Out of boredom or restlessness I’ve asked some of the Oscar whisperers to share what they’re sensing or smelling about the likeliest Best Picture contenders. But they couldn’t be roused from their early June, waiting-to-see-Jurassic World, pre-Los Angeles Film Festival slumbers. Of course it’s too early but it’s not crazy early. The programs for the Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals are currently starting to take shape as we speak and will be all but firmed less than two months hence. And the publicists repping the likeliest contenders definitely know what they have or don’t have (hence the recently announced London Film Festival premiere of Suffragette and the N.Y. Film Festival debut of Robert Zemeckis‘s The Walk) so don’t tell me.
The game is on right now whether the Oscar blogaroonies want to acknowledge it or not. So here, right now, are nine films that seem to have the best credentials and tastiest aromas, and in this order. Spitballing these is nothing brilliant or even audacious– it’s just something to do on a warm June day:
* Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs (Universal, 10.9), which I’ve read and believe to be quite brilliant, not in spite of the dialogue-driven, stage-play feeling but oddly because of it. I won’t elaborate any further but it’s another “drilling into a prick genius” piece, revealed layer by layer via the old Aaron Sorkin rat-a-tat-tat.
* Tom Hooper‘s The Danish Girl (Focus Features, 11.27) — Flagrantly baity. Director Tom Hooper and Oscar party-circuit charmer Eddie Redmayne ride again. Everybody on the Danish Girl team will be riding the wave of the current p.c. transgender sensitivity vogue du jour (i.e., if you don’t celebrate it you’ll be hammered on Twitter as a transgender bigot), etc.
* Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s The Revenant (20th Century Fox, 12.25) — Inarritu and dp Emmanuel Lubezski are on a roll. Blast-off reactions to Chivo’s natural light cinematography at Cinemacon. It seems unlikely that Fox would open both The Revenant and Joy on Christmas day. Probable adjustments forthcoming.
* Todd Haynes‘ Carol (Weinstein Co., 12.18) — the toast of Cannes, an all-but-certain Best Picture contender, Rooney Mara or Cate Blanchett for Best Actress?, Best Director, Best Cinematography (Ed Lachman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy).
* John Crowley‘s Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight, no date yet) — Across-the-board Sundance raves made this seem like the year’s first Best Picture contender. “Despite its familiar structure it’s a thing of beauty, a delicate, tender period piece about nice people trying to do their best.” — N.Y. Post‘s Kyle Smith.
* David O. Russell‘s Joy (20th Century Fox, 12.25) — Jennifer Lawrence doing the spunky blue-collar battle-axe thing for Russell again (following similar turns in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook) in this biographical comedy-drama about Joy Mangano, inventor of the “Miracle Mop.”
* James Vanderbilt‘s Truth (Sony Pictures Classics, no date yet) — Insider-like drama about the downfall of CBS News anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) after he and producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) delivered a “controversial” report in ’04 about how President Bush, then running for reelection, had received preferential treatment to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War.
* Oliver Stone‘s Snowden (Open Road, 12.25) — Joseph Gordon Levitt‘s performance as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will be his second important-historical-figure role of the year, the first being legendary wire-walker Philippe Petit in Robert Zemeckis‘ The Walk. (Both The Walk and Snowden are, of course, narrative rebirthings of Oscar-winning docs, Man on Wire and Citizenfour respectively.)
* Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy — Most critically hailed indie-level film so far this year. Paul Dano has to be in the mix for Best Actor; ditto John Cusack. Boomer catnip.
Possibles, Uncertainties, Maybes: Martin Scorsese‘s Silence (2016?), David Gordon Green‘s Our Brand Is Crisis, Jay Roach‘s Trumbo, Paolo Sorrentino‘s Youth.
Other Yet-To-Open Notables: Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash, Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass, Steven Spielberg‘s Bridge of Spies, Angelina Jolie‘s By The Sea, Peter Landesman‘s Concussion, Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition, Richard Linklater‘s Everybody Wants Some, Joel & Ethan Coen‘s Hail Caesar!, Stephen Frears‘ Icon, Jodie Foster‘s Money Monster, Thomas McCarthy‘s Spotlight.