Everyone knows about the Academy Awards, but few know about why certain types of films get nominated over others. For years, with a few exceptions, the majority of the films nominated for Oscar statues consist of dramas and biopics, usually in the historical genre or focusing on some aspect of the movie industry. And while such bias has been noted and criticized by many, another common factor found with many of the nominees, and almost every winner has appeared in at least one of the three major film festivals that occur in September.
Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF for short. While there are other major film festivals before these three, the following are when most future Oscar nominees and winners are watched for the first time and begin generating buzz among movie buffs, critics and, most importantly, Academy members. In the past years, Venice, Telluride and TIFF featured the likes of “12 Years a Slave,” “Spotlight,” “Room,” “Lion,” “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” to name just a few, all being a part of at least one of the film festivals mentioned.
With all three festivals having now wrapped up, the picture for what next year’s Oscar nominees are clearer, with a lot of interesting contenders fighting one another for Oscar gold. Looking squarely at the 6 major categories, this is a basic idea of the competitive battle in the awards circuit and what could possibly happen once next February rolls around. Of course, the important thing to remember is there are still many other films at play, and just because a film isn’t appearing at Telluride or TIFF doesn’t mean it won’t be nominated. Already released features such as “Get Out” and “Dunkirk” are considered frontrunners for Best Picture, and there are upcoming films no one has seen yet, such as Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” which have great chances for many of the major categories. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into the hot topics:
Best Supporting Actress
The big battle seems to be brewing upon two veterans: Allison Janney for the Tonya Harding biopic “I, Tonya,” and Laurie Metcalf for the coming-of-age dramedy “Lady Bird.” Both have garnered career-best notices, and both are considered some of the film’s highlights, making them as close to a nomination as they can get. Janney’s buzz as Harding’s kooky mother has been so large, many believe she has a shot at winning the Oscar, thanks to her knack for playing such eccentric characters, as best shown for her Emmy-winning work on the hit CBS show “Mom.”
Two other possible contenders are found with Octavia Spencer in the Guillermo Del Toro pic “The Shape of Water,” about a mute woman and her growing relationship with a government-created sea monster during the Cold War, and relative newcomer Hong Chau in the comedy-drama “Downsizing,” about a man who takes part in a process where he shrinks down to 5 inches tall in an attempt to escape his stressful, dull life. Previous Oscar winner Spencer will likely be nominated for a third time in the exact same category and will take part in what is likely to be a massive amount of representation of “Shape of Water” within all the major categories. But the real standout is Chau. Asian actors very rarely get the opportunity to have major roles in feature films, and even pre-established characters that are Asian are whitewashed in favor of bigger names, as seen with films like “Doctor Strange” and “Ghost in the Shell.” But while “Downsizing” has garnered a polarizing reception, Chau has often been cited as the film’s highlight and the breakout star of the feature, making her a likely candidate as the 6th Asian actress to get a Supporting Actress nomination.
Best Supporting Actor
The big frontrunner would likely have to be Sam Rockwell in the dark comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a film about a mother using three billboards outside of her town to condemn the local police for failing to look for a culprit. His complex transformative performance as a dirty police officer has given Rockwell career-best notices, with Variety critic Owen Gleiberman reporting Rockwell gives “a high-wire performance, daring to make himself gnarly and dislikable, only to undergo a transformation that the actor…makes spiritually convincing.”
Also in the race are Willem DaFoe as the seemingly stern but good-hearted motel owner in “The Florida Project,” Michael Shannon as the cruel antagonist in “The Shape of Water,” and two actors in the gay drama “Call Me By Your Name.” Armie Hammer, the love interest to “Call Me’s” main character, hasn’t garnered an exceedingly large amount of support, but his importance to the film and passionate portrayal of a man struggling to understand his own sexuality is bound to get many Academy members moved and appreciative of the work Hammer put into the film, especially with the film expected to be a lock for Best Director and Picture. Michael Stuhlbarg, playing the main character’s father doesn’t appear in “Call Me” for very long, but what makes him a frontrunner has to do with one scene near the end of the film; a scene that supposedly wraps up all of the themes and ideas found throughout the film in a powerful monologue that leaves people to ponder about the film and what it represents. While Stuhlbarg is more likely to be nominated, don’t be surprised if both are part of the final five come February.
When the Winston Churchill biopic “Darkest Hour” was first announced, many believed Gary Oldman’s performance as the famous prime minister would lead to the veteran actor earning an Oscar nomination. After the film’s release at Telluride and TIFF, many believe Oldman’s performance could lead to him earning the Oscar win. While Winston Churchill has been portrayed several times over the past few years, most notably with John Lithgow in the Netflix series “The Crown.” But Oldman’s performance has gotten nothing but career-best praise, with many saying he depicts the man in a way never seen before.
Outside of that, the two other frontrunners come from Timothee Chalamet in “Call Me By Your Name” and James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.” Chalamet has appeared in other works before, including “Homeland” and “Interstellar,” but his performance as a young man discovering his sexuality has turned the actor into a breakout star, with his likely Oscar nomination potentially giving the twenty-one-year-old a huge career boost. James Franco’s portrayal of the infamous director Tommy Wiseau has garnered acclaim, for his ability to make Wiseau both a joke but also sympathetic, portraying the eccentric director as someone human and inhuman at the same time.
Surprisingly, the following three are the only real standouts from the festivals, as actors like Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) and Andrew Garfield (“Breathe”) failed to make a significant splash, making the race weak and dull.
On the other hand, Best Actress is an absolute bloodbath. Emma Stone has been praised for her work as Billie Jean King in the tennis film “Battle of the Sexes,” possibly leading to another nomination fresh off her win last year. Jessica Chastain in the Aaron Sorkin-directed “Molly’s Game” has also been earning raves, launching her into the race when she originally didn’t seem to be a player. Saorise Ronan has also been predicted to follow up her nomination for “Brooklyn” two years ago in “Lady Bird,” where she plays a young woman coming of age and attempting to search for her independence. Margot Robbie’s also getting raves for her portrayal of Tonya Harding in the film “I, Tonya,” giving the “Suicide Squad” actress a shot at the Oscar gold.
The two locks however seem to be Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water” and Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Hawkins’ portrayal of a mute janitor has instantly garnered her buzz and headlines, and McDormand’s performance as a snarky, foul-mouthed mother is not only cited as hilarious, but also heartfelt and sympathetic, making the veteran actress one of the many standouts in the flick, and making the Best Actress one of the most varied and exciting in quite some time.
The competition for the most important category of them all is always a fierce one, and judging by the film festivals, this year is no different. Many of the films listed previously have garnered a substantial amount of buzz that will lead them to a nomination: As of now, with the exception of July’s “Dunkirk,” the top three Oscar nominees seem to be “Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards” and “Call Me By Your Name.”
“Shape of Water” has been Guillermo del Toro’s highest-rated film since “Pan’s Labyrinth,” winning the Golden Lion Award, Venice Film Festival’s most prestigious prize. “Three Billboards” won the TIFF Audience Award, turning heads and spiking the film’s Best Picture chances. “Call Me By Your Name” was a runner-up, effectively helping to make the film’s nomination secure.
The rest? A total bloodbath, as “Darkest Hour,” “The Florida Project,” “Lady Bird,” “Battle of the Sexes” and more are all fighting against one another, with each and every one battling for the remaining seats at the Best Picture table.
It’s unknown what the final results will be until January 2018, but with Venice, Telluride and TIFF at a close, there’s a decent understanding of what to expect, and no matter what happens, plenty of great films will be rewarded for their craft, talent and passion next February.