As Oscar season rolls around, films competing “for your consideration” are entering the box office en masse to meet the Academy’s Jan. 5 deadline. It’s hard to sort through the Oscar bait to find some fantastic fish, but hopefully these films will be a catch.
Phantom Thread/Dec. 25
A decade after the ambitious “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis rejoin for “Phantom Thread,” a 1950s London bound drama about a royal dressmaker (Day-Lewis in his final acting role) and his muse. Day-Lewis’ nomination is a given, but whether he becomes the first lead actor in history to win four Oscars is possibly disrupted by Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” Behind the camera, Anderson leads a stable of costume designers and art directors to recreate an extravagant world of 20th century debutantes and dames. Anderson (“Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”) himself has been largely panned by the Academy, receiving zero nominations for his melancholic masterpiece “The Master” in 2013. Although “Phantom Thread” is likely to earn him nominations in both screenplay and directing categories, he may be outshined by a slew of contemporaries.
Good Time/Streaming on Amazon and iTunes
Josh and Benny Safdie exploded onto the screen this summer with their high-energy capper “Good Time.” Robert Pattinson plays Connie, a morally sketchy lead who, after robbing a bank with his mentally-challenged brother Nick (played by Benny Safdie in a brilliant performance), is forced to go on the run through a grimy New York cityscape. Pattinson’s portrayal finds much more complexity behind the façade of an adrenalin rushed ruffian. The Safdie Brothers display a beautiful vision of anxiety, highlighted by cinematographer Sean Price Williams and a score from Oneohtrix Point Never. Despite its early release, Academy members cannot ignore this film’s flashy spirit.
The Post/Dec./Jan. 12
Three Hollywood icons (and Oscar darlings) come together on “The Post,” a journalistic drama about the Washington Post’s fight to release the Pentagon Papers. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks play the publisher and editor respectively in the hard-fought battle, a due that echoes “All the President’s Men” or a more recent “Spotlight.” Steven Spielberg helms his worn-in director’s chair for the picture, yet the legendary filmmakers’ brand doesn’t always come off well with academy members. “The Post” seems to appeal to timely issues, but whether it pushes the boundaries of filmmaking is still to be decided.
Call Me by Your Name/Dec. 21
On the heels of Moonlight’s historic Oscar win, director Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”) follows with another coming-of-age gay drama. Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a seventeen-year-old boy living on his parent’s Italian villa, goes on a journey of discovery with his father’s intern Oliver (Armie Hammer) during the summer of 1983. Since the film’s debut almost a year ago at Sundance, critics have been praising the film’s honesty and intimacy. The film, shot on location in northern Italy, illustrates a sincere love story against a picturesque backdrop. Sufjan Stevens contributed three original songs to the soundtrack, including “Mystery of Love.” With no musicals in contentions, Stevens may find himself for an Oscar before a Grammy. “Call Me by Your Name” is ripe for the best picture and adapted screenplay categories. However, the subtle performances will likely be overshadowed by others in the acting categories.
Other Contenders: The Florida Project, The Shape of Water, The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird.