EDITORIAL: 18 films to watch for the 2018 Oscars

(Image: goldderby.com)

When one Oscar ceremony ends (and then is stopped and ends again), the race for next year's trophies have already begun.  Next year will be the historic 90th Academy Awards and I expect Hollywood to spare no expense (especially in the accounting department) to ensure a banner event.  For the fifth year in a row now, I have made it a tradition the day after the Oscars to gaze into the crystal ball and lay out some deep prognostication.  Here are 18 films to keep an eye on for the 2018 Oscars.  Release dates shift all of the time, but here's a ranked list of potential Oscar contenders.  Keep these titles in your back pocket.


1. “Dunkirk”-- Without question, the biggest-hitting Oscar-style epic with the most promise is the latest from director Christopher Nolan.  The massive World War II Operation Dynamo evacuation of the titular French port city gets the equally massive IMAX treatment.  Nolan has never won an Oscar (and neither has his go-to composer Hans Zimmer) and that should be remedied sooner rather than later.  His quest starts this coming summer.  (July 21)


  (Image: cinemablend.com)

(Image: cinemablend.com)

2. “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara”-- Classic or not, everything Steven Spielberg touches gets Oscar attention.  Working with Mark Rylance and Oscar Isaac doesn’t hurt either.  The true story of a Jewish boy stolen and raised to become a 19th century Catholic priest will get people talking, even after following Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” from 2016.  (TBA)


  (Image: instragram.com)

(Image: instragram.com)

3. “The Greatest Showman”-- Soaring from the roots of show business, the biography of circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum gets massive movie musical treatment with Hugh Jackman and his award-winning pipes front and center.  Reserving a Christmas Day release, this could be “La La Land” and old school Hollywood on steroids.  (December 25)


  (Image: dailymail.co.uk)

(Image: dailymail.co.uk)

4. “Suburbicon”-- George Clooney’s clout as a director took a hit from “The Monuments Men” in 2014, but the A-lister is still a beloved force to the Academy.  Teaming with the Coen brothers as the writers ought to bring a triumphant return.  Sources call this film a crime comedy and the cast includes Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac.  (TBA) 


  (Image: variety.com)

(Image: variety.com)

5. “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore”-- Hoping to follow more in the footsteps of “Whiplash” than “The Birth of a Nation,” Macon Blair’s Netflix film won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.  The annual January film festival always get the first crack at showcasing the potential prestige offerings for the year.  Will this film make Netflix a player on Oscar night?  (February 24) 


6. “Blade Runner 2049”-- Other than the obvious “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” if there’s a genre film coming in 2017 that can knock on Oscar’s door higher than just technical awards, I’ll put my money on “Sicario” and “Arrival” director Denis Villeneuve stepping into Ridley Scott’s shoes and the futuristic world of replicants.  Keep an ear on composer Johann Johannsson and an eye on cinematographer Roger Deakins.  My bold prediction is that “Blade Runner 2049” will finally be the film that earns the 13-time cinematography nominee his overdue Oscar.  (October 6)  


  (Image: ramascreen.com)

(Image: ramascreen.com)

7. “Wonderstruck”-- “Carol” director Todd Haynes deserved better Oscar treatment in 2015.  His quick turnaround follow-up adapts “The Invention of Hugo Cabaret” author Brian Selznick’s 2011 novel of same name that jumps between 1927 and 1977 and familial generations.  The powerhouse double-threat of Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams topline the film.  (TBA) 


  (Image: aceshowbiz.com)

(Image: aceshowbiz.com)

8. “Mary Magdalene”-- If I would tell you Joaquin Phoenix was going to play Jesus Christ, you would probably repeat the name back to me in an loud and curious tone.  “Lion” director Garth Davis’s sophomore project has Phoenix but focuses on the titular Mary Magdalene played by Rooney Mara.  Expect excellent work from Davis collaborating again with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Greig Fraser.  (TBA) 


  (Image: uinterview.com)

