Tambay Obenson | Shadow and Act

The list continues to get shorter, as new information is revealed, and we are now at the end of the journey with this being the final list, less than a month (Tuesday, January 23, 2018) before the Academy announces the nominees for the 90th Oscars celebration.

Removed from the list since the last update (October 2017) are:

— Director Reginald Hudlin‘s courtroom drama with Thurgood Marshall at the center (Marshall), starring Chadwick Boseman, taking on another real-life icon – a film that focuses on a case early in the career of the Supreme Court justice, when a nearly bankrupt NAACP sends Marshall to conservative Connecticut to defend a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial. There’s been almost no Oscar buzz around the film, its director or star. The Open Road Films drama which grossed $9.5M in domestic box office, doesn’t appear to have much awards season oomph behind it.

— Broad Green Pictures’ follow-up to the 1999 Oscar-nominated documentary Buena Vista Social Club, which catapulted Cuba’s vibrant music and culture onto the global stage, opened in USA theaters on May 26. Titled Buena Vista Social Club – Adios, Academy Award nominee Lucy Walker directed the sequel. This time around, with the band on their final and hugely ambitious world tour, the 5 original band members take audiences on an intimate journey, revealing their personal and professional highs and lows since the 1999 film, while remembering the infamous and beloved band members no longer with us. The original 1999 film was an Oscar nominee, and this sequel could’ve very well been one as well, in the Best Documentary Feature category, but it failed to advance as one of the 15 films (out of an original 170) selected by voters to compete in the category.

John Ridley’s Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 seemed like a potential Oscar nominee, but it too failed to advance as one of the 15 films selected by voters to compete in the Best Documentary category, which is really the only category it had a shot in. Pegged to the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles uprising, the feature documentary takes a unique and in-depth look at the years and events leading up to the city-wide violence that began April 29, 1992, when the verdict was announced in the Rodney King case. The documentary features exclusive interviews with eyewitnesses and people directly involved in the events from diverse neighborhoods across the city, including black, white, Hispanic, Korean, and Japanese Americans. A team of veteran ABC News journalists join Ridley in the production of Let It Fall, led by producer Jeanmarie Condon, who has been honored for her work on documentaries and in-depth coverage of current events with multiple DuPont, Peabody, Murrow, and Emmy Awards.

— Finally, you may not be familiar with Margaret Betts (a writer and director, and a black woman); but you should get familiar, as her feature directorial debut – the period drama Novitiate – has drawn much critical praise on the international film festival circuit, including stops at Sundance and Toronto. I initially suggested that Betts and her film may be contenders in the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay categories (she wrote and directed the film) to start, but, like Hudlin’s Marshall, there’s been very little Oscar buzz around the film; at least nothing strong enough to compete with the top contenders. So it’s very unlikely that it will receive any Academy Award nominations. Although we’ve now been introduced to Betts, and we’ll certainly be watching for what she does next. Starring Oscar winner Melissa Leo and relative newcomer Margaret Qualley, the film is set in the early 1960s, during the era of Vatican II, and follows a young woman in training to become a nun who struggles with issues of faith, the changing church and sexuality.

New additions to the list since the last update include La 92 (a potential nominee in the Best Documentary category) and The Wound (possible Best Foreign Language Film contender).

Will #OscarsSoWhite trend again in 2018? It just might, given how little diversity there appears to be in terms of the most likely contenders in each main category, at this juncture. But we can identify a small handful of potentials with respect to Shadow & Act’s focus.

Without further ado, here’s where we are currently, as of December 26, 2017, in no specific order. Again, this will be the final predictions list:

1 – Denzel Washington stars in Dan Gilroy’s legal drama Roman J Israel, Esq., the writer/director’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed indie thriller, Nightcrawler. With comparisons being made to Sidney Lumet’s 1982 classic The Verdict, in which Paul Newman plays a lawyer who attempts to save his own career by taking on a medical malpractice case, Washington leads as an attorney dealing with a major change at his firm when he finds out some unfavorable things about his late partner, and decides to right his wrongs. Jennifer Fox, who produced Gilroy’s brother Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton and Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (both strong, critically-acclaimed dramas; Clayton received multiple Oscar nominations and won one) are also producing Roman J Israel, Esq. So there’s talent here both in front of and behind the camera. Among its producers and backers are Charles D. King’s MACRO, which also backed Denzel Washington’s multiple Oscar-nominated Fences. In terms of most likely Oscar contention categories for Roman J Israel, Esq., Washington, as always, just might be there on Oscar night with a nomination for Best Actor.

2 – Another MACRO-backed film, Netflix acquired Dee Rees’ latest directorial effort, Mudbound for $12.5 million, after its successful Sundance Film Festival premiere in January, where it was met with heavy praise from critics and audiences alike, with some at the time already considering it as a potential Oscar contender for 2018 before the festival even ended. A big-screen adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2009 novel of the same name, which is set in 1946 in the wake of World War II, the story follows the fates of two very different families that collide while struggling to make their dreams come true in the Mississippi Delta. When two celebrated soldiers return home, their unlikely friendship complicates the already fraught relationship between the families. This epic pioneer story stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund and Jonathan Banks. Netflix released the film in November, both theatrical (very limited) and streaming simultaneously, as Netflix has done with other feature film acquisitions it’s made in recent years. Potential Oscar categories include Best Picture, Best Director (Rees), Best Supporting Actor (Mitchell), Best Supporting Actress (Blige), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Rees, Virgil Williams).

