The 2016/2017 Oscar race taught us about a major seismic shift in the way younger Oscar voters (i.e., the Academy cool kidz) are seeing things now, as opposed to just five years ago when the old boomer-farty Oscar-worthy standards still applied. Traditional Oscar-bait movies are now regarded askance, and identity politics are almost everything. Oscar-bait now means indie, socially relevant, ‘woke’, tribal identity, etc.
Because Oscars are the new Spirits. Technical, artistic achievement means squat for the new-generation Academy. They want politically charged messages and they wanna take a stand, and tribal identity politics definitely drives their votes. “The under-40 crowd has invested Race, Gender and Sexuality with a kind of cosmic significance,” an HE commenter said earlier this year. “It doesn’t mean a lot to them — it means everything to them.”
So what does this mean in terms of the 2018 Best Picture race? There are 15 contenders right now, and eight of these are tribal-identity pics.
Two of the eight are POC dramas — Barry Jenkins‘ If Beale Street Could Talk and Spike Lee‘s Black Klansman. And six are about strong women — Josie Rourke‘s Mary, Queen of Scots (Universal, 11.2), Mimi Leder‘s On The Basis of Sex (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), Yorgos Lanthimos‘ The Favourite (Queen Anne), Bjorn Runge‘s The Wife, Robert Zemeckis‘s The Women of Marwen (fantasy) and Steve McQueen‘s Widows.
There are also a pair of potentially stand-outtish political films — Adam McKay‘s Backseat (Dick Cheney) and Jason Reitman‘s The Front Runner (Gary Hart).
Plus five films that you could describe as character intrigue for character intrigue’s sake — Damien Chazelle‘s First Man, Bryan Singer‘s Bohemian Rhapsody (15-year period from the formation of Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury up to their performance at Live Aid in 1985), David Lowery‘s The Old Man and the Gun, Richard Linklater‘s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Jennifer Kent‘s The Nightingale.
The numerical odds alone suggest that the Best Picture winner will be chosen from among the six strong women films. Handicappers said the 2018 Best Picture winner would reflect the #TimesUp, year-of-the-woman cultural zeitgeist thing. It didn’t happen, but it probably will next year.
The willingness of the Academy cool kidz to nominate genre films means that Steve McQueen‘s Widows and The Old Man and the Gun, both essentially caper films, have a clear shot.
The likeliest Best Foreign-Language Feature nominees right now are Terrence Malick‘s Radegund (Germany), Asghar Farhadi‘s Everybody Knows (Spain), Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma (Mexico); Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War (Poland) and Laszlo Nemes‘ Sunset (Hungary). Identity Politics (POC): 1. Barry Jenkins‘ If Beale Street Could Talk (Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Teyonah Parris, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Diego Luna, Dave Franco); 2. Spike Lee‘s Black Klansman;
Political Movies: 1. Adam McKay‘s Back Seat (Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell) vs. Jason Reitman‘s The Front Runner;
Identity Politics (Strong Women): 1. Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots (w/ Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Jack Lowden, Guy Pearce); 2. Bjorn Runge‘s The Wife (Glenn Close‘s Best Actress campaign + Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Annie Starke. Max Irons); 3. Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On The Basis of Sex; 4. Yorgos Lanthimos‘ The Favourite (reign of Queen Anne in early 17th Century) — Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, John Tormey; 5. Robert Zemeckis‘s The Women of Marwen; 6. Steve McQueen‘s Widows (Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, Andre Holland, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell).
Character Intrigue for Character Intrigue’s Sake: 1. Damien Chazelle‘s First Man, a space drama about NASA’s Duke of Dullness, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke); 2. Bryan Singer‘s Bohemian Rhapsody (15-year period from the formation of Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury up to their performance at Live Aid in 1985) w/ Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, Allen Leech, Lucy Boynton. 20th Century Fox, 12.25.18; 3.
David Lowery‘s The Old Man and the Gun w/ Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss; David Lowery‘s The Old Man and the Gun w/ Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss; 4. Richard Linklater‘s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer); 5. Jennifer Kent‘s The Nightingale (period revenge thriller).
Best Foreign-Language Feature: 1. Terrence Malick‘s Radegund (August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jürgen Prochnow, Bruno Ganz; 2. Asghar Farhadi‘s Todos lo saben (Spanish-language drama w/ Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Barbara Lennie, Ricardo Darin, Inma Cuesta, Eduard Fernandez Javier Camara); Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma (Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, Daniela Demesa, Enoc Leaño, Daniel Valtierra); Cold War (d: Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida) Cast: Joanna Kulig, Agata Kulesza, Borys Szyc, Tomasz Kot, Adam Ferency; Laszlo Nemes‘ Sunset (a young girl grows up to become a strong and fearless woman in Budapest before World War I) w/ Susanne Wuest, Vlad Ivanov, Björn Freiberg.
Lamentably Not Opening Until 2019: Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano).