It’s that time of the year again when the Oscar bait starts to roll in, and films that you’ve been longing to see all year finally make their appearance in cinemas. Some will disappoint, some will downright infuriate, making you question what exactly made you think that they could have been intriguing projects to begin with. But some do end up being good. Really good. Only one of them will receive the greatest honour of Academy Award for Best Picture – well, unless you count last edition, which awarded two, albeit one of them held the distinction of best film of the year for under a minute.
That being said, I don’t think that Oscar winners will always be the best films of the year – I disagree almost every time about the eventual winners, and feel that many superior productions are not given enough attention simply because of their less than mainstream status, or indeed their ability to generate controversy. It’s why Darren Aronofsky’s Mother most likely won’t grace the nominations section this year, unfortunately, just like many gems before it didn’t. Still, presence on this select list is indeed a good indicator of quality, and the productions fighting for the big prize will almost certainly be damn good films. So, here are the most likely candidates for the Best Picture Academy Award, in order of their chances of success. It’s not a given, but I would be really surprised if a film that is not in this list walks away with the big prize.
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh)
The likeliest victor at the time of writing delights me. I’ve loved Martin McDonagh ever since I watched In Bruges as a teenager, while the humour and subtle intelligence of Seven Psychopaths touched me in special areas of my heart that very few things have managed to touch. Therefore, the prospect of his new film winning big, thus cementing this Irish Tarantino’s status in the history of filmmaking is indeed something I’ll be looking forward to over the next few months. Sadly, there’s no Colin Farrell, as we got used to from Martin McDonagh projects, but there’s Sam Rockwell, and that’s all that matters!
2. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)
I love Chris Nolan, I really do. And I loved Dunkirk, I really did. That being said, I don’t think this film does enough to be positioned above all other films of the year. Nolan certainly showcases his talent and applies it extremely well to the context, but, as I’ve said after every Batman film he made, his skills are so astonishing that he should put them to better, more original work. Something more along the lines of Memento, or The Prestige. I miss old Nolan, but I have to say, new Nolan is clearly more award prone. Therefore, I would not be surprised if Dunkirk wins Best Picture.
3. The Post (Steven Spielberg)
When was the last time that a Steven Spielberg film fared so badly that it was not on the nominee lists for the most prestigious awards of the year? Well, last year actually, but no matter. Having two of the best actors of the last few decades, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, certainly helps The Post’s cause. The last biographical political Best Picture winner was only two year ago, though, so I’d rate its chances to win a bit lower than those of the top two.
4. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
The fourth entry only emphasizes the point that quite a legendary quartet of directors will be fighting for the big prize early next year. The other amazing Mexican director (alongside Alejandro González Iñárritu, obviously) comes into contention with probably his best film since the excellent Pan’s Labyrinth – and incidentally, a fantasy adventure flick as well. With a great cast including Michael Shannon (who should get a well-earned Oscar sooner rather than later), Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer, things will certainly be looking good for del Toro if this year’s voting showcases a rather more fantasy-prone disposition.
5. The Florida Project (Sean Baker)
Ah, yes, here’s my dark horse for the competition. The recent editions of Academy Awards have showed some love to at least one indie, low-budget film, and chances are that the tradition will be perpetuated more or less anytime. So, The Florida Project is my pick for this year’s honour. Made by Sean Baker, who wrote and directed the excellent Tangerine two years ago, and starting Willem Dafoe and a 6-year old Brooklynn Prince, the film has been warmly received by critics and the public alike, and will thus likely figure on the Oscar shortlist.