The Oscars survived a prickly year last year. Media outlets hounded the lack of racial diversity amongst nominated actors, of which all twenty were of Caucasian heritage. Industry hallmark Spike Lee joined a spate of actors in a #boycotttheoscars / #oscarsowhite movement and actor Chris Rock thought it appropriate to poke fun at a child for being of Asian heritage.
Despite all the controversy, the Oscars still broadcasted to 58-million people and the ceremony was mostly well received by those covering it. The Academy didn’t just shield themselves from the controversies either, they responded by altering their membership rules to encourage a more diverse composition that included women and minorities to contribute to the nomination process.
There have already been a number of films released this year that have been promised Oscar success by film festival juries and prophetic media outlets. Spielberg’s BFG and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster are amongst those tipped to be at the heart of this year’s Best Picture showdown, in spite of neither being huge box office successes.
But most of the Oscar favourites have yet to be released. From November, the Oscar season begins and for cinephiles that’s very good news. This year is especially star-stacked as Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee and Clint Eastwood all return with feature films. Here are seven yet to be released films that are front-runners for Oscar statues.
- La La Land
There’s something about Damien Chazelle’s modest aesthetic and his ability to turn a jazz film into a complex high-tension thriller in just 19-days (Whiplash) that encourages positive speculation about his next project. La La Land will place Ryan Gosling by Emma Stone in a love-story, LA set musical that (if early reviews are anything to go by) does something very special. And if the chemistry between Gosling and Stone is anything near as good as Teller and Simmons in Whiplash, then there’s little stopping this film from scooping up a bagful of statues.
- Birth Of A Nation
The Sundance Film Festival was a stage for Birth Of A Nation with the story of Nat Turner’s rebellion scoring both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Birth Of A Nation is written, produced and directed by Nate Parker, who also acts in the film, which promises to return some diversity to the ceremony. There’s a lot of buzz around the film after being picked up by Fox Searchlight, (who also picked up ‘12 Years a Slave’ in 2013) for a Sundance record record of $17.5 million and if it’s as good as it’s meant to be, #OscarssoNateParker could be the next trend given he’s looking likely for four category nominations.
- Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Heaven knows Ang Lee deserves a best picture award, and after the two films that earned him Oscar Best Director Awards lost out in the best picture category, 2017 could finally be his year. The film will follow a group of soldiers during a halftime-show salute to the troops and will be written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and star Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker and Garret Hedlund. Who would have thought whilst watching XXX in 2002 that Vin Diesel would one day star in a potentially Oscar winning-film.
- The Founder
We’ve seen a few films over the past decade that chronicle the rise of the megalomaniacs responsible for creating the most prolific businesses of our time. We’ve seen Jobs and The Social Network, but now it’s time for The Founder; a genuine look at Ray Kroc and his journey in taking McDonalds from a small chain of restaurants in California to the all-conquering fast food kingdom we know it as today. Best Picture good luck charm Michael Keaton will take the lead after starring in the two Oscar Best Picture winners of the previous two years (Birdman and Spotlight) with John Lee Hancock directing.
It’s a Scorsese film, enough said right? Only one of his films has been precluded from Oscar Best Picture nomination this century. His film Hugo was alone nominated for eleven awards of which it won five. Silence will be an adaption of Shusaku Endo’s book of the same name, which follows Portuguese priests spreading the message of Christianity in Japan where things take a sudden downturn. Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver lead the cast of a film that looks to be authentic Scorsese and is something he’s been trying to make happen since 1991.
Another passion project and another adaption makes the list, this time in the form of Denzel Washington’s take on August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning play, Fences. The story that has had more than it’s fair share of stage success will follow the life of an ex-baseball player, now working as a trash collector trying to support his family, to be played by Washington himself. He will be joined by Viola Davis with Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Stephen McKinley Henderson set to reprise their roles from the original stage production. With the Academy’s tendency to reward films for their relevancy, Fences is a very promising contender.
- The Zookeeper’s Wife
While the previous two ceremonies were particularly whitewashed, something that has been similarly dominated over the years is the gender of directors and writers achieving Best Picture nominations. The Zookeeper’s Wife is perhaps this year’s best bet of changing that and what’s maybe even more special is that New Zealand’s own Niki Caro will be directing it. The Zookeeper’s Wife is an adaption of Diane Ackerman’s novel of the same name and places audiences in WWII Warsaw to follow the true story of Antonina Żabińska, the woman who saved the lives of Jewish people fleeing Nazi Forces by hiding them in animal cages at the Warsaw Zoo. Jessica Chastain will star in the lead role with Angela Workman writing the script.