ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film As Fall Film Festival Season Winds Down, Who Are Our Biggest Oscar Contenders?

As Fall Film Festival Season Winds Down, Who Are Our Biggest Oscar Contenders?



With the early fall festivals Venice, Telluride, and Toronto in the rear view, we have now screened (most) of the key players in the upcoming Oscar race. We will catch up with some key films at the New York Film Festival, though, which is selling tickets fast to such buzzy titles as the September 29 opener, Todd Haynes’ Cannes premiere “May December” (Netflix), starring Best Actress Oscar-winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, which could use a fresh boost; Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein marital drama “Maestro” (Netflix), costarring Cooper and Carey Mulligan; Garth Davis’ dystopian “Foe” (Amazon), starring Irish actors Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan with American accents (sort of); and the October 15 closer, Michael Mann’s Venice biopic “Ferrari” (Neon), starring Oscar nominees Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz.

But until then, here’s how the fall festival Oscar contenders played out, ahead of NYFF and such later arrivals as Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” (Sony/AppleTV+) and the musical adaptation “The Color Purple” (Warner Bros.). The titles below are ranked by their Metascore.

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“All of Us Strangers” (Searchlight Pictures, December 22)
Key talent: Andrew Haigh, Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, and Jamie Bell
Metascore: 96
Oscar hopes: Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay
Bottom Line: Leaving much of the audience in tears after its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, the latest Andrew Haigh film, adapted from a 1987 novel by Japanese author Taichi Yamada, features four heartrending acting performances. How will the NYFF audiences feel? If all goes well, it’s a dark horse for a Best Picture nomination. —MJ

'The Zone of Interest'
“The Zone of Interest”A24

“The Zone of Interest” (A24, December 8)
Key talent: Jonathan Glazer, Sandra Hüller
Metascore: 95
Oscar hopes: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, International Feature Film, Editing, Sound, Score
Bottom Line: After winning the Grand Prize at Cannes, the German-language Best International Feature submission from the UK built enthusiastic support at the fall festivals. Glazer is a strong contender for director and screenplay, adapting the Martin Amis holocaust novel, which takes us behind the scenes in the home of the commandant of Auschwitz (Christian Friedel), and his wife (Hüller), who is also vying for Best Actress for the French Cannes’ Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall” (Neon), which is mainly in English. She is extraordinary in both films. —AT

“Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures, December 8)
Key talent: Yorgos Lanthimos, Tony McNamara, Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, William Dafoe
Metascore: 91
Oscar hopes: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Costume and Production Design, Makeup and Hair Styling, Editing, Sound, Score
Bottom Line: After winning the Golden Lion in Venice and wowing audiences and critics in Telluride, “Poor Things” is on track as a formidable challenger to the dominant “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” across multiple categories. —AT

1694133152 800 ‘The Boy and the Heron Review Hayao Miyazakis Final Masterpiece | ManOfTheCenturyMovie
“The Boy and the Heron” GKIDS

“The Boy and the Heron” (GKIDS, December 8)
Key talent: Hayao Miyazaki
Metascore: 89
Oscar hopes: Best Animated Feature
Bottom Line: Beloved 82-year-old Oscar-winner Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”), known as the Disney of Japan, was the first animated film to open the Toronto International Film Festival and was welcomed back with joy after threatening to retire. He could challenge Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s frontrunner sequel “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” —AT

“Anatomy of a Fall” (Neon, October 13)
Key talent: Justine Triet, Sandra Hüller
Metascore: 88
Oscar hopes: Best Picture, Actress, Original Screenplay, Film Editing
Bottom Line: Though the Cannes Palme d’Or winner is not France’s International Feature submission, the rousing courtroom drama starring decorated German actress Sandra Hüller as a mystery author on trial for the murder of her husband has not lost any awards race momentum with distributor Neon’s backing. —MJ

“Beyond Utopia” (Fathom Events/Roadside Attractions, October 23)
Key talent: Madeleine Gavin
Metascore: 85
Oscar hopes: Best Documentary Feature
Bottom Line: Few thrillers are as tense as this Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary. Director Gavin captures one family’s escape from the oppression of North Korea, intercut with different stories of what inside Korea life is like, and how dangerous it can be to try to leave. —MJ

