Sunday, April 14, 2024

Early 2024 Oscar Contenders & Predictions

We’re three months into 2024, and the 96th Academy Awards are officially behind us. “Oppenheimer” now reigns as our Best Picture winner, but what’s going to be the Next Best Picture Oscar winner? It’s time to look forward to the awards season contenders debuting this year and make some wild, far-too-early predictions about what could get nominated. As always, being nearly a full year until the 97th 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 way off-base this far in advance (Check out our early 2023 predictions for a laugh).

There’s always a necessary disclaimer for this list. When looking at films months away from release or festival season, the list will skew heavily toward established filmmakers, English-language films, and those with slightly higher budgets. Non-English language films will surely be in contention in top categories at the Oscars, but it is challenging to spot which ones this far in advance.

Below are my first official Oscar predictions for 2024, followed by a lengthy breakdown of all the potential contenders. Which of these sounds like an Oscar winner? Our next Best Picture could be on the list…

BEST PICTURE
“The Actor”
“Blitz”
“Conclave”
Dune: Part Two
“Kinds of Kindness”
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
“Maria”
“The Piano Lesson”
“Queer”
Sing Sing

BEST DIRECTOR
Edward Berger, “Conclave”
Luca Guadagnino, “Queer”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “Kinds of Kindness”
Pablo Larrain, “Maria”
Steve McQueen, “Blitz”

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Lange, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Angelina Jolie, “Maria”
Florence Pugh, “We Live In Time”
Saoirse Ronan, “Blitz”
Emma Stone, “Kinds of Kindness”

BEST ACTOR
Daniel Craig, “Queer”
Colman Domingo, “Sing Sing
Ralph Fiennes, “Conclave”
Ed Harris, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
André Holland, “The Actor”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Hong Chau, “Kinds of Kindness”
Toni Collette, “Juror No. 2”
Danielle Deadwyler, “The Piano Lesson”
Anne Hathaway, “Mother Mary”
Isabella Rossellini, “Conclave”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Harris Dickinson, “Blitz”
Ben Foster, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Samuel L. Jackson, “The Piano Lesson”
Clarence Maclin, “Sing Sing
Jeremy Strong, “The Apprentice”

THE ACTOR
Duke Johnson scored a Best Animated Feature nomination for co-directing “Anomalisa” with Charlie Kaufman in 2015 but made his solo directorial debut this year with “The Actor.” Based on the 2010 novel “Memory,” the 1950s-set crime drama centers on a New York actor, Paul Cole, who loses his memory after a violent beating in a mysterious small town. André Holland stars as Cole, leading a talented ensemble cast featuring Gemma Chan, Toby Jones, Tracey Ullman, and more. This compelling story could work well, and with Neon behind the film, this could be a legitimate contender.

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

ANORA
Sean Baker’s last few films have been in the awards conversation but only garnered a single Oscar nomination. Willem Dafoe was nominated for his role in “The Florida Project,” while Simon Rex came somewhat close for “Red Rocket.” It’s not a surprise that his films haven’t received much awards attention, considering how different they are from typical awards fare. Nevertheless, his newest film could always change that. We don’t know much about “Anora,” other than that it’s a comedy starring Mikey Madison as a sex worker. Madison has acted in films like “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” and “Scream,” but has never scored a starring role in a high-profile picture yet. Could this be her breakout moment?

