The gold rush gang

The ‘Post’ looks at five of the front-runners for next year’s Academy Awards.

SALLY HAWKINS (left) and Octavia Spencer in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water.’ (photo credit: FOX SEARCHLIGHT)
SALLY HAWKINS (left) and Octavia Spencer in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water.’
(photo credit: FOX SEARCHLIGHT)
With the summer blockbuster season finally over, audiences can look forward to a shift from superheroes and aliens to talky dramas and smaller-scale storytelling. This is the time when movie studios start trotting out their prestige pictures, affectionately referred to as “Oscar bait.” So let’s take a look at the five films with the best shot at Oscar gold.
The Post
Directed by Steven Spielberg, The Post tells the true story behind the release of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, at which point the Nixon White House fought to prevent The Washington Post from publishing these internal memos that revealed Nixon’s administration had lied to the American public about what was really going on in the Vietnam War. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the fight was quite literally surrounding the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.
Tom Hanks plays famous Washington Post editor Benjamin Bradlee, while Meryl Streep plays the paper’s first female publisher, Kay Graham. This will mark the fifth time Spielberg has directed Hanks after Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and Bridge of Spies. While Streep has never appeared on screen in a Spielberg film, she provided the voice of The Blue Fairy in 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The ensemble includes Carrie Coon, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Alison Brie, Bradley Whitford, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Bruce Greenwood and Tracy Letts.
The Post
opens in Israel January 11.
The Shape of Water
Renowned director Guillermo del Toro’s (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) fantasy love story The Shape of Water has gained much Oscar buzz since winning the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
The film stars Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) as Elisa Esposito, a cleaning woman at a secret government lab in 1950s Baltimore who strikes up an unlikely romance with the aquatic creature, or “asset” (played by longtime del Toro collaborator Doug Jones), that is the facility’s newest specimen.
“I’ll tell you, it doesn’t get more personal than Shape of Water for me. I am the proudest of it. It’s my favorite movie that I’ve done,” said del Toro in a recent interview with Collider. “It has an enormous heart. I’ve seen it 190 million times and I still cry in three or four moments in the movie.
It’s even more than that... I love it. I call it ‘a fairytale for troubled times’ because it’s an ointment against the world, where we’re waking up every morning with worse news.”
Rounding out the cast is Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer.
The Shape of Water is likely to be released in Israel sometime in January.
The Darkest Hour
There is much Oscar buzz surrounding Gary Oldman’s role as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews, with critics calling Oldman’s performance one of the best portrayals of Churchill.
Directed by Joe Wright, The Darkest Hour begins on the eve of World War II as, within days of becoming prime minister of Great Britain, Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation.
Oldman’s physical transformation took 200 hours in the make-up department. Oldman had to sit in the chair, without fidgeting or heading out for any toilet breaks, for hours at a time while artists applied the necessary features. The actor has admitted that he carried “around half my body weight” in prosthetics, and labeled the process “a hard one.”
“I needed to see Churchill looking back at me, in the mirror, to get the chutzpah to get up there and do him justice,” said Oldman.
Oldman is far from the first actor to fill Churchill’s shoes. In fact, he’ll be the fourth in the space of just two years, following Michael Gambon in the telefilm Churchill’s Secret (2016), John Lithgow in the Netflix series The Crown (2016) and Brian Cox in the feature film Churchill (2017).
The film also stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane and Ben Mendelsohn.
The Darkest Hour opens in Israel January 11.
Mudbound provides Netflix with its first true Oscar contender, having been sold at Sundance for $12.5 million. The post-WWII drama by director Dee Rees features an ensemble cast the includes Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan and a show-stopping performance from a nearly-unrecognizable Mary J.
Blige. Two families are pitted against one another as simmering racial tensions come to a head when two war veterans – one black, the other white – return to their rural town in the American south, trading war on the European frontlines for one at home.
“I got into this business because I wanted to tell stories. That’s what got me into filmmaking.
I wanted to bring writing to life. To me, that was always the end. I wanted to create worlds and create characters that live on in people’s mind,. and I wanted to be able to realize them. I always wanted to be an auteur,” said director Rees in a recent interview with Vulture.
A directing nomination for Rees would be the first for a black woman.
Mudbound can currently be seen on Netflix.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand gives a powerhouse performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a darkly comedic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). The film follows Mildred Hayes (McDormand), a grieving mother railing against the lack of progress in the investigation into her daughter’s murder. She posts three controversial messages outside her hometown which put her on a collision course with the local police chief (Woody Harrelson) and his second-in-command (Sam Rockwell). Rounding out the cast is Peter Dinklage and Abbie Cornish.
Three Billboards has already received much critical acclaim and recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Three Billboards likely to be released in Israel sometime in February.