went on to become a $1 billion global box office juggernaut. Everyone agrees that Globe and Critics Choice winner Joaquin Phoenix gives a powerful performance in this DC origin myth about a painfully frail standup comic who desperately seeks attention and eventually feels more powerful through acts of violence. Warners is supporting this well-crafted Scorsese-inspired period thriller, which is a strong contender in the Best Picture race, leading the field with 11 nominations.
And winning the coveted audience award in Toronto was Taika Waititi’s Hitler-youth comedy “Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight), which has followed last year’s winner “Green Book” into Best Picture contention.
Universal is pushing hard for Drama Globe-winner “1917,” Sam Mendes’ late-breaking World War I single-take saga about two soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are charged with going across enemy lines to deliver an urgent message, which is picking up key wins from critics groups and landed ten nominations.
Greta Gerwig’s latest is an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic “Little Women” (December 25, Sony). Her starry ensemble is led by her recent “Lady Bird” Oscar contender Saoirse Ronan, with support from breakout Florence Pugh. The film earned six nominations.
As always, contenders are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner unless I have seen it.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Ford v Ferrari”
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