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Oscars 2020 predictions: 7 Best Picture contenders

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Summer is barely over and we're already starting to build towards the 2020 Oscar season.

Awards chatter is set to kick off in earnest with the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, which are often used as a harbinger of future awards success. Conversation will then steadily build over the coming months as the 2020 Academy Award frontrunners come into greater focus.

So, in totally premature and speculative fashion, here are seven movies that we're tipping for a Best Picture nomination.

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino undoubtedly loves to spark outrage, but he also regularly curries favour with Oscar voters.

His 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction won him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and he repeated the trick with 2012's Django Unchained (which also won Christoph Waltz his second Tarantino-related Oscar).

Combine Tarantino's awards legacy with a movie that actively riffs on Tinseltown's history, and there's every chance the Academy will be seduced. Movies that reflect on the movie industry tend to track well with the Oscars (look at the classic likes of Sunset Boulevard as an example), and yet Tarantino's irreverent brand of revisionist history will surely help it stand out from the pack.

That said, he's never clinched the Best Picture Oscar (Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained were both nominated), so will Once Upon a Time in Hollywood mark a personal victory?

Not yet seen Tarantino's latest? Then click here to book your tickets for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.


2. Us

Horror movies tend to fall foul of Oscars snobbery, but there was a sea-change of sorts in 2017 when Get Out was released. Comedian-turned-director Jordan Peele went solo behind the camera for the first time, fashioning a blackly comic and creepy story about race relations that played well in the midst of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

In fact, it did more than that: Peele became the first African-American film-maker to win Best Original Screenplay, and Get Out was itself Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, a watershed moment for the genre.

Can his second feature Us translate a nomination into a win? This eerie story of murderous doppelgangers is even more ambitious than Get Out, taking a bleak yet darkly amusing swipe at American cultural hypocrisy while eliciting an astonishing dual performance from Lupita Nyong'o.

Critics loved the movie and audiences lined up to see it (it took more than $241 million worldwide against a $20 million budget). Therefore don't underestimate how Us may have penetrated the Academy Awards consciousness. 


3. Joker

Comic book movies, like horror movies, are routinely ignored during awards season. There are of course exceptions – The Dark Knight won Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar, and Logan became the first-ever film of its kind to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Even so, there's reticence on display – The Dark Knight was controversially shut out of the Best Picture race, as was Logan. In both instances, it was a shameful way to treat two movies considered as pioneering examples of the genre.

So can Joker succeed where its lauded predecessors failed? Pitched less as a comic book movie than a study of mental health couched within graphic novel iconography, it certainly sounds ambitious. As a sign of its ambitions, the movie is opening the Venice Film Festival, and promises a chilling performance from the always-intense Joaquin Phoenix as a failed stand-up comic who's driven to becoming the Clown Prince of Crime.

Joker is released on 4th October.


4. The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch boasts more than enough elements to get Academy Awards voters in a flap.

It's adapted from Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, an ambitious, multi-generational story of a grieving young man who becomes involved in art theft. It's directed by John Crowley, the man behind Oscar-nominated literary adaptation Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan, and is scripted by Oscar-nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy writer Peter Straughan.

Add to this a cast who have amassed a fearsome amount of awards credentials between them. Baby Driver's Ansel Elgort joins the likes of Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies), Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games), Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things). And it's shot by Oscar-winning Blade Runner 2049 cinematographer Roger Deakins.

Is a Best Picture nomination therefore in the bag? We'd like to think so. The Goldfinch is released on 27th September.


5. Little Women

If we're talking literary adaptations, they don't come more prestigious than Greta Gerwig's take on Louisa May Alcott's 1868 masterpiece.

Based on Alcott's own experiences, Little Women is the warm and moving story of the March sisters as they advance into adulthood, and has long cast a spell over cinema (the earliest film adaptation dates back to 1917).

Combine the novel's reputation with Greta Gerwig's burgeoning talents as a film-maker (her 2017 debut Lady Bird was acclaimed and Oscar-nominated), and there's every reason to expect Best Picture recognition.

And her cast is pretty astonishing. Saoirse Ronan (who starred in Lady Bird), Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen are the sisters, joining Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep to form a truly impressive ensemble.

Little Women is released on 26th December.


6. 1917

If the trailer for 1917 is anything to go by, it appears to be channelling the time-ticking tension of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. As far as awards prestige goes, that's not a bad thing – Nolan's World War II thriller was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, and no doubt 1917 is aiming for similar levels of acclaim.

Taking place in the trenches of World War I as opposed to the beaches of World War II, 1917 is another story of survival. George Mackay (Pride) and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) are two privates who must deliver a message beyond the lines to help prevent a devastating attack, with the excellent cast also including luminaries Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth.

Factor in the presence of award-winning director Sam Mendes, of American Beauty and Skyfall fame, plus cinematographer Roger Deakins (again) and multi-Oscar-nominated composer Thomas Newman, and this practically yells Best Picture contender.

1917 is released on 10th January 2020.


7. Rocketman

Director Dexter Fletcher's biopic explores the life of music legend Elton John, and was released to critical acclaim back in May. Many were concerned that given John's presence as producer, the film might pull its punches – after all, the Tiny Dancer maestro's rise to fame is one littered with thwarted opportunities, drugs and bitterness.

However, largely thanks to a tremendous central performance from Taron Egerton, Rocketman strikes a tone that is both bracingly honest and celebratory. The actor does his own singing and physically resembles John to an eerie degree, but the movie further distinguishes itself via its flights of fancy.

The movie unmoors itself from the tedious grind of A-B-C chronology – we see entire periods of John's life scored to songs that weren't even conceived at the time. This allows us greater emotional understanding of John's character, even if factual liberties are taken in the process.

It's a bracing approach that helps Rocketman stand out from the usual music biopic crowd. This in turn may generate significant Best Picture buzz come the start of next year.

Which of these movies are you tipping for a Best Picture nod? Let us know your thoughts @Cineworld.

The 2020 Academy Awards get underway on 9th February.