Oscars Handbook: 47 Contenders Likely to Vie for the Gold

6:00 AM 11/7/2016

by Gregg Kilday

There are upbeat films (hey there, 'La La Land'!), seriously moving dramas ('Moonlight') and lots of strong titles in between, which could make this awards season the most competitive in years.

Courtesy of Subject

This year, Hollywood actually may have a genuine race on its hands. Too often, by the time the fall trifecta of Venice-Telluride-Toronto has come and gone, the advance pundit brigade declares an awards season frontrunner. And then, there's nothing left except for, five months later, the preordained winner to be finally confirmed.

But this year, not only is there an unusually strong crop of movies emerging to critical acclaim, there has yet to be a consensus as to which likely will ultimately prevail. It's almost as if there's something for every mood. Certainly, Damien Chazelle's La La Land, which debuted in Venice before waltzing on to Telluride and Toronto, charmed, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone kicking up their heels. But for those of a more somber mind, there also was Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea — cheered when it first appeared at Sundance, it got another round of applause at Telluride — with Casey Affleck playing a man in retreat from the world around him who is slowly drawn back in. And, in terms of discovery, Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, which arrived on the scene without much in the way of advance buzz, proved to be a revelation, a meditation on black masculinity that took the festival circuit by storm.

With several intriguing titles — Martin Scorsese's Silence, Denzel Washington's Fences — still to be unveiled, it's impossible to say how it all will play out. But in the meantime, one thing's guaranteed: There's sure to be plenty of suspense.

  • Allied

    Paramount

    Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    Release Date: Nov. 23

    Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard amp up the star wattage in what promises to be a glamorous World War II adventure/romance from director Robert Zemeckis.

  • Arrival

    Paramount

    Courtesy of Jan Thijs/Paramount Pictures

    Release Date: Nov. 11

    Amy Adams' linguist is at the center of this close encounter of the third kind from director Denis Villeneuve that will test the market for smart sci-fi.

    Read THR's review here

  • The BFG

    Disney

    Courtesy of Storyteller Distributuion Co.

    Release Date: July 1

    Box Office: $177.2 million

    Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic fantasy met a mixed reception at its Cannes bow, but Mark Rylance's motion-capture performance as the big guy and the movie's visual effects definitely impressed.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

    Sony

    Release Date: Nov. 11

    Two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee once again is testing film's technical limits — instead of 24 frames per second, he has opted for 120 fps — as he tells the story of an Iraq War veteran, who, amid patriotic hoopla, is haunted by battle scenes past.

    Read THR's review here

  • The Birth of a Nation

    Fox Searchlight

    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

    Release Date: Oct. 7

    Box Office: $15.1 million

    Declared an Oscar frontrunner when it debuted at Sundance, the film got caught up in the controversy surrounding writer-director-star Nate Parker's 2001 rape trial, at which he was acquitted. Now the film's prospects are more problematic.

    Read THR's review here

  • Bleed for This

    Open Road Films

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    Awards voters often have a soft spot for boxing movies, and director Ben Younger's drama starring Miles Teller is the true, inspirational story of how Vinny Pazienza battled back into the ring after a near-fatal car crash.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Cafe Society

    Lionsgate/Amazon

    Lionsgate/Photofest

    Release Date: July 15.

    Box Office: $11.1 million

    Woody Allen's latest, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart as star-crossed lovers in golden-era Hollywood, boasts cinematography from three-time Oscar-winning master Vittorio Storaro.

    Read THR's review here

  • Captain Fantastic

    Bleecker Street

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Release Date: July 9.

    Box Office: $5.9 million

    Viggo Mortensen takes center stage as a free-spirited dad in writer-director Matt Ross' tale of a home-schooled family living off the grid.

    Read THR's review here
  • Collateral Beauty

    Warner Bros.

    Barry Wetcher

    Release Date: Dec. 16

    After the loss of his daughter, Will Smith confronts depression in David Frankel's drama.

  • The Comedian

    Sony Pictures Classic

    Sony Classics

    Release Date: Dec. 12

    World premiering at AFI Fest on Nov. 11, Taylor Hackford's film stars two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro as an aging insult comic — a passion project for the star.

  • Denial

    Bleecker Street

    Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

    Release Date: Sept. 30

    Box Office: $3 million

    In director Mick Jackson's true-life tale, adapted for the screen by David Hare, Rachel Weisz plays author Deborah Lipstadt in a legal battle with Holocaust-denier David Irving (Timothy Spall).

