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”?
First teased at CinemaCon in April,” then hitting the fall festival circuit, “Widows” (Fox) gives Steve McQueen a chance to play with the thriller genre, while Belgian Oscar-nominee Felix Van Groeningen tackles Amazon’s father-son book adaptation “Beautiful Boy,” an addiction drama starring Steve Carell and hot-as-flapjacks rising star Timothee Chalamet. Two actor-directors could factor: 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.
Fall festival hits include Cuaron’s autobiographical black-and-white evocation of his Mexico City childhood “Roma” (Netflix), Damien Chazelle’s portrait of Neil Armtrong’s mission to the moon (“First Man” (Universal), Yorgos Lanthimos’ period royal court three-hander “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight), starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, and Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” a true road movie starring Mahershala Ali as a jazz musician touring the 60s south, and Viggo Mortensen as the Bronx bouncer hired to protect him.
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 Tamara Jenkins, Marielle Heller, Mimi Leder, Josie Rourke, Karyn Kusama and Nicole Holofcener will be in the fall mix, but will need festival raves.
Damien Chazelle (“First Man”)
Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”)
Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”)
Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”)
Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”)
Peter Farrelly (“Green Book”)
Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”)
Paul Greengrass (“22 July”)
Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Adam McKay (“Vice”)
Julian Schnabel (“At Eternity’s Gate”)
Robert Zemeckis (“Welcome to Marwen”)
Jacques Audiard (“The Sisters Brothers”)
Joel Edgerton (“Boy Erased”)
Asghar Farhadi (“Everybody Knows”)
Nicole Holofcener (“The Land of Steady Habits”)
Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”)
Karyn Kusama (“Destroyer”)
Mimi Leder (“On the Basis of Sex”)
David Lowery (“The Old Man and the Gun”)
Steve McQueen (“Widows”)
Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”)
Jason Reitman (“The Front Runner”)
Josie Rourke (“Mary Queen of Scots”)
Steven Spielberg (“Ready Player One”)
Felix Van Groeningen (“Beautiful Boy”)