By John H. Foote

The race for the Academy Award for Best Picture is ramping up, getting interesting for the first time since the festival season. There are so many variables shaking up the race, but those very variables are making things clearer.

Being a Netflix production are Roma’s chances, despite rave reviews, diminishing?

Will the poor box office, but great reviews of First Man hurt the film’s chances as a Best Picture nominee?

Will Black Panther, getting a huge Oscar campaign from Disney, make the cut, finally seeing a superhero movie nominated for Best Picture?

Can Mary Poppins Returns, said to be a delight shake up the Best Picture race?

Will Clint Eastwood’s The Mule leap into the race?

With five potential African American Best Director nominees, which also get a Best Picture nod?

Will the Academy embrace diversity by nominating African American Films?

Will they embrace diversity by embracing Crazy Rich Asians?

Can A Star is Born continue its torrid pace all the way to Best Picture?

Could there be a dark horse winner, such as BlacKkKlansman (correct spelling folks), which might have the distinction of being the first Spike Lee-directed film to be nominated for Best Picture? If Lee is nominated for Best Director and the film is up for Best Picture, it is a possibility.

Mary Poppins Returns is rumored to be fantastic. The original was nominated for 13 Academy Awards won five. It could be a player.

Last year Get Out (2017), a solid however overrated film was up for major awards including a Best Picture. Will the same honours be accorded the vastly superior A Quiet Place? It should definitely be nominated.

Will the audience loved, critically beloved Green Book swoop in to nab Best Picture, allowing Bradley Cooper to win Best Director, Gaga taking a Best Actress, Mortensen and Ali winning Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor?

Who knows and, might I add, no one knows anything until the morning after the awards are given out. As poor Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway discovered, even when you announce the Best Picture winner, it might not be so. Right now there are so many possible outcomes it boggles the brain.

Green Book is a wonderful film, beautifully acted, directed and written, speaking to racism in the sixties but making the point it exists today. Heartwarming, a beautiful sensitive study of an unlikely friendship, it would be a worthy winner.

A Star is Born, the third remake of the film, has been universally acclaimed and seems beloved. It could, in fact, win the top four – Picture, Director, Actress, and Actor, but I doubt it. Cooper will likely take Director. If Gaga can overcome the love-in for Glenn Close, the Oscar is hers. A sweep? Cannot see it, but…

First Man is a genuinely great American film that explores a time when great things were possible in America. Exploring, and beautifully, the 1969 moon landing, Director Damien Chazelle brilliantly placed the audience in the seat of the astronaut, showing what they saw, how they felt. I think it is a masterpiece, one of the recent truly great films of America, but audiences are not finding it, which is sad. Hopefully, audiences will find it on a Blu Ray.

Spike Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman has been both an audience and critical hit and is also wildly entertaining. The picture also gives an inside look at the destructive power of hate within the KKK.

If Lee’s film is nominated I doubt Black Panther will be, and as much as I enjoyed that film, it does not measure up to either The Dark Knight (2008) or Wonder Woman (2017), both which deserved Best Picture nods. On the outside looking in at this point is If Beale Street Could Talk, from Director-writer Barry Jenkins, another African American story that could break into the mix.

And we are still waiting for reactions to Mary Poppins Returns, The Mule and Vice, though given their positioning for release, obviously each studio has great confidence in them.

When I write about this again, the critics’ awards will have been given and the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild nominations will have been announced. The landscape will, again, have been altered.

The National Board of Review hand out their awards within the next 10 days, the all-important New York Film Critics Circle announce their winners November 29, and with that awards season is away. With that, I suspect the landscape changes yet again.

What was it David Bowie sang, “ch-ch-changes…..”!

Leave a comment