    Read THR's review here

  • Desierto

    STX Entertainment

    Courtesy of Toronto Film Festival

    Release Date: Oct. 14

    Box Office: $1.6 million

    Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan face off on the U.S.-Mexico border in director Jonas Cuaron's sun-baked thriller.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Elle

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Release Date: Nov. 11

    France's entry in the foreign-language race, Paul Verhoeven's film shook up Cannes thanks to Isabelle Huppert's performance as a rape survivor who refuses to accept victim status.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Eye in the Sky

    Bleecker Street

    Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

    Release Date: March 11

    Box Office: $18.7 million

    One of the year's indie hits, Gavin Hood's drama starring Helen Mirren considers the morality of drone warfare.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

    Warner Bros.

    Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    J.K. Rowling makes her debut as a screenwriter in this follow-up to the Harry Potter franchise. Eddie Redmayne is the newest wizard, and if the film follows in Harry's footsteps, it could claim lots of crafts attention.

  • Fences

    Paramount

    David Lee/Paramount Pictures

    Release Date: Dec. 25

    August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a family in the 1950s makes it to the screen with Denzel Washington (who also directs) and Viola Davis, who both won Tonys for its 2010 Broadway staging. It has no shortage of pedigree.

  • Florence Foster Jenkins

    Paramount

    Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    Release Date: Aug. 12

    Box Office: $27.4 million

    Even when she's singing badly, she's good, so Meryl Streep, who already holds a record, could be eyeing a 20th Oscar nomination.

    Read THR's review here

  • Gold

    Dimension/The Weinstein Co.

    Patrick Brown/The Weinstein Company

    Release Date: Dec. 25

    Matthew McConaughey travels from the canyons of Manhattan to the Indonesian jungle in search of riches under the direction of Stephen Gaghan.

  • Hacksaw Ridge

    Lionsgate

    Mark Rogers/Summit Entertainment

    Release Date: Nov. 4

    After a 10-year absence, Mel Gibson returns to the director's chair to tell the true story of Army medic and conscientious objector Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who distinguished himself in the battle of Okinawa.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Hell or High Water

    CBS Films/Lionsgate

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Release Date: Aug. 12

    Box Office: $26. 7 million

    One of the summer's word-of-mouth adult hits, David Mackenzie's crime story provides a showcase for Jeff Bridges as a Texas ranger. He stars alongside Chris Pine and Ben Foster.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Hello, My Name is Doris

    Roadside Attractions

    Aaron Epstein/Roadside Attractions

    Release Date: March 11

    Box Office: $14.4 million

    Audiences have really, really liked Sally Field's turn as a 60-something woman who falls in love with a younger man in Michael Showalter's feature.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Hidden Figures

    Fox

    Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

    Release Date: Dec. 25

    Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae play a trio of mathematicians who broke down barriers at NASA during the 1960s in Theodore Melfi's fact-based film, on which Pharrell Williams not only provides music but serves as one of the producers.

  • I, Daniel Blake

    Sundance Selects/IFC

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Release Date: Dec. 23

    Director Ken Loach's searing look at an ailing man (played by Dave Johns) suffering at the hands of the British welfare system earned the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Jackie

    Fox Searchlight

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Release Date: Dec. 2

    Oscar winner Natalie Portman morphs into Jacqueline Kennedy, coping with her husband's assassination, in Pablo Larrain's film, which won screenwriting honors for Noah Oppenheim at the Venice fest.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Kubo and the Two Strings

    Focus Features

    Laika Studios/Focus Features

    Release Date: Aug. 19

    Box Office: $67.6 million

    Laika animation studio president and CEO Travis Knight takes on his first directing assignment with this stop-motion film.

    Read THR's review here.

  • La La Land

    Lionsgate

    Dale Robinette/Lionsgate

    Release Date: Dec. 9

    As Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling burst into song and dance (see page 84 for more), writer-director Damien Chazelle conjures up a sunset-tinted valentine both to classic musicals and the city of Los Angeles.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Lion

    The Weinstein Co.

    Mark Rogers/The Weinstein Company

    Release Date: Nov. 25

    At the Toronto Film Festival, Garth Davis' drama about an Indian man, Dev Patel, searching for his birth parents got a warm, enthusiastic reception.

    Read THR's review here.
  • Live by Night

    Warner Bros.

