Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Early 2023 Oscar Contenders & Predictions

The 95th Academy Awards are officially in the books, with “Everything Everywhere All At Once” taking home Best Picture along with 6 other Oscars. Now, it’s time to look forward to the next crop of award winners. Funny enough, this time last year, no one would’ve guessed that the Daniels’ wild multiversal film would come close to Oscars success, and yet here we are. Though some awards runs are impossible to foresee, let’s take a wild swing at it anyway.

As always, being nearly a full year until the 96th Academy Awards, think of this as a guide of films to keep an eye on rather than legitimate predictions. It’s fun to reflect on what movies we expected might do well, even if we’re often wildly wrong this far in advance.

Looking through these contenders, some obvious pieces are missing already. Only a few international films are listed here, though we know it’s almost certain that a movie not in English will score a Best Picture nomination. There are also shockingly few films directed by women or people of color. Hopefully, as the year rolls on and films premiere at festivals, films will emerge as contenders that we couldn’t foresee this far in advance. Before the festivals, predictions like these skew largely to established directors, though the awards themselves don’t always work out that way, as we saw this year alone.

Read through this lengthy breakdown of contenders and see what sparks curiosity. Then check out my first official Oscar predictions of 2023 at the end. Which of these sounds like an Oscar winner to you? Our Next Best Picture could be on this list.

AIRAirBen Affleck’s first directorial feature since 2016 arrives in a few short weeks. Starring Affleck as Nike co-founder Phil Knight and Matt Damon as the Nike salesman who signed Michael Jordan, “Air” has already garnered much attention after its Super Bowl trailer. “Air” doesn’t seem like a traditional Oscar movie, but it could be a genuine crowdpleaser. Affleck and Damon are still appealing stars to casual moviegoers, some of the few recognizable stars of “adult dramas” these days. Throw in Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, and plenty of Jordans, and this could be a decent hit. If that’s the case, there’s a chance it could play the long game, landing some Oscar nominations next year.

Release Date: April 5th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Actor & Original Screenplay

ASTEROID CITY

Though any film from Wes Anderson needs to be on a list like this, only one of his films scored a Best Picture nomination. Three of his movies have scored screenplay nominations, and his team has a couple of craft nominations and wins. His latest, “Asteroid City,” is set in 1955, as students and parents gather for a scholarly competition at a Junior Stargazer convention. Bringing this story to life is a massive ensemble that includes Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and many others. Can Focus Features bring Anderson back into the Best Picture race? It feels like he’s due for another big Oscar contender.

Release Date: June 16th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design & Production Design

BARBIEBarbieIf you had told me five years ago that an upcoming “Barbie” movie would legitimately be an awards contender, I would’ve called you crazy. Nevertheless, Greta Gerwig’s two directorial features both landed Best Picture nominations. She’s an incredibly talented filmmaker who can’t be counted out, nor can the cast. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling star as Barbie and Ken, alongside Simu Liu, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, and more. This is poised as a summer blockbuster for Warner Bros. and will surely score at the box office. At worst, this could be a tech player in Costumes and Production Design. At best, this could generate serious love, snowballing to a Best Picture nomination and more.

Release Date: July 21st, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Production Design & Score

BEAU IS AFRAIDBeau Is AfraidAri Aster’s first two horror films, “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” may not have received Academy Award nominations, but they’ve made him into a true name-brand director. His latest film, “Beau Is Afraid,” may be his most enigmatic yet. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Beau in this decades-spanning surrealist horror film. The trailer promises a wild, epic journey, and it truly feels like a sort of “blank check” film that a director gets to make after earning some serious trust from a studio. Will this be another indie hit that falls short of the Oscars, or will Aster finally get awards love? My gut says it’s the former, but I would be thrilled to be wrong.

