It’s the battle of the returning Oscar contenders this year, as Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Damien Chazelle (Venice opener “First Man”), Steven Spielberg (“Ready Player One”), Adam McKay (“Backseat”), and Alfonso Cuaron (NYFF Centerpiece “Roma”) are all in the mix. Where they wind up will depend on how well their films balance artful gravitas and mainstream genre elements — that’s also the question for Ryan Coogler. Will he land a nod for historic Marvel entry “Black Panther”?
At this early stage, things are looking promising indeed. CinemaCon revealed that Steve McQueen is adding the thriller genre to his playbook with “Widows” (Fox), and that Felix Van Groeningen’s father-son book adaptation “Beautiful Boy” (Amazon), an addiction drama starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, could go all the way. Two actor-directors showed strong materials. Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased ” (Focus Features) stars Lucas Hedges as a gay teen in conversion therapy, while Bradley Cooper makes his directing debut with “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.) in which he sings live with Lady Gaga.
The Cannes jury gave the Grand Prix to Spike Lee’s return with 70s drama “BlacKkKlansman” (August 10, Focus Features) about an African-American undercover cop (John David Washington) who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan.
Will any women directors follow Greta Gerwig into the final five? Critical faves “You Were Never Really Here” (Amazon) and Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace” will try to penetrate the crowded awards corridor, and Marielle Heller, Mimi Leder, Josie Rourke and Nicole Holefcener will be in the fall mix, but will need festival raves.
Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”)
Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”)
Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”)
Steven Spielberg (“Ready Player One”)
Damien Chazelle (“First Man”)
Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”)
Joel Edgerton (“Boy Erased”)
Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”)
David Lowery (“The Old Man and the Gun”)
Adam McKay (“Backseat”)
Felix Van Groeningen (“Beautiful Boy”)
Robert Zemeckis (“Welcome to Marwen”)
Asghar Farhadi (“Everybody Knows”)
James Gray (“Ad Astra”)
Nicole Holofcener (“The Land of Steady Habits”)
Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Mimi Leder (“On the Basis of Sex”)
Steve McQueen (“Widows”)
Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”)
Jason Reitman (“The Front Runner”)