    Screengrab/Warner Bros. Pictures

    Release Date: Dec. 25

    Ben Affleck directs and stars in a Prohibition-era crime drama based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who also provided the source material for Affleck's 2007 film Gone Baby Gone.

  • The Lobster

    A24

    Courtesy of Alchemy/Sundance Institute

    Release Date: May 13

    Box Office: $9.1 million

    Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos' bleak satire about dating rituals won the Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes fest.

    Read THR's review here.
  • Love & Friendship

    Roadside Attractions

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    Release Date: May 13

    Box Office: $14 million

    Social chronicler Whit Stillman steps into the 18th century to follow Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon (played by Kate Beckinsale) as she attempts to improve her fortunes.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Loving

    Focus Features

    Ben Rothstein/FOCUS FEATURES

    Release Date: Nov. 4

    The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, whose case led the Supreme Court to strike down anti-miscegenation laws, is recounted by writer-director Jeff Nichols.

    Read THR's review here

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Roadside Attractions/Amazon

    Claire Folger/Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    Since its Sundance debut, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's study of a man (Casey Affleck) navigating a tidal wave of depression met an emotional reception on the festival circuit.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Miss Sloane

    EuropaCorp

    Release Date: Nov. 25

    Jessica Chastain takes on gun interests as a lobbyist with the help of director John Madden. 


  • A Monster Calls

    Focus Features

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Release Date: Dec. 23

    J.A. Bayona adapts Patrick Ness' novel about a boy's retreat into fantasy when his mother (Felicity Jones) is stricken by cancer.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Moonlight

    A24

    Courtesy of David Bornfriend/A24

    Release Date: Oct. 24

    Box Office: $1.4 million

    Barry Jenkins' second feature, following a young black boy as he learns what it is to be a man, has been earning swooning raves since it was unveiled at Telluride.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Nocturnal Animals

    Focus Features

    Courtesy of Merrick Morton Universal Pictures International

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    Tom Ford fashions a moody thriller featuring a world-weary Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal in survivor mode.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Paterson

    Bleecker Street/Amazon

    Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

    Release Date: Dec. 28

    Jim Jarmusch offers up a quiet look at a Paterson, N.J., bus driver — Adam Driver, putting Star Wars far behind him — who has the soul of a poet.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Queen of Katwe

    Disney

    Courtesy of YouTube

    Release Date: Sept. 23

    Box Office: $8.7 million

    Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o plays the mother of a chess prodigy in director Mira Nair's film, set in Uganda.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Rules Don't Apply

    Fox

    Francois Duhamel/Twentieth Century Fox

    Release Date: Nov. 23

    Directing his first film since 1998's Bulworth, Warren Beatty is back on the screen as a shadowy Howard Hughes as he manipulates the lives of young lovers, played by Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich, the future young Han Solo.

  • The Secret Life of Pets

    Universal

    Courtesy of Universal Pictures

    Release Date: July 8

    Box Office: $868 million

    With its Minions taking the summer off, Illumination Entertainment struck pay dirt by having anthropomorphic fun with a bunch of house­­hold pets.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Silence

    Paramount

    Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures

    Release Date: Dec. 23

    In the works since 1990, Martin Scorsese's account of Jesuit missionaries (played by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) in 17th century Japan finally is making it to the screen.

  • Snowden

    Open Road

    Courtesy of Jurgen Olczyk/Open Road Films

    Release Date: Sept. 16

    Box Office: $21.4 million

    With Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role, director Oliver Stone adds another chapter to his cinematic critique of American power.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Sully

    Warner Bros.

    Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros.

    Release Date: Sept. 9

    Box Office: $182.4 million

    Clint Eastwood's efficient retelling of the miracle on the Hudson became a big enough hit that Tom Hanks, who plays Capt. Sullenberger, parodied it himself on Saturday Night Live.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Toni Erdmann

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Release Date: Dec. 25

    A two-hour-and-42-minute German comedy about a father-daughter relationship? But festivalgoers left delighted.

    Read THR's review here.
  • 20th Century Women

    A24

    Release Date: Dec. 25

    Writer-director Mike Mills (Beginners) provides a showcase for four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening as the matriarch of a late 1970s Southern Cal clan.

    Read THR's review here.

  • Zootopia

    Disney

    Courtesy of Disney

    Release Date: March 4

    Box Office: $1.02 billion

    Set in a world full of critters, the story of an empowered female bunny became the biggest-grossing animated film of the year.

    Read THR's review here.

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