Release Date: April 21st, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinematography & Production Design

THE BIKERIDERS

Jeff Nichols is one of those directors who should have a handful of Oscar nominations. Yet, his entire filmography has only garnered a single nomination (Best Actress for Ruth Negga in “Loving“). Hopefully, that could change with “The Bikeriders.” A story that spans a decade, it follows a Midwestern motorcycle club in the 1960s that evolves from a social club to a gang. It could be an epic American tale, perfect for Nichols’ sensibilities. Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Boyd Holbrook, Mike Faist, and more round out the talented cast. There’s a lot of great potential in this piece. Perhaps the Academy will finally be ready to warm up to Nichols.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay & Film Editing

BLITZ

The only reason to doubt the chances of Steve McQueen’s “Blitz” at next year’s Oscars is that production hasn’t wrapped yet. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Harris Dickinson, and Stephen Graham, “Blitz” takes place during the titular bombing of London during World War II. Undoubtedly, anything from McQueen should be taken seriously as a contender, as should almost anything starring Ronan. Will the Apple TV+ film be completed in time for the awards season? If so, will Apple TV+ be able to juggle this alongside Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon?” It’s time for McQueen to return to the Oscars after the Best Picture-winning “12 Years A Slave” and this could be the project to get him there.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design & Sound

CHALLENGERS

Luca Guadagnino returns in an unexpected genre: romantic sports comedy. “Challengers” stars Zendaya as Tashi Donaldson, coach to her tennis star husband Art, played by Mike Faist. When Tashi signs Art up for a tournament, they discover he’ll be playing against Tashi’s former lover, played by Josh O’Connor. It’s a nice setup and a great trio. While that sounds like it could be a classic, broad rom-com setup, with the ever genre-shifting Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name,” “Suspiria” & “Bones And All“) at the helm, it’s safe to assume this won’t be that straightforward.

Release Date: August 11th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actor & Original Screenplay

THE COLOR PURPLE

While Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple” scored eleven nominations, it tied the record for the most nominations without any wins. Alice Walker’s novel was again adapted into a musical in 2005, the revival of which scored Cynthia Erivo a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy. Now comes the film adaptation of the musical, and there’s a lot of firepower behind this project: Fantasia, Colman Domingo, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, H.E.R., Ciara, Aunjanue Ellis, Corey Hawkins, Jon Batiste, Louis Gossett Jr., and more star in this musical directed by Blitz Bazawule. Though Bazawule has yet to direct an English-language film, his micro-budget feature “The Burial of Kojo” was well-received, which led him to contribute to Beyoncé’s visual album “Black is King.” With Spielberg, Quincy Jones, and Oprah Winfrey producing the project, it will be a significant priority for Warner Bros. this year.

Release Date: December 20th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design & Sound

DUNE: PART TWODune Part TwoDespite Denis Villeneuve’s shocking snub for Best Director, “Dune” was a massive hit with audiences, critics, and the Academy. After winning a whopping six Oscars out of ten nominations, could “Dune: Part Two” follow up on the first film’s awards success? In addition to its returning stars, including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, and Dave Bautista, new stars Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, and Austin Butler will join the film. Will this mirror the awards success of “The Lord of the Rings” franchise, losing steam with the second entry before winning Best Picture for the third film? Or could this sequel surpass the success of the first?

Release Date: November 3rd, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, Score, Sound & Visual Effects

FINGERNAILS

Christos Nikou’s last film, “Apples,” was Greece’s submission for Best International Feature in 2020, though not ultimately nominated. He returns with his English-language debut, “Fingernails,” and he’s assembled a heck of a cast for it. Jessie Buckley and Jeremy Allen White star as a couple embarking on an assignment at a mysterious institute that tests the presence of true romantic love. The premise sounds right out of a Yorgos Lanthimos movie, which is fitting, considering Nikou worked as an assistant director on Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth.” Will “Fingernails” be too odd for the Academy’s tastes? They did nominate Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” for Best Original Screenplay, which sounds similar to “Fingernails.” Buckley and White are beloved as of late, and it’s easy to imagine them scoring plenty of awards attention for the right movie.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Actor & Original Screenplay

