Returning veterans took the early lead: Brad Bird could land his fifth Oscar nomination for Disney/Pixar smash sequel “Incredibles 2.” His scripts for “Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” both scored Original Screenplay nominations and the films took home Oscars for Best Animated Feature. And “In the Loop” and “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci could earn a second nomination for turning satiric comic book “The Death of Stalin” (IFC Films) into a BAFTA-nominated indie hit.
Spike Lee is another possibility. “Do the Right Thing” scored an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination, and in 2016 he won an honorary Oscar, and now has strong reviews as well as the Cannes Grand Jury Prize for “BlacKkKlansman” (August 10, Focus Features). Produced by Jordan Peele and Jason Blum, the outrageous and provocative true tale starring John David Washington and Adam Driver as Colorado undercover cops who join the KKK could score some Oscar nods.
Debra Granik played both Sundance and Cannes with Directors Fortnight entry “Leave No Trace” (June 29, Bleecker Street), a father-daughter survival drama starring Ben Foster and discovery Thomasin McKenzie which is among the best-reviewed indies of the year. Eight years after landing four Oscar nominations for “Winter’s Bone,” Granik could earn her second screenplay Oscar nomination with co-writer and producer Anne Rosellini.
Coming strong out of the fall festivals is Bradley Cooper and Oscar-winner Eric Roth’s adaptation of “A Star is Born” (October 5, Warner Bros.), starring Cooper and Lady Gaga. “Moonlight” Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins could be back in the Oscar hunt with his long-in-the-works adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 Harlem romance “If Beale Street Could Talk” (November 30, Plan B/Annapurna). The drama starring Kiki Layne and Stephan James as a young couple trying to find justice and veterans Regina King and Colman Domingo as two of their parents debuted at Toronto.
Not connecting at the box office is Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle’s astronaut adventure “First Man” (October 12, Universal), adapted by “Spotlight” Oscar-winner Josh Singer from the non-fiction book by James R. Hanson. Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy star as moon-walker Neil Armstrong and his wife Janet. Audrey Wells adapted the bestseller “The Hate U Give,” starring breakout Amandla Stenberg as a young girl fighting for Black Lives Matter, but expired from cancer the day before it opened. The movie is finding a wide audience.
Long overdue for Oscar recognition is Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”), who adapted Lee Israel’s memoir “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (October 19, Fox Searchlight), starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by Marielle Heller (“Diary of a Teenage Girl”), which could land long overdue Holofcener her first Oscar nod. She also adapted and directed suburban drama “The Land of Steady Habits” (September 12, Netflix).
Photo by Mary Cybulski
Other fall releases include addiction drama “Beautiful Boy” (October 12, Plan B/Amazon Studios), adapted by “Lion” Oscar nominee Luke Davies and director Felix Van Groeningen from the memoirs by Nic and David Sheff; David Lowery’s Robert Redford drama “The Old Man and the Gun” (September 28, Fox Searchlight), adapted from David Grann’s non-fiction book; Paul Greengrass’ terrorism thriller “22 July” (October 10, Netflix) and Joel Edgerton’s “Boy Erased” (November 2, Focus Features) adapted from Garrard Conley’s book about a gay teen (Lucas Hedges) sent to conversion therapy.
Director Jason Reitman helped author Matt Bai adapted his book about scandal-tainted presidential candidate Gary Hart, “The Front Runner” (November 7, Sony), starring Hugh Jackman, which is coming out just after Election Day.
Genre films could do better than usual with a younger, hipper, more diverse Academy. At the 2018 Oscars, Fox scored the first-ever Adapted Screenplay nod for a comic-book superhero movie (X-Men spinoff “Logan”); Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (“American Crime Story”) could follow for well-reviewed global blockbuster “Black Panther” (Disney/Marvel).
Remember, no film will be deemed a frontrunner until I’ve seen it. Lists are in alphabetical order.
Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole (“Black Panther”)
Bradley Cooper and Eric Roth (“A Star is Born”)
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (“Leave No Trace”)
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott (“BlacKkKlansman”)
Brad Bird (“The Incredibles 2”)
Paul Greengrass (“22 July”)
Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows and Fabien Nury (“The Death of Stalin”)
Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Audrey Wells (“The Hate U Give”)
“Mary, Queen of Scots”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“The Old Man and the Gun”
“The Sisters Brothers”
“Welcome to Marwen”