By John H. Foote
It has been a year at the movies unlike any other. 2020 will go down in history as the year the movies were forced, due to the pandemic, to welcome streaming to their industry. Knowing if they did not accept the new business, they would sink, they began streaming their films, and slowly it caught on. Major films were cancelled until next year, summer blockbusters were pushed back again and again and again. Steven Spielberg cancelled West Side Story until next year, as did the huge science fiction epic Dune.
Yet the movies persevered.
Somehow as they always have, they continued. They did not allow television to defeat them in the fifties through the sixties, home video did not defeat them, nor did Blu Ray, but now they face a formidable opponent they might have to work with. Will movie theatres ever open again? If they do it will be in limited numbers and, when a film is released into a cinema, they might have to be streamed that same day. Streaming will become as integral to the movies as sound. This foolish war the Academy has had with Netflix over the last five years must end, and this could be the year it does.
Here are the films likely to be in the race for Best Picture, many of the Netflix produced.
MANK – From Netflix comes this black and white film, a masterpiece about the writing and creation of the film Citizen Kane and the battle to create the film. Gary Oldman is Mank (Herman Mankiewicz) the co-writer with Orson Welles of Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman should be a Best Actor nominee, and win, as Mank, with strong support from Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst, the basis for Kane. Directed by David Fincher, the absolute frontrunner.
NOMADLAND – Frances McDormand could win her third Oscar for Best Actress as a widow who pulls stakes and becomes a modern-day nomad, drifting across the United States. McDormand is truly breathtaking in the role, the film nicely directed by Chloe Zhao.
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN – Long in development hell, once the property of Steven Spielberg, Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin took the property over and directed the film on his own. A magnificent cast headed by Eddie Redmayne gives the narrative a compelling push in exploring the story of the radicals brought before the court in 1969.
THE FATHER – Anthony Hopkins could be headed for his second Academy Award as Best Actor for his performance as a dementia suffering father coming to terms with his own limitations. Olivia Colman is his daughter, equally superb. This was a hit at Sundance before the COVID madness set in.
NEWS OF THE WORLD – Paul Greengrass directs this western featuring Tom Hanks as a man who rides through the American West reading the news of the world for the many small towns. He takes under his protection a young girl, hoping to deliver her to relatives though he meets many challenges. Hanks? Greengrass? I am in.
DA FIVE BLOODS – Spike Lee’s return to Vietnam sees a group of men who fought in the war return to the jungle to bring their dear friend home and search for gold bars they left behind. Delroy Lindo is astonishing and Chadwick Boseman haunting as the ghost of the man they buried in the jungle. Stunning.
ON THE ROCKS – Sofia Coppola’s film reunites she and Bill Murray, as a father called by his daughter for advice when she thinks her husband is cheating. Murray is sublime. Rashida Jones co-stars.
TENET – Without a major blockbuster to nominate, the Academy just might plunk Tenet down in the Best Picture category. Maybe, doubtful but maybe. Nonetheless count on several craft nominations.
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – Another Netflix hopeful, this musical based on the Broadway hit, stars Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, both likely nominees in what is looking like a major contender.
THE MIDNIGHT SKY – George Clooney stars and directs this science fiction thriller with Clooney as a scientist in the far North try to warn a group of astronauts NOT to return to earth as something terrible has happened. If the film is as good as his Good Night and Good Luck, George will be back. Yes, from Netflix.
SUPERNOVA – Two gay men and their love story, acting with achingly beautiful honesty by Colin Firth and the always brilliant Stanley Tucci.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH – The story of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party in 1960 is powerful and timely. Rising star Daniel Kaluuya is Hampton, a role that could land the previously nominated actor (Get Out) another nomination. A shoo in I believe.
HILLBILLY ELEGY – Based on J. V. Vance’s memoir about Appalachians dealing with family issues, dysfunction and drugs, it might be in the mix. Glenn Close and Amy Adams might score nominations, but did Ron Howard make it edgy enough?
THE OUTPOST – A stunning war film I hope makes the cut. Directed superbly by Rod Lurie the film plunges us into the Middle East and every second of the second is heightened by the fact death could come as any time as the Taliban are close and angry. Scott Eastwood and Orland Bloom star, but this is a director’s film.
WONDER WOMAN 1984 – If – and it is a huge if – it is released as promised, now that there is less aversion to nominating comic book films for Best Picture, Wonder Woman 1984 could sneak in. There was a lot of love for the first film and its star Gal Gadot. Could happen. Be cool to see Gadot in that suit again.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.