FOE

Garth Davis’ “Lion” scored serious awards attention in 2016, even if it went home empty-handed after six nominations. While Davis’ follow-up film, “Mary Magdalene,” was mishandled by the dissolution of The Weinstein Company, he’s still a director to keep our eyes on. His next film, “Foe,” is set in the near future, when a knock at their door turns the lives of a married couple struggling on their farm upside-down. This sci-fi thriller stars Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal, and Aaron Pierre. We’re overdue for another Ronan nomination, though she also has “Blitz” and “The Outrun” this year. Still, Ronan paired with Mescal might be too much for the Academy to resist.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay & Visual Effects

THE HOLDOVERS

Though Alexander Payne’s last feature, “Downsizing,” didn’t garner critical acclaim or Oscar love, there’s no doubt the Academy typically loves his work. “The Holdovers” sees Payne reuniting with his “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti, alongside Da’Vine Joy Randolph and newcomer Dominic Sessa. Set in 1970, “The Holdovers” follows curmudgeonly teacher Paul Hunham (Giamatti) as he supervises students at his school who couldn’t travel home for the holidays. Focus Features picked up the film this year and could snag Giamatti the nomination he deserved for “Sideways.” Hopefully, he’s not too busy playing Einstein in Verizon commercials to campaign.

Release Date: November 10th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress & Original Screenplay

HOW DO YOU LIVE?How Do You Live?Hayao Miyazaki returns after his highly publicized retirement with “How Do You Live?”. First announced in 2016, this has been long in development. This film adapts the 1937 book of the same name but also about how the book itself is featured prominently in the protagonist’s life. Miyazaki is considered one of the best filmmakers in animation, and filmmakers period, of all time. He won Best Animated Feature once and received an Honorary Academy Award in 2014. Is the Academy ready to nominate a non-Disney animated film for Best Picture? If anyone can get there, it’s Miyazaki.

Release Date: July 14th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay & Animated Feature

THE KILLERThe KillerAnother Netflix contender comes from David Fincher (“Mank“), returning to his serial killer sweet spot with a twist. Based on the French comic book “Le Tueur,” the story follows an assassin (Michael Fassbender) who begins to crack as he develops a conscience. Also starring Tilda Swinton and featuring previous Fincher collaborators Erik Messerschmidt and, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, this film has been in the works for quite some time. While any new Fincher movie will be one of my most anticipated films of the year, his films are hit or miss in the Academy. Which way will this one go?

Release Date: November 10th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing & Score

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOONKillers Of The Flower MoonMartin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” landed on this list last year but was reportedly held to prevent a Scorsese/Spielberg match-up at this year’s Academy Awards. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is set in the 1920s, when murders among the Osage tribe sparked an FBI investigation. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemmons, John Lithgow, Lily Gladstone, and Brendan Fraser fresh off an Oscar win, it’s a stacked cast sure to snag a SAG Ensemble nomination. If there was one film to bet on getting a Best Picture nomination, it’s this one.

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design & Film Editing

LEE

Set in World War II, “Lee” tells the true story of photographer Elizabeth “Lee” Miller (Kate Winslet), a fashion model turned war correspondent. Also starring Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skarsgård, Josh O’Connor, and Noémie Merlant, this promises to be a grittier sort of biopic. War photography is a fascinating profession, especially in World War II, and director Ellen Kuras, who’s making her narrative directorial debut, could be a perfect fit for the story. Kuras is the cinematographer behind films like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Away We Go” and the Oscar-nominated documentarian behind “The Betrayal.” This could be the real deal.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Score & Sound

MAESTROMaestroAfter Bradley Cooper lost Best Actor in 2018, when he was also snubbed for Best Director for “A Star Is Born,” his chances of winning for his next film increased exponentially. He’s scored a whopping nine nominations thus far, and his next directorial feature has all the classic trappings of an Oscar winner. “Maestro” is a biopic about composer Leonard Bernstein (Cooper) and his marriage to Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). Directed by Cooper, who also co-wrote with “Spotlight” writer Josh Singer and produced by Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Todd Phillips, this is one of the most Oscar-friendly films in years. Netflix could have a winner on their hands with this one.