Dominic Sessa stars as Angus Tully, Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb in director Alexander Payne’s THE HOLDOVERS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Seacia Pavao / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC
“The Holdovers”Seacia Pavao/Focus Features

“The Holdovers” (Focus Features, October 27)
Key talent: Alexander Payne, David Hemingson, Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Metascore: 83
Oscar hopes: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Production Design, Editing
Bottom Line: By keeping the focus on Giamatti, Randolph, and newcomer Sessa’s characters, who are all stuck at an empty New England prep school during one holiday break in the early 1970s, director Alexander Payne achieves an intimate, soulful comedy heart-tugger sure to play to many Academy members. Though the filmmaker has two screenplay Oscar wins under his belt, he picked up this script from TV veteran David Hemingson, who mines from personal experience the right tone for vintage prep school culture. Payne cherry-picked locations from different upper crust East Coast academies. —MJ

“American Fiction” (Orion Pictures, December 15)
Key talent: Cord Jefferson, Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Erika Alexander, Issa Rae
Metascore: 82
Oscar hopes: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
Bottom Line: With a writing Emmy for “Watchmen,” and a resumé that includes “Succession,” “The Good Place,” and “Master of None,” expectations were high for Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut. The 2023 TIFF People’s Choice Award winner, an adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel “Erasure,” is a biting media satire that showcases Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown’s versatility. —MJ

As Fall Film Festival Season Winds Down Who Are Our.webp | ManOfTheCenturyMovie
“The Taste of Things”IFC

“The Taste of Things” (IFC Films, Release Date TBA)
Key talent: Trần Anh Hùng, Benoît Magimel, Juliette Binoche
Metascore: 80
Oscar hopes: Best International Feature (France)
Bottom Line: France’s surprise submission for Best International Feature won filmmaker Trần Anh Hùng the Best Director award at Cannes this year. The sweeping love story revolving around a 19th century French couple’s love of cooking offers sumptuous visuals, and a mesmerizing Binoche performance. —MJ

“The Pigeon Tunnel” (Apple TV+, October 20)
Key talent: Errol Morris, John le Carre (David Cromwell)
Metascore: 78
Oscar Hopes: Best Documentary Feature
Bottom Line: In a competitive category that favors exotic landscapes (“My Octopus Teacher”) and extreme bravery (“Free Solo”), Morris is known and respected, but has won before (“The Fog of War,” 2004), which isn’t always a good thing. Here he’s in a familiar zone, going one-on-one in an entertaining last conversation with the elusive late British novelist. —AT

“Cassandro” (Amazon MGM Studios, Out now)
Key talent: Roger Ross Williams, Gael García Bernal
Metascore: 76
Oscar hopes: Best Actor
Bottom Line: Gael García Bernal leads Oscar-winning documentarian Roger Ross Williams’ scripted feature directorial debut, playing Lucha Libre icon Cassandro. The Mexican actor has put in decades of respected work in projects ranging from Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mamá También” to Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” but this turn as the real-life queer wrestler who changed the game for the often mocked exóticos is described as his career-best. —MJ

Leonie Benesch in "The Teacher's Lounge"
“The Teacher’s Lounge”Sony Pictures Classics

“The Teacher’s Lounge” (Sony Pictures Classics, December)
Key talent: Ilker Çatak, Leonie Benesch
Metascore: 75 (with only two reviews)
Oscar Hopes: Best International Feature Film (Germany)
Bottom Line: Sony Classics used the fall festivals to build awareness for this taut high school thriller that broke out at Berlin and went on to not only sweep the German film awards but beat out the competition for the German Oscar submission. Actress Leonie Benesch could emerge as the next Vicky Krieps: multi-lingual and hugely likable. —AT

“Dream Scenario” (A24, November 10)
Key talent: Kristoffer Borgli, Nicolas Cage
Metascore: 75
Oscar hopes: Best Actor, Original Screenplay
Bottom Line: Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli’s English language debut is crazy smart and funny, as Oscar-winner Nicholas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”) inhabits the everyday, boring Professor Paul Matthews, who begins appearing in millions of strangers’ dreams, becoming an overnight celebrity — until he starts behaving badly. Is this the role that returns Cage to Oscar voters’ hearts? Maybe. —MJ

