It’s time to be back in the saddle again for the next Oscar race. The 2020 Oscar season is going to be a little different this year with an accelerated schedule. The 2019 Academy Awards were presented on February 24th, but this year will be on February 9th, cutting two weeks off for voters to think about their choices, and compared to last year, one week will be lost for Oscar nominations, giving voters less time to marinate in their thoughts for who deserves to be nominated where.
So just given our shortened parameters, we could be in for another crazy, wacky year of trying to guess what’s going to be nominated, but for right now, I’ll start laying out which films are coming out in the coming months that may have a shot at receiving at least one Oscar nomination.
It Chapter Two | September 6th
In what will no doubt be the biggest box office weekend of the month, It Chapter Two is the first film I’m looking at. While the first It didn’t make a splash with Oscar voters, now that the clown is out of the box, so to speak, the sequel may be showered with more attention, especially if the reviews are as favorable as they were the first time around. Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Visual Effects will definitely be on the table, but I wouldn’t venture too much hope at this stage for much more.
The Goldfinch | September 13th
Here we have our first film that’s playing at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Goldfinch is adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and has a large ensemble cast, including Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Oakes Fegley, Luke Wilson, and Jeffrey Wright. I’m having a hard time getting excited for this film, because I’m not really grasping from the trailers what kind of a story they’re telling in the movie: is it a tragedy? One of youth’s actions affecting adult’s consequences? One of art stealing? Or is it a combination of all of these?
Just from appearances, I’d say Elgort and Kidman are the two most likely from the cast to garner any awards attention, but maybe Oakes Fegley should be included as well for playing the younger version of Elgort’s character. John Crowly is in the director’s chair, and his last film, Brooklyn, was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture. We also have legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins shooting the film (he also has 1917 coming out later this year). Lastly, since you’re adapting a Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, the screenplay will probably get a leg up on some competition.
Hustlers | September 13th
This, boys and girls, is what I call an ass-covering. While I have absolutely no interest in seeing this film, I am putting it on the list. Why? Well, how about the fact that it’s playing at TIFF? And that two of the producers on the film are Adam McKay and Will Ferrell? Both of them were producers on Vice last year, which was a big player. Also, one of the production companies is Gloria Sanchez (an off-shoot of Gary Sanchez productions), which McKay and Ferrell are big players in. I’m not even sure which categories the film will be playing for, but I don’t expect us to see Cardi B joining the shortlist for Best Supporting Actress anytime soon.
The Sound of Silence | September 13th
No, it’s not a Simon & Garfunkel biopic, but a film starring Peter Sarsgaard as a house tuner working on sonic environments in homes. Not sure what that means or how big of a release the film will have, but Sound of Silence also stars Rashida Jones and Tony Revolori and did play at Sundance this year. It only has 60% on Rotten Tomatoes based on those at Sundance who reviewed it, but again I’d rather not leave anything off the table that could spring up into a big player. Maybe Sarsgaard could become a dark horse contender for Best Actor.
Monos | September 13th
Another Sundance hit that opens this September is Monos, which sounds very interesting. It stars Julianne Nicholson as a hostage being watched over by eight children with guns on a mountaintop. Oh, and there’s also a cow who was drafted by the eight children. Say what you will about how ridiculous that premise sounds, but it scored a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes after Sundance, so perhaps this could turn into a dark horse contender as well. Most of those reviews credited a crazy film score by Mica Levi and jaw-dropping cinematography from Jasper Wolf, so there’s at least two categories that might be on the table.
Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! | September 13th
The final release of September 13th that I have on my list is Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!, which is finally stumbling its way into theaters. The film has had a very rocky road since its debut two years ago at TIFF, where reviews were very mixed at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Since then, director Morgan Spurlock has been accused of sexual misconduct, which led to the film being dropped by YouTube, who purchased it after its TIFF showing. Now the film will pretty much be open to public domain, but the official licenses will be under Snoot Entertainment and Warrior Poets. I’m not exactly sure if all of this will qualify it for any Oscar consideration, but the first Super Size Me was a nominee in 2004, so it at least has that going for it.
Downton Abbey | September 20th
I was not one of the millions of people who loved this show, so I’m not exactly gung-ho about a movie version. The series did garner dozens of nominations across its run, in both top and technical categories, but I really don’t see a ton of excitement coming from Focus Features on this one, otherwise TIFF or the Venice Film Festival might have been a good place to start the campaign for the movie. For now, I’d say Production Design and Costume Design are legitimate plays, and for Supporting Actress, Maggie Smith, a favorite on the show (from what I’ve heard), may see her first nomination in eighteen years. We can’t forget that she did win three Emmys for this role.
Ad Astra | September 20th
Arguably the one film in September with the largest Oscar potential is Ad Astra, which kind of looks like a cheaper version of Interstellar. Even with an all-star cast like Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland, along with James Gray in the director’s chair, I’m not exactly over the moon about this film’s chances. It could easily land in categories like Best Visual Effects, Production Design, Film Editing, and Cinematography (from Interstellar DOP Hoyte van Hoytema), and the sound categories will also be in play. Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and acting categories, however, I’m less high on. Ad Astra will play at Venice, though, and will give us a sign of how high our hopes for Oscar glory can be on the film.
Abominable | September 27th
Last up is Abominable, the latest from Dreamworks Animation. As we enter into the final months of the year, sometimes the most recent animated films get a good boost since they’re top of mind, and Abominable might have that in its back pocket. Of course, Dreamworks will probably have How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World as its big push this year, but Abominable will be screening at TIFF, so maybe we’ll see two films from Dreamworks on the Oscar ballot this year.