The 94th Academy Awards produced some surprises, among them were underdog winners, empowering speeches, and a touch of controversy. Nonetheless, the ceremony is done and dusted, and as we scramble to watch all the winners we may have missed, we also cast a curious eye on upcoming films which could be lofting little golden statues high in the air next year.
Searing social commentary, American revisionism and the return of dazzling ensemble casts loom as being the flavor of the next awards season. Some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors feature in starring roles, female directors will again be well represented after Jane Campion made it two years in a row a woman has taken out Best Director, and there is plenty more to be excited about for the upcoming year in the film industry.
‘The Whale’ dir. Darren Aronofsky
Is anyone feeling the “Brenaissance”? Adored actor Brendan Fraser returns to the big screen in Darren Aronofsky’s comedy-drama The Whale. Based on the play of the same name, debuting screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter adapts his work for the screen. The film has plenty of Oscar opportunities, including for Fraser as Best Lead Actor.
Focusing on a severely obese English teacher attempting to reunite with his teenage daughter, it bears thematic similarities to Aronofsky’s 2008 sports drama The Wrestler which earned two nominations. Sadie Sink and Samantha Morton co-star in The Whale while cinematographer Matthew Libatique will be striving for his third nomination.
‘The Woman King’ dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood
A historical epic, The Woman King will follow Dahomey Amazons who defend their state and rise against their enemies in the 18th and 19th centuries. Based on true events, the film has the potential to be a massive hit throughout the awards season and could earn the female director her first Oscar nomination.
Starring the ever-magnificent Viola Davis and emerging star Lashana Lynch, as well as John Boyega and Hero Fiennes Tiffin, it has the potential to be prevalent in the acting categories while the art direction already looks exquisite. Also, keep an eye on cinematographer Polly Morgan who follows up her exceptional work on A Quiet Place Part II (2020).
‘The Northman’ dir. Robert Eggers
With an April 2022 release date, The Northman may be as far as possible from the award-season flurry, but Robert Eggers’ violent Viking adventure could score nominations regardless. Tracking a young Viking prince’s quest to avenge his murdered father with intense action, The Northman stands every chance of being a prominent feature among the awards.
After becoming an indie icon with The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019), the American director should be in the mix to earn his first-ever Oscar nomination. The star-studded cast, including 2022 nominee Nicole Kidman, may be in contention as well.
‘The Fabelmans’ dir Steven Spielberg
A semi-biographical piece from the masterful director, The Fabelmans is a passion project loosely based on Steven Spielberg’s upbringing in post-war Arizona. It marks the three-time Academy Award winner’s first involvement as a writer since 2001 and promises to be among his most personal films.
Technical aspects of Spielberg movies are reliably flawless, so they could accumulate nominations on that front while Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Julia Butters feature in supporting roles. Spielberg will also reunite with frequent collaborator and famed composer John Williams.
‘Nope’ dir. Jordan Peele
Sticking to the psychological horror genre which has seen him become one of the best new filmmakers, Jordan Peele’s Nope follows residents of an isolated town who witness a mysterious event. With his past films focusing on racial and social tensions, often through a sharp, satirical lens, Peele is a good chance to again earn nominations for his screenplay and direction.
Michael Abels, who did the music for Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), again collaborates with Peele while Hoyte Van Hoytema is the director of photography. Barbie Ferreira, Kiki Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, and Steven Yeun make up the core cast members.
‘Asteroid City’ dir. Wes Anderson
While his 2021 film, The French Dispatch, was surprisingly snubbed, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City could earn the attention of the Academy. His knack for gorgeous sets, quirky stories, and incredible cinematography make any feature of his a huge Oscar threat.
Rumored to be a love story set in Europe, Anderson himself will be looking to add to his seven nominations as director and co-writer. An ensemble cast, starring the likes of Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson, could see some nominations in acting categories, and could also boost the film to be in contention for Best Picture.
‘Canterbury Glass’ dir. David O. Russell
In his first feature film since Joy (2015), five-time Oscar nominee David O. Russell has kept the plot of Canterbury Glass under wraps. Still, moviegoers will be eager to see what the man behind American Hustle (2013), Silver Lining’s Play Book (2012) and The Fighter (2010) has in store, especially given the cast.
Including, but not limited to, Christian Bale, Anya Taylor-Joy, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Zoë Saldana, Robert De Niro, Rami Malek, and Taylor Swift, the film bears quite a few names. Expect Canterbury Glass to feature prominently in the acting categories.
‘Don’t Worry Darling’ dir. Olivia Wilde
With Booksmart (2019) a successful directorial debut, Olivia Wilde’s second feature film, Don’t Worry Darling, has drawn plenty of attention. While partially due to the director’s romance with actor Harry Styles, the film still boasts a compelling story that should attract the attention of the Academy.
A 1950’s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company may be hiding disturbing secrets. Lead actress Florence Pugh could earn her second nomination and her first win for Best Leading Actress, while Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, Nick Kroll, as well as Wilde, and Styles make up the core cast members.
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ dir. Martin Scorsese
Cinematic royalty in spades! Directed by Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon marks his sixth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio and his tenth with Robert De Niro. Also boasting the likes of Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, John Lithgow, and Brendan Fraser, the film is well-represented with Oscar-calibre actors.
Based on the 2017 non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI will focus on a spree of murders targeting Native Americans in the 1920s which sparks an FBI investigation. Set for a November release, the picture is set to be a heavy hitter through the awards season.
‘She Said’ by Maria Schrader
She Said will tell the story of New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kanto, the women who broke the Harvey Weinstein story. Expected to be a pulverizing drama, the timely film could amass a plethora of nominations, including one for Best Picture.
German Director Maria Schrader, who directed the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox (2019), could be in line to make it three years in a row that a woman has won the Best Director category while Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan co-star as Twohey and Kanto. Andre Braugher, Patricia Clarkson, and Tom Pelphrey are among the supporting actors.
‘Babylon’ dir. Damien Chazelle
After being the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director for Whiplash (2014), Damien Chazelle won the award two years later for La La Land (2016), then went on to make Neil Armstrong’s biopic First Man (2018) which highlighted his versatility. After setbacks due to the pandemic, Chazelle finally returns to feature films with Babylon.
Another ode to Hollywood’s glamorous history, Babylon is going back to the end of the silent film era. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie are set to star while the cast also features Tobey Maguire, Meryl Streep, Olivia Wilde, and Samara Weaving. Chazelle reunites with cinematographer Linus Sandgren who won an Oscar for La La Land.
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