Well, the 2016-2017 Oscar season is finally done after a remarkable twist ending led to a genuinely groundbreaking and thoroughly deserved Best Picture winner in “Moonlight.” But before we put the awards season to rest completely, we wanted to take a look, as we always do at this time of year, to next year’s prospects with our annual Premature Predictions.

Yes, we know, the last thing that some of you want to think of right now is next year’s awards season. But after talking about the same 10 movies repeatedly for months, it’s a little fun to take a very long-range guess at the kind of films that could be the big awards players nine to 12 months from now. And so we start today with Best Picture and Best Director, with Best Actor and Actress to follow tomorrow.

Last year, our guesses kind of sucked, as you might have noticed from the distinct lack of Best Picture nominations for “The BFG” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” though we did at least call “Moonlight” a potential “surprise in waiting,” albeit in the honorable mentions. Take a look below for our guesses for the 2018 Best Picture and Best Director nominees, and tune in in the months to come to see how we did.


Best Picture

“Mary Magdalene”
Garth Davis’ feature film debut “Lion” went away empty-handed on Sunday night, but the Aussie helmer (who also collaborated with Jane Campion on “Top Of The Lake”) may not have been that fussed, as he has another very potent contender already in the can, again with The Weinstein Company backing him. “Mary Magdalene,” from writers Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, is a biopic of the woman who was closest to Jesus (who, depending on your particular take on scripture, may or may not have been a prostitute), someone named in the Gospels more than most of the apostles. The behind-the-scenes credentials are strong — “The King’s Speech” backers See-Saw produce again, and “Lion” DP Greig Fraser returns — and the cast in front of camera just as much so, with Rooney Mara in the title role, Joaquin Phoenix as Christ and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter, all lauded and nominated actors who’ve yet to pick up a prize. The biggest question might be the subject matter: Biblical movies are ripe for controversy from one side or another, and one hasn’t been Oscar-nominated since, remarkably, “Ben-Hur” in 1959, though some would argue that a strong showing for “Hacksaw Ridge” last year is a good sign.


Recent years have seen Alexander Payne become a rather unlikely Oscar heavyweight: his low-key, small-in-scope human comedy-dramas have become consistently popular with the Academy, with his last three movies, “Sideways,” “The Descendants” and “Nebraska,” all picking up Best Picture nods (the first two of those winning him Screenplay nods, too), and “About Schmidt” getting a Best Actor nod before that. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens to his latest, a much more high-concept, effects-led movie called “Downsizing,” a “social satire” about a man who decides to shrink himself in order to have a better life. The cast is typically A-grade, with Matt Damon starring, and Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin and Margo Martindale in support, and Paramount seem to have faith in it, with a prime December slot. But this sort of allegorical satire is tricky to get right, and it’s easy enough to see Payne getting unstuck with it — or it being a scabrous throwback to his “Election” or “Citizen Ruth” days and failing to connect. We’ll find out in the fall…


“The Kidnapping Of Edgardo Mortara”
At least when he’s in a vaguely prestige-y zone, it seems harder for a Steven Spielberg film to not be nominated than the reverse: only when a film is truly deflating like “Amistad” or “The Terminal” does he miss out entirely. That happened with last year’s “The BFG,” but “The Kidnapping Of Edgardo Mortara” seems a rather safer proposition. Reuniting him with “Munich” and “Lincoln” writer Tony Kushner, it’s the story of a Jewish boy in Italy in the 1800s who, having been secretly baptized by a nurse, was forcibly kidnapped from his family by the papacy, causing a decade-long battle that helped to weaken the power of the Catholic Church. It’s an extraordinary tale with some interesting modern-day parallels at a time of rising anti-Semitism, and Spielberg has a strong cast involved, with Oscar Isaac as Mortara’s father, and now-regular collaborator and hat wearer Mark Rylance as Pope Pius. It’s likely to cause plenty of thinkpieces (someone’s probably already working on one calling it “anti-Catholic”), but with Spielberg still only having won Best Picture once, and the talent involved, this could be the one to beat sight unseen. The biggest issue might be that it’ll be a push to get it ready in time: filming hasn’t yet started as they’ve been waiting for Rylance to finish up a theater run. Fast turnaround isn’t usually an issue for Spielberg, though, so we don’t anticipated it being a big problem.


Untitled Kathryn Bigelow Detroit Riots Movie
While “Zero Dark Thirty” wasn’t quite the Best Picture spoiler that some had suggested it might be back in the day, it marked Kathryn Bigelow’s second Best Picture nominee in a row, suggesting that her ‘Hurt Locker‘ triumph wasn’t a one-off. As such, everyone’s keeping a very close eye on her first film in five years, which delves into slightly more distant history for another look at the darker side of America, in this case a crime drama set against the backdrop of the 1967 Detroit riots, sparked by a racially motivated raid on an African-American drinking spot. It’s a provocative and vital subject to be tackling in these times (one can already sense the breathless Fox News panic about it), and Bigelow’s assembled an exemplary cast for it, including John Boyega, Kaitlyn Dever, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Will Poulter and Jack Reynor, plus ‘Hurt Locker’ collaborators Mark Boal and Barry Ackroyd behind the scenes. It’s the first movie set to be released directly by Annapurna, who move into distribution with this and whose relative inexperience at the awards game could be an issue (though Megan Ellison’s track record suggests not). Instead, the bigger problem might be the release date: currently set for August, which is a long time to maintain voters’ interest. Then again, the last summer movie to win Best Picture was…“The Hurt Locker.”

