New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: CHECKLIST: 20 films to watch for the 2020 Oscars



In what has become an annual Monday morning Oscar hangover, this website looks down the calendar and into the crystal ball to prognosticate which 2019 films could be contenders for the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020.  Gosh, that year sounds like the absolute future. Last year, six films from the top ten of my 19-film list (and six others from the honorable mention section) ended up with Oscar nominations this past weekend, including wins for A Star is Born, The Favourite, First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice, and Bohemian Rhapsody .  No sooner than the sun rises and coffee pots turn on, the next Oscar season starts now!  Here’s your seventh year of advance scouting courtesy of Every Movie Has a Lesson. Release dates are listed if known.

1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Everything Quentin Tarantino touches garners top attention and immediate Oscar attention lately.  The provocative filmmaker’s latest circles the fading Golden Age of Hollywood and orbits the Charles Manson murders.  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Al Pacino top-line a deep ensemble looking to combine sunny and seedy.  (July 26)

2. Little Women

Emerging filmmaker Greta Gerwig follows Lady Bird with a new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s post-Civil War classic.  Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, and the esteemed Meryl Streep are the March ladies and Timothee Chalamet is Theodore Laurence.  Gerwig proved her talent and this film looks to prove her ambition. (Christmas)

3. Rocketman

If the maligned and sanitized Bohemian Rhapsody can score Oscar nominations and the most wins last night, surely this high profile biopic can do the same.  Dexter Fletcher, who tagged in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer’s departure, brings us the story of Elton John with Taron Egerton in the lead.  (May 31)



4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

If the documentary about the real Fred Rogers himself can’t get nominated (which is a travesty), maybe some Hollywood fluff about him starring a misplaced Tom Hanks can break through instead.  Can You Ever Forgive Me? and The Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller steps up in class.  (November 22)

5. Us

Get Out more than just put Jordan Peele on the map as a hitmaker.  He won an Oscar for its screenplay and became a sought-after talent.  His follow-up is Us, another psychological thriller starring Lupita Nyong’o, Elisabeth Moss, and Winston Duke with horror shadings that is sure to push audiences and voters to their limits.  They have long needed those pushes. (March 21)



6. Harriet

The Oscars are appropriate suckers for topical and daring historical epics.  Factor the towering historical symbol that is Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman, played by Widows ensemble member Cynthia Erivo and directed by Kasi Lemmons, with the cries for true diversity and you have a big-time contender.  (Fall)

7. The Goldfinch

Brooklyn director John Crowley follows up that novel adaptation with another for Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winner about a New York terrorist bombing survivor coping with the loss of his mother and falling into an arc of crime.  Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson and Jeffrey Wright take on this drama. (October 11)

(Image: Evening Standard)

(Image: Evening Standard)

8. The Woman in the Window

Joe Wright’s films are no strangers to Oscars with Atonement, Darkest Hour, Pride and Prejudice, and Anna Karenina on his resume.  Oddly enough, he himself has never been nominated as a filmmaker.  Maybe teaming with the great Tracy Letts adapting A.J. Finn’s thriller about an agoraphobic doctor witnessing a crime can be the one to break that streak.  Speaking of streaks, The Woman in the Window stars six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams.  She’s more that due as well. Oscar winners Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore flank Adams, as well as Anthony Mackie and Brian Tyree Henry.  (October 4)



9. 1917

Little plot and even less casting is known about this World War I film from American Beauty and Skyfall director Sam Mendes returning from the London theatre scene.  You had me at World War I and you had me at Sam Mendes. Pass me an Oscar ballot.  (December)

10. The Irishman

Speaking of directors who have automatic awards attention cache, folks have been hotly anticipating Martin Scorsese’s reunion with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel.  Netflix won the bidding war for this crime saga set in the backdrop of the killing of Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino. This expensive gamble would love to follow the new cred given to Netflix by Roma last night.  (October)

11. The Last Thing He Wanted

Dee Rees follows her overly-snubbed 2017 film Mudbound with this wild 80’s-set story of an unemployed journalist who becomes an arms dealer.  The trio of previous winners Anne Hathaway and Ben Affleck and back-to-back nominee Willem Dafoe can move Oscar needles.  Let’s see what Rees can do with a bigger bat. Netflix is the home again for her work. (TBA)



12. Ford v. Ferrari

Christian Bale’s roles feel nearly automatic for awards consideration.  You can say the same for Matt Damon as well. Those two A-listers join Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Caitriona Balfe, Noah Jupe, and Josh Lucas for the true story of American muscle meeting foreign dominance on the race tracks of Le Mans.  Stalwart Logan director James Mangold helms this biographical drama sure to have its fair share of action as well.  (June 28)



13. Ad Astra

The Lost City of Z director James Gray leads this science fiction epic possibly in the same vein of the likes of Interstellar.  Brad Pitt plays an Army Corps engineer in search of his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) 20 years after departing to Neptune for sign of intelligent life.  That recipe could be special. (May 24)



14. Lucy in the Sky

Double that astronaut science fiction with TV writer Noah Hawley’s feature debut about Natalie Portman’s astronaut who is unraveling returning to Earth after her experiences in space. Zazie Beetz, Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, and Ellen Burstyn co-star.

15. Judy

Like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Rocketman, Hollywood biopics always cut to the front of the line.  Welcome the return of Oscar winner Renee Zellweger! In Stan & Ollie fashion, she plays the one and only Judy Garland during a final performing peak a year before her death.  (October

16. The Report

Longtime Steven Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns steps into the director’s chair for this examination of the CIA-sanctioned torture of post-9/11 prisoners.  The Report stars Adam Driver and John Hamm.  The buzz out of its premiere at Sundance has been positive.  (TBA)



17. The Good Liar

Oscar loves aging actors that still put on clinics of their talent and greatness.  Think Glenn Close with The Wife.  The 2019 candidate for that is The Good Liar from prolific director and Oscar-winning writer Bill Condon.  Cinematic treasures Helen Mirren and the Oscar-ignored Ian McKellan are online lovers who meet in a thrilling swindle attempt of a con artist.  (November 15)

18. Pain & Glory

Esteemed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar returns with two of his favorite muses, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, for a sumptuous autobiographical film of talent, craft, love, and reflection.  I would elect this to follow in the footsteps of Roma.  (TBA)



19. Newsflash

I don’t think anyone looks at Seth Rogen and see a serious actor, let alone Walter Cronkite.  Halloween director David Gordon Green does.  Rogen will play the beloved newsman as he reports on the assassination of JFK.  Mark Ruffalo is slated to co-star, along with Logan Lerman possibly as a young Dan Rather.  This will need to be seen to be believed because this is a long way from Green and Rogen’s Pineapple Express days.  If a shift to sharp drama can work for Adam McKay, it can work for Green.



20. Gemini Man

Will Smith might be snakebit in 2019 with the growing question marks for Aladdin, but someone who is too good to be saddled by that is Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, even after Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.  His newest film tells a futuristic hitman story where an aging killer is targeted by a clone of his younger self.  If anyone can get the most from Smith’s charisma, it’s Ang Lee and the might of producer Jerry Bruckheimer writing the checks and lighting the matches.  (October 4)


Cats, Toy Story 4, Star Wars: Episode IX, Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Pale Blue Dot, The Kid, Antlers, The Laundromat, The History of the Kelly Gang, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, The King, Downhill, Radegund, Triple Frontier, Knives Out, The Truth, Bergman Island, Fonzo, Jojo Rabbit, and anything else you want off of this massive list.




from REVIEW BLOG – Every Movie Has a Lesson

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