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Films To Watch For The 2020 Oscars

The 2019 Oscars were, as has become tradition, far from perfect. As tends to be the case - and as has perhaps become over-zealous - there was backlash, both regarding certain projects leading up to the Oscars and regarding the show itself. And unfortunately, this can and often does leave a bad taste in our mouths.

At the same time however, the Oscars remain undeniably important to the film industry and to cinephiles everywhere. It’s still a pinnacle of cinema, and the standard by which we judge movies long after they’re released - something like a definitive Hall of Fame for cinema. In short, the whole ceremony still holds a great deal of meaning, even if we might roll our eyes at it year after year.

For this reason, we who care greatly about film still pay close attention even well in advance of award season, wondering which films and individuals will be in the running for the industry’s biggest honors. Of course, we usually don’t know very far in advance, simply because the award-worthy projects don’t tend to come out until late fall and winter. The odds are the closest thing to early previews, and they can typically be found at a range of websites that offer bookmaking listings, if not now then in the next few months as 2019 picks up steam. And even those odds can look quite a bit different in, say, December than they might in May or June.

Since it’s early to discuss specifics anyway though, we can at least look ahead to 2020 and speculate as to which films seem likeliest to be in the mix. There’s no denying that there’s a certain “Oscar-y” quality to some films, and while we don’t know yet how any of the following projects will be received, they appear to have the ingredients of potential contenders.

These, then, would be some of the films to watch for 2020.

The Irishman

This has to be considered the early Oscars heavyweight, given all of the caveats mentioned above. Produced by Netflix but bound for cinematic release as well, it’s an organized crime drama featuring the Dream Team of the genre: Martin Scorsese direction, and Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci starring. Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Harvey Keitel, and Ray Romano round out a ridiculous cast for a movie that looks like a can’t-miss project.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

If another project can match The Irishman for pure star power, it’s this one. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, it’s a drama about Hollywood in the late ‘60s, and will star Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, and Margot Robbie - not to mention Luke Perry in a posthumous role after the actor recently passed at a tragically young age. Given the persistent narrative about how Hollywood loves a movie about itself, it’s easy to see this becoming a major Oscars favorite.

The Lion King

It’s not very often that animated films make a legitimate splash at the Oscars beyond their own category. The Lion King is an iconic work though, and this remake with incredible modern animation looks to be a very faithful retelling. It may just stir enough passion and nostalgia to become one of the true hits of 2019, and a Best Picture contender.

Us

Us is another film that ordinarily would be a long shot but may just have what it takes. It’s a March release, which adds to the unlikelihood that it would be an Oscar movie, but it’s the second effort from Jordan Peele, who made a huge splash with Get Out - and it’s already being hailed as a horror masterpiece. It’s an unconventional possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.

Little Women

It’s the latest of many adaptations of one of the most popular works of American literature, and it’s a star-studded one. Greta Gerwig, who directed Oscar-nominated dramedy Lady Bird, will direct, and the cast will feature Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, and, in what’s expected to be a superstar turn, Florence Pugh. Timothée Chalamet, who has somehow established himself as a critical darling very early in his career, also lends some gravity to the cast.

Pain & Glory

Pain & Glory is a drama that will actually release this month in Spain, before presumably moving to the U.S. later in the year. It stars Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas in a film that’s actually about a director looking back on his life, and it was written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, who has earned acclaim for past projects like Julieta and, to a lesser extent, I’m So Excited!. It’s not necessarily a likely Oscars contender, but given a surge in appreciation for hispanic films and directors, its recognizable cast, and the precedent of Roma being nominated as a Spanish language film, t’s worth keeping an eye on.

Star Wars: Episode IX

Finally, we shouldn’t count out the final core Star Wars film, and the possibility of the Academy recognizing the entire scope of achievement. JJ Abrams is directing once more, and hopes are high that this will be a fitting conclusion to a nine-film saga that stretches back to 1977. In the same way that The Return Of The King virtually swept the Oscars as a celebration of the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy, we could see momentum build for Episode IX as it represents the whole franchise - if it’s good.

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