Emma Stone, Annette Bening, Ava DuVernay among the top Oscar contenders

Picture David, Goliath and 50 of their friends in a street brawl, and you’ll get close to what the last two weeks have been like in the movie world, with virtually all of the remaining Oscar contenders premiering in Venice, Telluride and Toronto. festivals (the New York Film Festival will take place at the end of the month). But at festivals almost completely devoid of movie stars who are toeing the line in the historic double strike of the Writers’ and Screen Actors’ Guilds, the blows were somewhat muted. (Jessica Chastain, who has a temporary deal with SAG, used her time on the red carpet to talk about… hit.)

Jessica Chastain spoke about her upcoming film Memento at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9th. January 12 amid dueling Hollywood strikes. (Video: AP via The Canadian Press)

However, none of this stopped persistent Oscar forecasters from playing the race. As our film critic Anne Hornaday writes, it was a rare year when films could eloquently speak for themselves.

Right now, the Oscars are set for March 10, 2024. Who knows! The Emmy Awards were postponed by four months due to strikes. Some great Oscar contenders are already on the board and didn’t need to screen at the fall festivals: Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, Celine Song’s Past Lives and Martin Scorsese’s Killer Flowers. Moon” (which hits theaters October 20, but premiered at Cannes). Other major Oscar-winning films will be released later this year: Joaquin Phoenix’s Napoleon, The Color Purple with Fantasia Barrino and The Boys on the Boat, directed by George Clooney.

However, according to the main players, the stage is almost ready for a decisive confrontation. Here’s my highly subjective take on who will appear or should appear at the fall film festival:

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Unexpected entry into the race for best photo: Ava DuVernay “Source” (purchased by Neon in Venice, release date still unknown)

DuVernay’s narrative interpretation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste, perhaps the most controversial of the festival’s major films, is so difficult to describe that it was overlooked by anyone’s awards. How to adapt an unadaptable book? DuVernay’s solution: turn the author into a protagonist (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, a powerful presence) and introduce us to her creative process as she uses a period of deep grief to fuel her incredible thesis linking the murder of Trayvon Martin to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany and social shunning Dalits, or “untouchables,” in India. The critical consensus was not universal, but let the numerous standing ovations and loud sobs that shook Toronto theaters be your guide.

A scientist brings a woman back to life, only for her to go on a whirlwind adventure with a man. (Video: Spotlight Images)

Instant favorite: Emma Stone in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Bad Things (December 8).

From the second Stone on screen, playing the piano with her feet, swaying as if she doesn’t yet have full control of her limbs, the actress transforms into Bella Baxter, a 19th-century woman who is reborn and raised again. mad scientist (Willem Dafoe). Every moment of this beautifully shot satire that turns into a sex-positive feminist fable bears Stone’s imprint; she’s a producer and spent years creating the character with Lanthimos, her director on “The Favorite.” Winner of the Golden Lion at Venice, “Poor Things” received an explosive reception at Telluride when it debuted there a day later.

Best Case for Best Oscar Duet: Annette Bening and Jodie Foster in Nyada (October 20)

Bening trained for a year to play the headstrong, extremely talented Diana Nyad, who, at 60, was determined to become the first person to complete the open-ocean swim from Cuba to Miami without a shark tank—a 110-mile distance. The recent controversy surrounding Nyad’s achievements threatens to diminish Bening’s significant accomplishments. However, the film’s big lesson is that swimming is a team sport, and it seems like there should be a special statue to symbolize the synergy between Bening and Foster, who plays Coach Nyad, Bonnie Stoll’s best friend and ex-lover – and is, according to most experts, this is the best option for a supporting actress.

Latest New Voice: Cord Jefferson, American Fantasy (November 3).

You could practically feel the room shaking with laughter during both screenings I saw of Jefferson’s directorial debut, which just came home with the People’s Choice Award in Toronto. In the biting satire based on Percival Everett’s 2021 novel Erasure, Jeffrey Wright plays a fed-up professor who writes a novel about race-baiting, pandering to a white audience, only to become a huge success, much to his discomfort. Jefferson, who won an Emmy for his screenplay for Watchmen, also fills the film with tender moments about sibling discord, aging parents and the traumas that keep us closed to love. It’s a strong contender for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Wright has plenty of Best Actor supporters. Like Jefferson said at the screening: “I’m 41 years old and I’ve just figured out what I want to do with my life.” Maturity is showing.

Those most at risk of being overlooked by the SAG strike are TIE, Colman Domingo and Gael García Bernal.

These incredible actors and trade unionists have stayed home in solidarity with their guild, but they’re vying for attention with the people vying for best picture, and they can use the blow that comes with the festival spotlight. Domingo is having a standout year and can compete in two categories: starring as gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in Rustin (Nov. 3) and supporting role in The Color Purple. (December 25). He also caused a stir at TIFF by playing the inmate leader of a theater program alongside formerly incarcerated actors in Sing Sing. If the film is released this year, it could further confuse the race. Bernal, meanwhile, puts his body on the line in a tender turn as Saul Armendariz, the gay Mexican wrestler known as “Liberace Lucha Libre.” Bernal attended the world premiere of “Cassandro” at Sundance in January, but was unable to attend its Telluride screening or its September screening. 22 debuts on Prime Video. One can only hope that academy voters will understand his powerful performance without the hype.

Longest running rush: TIE, Jonathan Glaser’s Zone of Interest (December 8) and Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall (October 13).

With the exception of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite in 2019, Cannes Film Festival favorites often end up being too pretentious for the Academy’s tastes. Two years ago, the brutal and aggressive Palme d’Or winner Titan didn’t even make it into the international feature film race. However, as commercial Hollywood collapses due to strikes, both Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning legal thriller and Glaser’s chilling Holocaust film (which finished second at the festival) are not only gaining traction, but gaining traction. They also star the same German actress Sandra Hüller, who could join Domingo in the competition in two categories – she is talented abroad and is therefore not on strike.

Wildest Card: Andrew Scott in We Are All Strangers (December 22)

British director Andrew Haigh’s 2015 film 45 Years received enough support to earn Charlotte Rampling a Best Actress nomination. His latest, a sexy and tender ghost story about the romance of two lonely gay men, will test whether the academy is truly keeping up with the times. Scott, aka the hot priest from Fleabag, has never been the center of attention in movies. And his performance as a middle-aged writer whose early traumas prevented him from experiencing love, opposite the equally vulnerable Paul Mescal (last year’s surprise best actor nominee), had most of the audience running out of the theater in tears. amazement.

Best Non-Retiree: Hayao Miyazaki, “The Boy and the Heron” (December 8)

The epic fantasy, set in rural Japan during World War II, has been billed as the 83-year-old animation master’s final film. In it, a 12-year-old boy travels through space and time, befriends magical creatures and fights giants while menacing parrots. It seems like a profound parable about death and climate change. It seemed like a contender for Best Animated Feature like 2001’s Spirited Away and perhaps a Best Picture title, but now – surprise! — Miyazaki is no longer retiring. He will lose some of the honor factor of the vote, but what a fortuitous turn of events for all of us.

A New England Preparatory School instructor remains on campus during the Christmas break to supervise students who also remain at school. (Video: The Washington Post)

Best chance for a repeat nomination pile: Alexander Payne’s The Leftovers (Nov. 10).

It’s both Payne’s Christmas movie and a wonderful reunion between the director and his Sideways star Paul Giamatti, who plays a grumpy boys’ prep school teacher forced to look after the “leftovers” who can’t go home during the holidays. break. Let’s take a look at the history: Three of Payne’s last four films have been nominated for best picture and best director, starting with 2004’s Sideways, which received five nominations and won for adapted screenplay (Payne won again for The Descendants). Giamatti, however, was not nominated – and his stunning performance has only aged in our collective assessment, like a fine wine. Look for academy members to make up for this neglect and also reward Payne’s old-fashioned, heartfelt courage. The film also features standout performances from HBO’s Idol’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph and newcomer Dominic Sessa.

The story of the life and career of former spy David Cornwell, known in the literary world as John le Carré. (Video: Apple TV+)

Documentary Worth Beating:Pigeon Tunnel” (October 20)

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m not a fan of Errol Morris. I’ve never read a John Le Carré novel. But I was glued to my seat throughout this unconventional documentary, which is based entirely on the words of David Cornwell, who used le Carré as a pseudonym and died in December 2020, telling his life story knowing the end was near. . Morris, who won best documentary the only time he was nominated for 2004’s The Fog of War, presents archival photographs and interviews as if filmed through broken mirrors and illustrates anecdotes with wordless reconstructions, all of which evoke anxiety. from Philip Glass and Paul Leonard-Morgan. It’s like a thriller.

Shorts Race Recap: Pedro Almodóvar’s A Strange Way of Life (October 6) and Wes Anderson’s The Marvelous Story of Henry Sugar (September 20)

If you’re a short film director, this is either your best year or your worst year, depending on your tendency to be optimistic. Two of the industry’s most beloved directors entered the race with much fanfare. Almodóvar went to

Cannes and Toronto with a 31-minute gay western designed to bring the heat he felt was missing from Brokeback Mountain, starring Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke as lovers. Anderson received the director’s award in Venice during the premiere of his 40-minute short film, based on the Roald Dahl story and starring Benedict Cumberbatch. They could crush all other competitors or become the catalyst for the most popular short-form program of all time. Stay tuned!


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that director Andrew Haigh’s last film was 45 Years. His most recent film was 2017’s Lean on Pete. David Cornwell’s last name was also omitted. The article has been corrected.

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