Slow and steady
Before we talk about the realistic contenders for the Oscars, it’s important to note that the seemingly lost films of the season don’t always relegate themselves to the back-burner. In the past years, films like Logan, Roman J. Israel Esq., and The Disaster Artist surprised voters everywhere with relevant nominations in big categories despite the lack of Oscar hype to help them. Oscar analysts and journalists would be foolish to overlook the quiet, yet surprisingly strong contenders in play this year.
For one, Us, Jordan Peele’s polarizing, yet successful follow-up to Get Out emerged as one of the most shocking films in play this season, partly due to its early March release this year. Such an early release, yet Lupita Nyong’o is receiving rave reviews and loads of awards attention from various critics associations, including a win for Best Actress at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and a nomination at the Critic’s Choice Awards. Us may still not receive full-on mainstream attention this Oscar season, but I wouldn’t exactly count out Peele’s immense popularity.
Another film to keep an eye on is the new Safdie Brothers crime drama, Uncut Gems. While it’s certainly going to be a hard mountain to climb for the Safdie Brothers, whose niche style and relatively low-key standing in the film industry will undeniably hurt their chances, they’ve got a surprise trump card and his name is Adam Sandler.
The well-liked actor has received almost universal acclaim for his work in the film, even winning Best Actor from the National Board of Review, which also placed the film as one of the top 10 of the year. Its grittiness and anxious story may not appeal to mainstream voters, but never deny the Sandman.
Someone else to never deny is Jennifer Lopez, who has proven to be a force in the Supporting Actress race this year for her work in the true crime comedy-drama, Hustlers. Right out of its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the true story of strippers drugging men and reaping their financial benefits was showered with praise, particularly for J-Lo’s magnificent performance.
J-Lo is still a strong contender this year for sure, but writer-director Lorene Scafaria has quietly established herself one of the more popular directors this year to receive a nomination for her work. The internet has been particularly kind to her, leading to a gradually growing fan-base that has called for her to be recognized. So far, the Oscar attention is on J-Lo, but the brewing popularity of Scafaria should not be ignored, especially in the Best Adapted Screenplay category this year.
To play up the unpredictability of Oscar season, this year has seen a performance that might’ve killed last year, but is now getting buried under other highly regarded work and that is Taron Egerton’s fine work as the legendary Elton John in Rocketman. Gaining immense popularity from disillusioned film writers upset with Bohemian Rhapsody’s success, Egerton has presented himself as extremely grateful for the position he is in now.
This grateful attitude has helped win him over with various critics and film analysts, who have noted Egerton’s eagerness to participate in Oscar Q&As to promote the musical drama. His showy performance is perfect for Oscar voters, but he’ll have to get through a ton of strong contenders in order to land a nomination this year.
It’ll be difficult, but for such a lovable film like Rocketman, it may not be that out of the ordinary for Egerton to receive his first Best Actor nomination.
Lastly, this grateful attitude could work wonders for newcomer, Paul Walter Hauser, whose has emerged as something of an unlikely contender for Best Actor this year. His performance in the Clint Eastwood historical drama, Richard Jewell, has surprised critics and garnered some rather strong Oscar buzz for the talented, yet relatively unknown actor.
What has won him even more fans is his honest and sincere attitude on the Oscar campaign, communicating with fans and film analysts alike to make the most out of his campaign. Fittingly enough, his attitude very much resembles that of his honest character in Richard Jewell and it could fit into the “Cinderella story” of Paul Walter Hauser. Kathy Bates seems like the most likely nominee for the film, but don’t count out Hauser.