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

THE APPRENTICE
Iranian director Ali Abbasi has been on the rise for a few years now. His last two films, “Border” and “Holy Spider,” were each selected to compete for Best International Feature (by Sweden and Denmark, respectively). He also directed the final two episodes of the first season of “The Last of Us.” This year, he’ll release his first American film, “The Apprentice,” about Roy Cohn’s mentorship of future twice-impeached President Donald Trump. Jeremy Strong plays Cohn, while Sebastian Stan takes on the role of Trump. Maria Bakalova will also portray Trump’s first wife, Ivana. In 2024, Trump is still running for president, and the impact of his political career is far from over. Is it too early for a film to explore the insidious beginnings of that career? Regardless, biopics like this, primarily starring actors as talented as Strong and Stan, could easily attract the attention of the Academy.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress & Best Makeup & Hairstyling

BETTER MAN
While not a major critical success, “The Greatest Showman” was an undeniable hit back in 2017 and came quite close to winning Best Original Song. Director Michael Gracey debuted with “The Greatest Showman” but hasn’t directed a film since. That changes in 2024 with “Better Man,” another biographical musical, this time about British Singer Robbie Williams. In a strange twist, Williams plays himself, while Jonno Davies portrays a younger Williams. The project was initially described as a satirical musical, so perhaps it will be less strange than it sounds. Nevertheless, Gracey’s follow-up to “The Greatest Showman” is undoubtedly one to watch out for.

Release Date: December 25th
Oscar Potential: Best Original Song

BIRD
Though Andrea Arnold won Best Live Action Short in 2004, her features haven’t yet connected with the Academy. Still, her films are all critically acclaimed, so perhaps it’s just a matter of time before one breaks through and garners Oscar attention. That could happen with “Bird,” her latest film coming in 2024. Little is known about the film, but it will star Barry Keoghan, Franz Rogowski, and James Nelson-Joyce. Keoghan stepped away from Gladiator II to make time for “Bird,” so perhaps it’s a special role for him.

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

BLITZ
Since winning Best Picture for “12 Years a Slave” in 2013, Steve McQueen has only released one feature film, “Widows.” He’s finally back in the awards race this year with Apple TV+’s “Blitz.” Not much is known about the film’s plot other than that it’s set in London during the Blitz of World War II. With Saoirse Ronan and Harris Dickinson starring, it’s easy to imagine acting nominations coming their way. Ronan is bound to win her first Oscar one of these years, and Harris Dickinson has been quietly building a solid portfolio. But it’s McQueen that truly focuses the award attention on this one. With Apple TV+ behind the film, it’s likely their highest priority of the year. This could be a huge contender.

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

CHALLENGERSThe first of two Luca Guadagnino films dropping in 2024, “Challengers,” was pushed from last fall into April due to the strikes. That doesn’t bode well for its chances in the awards race, and more than likely tells us that this was never a strong contender, to begin with. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Starring Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor, this love triangle sports romance looks like a lot of fun. It doesn’t seem like a film that would be able to sustain buzz for nearly eleven months to gain awards traction, but it could be a good time nonetheless.

Release Date: April 26th
Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor & Best Original Screenplay

THE COLLABORATION
It’s been a few years since Anthony McCarten’s legendary run of writing Best Actor contenders (“The Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “The Two Popes“). He’s back this year with an adaptation of his play, “The Collaboration.” The entire team from the stage play returns for the film adaptation, including director Kwame Kwei-Armah and stars Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope. The story centers around a collaboration and exhibition between Andy Warhol (Bettany) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (Pope). While the play received mixed reviews, this pairing could work well on screen.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actor & Best Supporting Actor

CONCLAVE
Edward Berger found extraordinary success at the Oscars in 2022 with “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and arguably would’ve scored a Best Director nomination had Netflix realized earlier how strong of a player they had. Can he score with the Academy again with his next film, “Conclave?” Based on Robert Harris’s 2016 book of the same name, the film tells the story of a Cardinal tasked with finding a successor to the deceased Pope, who then discovers a secret that must be uncovered. Ralph Fiennes leads the film as Cardinal Lomeli, with John Lithgow, Stanley Tucci, and Isabella Rossellini co-starring. Could Fiennes get his first Oscar nomination in more than 30 years? If there’s anyone who could build momentum for an overdue Oscar win, it’s Fiennes.

