EDITORIAL: 19 films to watch for the 2019 Oscars

  (Image: goldderby.com)

(Image: goldderby.com)

In what has become an annual day-after-hangover and post-Oscars tradition, I have this editorial that closes the book on one awards season and declares the next one open for competition.  Each year, I pull out the crystal ball and look into the murky future to prognosticate which films coming in 2018 will we be applauding for at this time next year for the 91st Academy Awards.  Last year, Dunkirk topped my future's list and ended up with eight Oscar nominations and three wins.  It can be a crapshoot because Suburbicon, The Greatest Showman, Downsizing, and three unreleased films also populated that roster.

Call me confident with Oscar chances of the #1 slotted film this year.  In any case, here are 19 films to watch for the 2019 Oscars.  Where possible, release dates are listed. Mark those calendars now and keep a close eye on these potential future Oscar contenders and eventual winners.Mark those calendars now and keep a close eye on these potential future Oscar winners.


  (Image: Entertainment Tonight)

(Image: Entertainment Tonight)

1. First Man

La La Land didn’t just put Damien Chazelle on the map.  It launched him to Hollywood space.  So, it’s fitting that his next film pushed beyond the stratosphere as well.  First Man chronicles Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, in the years leading up to Apollo 11 moon mission.  The film is Chazelle’s first feature that he didn’t write himself, instead leaning on Oscar winner Josh Singer (Spotlight) and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer Nicole Perlman to adapt James R. Hansen’s book.  On my radar, First Man pings the loudest on the Oscar radar.  (October 12)


  (Image: blackfilm.com)

(Image: blackfilm.com)

2. If Beale Street Could Talk

It seems only fateful and fitting that La La Land’s victorious counterpart also has a 2018 movie on the schedule.  Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins hopes to follow up his two trophy night just over a year ago with a screen adaptation of influential author James Baldwin.  The story details a pregnant woman in old Harlem trying to get her husband exonerated for a crime he didn’t commit.  Jenkins has assembled an eclectic and diverse cast included Diego Luna, Regina King, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock, Dave Franco, and more.  Making one great film can be accomplished.  Follow it or topping it with a second is a monumental challenge.  (TBA)


  (Image: variety.com)

(Image: variety.com)

3. A Star is Born

The Academy Awards love big performances and A Star is Born, the fourth incarnation following Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand, promises huge ones.  Lady Gaga, no stranger to the Oscar stage, is the central starlet with Bradley Cooper as the established male lead and making his directorial debut behind-the-camera.  An A-lister stepping out in a new position and the sure-to-be-strong soundtrack will turn heads and perk up ears  (October 5)


  (Image: denofgeek.com)

(Image: denofgeek.com)

4. Widows

12 Years a Slave filmmaker Steve McQueen returns with a film adaptation of a 1980’s British TV series of the same name.  When four armed thieves are killed in a failed heist, their surviving wives pick up the reins to finish the score and settle a few too.  The female titular leads are led by Oscar winner Viola Davis and joined by Elizabeth Debecki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Broadway star Cynthia Erivo.   McQueen’s ensemble also includes Colin Farrell, Andre Holland, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, and Robert Duvall.  You had me at McQueen.  (November 16)


  (Image: filmaffinity.com)

(Image: filmaffinity.com)

5. Backseat

The modern Method man of Christian Bale re-teams with The Big Short’s Adam McKay and loses himself with the gained weight and hairline to play former Vice President Dick Cheney.  Bale is joined by a Murderer’s Row lineup of Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Pullman as Nelson Rockefeller, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, Alison Pil and Lily Rabe as the Cheney daughters, and, last but not least, newly-minted Oscar winner Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.  Holy cow!  Expect political shenanigans.  (December 14)


  (Image: Entertainment Weekly)

(Image: Entertainment Weekly)

6. Mary Queen of Scots

What do you get when you combine two 2018 Best Actress nominees together and the prestige of a historical costume drama?  You might just get another trip to the Oscars.  At 23-going-on-24, Saoirse Ronan has been nominated for three Academy Awards and Mary Queen of Scots could be her fourth around this time next year in the title role.  No slouch and also under 30, Margot Robbie playing Queen Elizabeth I is enough to make Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench gasp in unison.  Is there a hashtag for #royalgirlmagic yet? (November 2)


  (Image: tvmoviefix.com)

(Image: tvmoviefix.com)

7.  Bohemian Rhapsody

Musical biopics have struck Oscar gold in this young century (Ray, Walk the Line).  In quite the recent trend (Solo, Justice League), high-profile director Bryan Singer was fired and replaced by Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) to complete the long-in-production story of arguably the most enigmatic frontman of all-time.  Emmy award winner Rami Malek looks to fill the shoes of long-rumored star Sacha Baron Cohen to play Freddie Mercury, the founder and leader of Queen.  Start your Queen puns now when you want to talk about this movie potentially rocking. (December 25)


  (Image: projectcasting.com)

(Image: projectcasting.com)

8. Where’d You Go, Bernadette

I think Richard Linklater is a filmmaker that deserves to ping the Oscar radar ever since Boyhood.  If there’s one thing the man does beautifully more than other traits it’s write a dynamite script or screenplay. The man has a gift for dialogue. His casting coups are pretty solid as well. His maturation with drama balancing his comedy is showing and last year’s Last Flag Flying deserved better.  Cate Blanchett’s prominence raises up his newest film dealing with a daughter investigating her mother’s disappearance.  (October 19)


  (Image: mortalenginesmovie.com)

(Image: mortalenginesmovie.com)

9. Mortal Engines

Peter Jackson protege Christian Rivers take the directorial lead, his debut in the big chair, on the YA fantasy film that seeks to define 2019 far greater than Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.  Mortal Engines is based on Philip Reeve’s best-selling post-apocalyptic steampunk-ish adventures.  Coming from the stable of Peter Jackson, expect a big IMAX epic with all the bells and whistles for the art and technical awards.  (December 14)


