Star Is Born: Frontrunner For Best Picture...Maybe [Contender Countdown]

TORONTO – Yes, it’s that time again.  The Contender Countdown, your semi-weekly rundown for tracking the race for Best Picture, has returned.  And, somewhat like last year, we’ve finished the first three fall festivals without a major frontrunner breaking from the pack to take the crown.

This year there are, arguably, four films that have screened so far that could easily take the Best Picture Oscar: Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born,” Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.” Each have positives and negatives that help and hurt their cause, but at this point Warner Bros.’ “Star is Born” may have the most positives and the least negatives.  Let’s review, shall we?

READ MORE: Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” more than lives up to the Oscar hype

“Star is Born” has a key Oscar-winning release date, Oct. 5. In fact, four of the last six Best Picture winners opened in October. The film is also a rare big studio production that is universally acclaimed with an current 89 grade on Metacritic and a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. You can hardly find anyone who hasn’t even begrudgingly loved Lady Gaga’s first lead role.  The movie’s subject matter is squarely the entertainment industry which, shocker, Hollywood tends to go, um, gaga for (see “Birdman,” “The Artist” and “Argo,” just this decade). The romance is also poised to be a major box office hit and features a soundtrack that will be playing in multiple venues for months.  It’s going to be a pop culture phenomenon and even members who rarely go to the movies won’t be able to escape it.

The negatives? Cooper’s drama is the fourth incarnation of the same basic story (you can argue his contemporary adaptation helps, however). There are AMPAS members who may think the film is “too commercial” and not an artistic achievement. Plus, whenever you have as much hype as “Star” has generated there is always a target on your back. There will be some sort of backlash (every winner experiences it). The key is for “Star” to go through that rough patch as easily in the season as possible.

Moreover, the game has just started. We’ve got a long way to go with three potential late entries joining the mix. Keeping that in mind, here’s a rundown of the first Contender Countdown of the 2019 awards season.

September 11, 2018

1. “A Star is Born”
It’s absolutely getting a nomination, but winning it all isn’t a given…yet.

2. “First Man”
Probably the biggest lock for a nod. Needs to do substantial box office to overpass “Star” for frontrunner position.

3. “The Favourite”
The steady, but surely player of the season. If any of the other contenders falter? Watch out.

4. “Roma”
Everyone respects the incredible filmmaking, not everyone has an emotional reaction. It *should* be Netflix’s first Best Picture nominee, but may we provide some unsolicited advice that the streaming giant release the grosses for its theatrical run? That’s how a ton of members pay attention to what’s in theaters and what’s not and is more important than many people think.

5. “Black Panther”
The cultural landmark was likely getting in with our without a Popular Film category. Can we make the argument they should submit “Pray for Me” as well as “All the Stars” for Best Original Song?  Because unless they know something about the Grammy’s Song of the Year or Record of the Year categories we think “Pray” may have a better shot of making the cut.

6. “BlacKkKlansman”
Spike Lee has never had a Best Picture nominee. That should change in 2019, just 30 years after “Do The Right Thing” was snubbed in the category.

7. “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Something tells us there will be a passionate fan base for this movie.

8. “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Searchlight’s second potential Best Picture player is a delicate play. Will the Academy recognize what Marielle Heller has pulled off? It’s got a shot.

9. “Vice” (Previously known as “Backseat”)
No one has seen it, but it is 100% coming out this year (unlike a few other contenders below) and after “The Big Short” we’ve learned to never count Adam McKay out.

10. “Widows”
Reviews are likely better than 20th Century Fox anticipated (83 currently on Metacritic) and if box office is strong it has an excellent shot.

Almost there

“At Eternity’s Gate”
Unscreened outside of Venice, Julian Schnabel‘s latest needs to prove it’s more than just a Willem Dafoe play.

“Boy Erased”
Continue to run into people who said the movie had them in tears, but that they also didn’t think it was very good. Strange reaction, no?

“Bohemian Rhapsody”
Reportedly an epic crowd pleaser that could be a bigger box office hit than “The Greatest Showman.” Will Bryan Singer‘s involvement hurt it’s Best Picture chances? Ponder.

“Beautiful Boy”
Needs a critical or commercial groundswell closer to release to end up being more than a Timothée Chalamet showcase.

“Crazy Rich Asians”
A box office phenomenon, Jon M. Chu’s latest was poised to be a Popular Film contender. Can WB convince Academy members it’s worth of a traditional Best Picture play?

“The Front Runner”
Didn’t get the critical love Sony was likely hoping for out of Telluride or Toronto, but is politically resonant and should appeal to Academy members. Bubble player, but could rise.

“Green Book”
Could this entertaining melodrama be this year’s “Hidden Figures”?

“The Sisters Brothers”
Jacques Audiard’s poignant adaptation of Patrick Dewitt‘s novel is epic in scope and features stunning performances. If Annapurna can convince a ton of Academy members to see it earlier rather than later it could resonate just enough to surprise.

Potential Party Crashers

“Ad Astra”
Rumored for a limited release in December for months, but still not on the official schedule. Is James Gray still tweaking or is 20th Century Fox waiting to announce after the TIFF buzz has died down?

“The Mule”
Bradley Cooper wants Clint Eastwood on the awards circuit for his latest endeavor, but Warner Bros. still hasn’t indicated the film will be ready by end of year. If so, the 88-year-old filmmaking legend is always a threat to make the cut.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts below.