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

DIDIBefore receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for his film “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó,” Sean Wang’s first feature “Dìdi” won the Audience Award at Sundance. The film sold to Focus Features and will come out in July. This coming-of-age film finds all the awkwardness and warmth of the early 2000s. It’s deeply personal, hilarious, and genuinely charming. If it’s a big hit this summer, there’s a chance it could maintain some momentum to get a Best Original Screenplay nomination. It’s a long shot, but this is a film to keep your eyes on regardless.

Release Date: July 26th
Oscar Potential: Best Original Screenplay

A DIFFERENT MANAnother Sundance premiere, “A Different Man,” has already received strong reviews before most of these contenders have finished filming. This atmospheric thriller centers on Edward (Sebastian Stan), an actor with neurofibromatosis, a condition causing severe growths on his face. After undergoing surgery to restore his face, he becomes fixated on an actor portraying him in a theatrical production based on his previous life. Stan won the Silver Bear for Best Performance at Berlinale, and reviews suggest this could be a contender when A24 releases it later this year.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor & Best Makeup & Hairstyling

DUNE: PART TWODune: Part Two” is one of the few films on the list that has already received a wide release and feels guaranteed to win at least a few Oscars. Like the first entry in the series, “Dune: Part Two” will be a dominant force in every craft category. “Dune” was nominated for ten Oscars, winning six, and the sequel could repeat in nearly all the same categories. But what about above the line? Denis Villeneuve was shockingly snubbed for a Best Director nomination, one of only five films to receive ten or more nominations and not be nominated for Best Director. Still, the Academy has shown us time and again, including just this year, that unless the film is a threat to win Best Picture, they hesitate to nominate blockbusters for Best Director. Nevertheless, “Dune: Part Two” is snagging double-digit nominations and at least a few wins.

Release Date: March 1st
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Sound & Best Visual Effects

ELLA MCCAY
While the Academy has rarely acknowledged comedies over the years, the films of James L. Brooks have been an exception. From Best Picture-winner “Terms of Endearment” to “As Good As It Gets,” Brooks had managed to crack the code of Oscar-worthy comedies. It’s been 14 years since his last film and nearly 30 years since his previous critically acclaimed film. “Ella McCay” could be a return to form. Emma Mackey stars as the titular Ella McCay, a young politician trying to balance work and family life as she steps into the role of governor. Albert Brooks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Woody Harrelson, Ayo Edebiri, Kumail Nanjiani, and more star alongside Mackey. Here’s hoping it’s a return to form for Brooks.

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

EMILIA PEREZ
Just about every year, a non-English language film lands in Best Picture and Director. It’s always so difficult to guess what the contenders might be this early, but perhaps it could be “Emilia Perez.” Hailing from French director Jacques Audiard, this French and Mexican production is described as a musical crime comedy film. A woman is tasked with assisting an escaped Mexican cartel leader to undergo sex reassignment surgery, both to reaffirm her gender and also to evade authorities. That could be a complicated subject to tackle in a comedy, but if handled well, this could be audacious enough to work. With Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña, Édgar Ramirez, and Karla Sofía Gascón in the cast, along with original songs by French singer Camille, there’s potential here.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best International Feature Film & Best Original Song

FLINT STRONG
There’s a lot about “Flint Strong” that, on paper, makes sense as an Oscar contender. However, it’s the behind-the-scenes information that worries me. First, the good thing is that Barry Jenkins wrote the screenplay for “Flint Strong” and initially intended to direct it. Instead, cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who made history as the first woman ever nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars, will make her directorial debut with the film. The film is based on the documentary “T-Rex” about professional boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields as she trains for the 2012 Olympics. Ryan Destiny will star as Shields, alongside Judy Greer and Brian Tyree Henry. All of that sounds like catnip to the Academy. However, the film has faced heavy delays, first from Covid and then from studios dumping the project. It’s set for release this August, which isn’t an awards-friendly release date. Nevertheless, there’s no denying the potential.