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing & Makeup & Hairstyling,

MAY DECEMBER

While Todd Haynes’ films rarely get the awards recognition they deserve, he’s long overdue for a Best Director nomination. Perhaps his new film, “May December,” will get him there. Julianne Moore plays half of a controversial married couple with a large age gap, while Natalie Portman stars as an actress doing research for a film about the couple’s story. Curiously, “May December” will be co-produced by Will Ferrell and his Gloria Sanchez Productions, which seems odd. Nevertheless, my fingers are crossed for this one.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography & Costume Design

NAPOLEON

Is there a big-name director more hit or miss than Ridley Scott? There’s a lot to be excited about with his latest epic, “Napoleon,” but it’s challenging to get my hopes up until we see more from the movie. Nevertheless, if it succeeds, it could be an across-the-board contender. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Napoleon Bonaparte, with Vanessa Kirby as his first wife, Empress Joséphine, and Tahar Rahim as Paul Barras. Scott’s “The Last Duel” proved that he can still direct the hell out of an action sequence and captivate an audience. Will this be more “The Last Duel” or “House of Gucci?”

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design, Sound & Visual Effects

NEXT GOAL WINSNext Goal WinsTaika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins” has landed on this list the last two years, so perhaps the third time’s the charm. An adaptation of the documentary named “Next Goal Wins” tells the story of coach Thomas Rongen’s efforts to qualify the American Samoa national team, considered the worst in the world, for the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Starring Michael Fassbender and Elisabeth Moss, it may be more comedic than dramatic, but that genre blend scored Waititi an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Jojo Rabbit.” 2022 saw a bit of over-saturation of Waititi, but his signature comedic style could work well with this story.

Release Date: September 22nd, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress & Adapted Screenplay

NYAD

Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (“Free Solo“) make their narrative directorial debut with “Nyad,” a sports drama about long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad. Annette Bening stars as Nyad as she attempts to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Jodie Foster and Rhys Ifans also star in this Netflix drama. Bening has been long overdue for an Oscar win, and this certainly sounds like a bait-y part. And yes, with Bening potentially having an awards contender, it’s worth noting that Hilary Swank also has two projects coming out this year (“Mother’s Milk” and “Ordinary Angels), but I don’t sense that history will repeat itself with another Swank/Bening match-up.

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Supporting Actress & Supporting Actor

ONE LIFE

Dubbed the “British Schindler,” Sir Nicholas Winton helped rescue children at risk of being murdered by Nazi Germany during World War II. This story is central to “One Life,” directed by prolific TV director James Hawes. Anthony Hopkins will star as Winton in his later years, with Johnny Flynn portraying him as a younger man. Helena Bonham Carter and Jonathan Pryce also round out the cast. Several British prestige dramas fail to break into the awards race every year, and it’s easy to imagine this among that lot. Still, with Hopkins, Carter, and Pryce in the cast, they could end up snagging nominations.

Release Date: December 8th, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Actor, Supporting Actress & Supporting Actor

OPPENHEIMEROppenheimerOpening directly opposite “Barbie” is a somewhat more traditional awards contender, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” While Nolan’s films are always reliable contenders in the craft races, they don’t tend to do so well in above-the-line categories. “Oppenheimer” stands out in that the story seems to be less of a blockbuster and more of a biopic with some action elements. Cillian Murphy stars as J. Robert Oppenheimer, who contributed to the creation of the atomic bomb. A massive ensemble joins him, including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Benny Safdie, and more than a dozen other highly recognizable names. Murphy has been a consistently great performer for decades, but awards attention has eluded him. Though Nolan only directed one Oscar-nominated performance (Heath Ledger, who won for “The Dark Knight”), could “Oppenheimer” finally score Murphy an Oscar nomination, or will this be techs-or-bust?