3 – Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is a film that I almost removed from the list because it didn’t catch fire when it was released in August, the way that one would expect for any Oscar-caliber film to do. But a few members of its ensemble cast continue to appear on awards season expert lists, and probably shouldn’t be ignored. Also worth noting, Bigelow and Boal’s previous collaboration, Zero Dark Thirty, received five Oscar nominations including best picture and best screenplay, Best Supporting Actor. Namely, Algee Smith might be a contender for Best Actor, and John Boyega for Best Supporting Actor. The likelihood for either is not very high, given that it really is more of an ensemble cast drama, and there’s some strong competition in both categories. But that’s why we play the game, right? Bigelow directed the crime drama from an original screenplay by Mark Boal, which is set against the backdrop of Detroit’s devastating riots that took place over five haunting summer days in 1967.

4 – French-Senegalese filmmaker Alain GomisFélicité, is Senegal’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film. And while it’s not a lock for a nomination in that category, the film has received a lot of buzz since it made its world premiere at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the Silver Bear – Grand Jury Prize. It’s made stops at almost every prestigious, awards season international film festival since then, including the Toronto International and New York Film Festival. The France/Senegal/Belgium/Germany/Lebanon co-production was shot in Kinshasa (DRC) and Senegal, and stars Véronique Beya Mputu, Gaetan Claudia and Mpaka Longi, in a story written by Gomis, Olivier Loustau and Delphine Zingg, that centers around a single mother, the titular Félicité, a singer in Kinshasa living with Samo, her 16-year-old son, who is at risk of losing his leg from an accident, unless she can come up with the money to pay for the operation. It’s Gomis’ 4th feature film in about 15 years. It was one of nine features that advanced to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 90th Academy Awards. Ninety-two films had originally been considered in the category.

5 – National Geographic Documentary Films’ documentary LA 92, a riveting look back at the controversial Rodney King trial and subsequent protests, violence and looting of the city, viewed from a multitude of vantage points through visceral and rarely seen archival footage, is a new entry on the list. Produced by Lightbox’s two-time Academy Award winner Simon Chinn (Man on Wire) and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn (American High), with Academy Award-winning directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin (Undefeated), LA 92 was just one of a handful of 2017 films that revisited the 1992 Los Angeles uprising (including John Ridley’s Let It Fall, which was previously on this list, but has been removed as explained above). Using no narration nor talking head interviews, the LA 92 filmmakers decided to take a bold approach in reconstructing the tumultuous events that unfolded in 1992 by exclusively using archival footage and photographs. Culling thousands of hours of visceral broadcast news footage, radio reports, police files and personal home videos – some of which have never been broadcast – the filmmakers tell the story through a variety of different points of view and perspectives and set it all to a rich orchestral score composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. The film saw a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles in the spring, qualifying it for Academy Award consideration. In terms of possible Oscar categories it might contend for, the Best Documentary Feature is obvious, especially as it’s also one of 15 films in the Documentary Feature category that advanced in the voting process for the 90th Academy Awards. One hundred seventy films were originally submitted in the category.

6 – Octavia Spencer is a potential Best Supporting Actress nominee for her performance in Guillermo del Toro’s much buzzed about The Shape of Water, which has received nothing but heavy praise since it premiered at Venice in late August. An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War-era America circa 1962, the story follows lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins), trapped in a life of isolation, working in a hidden high-security government laboratory. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. The fantasy adventure film was released on December 8 in the US to plenty of critical and audience appreciation, putting Spencer in good company, as the star of the film, Sally Hawkins, is high on many predictions list in the Best Actress category.

7 – A film that I previously ignored (because I didn’t think it had a realistic chance of being nominated for any Oscars) is Jordan Peele‘s Get Out, which has begun picking up some awards season notice where it matters, appearing on a number of early contender lists I’ve come across, specifically for Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. How realistic are the film’s chances in any of those categories? It’s anyone’s guess at this point; genre films are very rarely considered for Oscar, but this is one genre film that continues to draw critical attention, so much that it’ll be hard for voters to ignore it. And in a time when diversity is of utmost importance for the industry, there’s a chance that a film like this might sneak into any of the above categories; especially Best Picture, since its a 10-selection category. Peele also has a shot at nominations in the Best Original Screenplay and Best Director categories.

8 – The South African drama from director John Trengove, titled The Wound, chronicles the initiation rites of a South African tribe, as tradition and modernity collide when an urbanized businessman from Johannesburg resolves to expose his 17-year-old son to the circumcision ceremony of his old tribe. It stars multi-talented musician and novelist, Nakhane Touré in his first ever film-role, alongside Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay Ncoyini. It was shot entirely in South Africa with an all-male Xhosa cast. Kino Lorber acquired all North American rights to The Wound and released it in March, after a few marquee international film festival playdates. Trengove’s debut feature film might compete for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar – a possibility which increased just over a week ago, when it was one of nine features selected to advance to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 90th Academy Awards. Ninety-two films had originally been considered in the category.

A list that begun in May, with as many as 15 films on it at one point, the above 8 are the finalists, as this will be our last predictions list. Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced in less than a month, on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

The 90th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Will #OscarsSoWhite trend again in 2018? It just might, given how little diversity there appears to be in terms of the most likely contenders in each main category, at this juncture. But we can at least identify a handful of potentials with respect to Shadow & Act’s focus.

See FULL List of Nominations

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