The odds are good you haven’t seen this year’s Best Picture. Or Best Actor and Actress.
That’s because most of the Oscar-bait films don’t get released until the last weeks of the year. Consider it prestige season, the time when producers think voters will remember their films and put them on the big ballot.
If you made a list of the films that even had a chance from earlier in the year, it’d begin with “Avengers: Endgame” and end with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Jordan Peele’s “Us” is one of the first to be sent to critics and voters, suggesting they don’t forget his eerie film when they start to compile their favorites.
Among the films in release that could get consideration: “The Farewell,” “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Booksmart,” “Parasite,” “Rocketman” and “Joker.”
Among the actors: Joaquin Phoenix is almost a sure bet for his work in “Joker.” Leonardo Di Caprio (“Once Upon a Time”) has a shot, as do Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) and Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite is My Name”). More than likely, those last-minute performances will be jockeying for the four spots left after Phoenix is written in.
Among the actresses: Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), Awkwafina (“The Farewell”) and Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) are safe choices; Jennifer Lopez could be, too, if they put her in the lead (and not supporting) category for “Hustlers.” Outside chances: Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”), Helen Mirren (“The Good Liar”) and Emma Thompson (“Late Night”).
In the supporting actor category, Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) has emerged as a clear frontrunner – someone those December-come-latelys will try to take down. Depending on how well “The Irishman” is received (it’s getting a theatrical opening before it hits Netflix this month), it could land spots for Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Otherwise, the field is wide open.
In the supporting actress category, Lopez is at the top of the heap, but only because folks don’t know if her performance was Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. Before the Golden Globes are handed out, a decision will be made. She should stay in this category (it’s easier to win). She could get a challenge from Shuzhen Zhou from “The Farewell,” Margot Robbie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey” and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “Dolemite is My Name.”
But that’s the early line.
Here’s what you haven’t considered:
“Little Women”: Greta Gerwig’s adaptation has plenty of performers who could bump just about anyone. Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and Emma Watson could all be sitting in the good seats. Look for this film – which has a modern sensibility – to push to the top in December.
“Marriage Story”: The look at a marriage falling apart has already brought buzz for Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Scarlett Johansson, Alan Alda and director Noah Baumbach. Like so many contenders, it’s a Netflix release, which means decisions at a high level will have to be made. Is this the one that gets the push? Or will “The Irishman” or “The Two Popes”? It’s a wealth of options.
“Jojo Rabbit”: Although it’s a comedy about World War II, it got early festival attention and could just be the year’s spoiler. Scarlett Johansson is in this one, too, which could make her a double nominee this year. Taika Watiti (who directs and plays the Hitler character) has friends in Hollywood, since he made “Thor: Ragnarok” a big, big hit.
“Pain and Glory”: Antonio Banderas is getting the best reviews of his career in Pedro Almodovar’s look at a film director and the choices he made.
“Bombshell”: One peek at the trailer and, immediately, you’re intrigued. Charlize Theron looks so much like Megyn Kelly, you’re almost sure you’re not seeing Charlize Theron. Insiders say the movie (about sexual harassment at Fox) is ripe for awards attention. In addition to Theron, look for Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow and Margot Robbie to factor in.
“Ford v Ferrari”: The racecar drama has traction for Matt Damon, Christian Bale and Tracy Letts.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”: No matter how good (or bad) this film is, it’s destined to land Tom Hanks a best supporting actor nod for playing Fred Rogers. Hollywood’s nicest man playing television’s nicest teacher? It’s a match made in Oscar heaven. Brad Pitt, be warned.
"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker": Nothing beats an emotional favorite. This could be the last time to pay tribute to certain Jedi.