It's time to take a look at which films have the best chances of securing a Best Picture nomination at the 2020 Oscars. The dust has barely settled on the 91st Academy Awards, but cinephiles are already looking ahead to what the next several months have to offer. There's no shortage of exciting projects that, at least on-paper, sound like they'll be in line for several accolades when the proper awards season rolls around.
Of course, there's still a long way to go, and if the previous year taught Oscar pundits anything, it's that the Academy is always full of surprises. Films that seem like sure bets at first glance (like First Man) can fall short of expectations, while others that appear too divisive to land nominations (like Bohemian Rhapsody) become major players. At this stage in the game, anything is possible, and we'll be sure to keep this space updated as the year progresses. For now, here are some of the biggest titles to keep an eye out for in (extremely early) preparation of the next Oscars.
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Every so often, a film from the Sundance Film Festival breaks out and rides its waves of acclaim all the way to Oscar Sunday. Recent examples include Whiplash and Call Me By Your Name, and Scott Z. Burns' The Report may be the next to join that group. The movie chronicles Daniel Jones' (Adam Driver) investigation into the CIA's interrogation program, which was infamous for its use of torture and brutality in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Jones was desperate to share his findings with the public, but found stern opposition from those in power.
Since it played at Sundance, there are already reviews online for The Report, and the early returns are quite positive. The film's been favorably compared to previous Oscar contenders like Spotlight, The Post, and All the President's Men and sports some fantastic performances from its all-star cast. Driver, coming off his first career nomination for BlacKkKlansman, is a definite standout as Jones, and critics were also quick to praise Annette Bening as Diane Feinstein. Amazon scooped this one up so they could position it for an Oscar run, and it'll be interesting to keep track of The Report from here.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
After a four-year absence, Quentin Tarantino is back with another period piece. And though The Hateful Eight didn't have much success on the awards circuit, Tarantino has a pretty solid track record with the Academy. He's a two-time winner in the Best Original Screenplay category, and three of his films have been nominated for Best Picture. The fan-favorite auteur may find himself back in the Oscar race with his latest offering, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Said to have a Pulp Fiction vibe, the film follows aging TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt man Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try to make sense of the changing landscape in 1969 Hollywood. The Academy typically goes for movies that are about the entertainment industry.
Tarantino's recruited arguably his biggest cast for this one, with key roles filled out by Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, and others. Sony's scheduled Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for a July release, which bodes well for its commercial prospects. It indicates they're confident in its ability to draw audiences. The summer movie season isn't normally associated with awards fare, but it's worth noting that the last time a Tarantino film came out at the end of the summer, it was Inglourious Basterds and that earned a Best Picture nod in 2009. Sony's obviously hoping for similar results here and they'll be campaigning hard. There's already some chatter that Tarantino's overdue for a Best Director win, so Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's case is being built.
Netflix crashed the Oscars race in a huge way this year with Roma. Alfonso Cuarón's semi-autobiographical drama scored 10 nominations (tied for the most of any movie in 2019) and won Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film. It was also a legitimate contender for Best Picture. The streaming giant should be back at it again with The Irishman, the latest crime drama from Academy darling and iconic director Martin Scorsese. It's no coincidence Netflix decided to air a TV spot for The Irishman during the 2019 Oscars broadcast. That was their way of announcing their next awards hopeful.
This century, Scorsese has released seven movies and five of them went on to receive Best Picture nominations (including The Departed, which won in 2006). That's proof the veteran helmsman still has his fastball even as he approaches his 77th birthday. It's incredible Scorsese has remained this great for so long, and any time he has a new film coming out, it's a perennial Oscar contender. How far The Irishman goes will likely depend on how the visual effects turn out. The movie's first half will feature the veteran cast (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, etc.) digitally de-aged - an extensive and expensive process that caused the budget to balloon towards $200 million. If the CGI is spotless and photorealistic, then The Irishman may have the goods to get Netflix a spot at the table.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The Academy surprisingly snubbed Mr. Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? this year, but they'll have another opportunity to recognize the TV icon's story via this traditional biopic. Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood stars the legendary Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, a perfect match between actor and role that feels tailor-made for Oscar season. The film centers around Rogers' relationship with the cynical Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist tasked with writing a profile on Rogers. Their interactions help change Vogel's perspective on life.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will hit theaters in November, and it wouldn't be a shock if it got a festival run prior to that. With the subject matter and talent involved, the movie could be an early favorite for the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, typically a harbinger of a Best Picture nomination. A lot of people were upset Can You Ever Forgive Me? didn't get more love at this year's Oscars (it scored three nods, but not Best Picture), so there could be a bigger push for this Heller film to break through.
Ford v. Ferrari
Fox just shifted this true-story drama from June to November, suggesting they have big plans in store for an Oscar campaign. Ford v. Ferrari chronicles the titular car companies' battle against each other to win Le Mans in 1966. Directed by James Mangold (Logan), the film stars Christian Bale and Matt Damon, so it boasts plenty of talent behind and in front of the camera. Bale, of course, was just nominated for his turn as Dick Cheney in Vice and barely missed taking home Best Actor. With his chameleon-like abilities, he's always a threat to be nominated. Damon's no slouch either, as he was nominated for The Martian a few years ago.
Historically, Mangold's films get a couple of key notices (Best Adapted Screenplay for Logan, Best Actor for Walk the Line), but don't become major contenders across the board. That seems bound to change at some point, especially since Mangold's a well-respected director and the Academy's enjoyed elements of his work in the past. Perhaps Ford v. Ferrari will be the one that truly gets him over the hump and find itself in contention for the big prize. When executed properly, a well-crafted sports drama can garner a lot of support with the Oscars.