(Image: uinterview.com)

9. “Downsizing”-- Two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”) always draws the pedigree of attention.  Payne dips into light science fiction with a story of husband and wife (the busy Matt Damon with Kristen Wiig) dueling with the idea of shrinking themselves to shake up their lives.  Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and Alec Baldwin join in on the fun.  The challenge will be the Academy’s fickle taste for comedy.  (December 22)  


  (Image: moviepilot.com)

(Image: moviepilot.com)

10. “mother!”-- Darren Aronofsky trades the Book of Exodus for a homely setting of relationships and uninvited guests.  The presence of Jennifer Lawrence is enough to grab Oscar attention and even more comes from Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, and Ed Harris.  Under the title, look out for “Blade Runner 2049” composer Johann Johannsson’s potentially sublime work on the musical score.  He’s a dual threat.  (October 13)  


  (Image: screenrant.com)

(Image: screenrant.com)

11. “Darkest Hour”-- The Academy loves history told by the Brits and spirited “Atonement” director Joe Wright presents the behind-the-scenes struggles of Winston Churchill, played underneath heavy makeup by Gary Oldman.  Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and John Hurt’s final performance are included.  (November 24) 


  (Image: cinemablend.com)

(Image: cinemablend.com)

12. “Murder on the Orient Express”-- As he often does, five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh calls his own number, this time as the revered Hercule Poirot, with a huge ensemble of performers behind film to adapt Agatha Christie’s novel (previously made in 1974 by Sidney Lumet).  Lucy Boynton, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Johnny Depp ride the rails.  (November 22)  


  (Image: thebananadoc.wordpress.com)

(Image: thebananadoc.wordpress.com)

13. Untitled Detroit Project-- “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow remains the only woman to have won the Best Director Oscar.  When she makes a film, as she followed with “Zero Dark Thirty,” we need to listen.  Untitled, her newest film has chosen the 1967 Detroit citizen uprising as the backdrop for a drama starring John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Jack Reynor, and John Boyega.  (TBA)


  (Image: screendaily.com)

(Image: screendaily.com)

14. “Victoria and Abdul”-- Oscar winner Judi Dench reprises her “Mrs. Brown” role of Queen Victoria with her noteworthy “Philomena” director Stephen Frears for another little-known story of the former monarch.  (September 22)  


  (Image: movieweb.com)

(Image: movieweb.com)

15. “The Current War”-- Oscar nominees Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, and Nicholas Hoult throw down as competing inventors Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla against the businessmen of Samuel Insull and J.P. Morgan (Tom Holland and Matthew MacFadyen) in a historical drama from the director of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” stepping up in class.  (TBA) 


  (Image: people.com)

(Image: people.com)

16. “Wonder”-- Whether you like it or not, pandering works.  Big stars taking on emotional domestic roles move the needle.  Academy Award winner Julia Roberts teams with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” director Stephen Chbosky and adorable “Room” Oscar nominee Jacob Tremblay for a story about a deformed boy looking to fit in at school.  (November 17) 


17. “The Beguiled”-- Sofia Coppola and Colin Farrell look to follow in the footsteps of Don Siegal and Clint Eastwood in adapting Thomas Cullinan’s Southern gothic novel “A Painted Devil.”  The darkness, dust, and danger are already pouring out of our first looks of the film with Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman in the mix with Farrell..  (June 23) 


18. “Get Out”-- Winter releases normally don’t have the legs and staying power to be remembered in the fall, but the one active release from the first two months of the year that has a puncher’s chance is the 100% Rotten Tomatoes phenomenon of “Get Out,” which begs for original screenplay consideration. (In theaters now)

OTHER POTENTIAL CONTENDERS:

“Crown Heights,” “Annihilation,” “A Ghost Story,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Personal Shopper,” “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” “Gifted,” “Free Fire,” “The Circle,” “Alien: Covenant,” “The Book of Henry,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” “Logan Lucky,” “The Snowman,” and “Marshall”

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