Release Date: August 9th
Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography & Best Adapted Screenplay

FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGAMad Max: Fury Road” is one of the least likely Oscar contenders of the last decade and one of the most beloved. In “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” George Miller returns to the apocalyptic world with this prequel following the legendary warrior Furiosa. Anya Taylor-Joy takes on the title role from Charlize Theron and is joined by Chris Hemsworth as Warlord Dementus. While the film has much to live up to, the trailer promises plenty of insane action and the same off-the-wall style that made the first a classic. If nothing else, this could be a strong contender in the crafts.

Release Date: May 24th
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Sound & Best Visual Effects

GLADIATOR 2
Sequels to Best Picture winners rarely turn out well. Sure, there’s “The Godfather Part II” and the rest of the “Rocky” franchise, but otherwise the list is bleak. That hasn’t stopped Ridley Scott from his long-gestating “Gladiator 2.” Scott is one of our most prolific directors but also one of the most hit-or-miss. Last year, “Napoleon” underwhelmed critics, though it still snagged three Academy Award nominations. Paul Mescal, Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, and Joseph Quinn are on board for “Gladiator 2,” which centers around Lucius Verus, the son of Connie Nielsen’s character in the first film. Because I’ve been burned too many times, I never include Ridley Scott films in my early predictions above the line until it’s been seen. “Gladiator 2” has much to live up to from “Gladiator,” but it could be a big box office hit and a tech player.

Release Date: November 22nd
Oscar Potential: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Sound & Best Visual Effects

HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGAIt’s rare for two films to land in one spot on a list like this, but this is a unique project, to say the least. Kevin Costner returns to the Western with a two-part theatrical event, “Horizon: An American Saga.” While the trailers don’t necessarily showcase anything that immediately screams “Oscar-winner,” Costner has found tremendous success in this genre in the past, including winning Best Picture. The Academy could be drawn to it if the unique two-part release succeeds at the box office. If nothing else, this could be a crafts contender.

Release Date: June 28th & August 16th
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design & Best Sound

INSIDE OUT 2It’s been fourteen years since an animated film was nominated for Best Picture, but “Inside Out” came pretty close. In addition to winning Best Animated Feature, it received an Original Screenplay nomination, the last animated film to do so. Could the sequel do even better? Director Kelsey Mann makes his directorial debut, taking over the reins from Pete Docter, while Meg LeFauve will have solo screenwriting duties. “Inside Out” is considered one of Pixar’s greatest films, while Pixar sequels are often hit-or-miss. The Toy Story sequels are beloved, while films like “Cars 2” and “Finding Dory” received muted critical acclaim at best. Where will “Inside Out 2” land?

Release Date: June 14th
Oscar Potential: Best Animated Feature, Best Adapted Screenplay & Best Original Score

JOKER: FOLIE A DEUXFew films have had as surprising an awards run as 2019’s “Joker.” It scored a billion dollars and was nominated for a whopping eleven Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay, winning for Best Actor and Original Score. Now, in “Joker: Folie à Deux,” Joaquin Phoenix returns to the iconic role, making this his first-ever sequel. Todd Phillips also returns as writer and director, stating that this sequel will be more of a musical. To that end, he’s brought on Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn. Will this be more of a commercial play than an awards film? It would be shocking for “Joker: Folie à Deux” to find the same level of awards success as the first film, but perhaps it could be a crafts player.

Release Date: October 4th
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score & Best Original Song

JUROR NO. 2
Martin Scorsese set a new record this year as the oldest-ever Best Director nominee at 81 years old. If “Juror No. 2” finds love from the Academy, Clint Eastwood could blow past that record. At 93 years old, Eastwood once again steps up to the director’s chair. While his films have been hit or miss over the last few years, he directed Kathy Bates to an Oscar nomination just five years ago and had a huge hit with “American Sniper” five years before that. Nicholas Hoult stars as a juror, presumably number 2, serving on a murder trial who realizes he may have been at fault for the victim’s death. Toni Collette, Zoey Deutch, Kiefer Sutherland, J.K. Simmons, Chris Messina, and more are also co-stars. Will this be another Eastwood whiff, or will the Academy show him love once again?