Despite the enormous box office and adoring fans, only one Christopher Nolan film has ever made it to Best Picture — “Inception.” Hopes were high in advance for “Interstellar,” but the film’s split critical response meant it never properly got into the race, and only stacked up below-the-line nominations. But a World War Two movie? As “Hacksaw Ridge” proved this year, that’s a different proposition, and if that movie can bring the disgraced Mel Gibson in from the AMPAS cold, the wildly overdue Nolan should waltz into a fistful of nominations. As “Interstellar” proved, though, it’s not quiet as easy as that: Nolan’s crowd-pleasing instincts have been fading for something more experimental, and he’s never necessarily been the most emotionally accessible of filmmakers. With the film seemingly following a large ensemble rather than a recognizable face, it’s possible that voters don’t take to it, especially if Nolan turns out something closer to “Come And See” than to “Saving Private Ryan.” And a summer release poses another challenge, though not an insurmountable one. Unless Nolan really drops the ball on this, expect it to be a major force 11 months from now.

  • cirkusfolk

    Uh yeah, I would say your pics last year sucked. Out of the 24 films you mention, only 4 were major award players. 11 didn’t get noms at all and were actually flops and the other 9 minus Jackie, just got 1 or 2 worthless noms.

    La La Land
    Manchester by the Sea

    Birth of a Nation
    Billy Lynn
    Jackie – 3
    Silence – 1
    Sully – 1
    Nocturnal Animals – 1
    Allied – 1
    Loving – 1
    Rules Don’t Apply
    Free State of Jones
    Passengers – 2
    Deepwater Horizon – 2
    Girl on the Train
    Light Between Oceans
    Collateral Beauty
    Miss Sloane
    20th Century Women – 1

    • Michael Greenwaldt

      The majority of those were good guesses though. And that’s what they were. Guesses. At the time, before the controversy happened, it seemed Birth of a Nation would sweep this year. And I honestly believe it would have if controversy wouldn’t have killed it. I don’t understand why everyone is making a big deal about these early predictions. They’re fun to read and will be even more fun to see how they panned out in a year. If you don’t care then don’t read it.

      • jh


  • cirkusfolk

    I see you’ve remedied that this time around by just including every film. I would say my top 5 would be: PTA, Three Billboards Outside of Edding MO, Dunkirk, Downsizing, and Star Wars

  • Anthony

    I would also add Logan into the best picture mix, I think it has a real shot at being the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture. Also Hugh jackman for best actor and Stewart for supporting are also legitimate contenders.

  • John W

    And the envelope please….

    Too soon?

  • osaro runner

    God the Oscars just wrapped up a couple of days ago and you are already doing these bloody list’s come on at least wait a couple months at least yeah they are premature predictions but still at least allow the dust to settle first…..

  • NA4444

    ‘…with some interesting modern-day parallels at a time of rising anti-Semitism..’

    I’ve been hearing this a lot recently and, while I hope this statement is not conflated to criticisms of Israeli government policies, it is worrying. However this so-called rise in anti-Semitism pales in comparison to the rise in Islamophobia.

  • Khar99

    The nice thing about doing these ‘predictions’ now is that in a year from now the author can always claim the editor published the wrong version of his list 🙂

  • LA2000

    The game is chess, not checkers.

    In case the 2016 election and the surprise win of “Moonlight” didn’t tip you off, voters hate “prohibitive” frontrunners. And, in case the 2016 election and “Birth of a Nation” didn’t tip you off, competitors will shred the reputation of any candidate that looks like it’s going to try to make a serious run for the prize this far out. Being Oscar obvious with a 12 month lead is not an advantage. I can guarantee you that Harvey Weinstein has already worked up the oppo research on any of the above pictures with which he does not have an association.

    All of the potential nominees listed hold some obvious hallmark of Oscar-y goodness, which is precisely why most of them won’t make the final cut. They are too predictable to make an exciting horse race and, by the time they are released, their creative or social bona fides will have been so worked over by the competition that they will have to be positively genius to snag so much as a tepid, 3-star review.

    Which is how those “under the radar” nominees like “Moonlight”, “La La Land,” Sanders, and Trump rise as fast and far as they do.

    Show us THAT list.

  • Donald Clarke

    I’m going to take pedantic issue with the argument that the last musical to win “not based on a Broadway show” was An American in Paris. Surely the answer is Gigi in 1958. There *was* a non-musical version of the story on Broadway, but the film is derived directly from the novella. Do I win a sad prize?

    • Tom Shea

      The Broadway version from the 70s was indeed musical. It was revived last season.

      • Donald Clarke

        I don’t follow your point. That musical version was based on the 1958 film. The film was still an original musical. The Broadway adaptation referred to above is the legit, non-musical play from the 1950s.

  • Tom Shea

    Get Out? The Full Monty/Sixth Sense/Fugitive “popular, zeitgeisty, and well-made” slot?