Art and Experience: Pandemic or no pandemic, the show must go on, and so the Oscars will be held two months late, on April 25, 2021. Back in January 2020, Sundance launched a few movies, including “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs”), who gives a tour-de-force performance opposite Olivia Colman as his daughter. But subsequent festivals shuttered or went virtual, and the slimmed-down fall festivals are leaning more indie, as many bigger titles wait for solid release dates. This year, critics could play an even more crucial role in the 2021 awards season.

Already playing on the Academy screening portal is Spike Lee’s well-reviewed “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix), starring Delroy Lindo as a traumatized vet who returns to Vietnam; Lindo could land his first Oscar nomination. Also making a bid for his first Oscar nod is John David Washington, who follows up “BlacKkKlansman” with a starring role in Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenet” (Warner Bros.).

Returning Oscar perennials include Matt Damon (three acting nods) as a father who tracks down his daughter (Abigail Breslin) when she is accused of murder in “Spotlight” director Tom McCarthy’s “Stillwater” (Focus). Never nominated for acting, Ben Affleck scored raves for his performance as an alcoholic coach in “The Way Back” (Warner Bros.). Joaquin Phoenix committed to star in Mike Mills’ “C’mon, C’mon” (A24) before he won the Oscar as “Joker.” Michael Fassbender makes a bid for his third Oscar nomination, playing a soccer coach in Taika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins” (Searchlight). Four-time acting nominee George Clooney directs and stars in timely sci-fi thriller “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix), as a lonely Arctic scientist trying to warn a returning space flight of a global catastrophe. Bill Murray stars as a larger-than-life father meeting his daughter (Rashida Jones) in New York in Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” (A24).

Coming at year’s end are Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic “Dune,” (December 18, Warner Bros.), starring Timothée Chalamet opposite Oscar Isaac as his father. Two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks reunites with his “Captain Phillips” director Paul Greengrass in “News of the World” (December 25, Universal). Ansel Elgort is vying for his first nomination as Tony in Steven Spielberg’s musical remake of “West Side Story” (December 18, Twentieth Century/Disney), despite accusations of sexual assault, which the actor denies. Long overdue Bradley Cooper (four acting nods) stars as a con man in Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight), which still needs to finish shooting.

Biopics always have an edge in this race. After winning as Winston Churchill, Gary Oldman takes on “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz in David Fincher’s “Mank” (Netflix), a more likely Oscar contender than long-delayed thriller “Woman in the Window” (Fox 2000/Disney), Joe Wright’s follow-up to “Darkest Hour.” Andrew Garfield could follow up his nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge” as televangelist Jim Bakker opposite Jessica Chastain in the title role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight). If Guantanamo Bay true story “Prisoner 760” (BBC Films) gets picked up, Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”) could be a long-shot possibility.

Warner Bros.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order. No film will be deemed a frontrunner unless I have seen it.

Frontrunners:
Ben Affleck (“The Way Back”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”)

Contenders:
Timothée Chalamet (“Dune”)
George Clooney (“The Midnight Sky”)
Bradley Cooper (“Nightmare Alley”)
Matt Damon (“Stillwater”)
Ansel Elgort (“West Side Story”)
Michael Fassbender (“Next Goal Wins”)
Andrew Garfield (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)
Tom Hanks (“News of the World”)
Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”)
Liam Neeson (“Ordinary Love”)
Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“C’mon, C’mon”)
Tahar Rahim (“Prisoner 760”)
John David Washington (“Tenet”)

Source: indiewire