Release Date: July 21st, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, Score, Sound & Visual Effects

OUR APPRENTICESHIP

Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning film, “Drive My Car,” lands this year. Will the Academy recognize him for two films in a row? In “Our Apprenticeship,” a Japanese girl studying in Paris gains new understanding and energy by meeting people of different backgrounds. That’s a vague plot description, but Hamaguchi thrives in this type of small-scale human drama. At the very least, this is likely Japan’s submission for Best International Feature, so we should keep our eyes on it.

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best International Feature & Original Screenplay

PAST LIVESPast LivesOne of the only films on this list that people have actually had their eyes on already, “Past Lives” scored raves out of Sundance this year. Celine Song’s directorial debut tells the story of two childhood friends who reunite as adults, played by Greta Lee and Teo Yoo. While 2022 saw A24’s triumphant return to the Academy Awards, too many of their incredible films failed to score even a screenplay nomination (I’m looking at you, “The Farewell” and “Eighth Grade“). We know “Past Lives” has the critical love worthy of awards, but can A24 get it there? We’ll find out more when the film comes out this June.

Release Date: June 2nd, 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress & Original Screenplay

POOR THINGS

Five long years after the Oscar-winning, “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos returns with “Poor Things.” Starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael, and more, this story sounds like it’s appropriately bizarre — a perfect fit for the director. When Bella Baxter (Stone) drowns herself to escape her abusive husband, she is brought back to life by an eccentric scientist. The Academy has proven that they’re fans of Lanthimos’s sometimes absurdist style, and this cast is no stranger to Oscar nominations either. Will this be too out there? With Searchlight behind it, this could do well.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor & Original Screenplay

PRISCILLA

Sofia Coppola is back, and she’s giving us a different take on Elvis Presley. This time focusing on his wife, Priscilla, Cailee Spaeny takes on the titular role, with Jacob Elordi as the King himself. This film coming in such proximity to “Elvis” doesn’t bode well for its awards chances, but this could surprise. 2006 was the last time Coppola took on an iconic character, with “Marie Antoinette” receiving a single Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design and the last of Coppola’s films to score any Oscar nominations. “Priscilla” could change that.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Supporting Actor & Costume Design

RUSTINRustinDirector George C. Wolfe’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” nearly scored Oscar wins for Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis. While that film’s awards run didn’t quite stick the landing, Wolfe’s newest Netflix project could be even more awards-friendly. “Rustin” stars Colman Domingo as gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a legendary figure of the 20th century who organized the 1963 March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King Jr. The large ensemble also features Jeffrey Wright, Chris Rock, Audra McDonald, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and many more, with a script from Dustin Lance Black and Julian Breece. Fresh off his Emmy win this year, Domingo could find himself an Oscar nomination for this biopic.

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Actor, Original Screenplay & Costume Design

SALTBURN

Fresh off her stunning awards run and Oscar win for “Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell will be back with a new original thriller. Little is known about the project’s plot besides that it follows an aristocratic English family. It’s got an outstanding ensemble, with Barry Keoghan, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Jacob Elordi, and more, any of whom could be well-seated for an awards campaign. Shot by Linus Sandgren and produced by Margot Robbie, this could be a big contender, even without knowing the plot.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinematography & Film Editing

SHIRLEY

Regina King stars as Shirley Chisholm, America’s first Black congresswoman. While not much else is known about what period of Chisholm’s life this film will cover, she’s a remarkable and under-discussed figure in American history. Oscar-winner John Ridley (“12 Years A Slave“) directs the film, which also stars Terrence Howard and Lucas Hedges. King is an awards magnet, snagging nominations for most projects she stars in, and we know the Academy can’t resist a biopic. This combination could be irresistible.

Release Date: 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Costume Design & Production Design

SPACEMAN

Guys, I think the industry is ready for Adam Sandler to become an Oscar nominee. He came arguably very close to a nomination for “Uncut Gems” in 2019 and then snagged a SAG nomination this year for “Hustle,” a Netflix sports drama that had made very few waves. If SAG nominated him for “Hustle,” Sandler could easily get an Oscar nomination when a flashier film and performance comes along. “Spaceman” might be just the film. From “Chernobyl” director Johan Renck, Sandler plays Jakub Procházka, a man orphaned as a child in the Czech countryside who overcomes the odds to become an astronaut. The film also stars Paul Dano and Carey Mulligan, so this is no “Grown Ups 3.” If Netflix plays its cards right, it could make this happen for Sandler.