  (Image: variety.com)

(Image: variety.com)

10. The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The annual top winners of the Sundance Film Festival are the earliest film each year to get Oscar consideration.  The first of them is the Grand Jury Prize winner The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  This film directed by Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior) powers homosexuality through a coming-of-age story spiraling from family tragedy. Chloe Grace Moretz is the lead opposite indie favorite John Gallagher, Jr. and the legendary Jane Fonda.  (TBA)


  (Image: Indiewire)

(Image: Indiewire)

11. Burden

The second Sundance contender is the Audience Award winner for drama.  Burden is a story based on true events of a grown orphan (Garrett Hedlund) raised within a KKK environment who seeks freedom to learn love and acceptance through the protection and guidance of black pastor (Forest Whitaker).  Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond, and Tess Harper co-star in a film written and directed by actor Andrew Heckler making his debut.  Burden could be this year's Mudbound. (TBA)


  (Image: hoodline.com)

(Image: hoodline.com)

12. Beautiful Boy

One of the popular possible prop bets on the 2018 Oscars was, even if he didn’t win the Best Actor Academy Award last night, could Timothée Chalamet win an Oscar in the next six years?  These odds were 8-1.  I'd take that bet.  Beautiful Boy will be his first crack at returning to the nominations list.  This time Chalamet will be playing a meth addict descending into the grips of disease while his father (Steve Carell) bears worried witness.  That sounds like an Oscar return receipt to me.  While we're talking about Oscars, don't sleep on Steve Carell either as a co-lead or supporting actor contender.  (October 12)


  (Image: imdb.com)

(Image: imdb.com)

13. The Women of Marwen

By 2019, it will be 25 years since Forrest Gump.  That may be a long time, but I can’t quit on director Robert Zemeckis.  I still think he’s a technological visionary on everything he touches.  For The Women of Marwen, he has his hands on post-World War II-era victim recovery and personal fantasy.  Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Janelle Monae, Eiza Gonzalez, and Gwendoline Christie rise to this homefront struggle.  (November 21)


  (Image: youtube.com)

(Image: youtube.com)

14. Boy Erased

Actor Joel Edgerton impressed with this directorial debut The Gift a few years ago and his sophomore effort looks to be a step up in class. Starring Manchester by the Sea Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges, former winners Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, and Edgerton himself, Boy Erased follows a preacher’s son who unwillingly takes part in a church’s gay conversion program. The LGBT theme is strong and should draw volatile performances and uplifting triumph.  (September 28)


  (Image: justjared.com)

(Image: justjared.com)

15. White Boy Rick

If you can find it streaming, I highly recommend director Yann Demange’s 2014 historical thriller and directorial debut ‘71.  The promise of his talent is undeniable and I, for one, look forward to him stepping up in class with his second film, White Boy Rick, a crime drama backed by producer Darren Aronofsky and co-written by Harry Potter series veteran Steve Kloves. Matthew McConaughey may be the headliner but watch for the young cast of newcomer Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, rapper YG, and RJ Cyler.  They might be your true head-turners.  (August 17).


  (Image: Variety)

(Image: Variety)

16. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I’m not the best prognostication source for documentaries, but I do know and cherish my Mister Rogers Neighborhood memories from childhood.  Advance word out of the Sundance Film Festival says this Fred Rogers documentary is sentimental perfection.  The Best Documentary Oscar has been a scrambled and inconsistent mess in recent years, but maybe the power of Rogers can play.  You can skip the upcoming Tom Hanks film. Give me the real subject and the real man telling his story.  (June 8)


  (Image: variety.com)

(Image: variety.com)

17. Chappaquiddick

Any topic diving into American politicians seems to find positive buy-in towards Oscar finery.  There's no better stock than the Kennedy dynasty.  Sliding a little down on the Q-rating from Backseat listed above, Chappaquiddick takes a shame-stoked look back at a tragic car accident that caused mystery and scandal for the life of former senator Ted Kennedy, played by Jason Clarke.  Could Chappaquiddick, with the right edge and intrigue, be this year’s Jackie?  (April 6)


 (Image: imdb.com)

(Image: imdb.com)

18. The Front Runner

Following Chappaquiddick, Hugh Jackman stars as disgraced 1998 presidential candidate Gary Hart tarnished in the middle of his campaign by an ill-begotten extramarital affair.  Vera Farmiga stands by as his wife while J.K. Simmons picks up the pieces.  The Academy has not also been kind with director Jason Reitman since Up in the Air, but maybe this returns him to a higher cloud of clout.   Hugh Jackman deserves more credit as an actor as well.  Maybe a fuller dramatic role like this is his Oscar ticket to that elusive golden trophy.  (TBA)


  (Image: Collider)

(Image: Collider)

19. Mary Magdalene

This is a returning entry from 2017.  Mary Magdelene, a biblical biography of the titular woman (Rooney Mara) crossing over with her ties to Jesus Christ (Joaquin Phoenix), is the follow-up film from Lion director Garth Davis.  The movie’s been collecting dust in an odd place of limbo as a former Weinstein Company production that sits undistributed and partially defunct.  If this film can attract a new distributor and/or studio to pick up the marketing tab to back it, I think you have a sure-fire Oscar contender.  (TBA)


OTHER POSSIBLE OSCAR CONTENDERS FOR 2019:

The Favourite (TBA), Everybody Knows (TBA), The Incredibles 2 (June 15), A Wrinkle in Time (March 9), Mary Poppins Returns (December 25), Paddington 2 (out now), Isle of Dogs (March 23), Ready Player One (March 29), Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 25), Avengers: Infinity War (April 27)

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