The Venice, Telluride, and Toronto film festivals are finished and the 2016-2017 Academy Awards season is officially underway. The crop of contenders is growing by the week, promising many evenings of entertainment for cinema-goers in the coming months.
Experts from every corner of the industry are eagerly logging their Oscar predictions (never mind that the ceremony isn’t until February). This year’s harvest includes the requisite war film and a glittery musical, the A-list biopic and several historical epics, and, with any luck, no sequel to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite scandal.
Get out your calendar and start marking off movie nights. These are the must-see Oscar-bait films coming to cinemas soon.
La La Land
Hollywood loves nothing more than itself, so critics are betting big on La La Land scoring well with the Academy. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star as a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. As they struggle to make ends meet in a city known for breaking hearts, following their dreams threatens to tear them apart. If the cast and premise don’t sound Oscar bait-y enough, it’s also a musical. Expect to hear a lot about this film.
A five-year-old Indian boy finds himself lost on the streets of Kolkata, thousands of kilometres from home and family. He learns to survive on his own before being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, he sets out to find his lost family and rediscover his first home – using Google Earth. Lion is based on a true story and stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, and Nicole Kidman.
Directed by Denzel Washington and adapted from August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, Fences is a strong frontrunner for this year’s Academy Awards. Washington plays an African-American father wrestling with the accomplishments of his life and race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s. This is his second time in the role, following a run on Broadway in 2010 that earned him a Tony Award.
Hell or High Water
If any indie has a chance of making a splash, it’s Hell or High Water. The critically acclaimed modern-day Western and gritty heist flick beat the odds at the art house box office and is currently one of the best-reviewed movies of the year on Rotten Tomatoes. The film follows two brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) as they resort to a desperate scheme to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. Before long, they’re pursued by a Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) and his team.
Loving celebrates the real-life courage and commitment of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple who spent nine years fighting for the right to live as a family in their hometown. Their civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and ended in the invalidation of laws prohibiting interracial marriage in 1967.
Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) – three brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Purists may want to read the book before seeing the film.
Natalie Portman has been getting heaps of buzz for her portrayal of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the wake of the 1963 assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. The searing, intimate portrait illustrates her struggle to fight through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy – all while maintaining her legendary dignity and poise.
This Scorsese passion project, about the persecution of a Jesuit missionary in 17th century Japan, has been in the works for an astonishing 26 years. That timeframe alone is enough to catch the Academy’s attention, but the big-name director and noteworthy cast (Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield) surely won’t hurt.
A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young gay black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Expect a slow-build, emotional tearjerker that has early reviewers convinced awards are on their way.
Manchester by the Sea
The life of a solitary Boston janitor (Casey Affleck) is transformed when he returns to his hometown to care for his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies. Manchester by the Sea is an utterly Oscar-worthy exploration of the power of love, community, sacrifice, and hope. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus calls it an “affecting drama populated by full-bodied characters” and “another strong step forward for writer-director Kenneth Lonergan.”
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Previous Oscar-winner Ang Lee is back with the tale of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn, who is hailed as a hero and brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing tour in Iraq. Through flashbacks, the film reveals what really happened to the squad, contrasting the realities of the Iraq conflict with perceptions back home. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is the first full-length narrative film shot in 4K, native 3D at the ultra high rate of 120 frames per second.
Keep An Eye On: Hacksaw Ridge, Miss Sloane, Collateral Beauty, Allied, Live By Night, and the controversy-embroiled The Birth Of A Nation.