The year is more than halfway over and the field for Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars is hazy, to say the least. Most of the films that are drawing buzz have not premiered yet at major film festivals, which means their theatrical release date will be in the fall. There’s no such thing as a “sure thing,” but this year, in particular, has more questions than answers.
Where are all of the contenders in the first half of the year? If you’re looking for this year’s Get Out or Mad Max: Fury Road, which both hit theaters before June in their respective years, your search will come up short. That’s not to say there haven’t’ been any critically acclaimed films or box office success that will garner awards consideration. Us, Apollo 11, Toy Story 4*, and The Farewell have all been lauded by critics across the board. However, the likelihood that these films receive Best Picture nominations is slim.
*Toy Story 3 was the last animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. Depending on how the back half of the year goes will determine if Toy Story 4 can sneak into the Best Picture race.
The lack of Best Picture buzz for the first half of the year is concerning, but not problematic. The majority of films looking to be in awards contention position their release dates between September and December/early January so they stay fresh in voters’ minds and can be seen at the box office while the awards are happening. In fact, the last film to win Best Picture that had its release date before July was The Hurt Locker, which had its release in late June 2009.
Although the first half of the year provided little hope, the future is still bright. The film community won’t have to wait until September to see a contender. In fact, the first film that will receive major Oscar buzz premieres on July, 26. That film is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
If you could draw up the perfect film to receive awards consideration, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be the blueprint. It includes huge movie stars like Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who is returning to the big screen for the first time since his Oscar-winning performance in The Revenant. The film involves a well-known and well-received director in Quentin Tarantino, who previously won two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. Plus, the Academy loves films about Hollywood that capture the true essence of cinema, which is the very nature of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 5/5 stars and said it’s “entirely outrageous, disorientating, irresponsible, and also brilliant.”
Speaking of festivals, there are three major ones that typically serve as launching pads for the Best Picture race. They are the Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). All three festivals will occur over the course of a few weeks at the end of August through the middle of September. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Green Book, premiered at TIFF. In 2017, The Shape of Water premiered at Venice. In 2016, Moonlight premiered at Telluride. It’s no secret as to why films with awards’ aspirations premiere at these three major festivals. If a film has a strong premiere at one of the three festivals, it’s odds for entering the Best Picture conversation dramatically increase.
According to Variety, Joker with Joaquin Phoenix, Bradd Pitt’s space epic Ad Astra, Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts, Fernando Meirelles’ The Pope, and The Burnt Orange Heresy starring Mick Jagger are all rumored to be showing at Venice. Since 2014, at least one film has been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars that was shown at Venice so expect the same to happen this year. The lineups have not been announced for Telluride or Toronto, but it’s a guarantee that films from the festival will draw Best Picture hype.
Films that should also accumulate serious Best Picture conversations: Martin Scorsese’s star-studded The Irishman, Ford v. Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the musical adaptation of Cats featuring Taylor Swift, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Goldfinch starring Ansel Elgort, Ang’s Lee Gemini Man starring Will Smith, and Jay Roach’s Fair and Balanced about the former head of Fox News, Roger Ailes.
There’s bound to be at least a few films not previously mentioned that sneak up on the film community and join the Best Picture race. That being said, here are my best guesses for Best Picture nominees at the 2020 Oscars as of July 17.
Best Picture Predictions
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
- Ad Astra
- Fair and Balanced
- Ford v. Ferrari
- The Irishman
- Little Women
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- Toy Story 4
Only time will tell as to which films receive nominations. However, with an abundance of films premiering these next five months, the Best Picture race is about to take off.