Release Date: Fall 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Actor, Adapted Screenplay & Visual Effects

UNTITLED BOB MARLEY BIOPIC

Reinaldo Marcus Green’s last film, “King Richard,” scored six Academy Award nominations, winning Best Actor for Will Smith. Green returns with another biopic, this time with a bigger subject: Bob Marley. Not much is known about the film, such as what period of Marley’s life it will cover, but there’s no denying Marley is a beloved figure worldwide. Kingsley Ben-Adir, arguably snubbed for his performance as another legend, Malcolm X, in “One Night in Miami…” will star as Marley, alongside Lashana Lynch as his wife, Rita. The Academy can’t resist the biopics of musicians, as they typically tend to nominate them in many categories each year. Pencil in Ben-Adir for the nomination.

Release Date: January 12th, 2024
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design & Makeup & Hairstyling

THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR

“Asteroid City” isn’t Wes Anderson’s only film, reportedly arriving in 2023. Anderson is adapting Roald Dahl’s short story “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” for Netflix. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the titular Sugar alongside Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, and Ben Kingsley. Similar to “The French Dispatch,” “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” will be divided into three chapters, using Sugar as the connective tissue. Interestingly, Anderson could have two films from two studios in this awards race. I’m guessing this one gets pushed to 2024.

Release Date: Fall 2023
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing & Production Design

OTHER POTENTIAL CONTENDERSSpiderMan Across The SpiderVerse

FERRARI” – Michael Mann hasn’t attracted awards attention in some time, though Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari is interesting. Can STX Entertainment finally get awards attention?

INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY” – You never know! James Mangold is a brilliant director who could bring this franchise back to the Oscars.

THE IRON CLAW” – Director Sean Durkin hasn’t broken into the awards race yet, but perhaps his wrestling dynasty film with Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, and Lily James can do it.

NIGHTBITCH” – As incredible as it would be to hear this announced as Amy Adams’ Oscar win, this Hulu release is unlikely to even qualify for the Oscars.

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE” – Animated feature will be a tough race this year. Can Spider-Man win here again?

WONKA” – It’s unlikely this film hits above the line, but it’s easy to imagine craft nominations coming, especially with it being a musical.

With this list of contenders to keep an eye on, take a look at my first official predictions for the 96th Academy Awards in the top six categories: Best Picture, Best Director, and all four acting categories.

BEST PICTURE
“Asteroid City”
“The Bikeriders”
“The Color Purple”
“Dune: Part Two”
“The Holdovers”
“How Do You Live?”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Maestro”
“Saltburn”
Untitled Bob Marley Biopic

BEST DIRECTOR
Blitz Bazawule, “The Color Purple”
Emerald Fennell, “Saltburn”
Alexander Payne, “The Holdovers”
Martin Scorsese, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Denis Villeneuve, “Dune: Part Two”

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening, “Nyad”
Fantasia, “The Color Purple”
Rosamund Pike, “Saltburn”
Natalie Portman, “May December”
Kate Winslet, “Lee”

BEST ACTOR
Kingsley Ben-Adir, Untitled Bob Marley Biopic
Bradley Cooper, “Maestro”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Colman Domingo, “Rustin”
Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jodie Comer, “The Bikeriders”
Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Lashana Lynch, Untitled Bob Marley Biopic
Carey Mulligan, “Maestro”
Julianne Moore, “May December”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe, “Poor Things”
Tom Hardy, “The Bikeriders”
Barry Keoghan, “Saltburn”
Jesse Plemmons, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Jeremy Allen White, “The Iron Claw”

What do you think of these on-paper early Oscar contenders? Are there any missing from the list above? Which films are you most looking forward to in 2023? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account. Thank you!

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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