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

KINDS OF KINDNESS
Can the lightning pairing of Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone strike a third time? There’s little reason to doubt it. “Kinds of Kindness,” their third collaboration after “The Favourite” and “Poor Things,” co-stars Jesse Plemmons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, and Hunter Schafer. Little is known about the plot, but Lanthimos has revealed the film is set in the contemporary United States and will feature three different stories, with actors playing roles in each of the stories. That description sounds like it could be an anthology sort of film, which would be the only reason to doubt if the Academy would go for it. Nevertheless, the Academy is fully in the Lanthimos camp now, and this should be another clear awards contender.

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

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
Eugene O’Neill’s classic play “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” has already been adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film back in 1962. British director Jonathan Kent will make his feature debut tackling a new adaptation of the play this year. Ed Harris and Jessica Lange star as James and Mary Tyrone, alongside Ben Foster and Colin Morgan, playing their two sons as the family confronts each other over their shared past. Katherine Hepburn scored a Best Actress nomination for the 1962 version, and these performances could certainly snag nominations yet again. While Jessica Lange already has two Oscars and won a Tony for this role on stage, Ed Harris could see an overdue narrative built around him. Conversation-driven play adaptations haven’t done well with the Academy in recent years, but perhaps this could break through.

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

MARIAPablo Larraín wraps up his trilogy of biopics of powerful, tragic women this year with “Maria,” about opera singer Maria Callas. Both “Jackie” and “Spencer” scored Best Actress nominations for their leading ladies, so Angelina Jolie could easily be looking at a nomination as she steps into the shoes of Callas. Written by Steven Knight, the film showcases Callas’s final years in the 1970s when she lived in Paris. This should be a slam dunk in Best Actress, but could it outperform “Jackie” and “Spencer?”

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Best Costume Design & Best Makeup & Hairstyling

MEGALOPOLIS
Francis Ford Coppola’s long-awaited magnum opus could be on its way. “Megalopolis” has been in the works by Coppola since the late 1970s. He’s been working on it for more than forty years, even holding table reads with actors in 2001. Finally, the movie will officially release this year and has secured IMAX screens for this fall. A sprawling cast will bring this epic sci-fi drama to life, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Shia LaBeouf, Aubrey Plaza, Dustin Hoffman, Giancarlo Esposito, and more. The film follows a woman (Emmanuel) whose lover Caesar (Driver) wants to rebuild New York City as a utopia after a devastating disaster. This sounds like a giant swing and could either be a huge hit or a major flop. Either way, it’s fascinating to see Coppola independently finance such a mammoth production. Let’s see if it pays off.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design & Best Visual Effects

MICKEY 17Despite Bong Joon-ho directing one of the most acclaimed Best Picture winners of all time, his follow-up to “Parasite” is certainly not a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. Based on the book “Mickey7,” “Mickey 17” follows an “expendable” employee who is sent to colonize an ice planet. When one iteration dies, a replacement is filled with his memories and sent to continue the operation. Robert Pattinson stars in the project alongside Steven Yeun, Naomi Ackie, Toni Collette, and Mark Ruffalo. Bong’s films prior to “Parasite” weren’t exactly Oscar bait. While this film is a safe bet for craft attention, “Mickey 17” would need to be a massive hit to score attention above the line. That said, the film has been delayed several times, most recently landing on a release date of January 31st, 2025. Will it receive a qualifying awards run? Is this a sign of poor quality? That’s an unattractive release date that doesn’t bode well, but perhaps it’s less a sign of something terrible and more of a strategic play.

