It’s early days yet, we know. But awards season 2018 got started at Sundance, and will continue at Cannes.
Check out our early speculation, based on credible filmmakers, promising ensembles and Oscar-savvy distributors, of what might be in store when the next award season rolls around in the fall of 2017.
Sundance introduced the first potential feature contenders: Michael Showalter’s big Amazon Studios sale, “The Big Sick,” a true romance starring writer-actor Kumail Nanjani, as well as Geremy Jasper’s New Jersey rap musical “Patti Cake$” (Fox Searchlight), starring breakout Australian actress Danielle MacDonald and returning veteran Cathy Moriarty (“Raging Bull”), Sony Pictures Classics’ elegiac gay romance “Call Me By Your Name” , directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Armie Hammer, “Homeland” breakout Timothée Chalamet, and stalwart Michael Stuhlbarg.
Perhaps most interesting to watch is how Netflix will handle its $12.5 million pickup of Dee Rees’ post-World War II southern drama “Mudbound” starring Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hudland, Jason Mitchell, and an unrecognizable Mary J. Blige. Adapted by Rees and Virgil Williams from Hillary Jordan’s 2009 novel, this movie didn’t think small. Rees and cinematographer Rachel Morrison executed sweeping, gorgeous cinema with disciplined precision. The burgeoning streaming service plans a day and date release in a limited number of theaters to qualify for the Oscars.
Performers grabbing notice at Sundance included Melissa Leo, who steals Maggie Betts’ good-nuns-gone-bad movie “Novitiate.” Never underestimate Sony Pictures Classics’ ability to showcase a popular actor like Leo.
And after last year’s Sundance sleeper “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” Sam Elliott returned in another Brett Haley film, “The Hero” (The Orchard), delivering a moving lead performance as a 70-year-old western star trying to tell the women in his life that he may be dying. Get out your handkerchiefs.
Courtesy of Sundance
Among the documentaries, Matthew Heineman followed his Oscar-nominated border drug war thriller “Cartel Land” with another daring and timely documentary, Amazon’s “City of Ghosts.” Any footage from Syria came from the fearless Raqqa journalists he tracks through Turkey and Germany, where they discover that they are not necessarily safe — anywhere.
Netflix’s “Icarus” comes from marathon biker Bryan Fogel, who stumbled upon a riveting global scoop: the Russian Olympic doping scandal. Also acquired by Netflix is U.S. Documentary-winner “Chasing Coral,” a heartrending, eye-popping follow-up to Jeff Orlowski’s “Chasing Ice,” similarly documenting the technological feats required to go underwater to film the process of vivid live coral reefs succumbing to warm-water temperatures, as well as Kitty Green’s beauty contest expose “Casting JonBenet.”
Among the early releases of 2017, Jordan Peele’s brainy Hitchcockian thriller “Get Out” is among the best-reviewed of the year, but its genre elements may prevent it from scoring anything beyond a well-deserved nod for screenplay.
James Mangold’s delivers an R-rated Marvel family drama with “Logan,” a stylish reinvention of the superhero genre made possible by Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, who were willing to close out their roles as Wolverine and Charles Xavier, respectively.
Still to come at Cannes, over the summer and into the fall and holidays are a raft of well-assembled, promising projects that will pass through the crucible of reviewers and performances before emerging as full-blown bonafide Oscar players. And some still may pick up actual distributors and release dates as well.
Until then, bring on new movies from Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Garth Davis, Christopher Nolan, Michael Haneke, Sofia Coppola, Darren Aronofsky, Alexander Payne, Joe Wright, Destin Daniel Cretton, Alex Garland, Roman Polanski, Colin Trevorrow, Aaron Sorkin, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and Todd Haynes.
At this stage, hope springs eternal.