I can't help myself; I have to write this now. Later is too busy.
I do not have a privileged viewpoint for seeing the end-of-year flood of films, ones timed for maximum Oscar impact. I just go to the cinema when I have the chance, in a small town with big-city art cinemas hours distant, but I still go often. I admit to being a buff, though I limit myself to a couple of thunderous action movies, a couple of sequels, and a couple of animated features a year. I am mostly interested in comedy, drama, and the occasional musically-themed film. +
My main factual resource for this piece is the recently-announced set of Golden Globes movie nominations. These Globes (GG below) are a good, independently-drawn small-sample (without replacement), providing a sense of future Oscar voters' likely views. It's a good estimate, though early in the award season--later-released films will rise for Oscar consideration.
The Golden Globes have the feature of having two sets of awards for movies (for best picture) and for lead actor and actress, one each for Drama and for Comedy or Musical, and they have a very weird approach to assigning films between the categories. Still, if one puts together the nominees for best picture for the two categories, the result is 10 names, which is how many the Oscars are likely to include in their nominations.
The (Preliminary) Nominees
Here they are, with the GG category, release date, and a note for each, intended primarily for those who have not heard of these names.
A Star is Born (D) (already out--release date Oct. 5 ) - I would've put this under comedy/musical
I have to admit I haven't seen it, though. It could yet be one of my two sequels, but I'd have to hurry. More likely to see it on HBO or something, later. I do respect the effort, though. #redo category
Black Panther (D) (Feb. 16) I think all superhero movies should be under comedy/musical--it's not really ever serious. (#redo) That being said, very well made, a blockbuster that will also get award respect. it could still win for something like screenplay or effects, though the awards don't often go to movies released this early in the year.
BlackKKKlansman (D) (Aug. 10) I'd say the best Spike Lee joint since the '90's. A fantastic concocted story that's true, of a black who was admitted as a KKK member (with a white colleague for the face-to-mask meetings). Casting Adam Driver was extremely smart.
Bohemian Rhapsody (D, but totally should be in musical #redo) (Nov. 2 ). The story of Freddy Mercury, lead singer of Queen, and his meteoric life and death. Very well told. Lead role is Rami Halek (Mr. Robot on TV) as Mercury, an award-worthy performance. The musical recapitulations are fantastic; I don't know, but I think they must have been lip-synched.
If Beale Street Could Talk (D) -- (Dec. 25-limited release) - Harlem story, there better be some good music.+
I want to say a dark-horse candidate for top awards, but I don't want that to be viewed as a disingenuous slur (right, Texas Lynn?) What I mean is, the pedigree (director from Moonlight, story from James Baldwin, top stars) is impeccable, but the box office and critical appeal are unproven at this point.*
Crazy Rich Asians (C or M) (Aug. 15) - My wife wouldn't let me take her to see it. We used to live in Singapore, so we know the milieu. I presume it was light, entertaining, good box office (especially abroad--this one's GG nomination could be a case of sample bias vs. the AMPAS) .
The Favourite (C or M) (Nov. 23) --the classification of this one as Comedy or Musical seems totally absurd at first glance. You would think: Costume drama-- Queen Anne of England, I think, with Emma Wood and Rachel Weisz; good on the eyes. Actually, it's probably something completely different--satire, with esoteric comedy appeal, if any, by the writer/director Y. Lanthimos ("The Lobster"). If you saw that, you know what I mean.
Green Book (C or M- #redo, though there's great music) (Nov. 16). Driving Miss Daisy with a twist--the chauffeur is white, the passenger black. Based on the true story of jazz pianist Don Shirley's visit to the segregated South in the '50's, and the 'goombah' bouncer who was his driver. Both Viggo Mortensen (lead actor, for the GG) and Mahershala Ali (supporting, as Shirley) will get serious consideration for awards. Loved the American Italian dialogue, Ali's keyboard-acting artistry. Hated the mindless bigotry and injustice.
Mary Poppins Returns (C or M) - (Dec. 25 )- Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and others. Modern depression, and its cure. A true musical.
Vice (C or M) ( Dec. 15 ) - #redo. This is the one with the best buzz, as lead actors Christian Bale and Amy Adams re-create the magic from "American Hustle", with Dick Cheney's career being the current subject. Amazing if it will actually be comedy; I will look to see it at the first chance.
Not Nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press (For Whatever Reason)
(with theoretical release dates--have you seen them? I have not nor seen that they are out)
Boy Erased (Nov. 8) - Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges ('Young Actor of the Year') - Gay Conversion drama;
At Eternity's Gate (Nov 15 -*) Willem Dafeoe is Vincent Van Gogh. artistic appeal, for sure;
Roma (Nov. 21*) - The one I am most eager to see, the Amarcord of Alejandro Cuaron. Cuaron's right at the top now; I prefer him slightly over his buddy Inarritu;
Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Nov. 9*) - the Coen Brothers' (latest) Western, in six parts. If you can, translate O Brother, Where Art Thou to the Old West. Works for me.
Finally, Vox Lux (Dec. 7) -Natalia Portman plays a Gaga-like performer. Lady Gaga will be at the Oscars ceremony, will Portman?
*I hate this release strategy, though it is frequently chosen for critical faves with uncertain prospects.
+The history of movie soundtracks is a favorite subject.
(Did I forget to mention sex? Another publick goode.) /s