Release Date: January 31st, 2025
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound & Best Visual Effects

MOTHER MARY
David Lowery has one of the most interesting, or at least the most pragmatic, filmographies in Hollywood right now. He’s clearly operating on a “one for you, one for me” sort of policy. He’ll direct a wildly unique and risky picture like “The Green Knight” for A24 but follow it up with a bankable Disney movie like “Peter Pan & Wendy.” We don’t know too much about his next film, “Mother Mary,” but it’s been described as an “epic melodrama” that follows the relationship between a musician and a fashion designer. Michaela Coel, Anne Hathaway, and Hunter Schafer star in the film, which will also feature original songs from Jack Antonoff and Charli XCX. None of Lowery’s films have broken through with the Academy, but perhaps “Mother Mary” will change that.

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

THE NICKEL BOYS
RaMell Ross’s film “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” is among the more unique Best Documentary nominees in recent years. It’s more of a mood piece than anything, so it was a pleasant surprise among the final nominees. He’s making his narrative debut this year and has some strong material to work with. Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Nickel Boys” follows Elwood Curtis, a young black boy at a notoriously abusive school for boys in 1960s Florida. It’s based on a real school, Dozier School for Boys, in which many boys were killed over decades. Aunjanue Ellis, Hamish Linklater, and Fred Hechinger star alongside Ethan Herisse (“When They See Us”) as Elwood. While Ross’s skills as a narrative filmmaker are untested, this has strong potential and could be a big hit for Amazon MGM this fall.

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

NOSFERATUIt would probably be a stretch to describe Robert Eggers’ “Nosferatu” as Oscar bait, but it’s certainly one of the more highly anticipated movies of 2024. After seeing Eggers take on an epic with “The Northman,” his version of “Nosferatu” is sure to be a similarly epic gothic horror. Bill Skarsgård stars as the vampire Count Orlok alongside Nicholas Hoult, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Lily-Rose Depp, Emma Corrin, and Willem Dafoe. Focus Features describes the film as “a gothic tale of obsession between a haunted young woman and the terrifying vampire infatuated with her, causing untold horror in its wake.” While the Academy doesn’t warm up to horror often, Eggers’ “The Lighthouse” scored a Best Cinematography nomination in 2019. If nothing else, this sounds like a solid crafts contender.

Release Date: December 25th
Oscar Potential: Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling & Best Production Design

THE OUTRUNIs this the year Saoirse Ronan finally wins her Oscar? The buzz for Ronan’s performance in “The Outrun” coming out of Sundance suggests it’s possible. She portrays a woman fresh out of rehab for alcoholism who returns home to the Orkney Islands after more than a decade away. The raves for Ronan’s performance were much stronger than the film itself, which could hurt her chances later this year. While she’s likely to have a larger contender in the race with “Blitz,” this is still one to watch out for on a smaller scale.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actress

THE PIANO LESSON
Malcolm Washington, son of Denzel, makes his feature directorial debut with “The Piano Lesson,” an adaptation of the 1987 play by August Wilson. Set in 1936 in Pittsburgh, “The Piano Player” follows the Charles family and their conversations around an heirloom, a piano with designs carved by their enslaved ancestor. The previous August Wilson adaptations produced by Denzel Washington and Todd Black certainly connected with the Academy, with “Fences” winning Viola Davis Best Supporting Actress and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” winning Best Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling. It’s got a star-studded cast: John David Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Fisher, Danielle Deadwyler, and more. Jackson received a Tony nomination for this same role in a stage production last year, and it’s easy to see him receiving his first Oscar nomination in thirty years.