“The Promised Land” (Magnolia Pictures, February 2, 2024)
Key talent: Nicolaj Arcel, Mads Mikkelsen
Metascore: 74
Oscar Hopes: Best International Feature Film (Denmark)
Bottom Line: Arcel and Mikkelsen made it to a nomination in 2013 with “A Royal Affair”; while “The Promised Land” is another period romantic drama, it is more intense and violent. Mikkelsen gives another indelible, minimalist performance as a veteran soldier who tries to farm the inhospitable heath, against insurmountable odds. —AT

“Perfect Days” (Neon, December 21)
Key talent: Wim Wenders, Kōji Yakusho
Metascore: 72
Oscar hopes: Best International Feature Film (Japan)
Bottom Line: Nominated three times for his documentaries (“The Salt of the Earth,” “Pina,” and “Buena Vista Social Club”) the 78-year-old Wenders is overdue: Germany submitted three of his films (“The American Friend,” “Wings of Desire,” and the shortlisted “Pina”), but he was never nominated in the international category. Amazingly, Japan submitted his Japanese film, starring Cannes Best Actor winner Kōji Yakusho, who will campaign stateside. —AT

RUSTIN (2023) Jim Farmer as Frank Harts, Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph, Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin and Maxwell Whittington-Cooper as John Lewis.
“Rustin”Courtesy David Lee/Netflix, exclusive to IndieWire

“Rustin” (Netflix, November 3)
Key talent: Colman Domingo Julian Breece, Dustin Lance Black
Metascore: 68
Oscar hopes: Best Actor, Original Screenplay
Bottom Line: Actor Colman Domingo comes alive as Civil Rights Movement leader Bayard Rustin, reteaming with his “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” director George C. Wolfe in this propulsive biopic about the Black queer icon’s effort to organize the historic 1963 March on Washington — all from a screenplay written by newcomer Julian Breece alongside Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black. —MJ

“Nyad” (Netflix, October 20)
Key Talent: Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi, Julia Cox, Annette Bening, Jodie Foster
Metacritic: 65
Oscar Hopes: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Makeup and Hairstyling
Bottom Line: This mainstream crowdpleaser works as a spine-tingling real sports saga about the indefatigable distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s four attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida until she accomplished the feat on the fifth try. It took a village, as documentarians-turned-feature filmmakers Chin and Vasarhelyi dealt with the elements, four-time nominee Bening took to the water for endless hours, and two-time Oscar-winner Foster (“The Accused,” “The Silence of the Lambs”) plays Nyad’s energetic best friend and coach in her first overtly lesbian role. —AT

a still from Saltburn
“Saltburn”Courtesy of Prime

“Saltburn” (Amazon MGM Studios, November 17)
Key talent: Emerald Fennell, Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant
Metascore: 59
Oscar hopes: Best Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Production Design, Costume Design
Bottom Line: Oscar-winning writer-director Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) returns with a twisted tale of a lonely Oxford student welcomed into a countryside estate belonging to his classmate’s eccentric, aristocratic family. A period piece set in the mid-aughts, great attention to detail is paid to both the of-the-times double popped collar polos worn by Jacob Elordi’s alluring character Felix, and ostentatious interiors of the manor kept by his mother Elspeth (played by Rosamund Pike in her best role since “Gone Girl”). That all said, lead Keoghan’s committed performance will haunt viewers. —MJ

“Stamped from the Beginning” (Netflix, November 15)
Key talent: Roger Ross Williams
Metascore: (held until release)
Oscar hopes: Best Documentary Feature
Bottom Line: Respected veteran documentarian Williams (Oscar-winning “Music by Prudence”), recently stepping down from two terms as an Academy governor representing the documentary branch. “Stamped from the Beginning,” adapted from Ibram X. Kendi’s book, persuasively tackles America’s history of racism, deploying historic reenactments, compelling academics, and innovative illustration and animation. —AT

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