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

POLARIS
Lynne Ramsey hasn’t directed a film since 2017’s wildly underrated “You Were Never Really Here.” She’s reteaming with Joaquin Phoenix this year for “Polaris,” alongside Rooney Mara. Ramsey’s films haven’t yet connected with the Academy, and frankly, the plot description for “Polaris” doesn’t sound like it’ll change that. The horror film follows an ice photographer in the 1890s who meets the devil in Alaska. Little else is known about the film, but it’s said to be in post-production and could land in theaters this awards season.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actress & Best Actor

QUEER
Luca Guadagnino and writer Justin Kuritzkes team up for a second film this year after “Challengers.” “Queer” stars Daniel Craig as an expat in Mexico City who falls in love with a younger man, played by Drew Starkey, recently discharged from the U.S. Navy. Based on the 1985 novel of the same name, this could find Guadagnino operating in similar territory as “Call Me By Your Name,” which snagged a Best Picture nomination, Best Adapted Screenplay win, and a nomination for Timothée Chalamet. While Guadagnino’s films haven’t really connected with awards bodies outside of “Call Me By Your Name,” Daniel Craig could easily break in with a stellar performance.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor & Best Adapted Screenplay

A REAL PAINA Real PainKieran Culkin is riding high after winning the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for the final season of “Succession.” On top of that, he’s received rave reviews for his role in the Sundance hit “A Real Pain.” Directed and starring Jesse Eisenberg, “A Real Pain” follows two cousins on a tour through Poland to honor their grandmother. It’s an odd couple pairing, and Culkin has a meaty role that’s hilarious, moving, and relatively unique in a classic Culkin way. This fall, critics could make a strong push for him when Searchlight Pictures releases the picture.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Supporting Actor & Best Original Screenplay

SING SINGSing Sing” was one of the biggest surprises out of last year’s TIFF. The film came into the festival without much buzz, but as soon as audiences saw it, the word spread quickly. It was picked up by A24 for release later in the year. Greg Kwedar directs this small, intimate film about a group of prisoners in Sing Sing Correctional Facility who form a theatrical troupe. In a career-best performance, Colman Domingo leads the cast, which is primarily made up of formerly incarcerated individuals, with Paul Raci as the volunteer troupe director. Clarence Maclin delivers a debut performance that could really attract some awards attention. It’s an incredibly emotional, life-affirming film that will likely win plenty of critical acclaim, and deservedly so. Is it too small to break into the Oscar race? It’s possible, but a good release strategy by A24 could help it achieve a similar award run to something like “Sound of Metal.” There is lots of potential here, but it could fly under the radar, too.

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

THE SUPREMES AT EARL’S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT
When the Academy failed to nominate Gina Prince-Bythewood’s last film, “The Woman King,” it caused quite a stir. Will her next film find more love from them? She’s not in the director’s seat for “The Supremes At Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat,” but co-wrote the screenplay with debut director Tina Mabry. Based on the 2013 novel of the same name, the film follows three best friends, played by Uzo Aduba, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, and Sanaa Lathan, who call themselves “The Supremes,” who find their friendship tested like never before. With Searchlight Pictures, there’s a chance this gets the Hulu treatment, but hopefully, this gets a solid release.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Supporting Actress & Best Adapted Screenplay

WE LIVE IN TIME
Little is known about “We Live in Time,” the upcoming romance starring Andrew Garfield and Florence Pugh. “Brooklyn” director John Crowley directs an original screenplay from British playwright Nick Payne, whose only two previous films underwhelmed. While there are too many unknowns to honestly bet big on this one, the pairing of Garfield and Pugh is undeniably compelling. A24 will distribute this, so it could be an Oscar player if the quality is good.

Release Date: TBD
Oscar Potential: Best Actor & Best Actress

WICKEDJon M. Chu’s last film, “In the Heights,” was woefully ignored throughout the awards season in 2021. Will the same fate befall the first installment of “Wicked?” The Broadway musical is unbelievably popular and will almost certainly do well at the box office this Thanksgiving. It would be pretty shocking for “Wicked” to land in Best Picture, but it’s a feast of CGI, so it’s easy to imagine the film scoring a nomination or two.

Release Date: November 27th
Oscar Potential: Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Production DesignBest Visual Effects

That’s a massive list of movies, and we know that so many more contenders will show up when the festivals get started. Which of these films do you think could be our Next Best Picture Oscar winner? Do you have any gut feelings about any of these movies? Which ones do you believe we are underestimating? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.

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

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