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They're back: Past Oscar favorites are out in force this fall

They're back: Past Oscar favorites are out in force this fall
Barry Jenkins, left, and Damien Chazelle at The Times' Envelope directors roundtable in 2016. Will there be a return engagement this year? (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle often found themselves in the same places — directors panels, awards shows, film festivals, valet lines — in the six months between “La La Land” and “Moonlight” screening at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival and the 89th Academy Awards, where Chazelle became the youngest director winner and Jenkins’ “Moonlight” (eventually) took the best picture honor.

The filmmakers will be reunited on the awards season trail this year, as will a great many other recent nominees and winners. The motion picture academy has its favorites — Meryl Streep has been nominated 21 times, though she’ll be sitting this one out — and voters will soon have the chance to shower some of those Oscar perennials with even more love.

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Several of this year’s Oscar races feature some pretty perfect pairings. Sight (mostly) unseen, let’s dig into some tantalizing possibilities.

Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures' "First Man."
Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures' "First Man." (Daniel McFadden / Universal Pictures / DreamWorks)
Stephan James and KiKi Layne in a scene from "If Beale Street Could Talk" from director Barry Jenkins.
Stephan James and KiKi Layne in a scene from "If Beale Street Could Talk" from director Barry Jenkins. (Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures / TIFF)

DIRECTOR: Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle

Jenkins wrote both the first draft of “If Beale Street Could Talk,” an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, and “Moonlight” during a very focused six-week summer stay in Brussels five years ago. “Beale Street” tells the story of a young woman trying to prove the innocence of her fiancé, falsely accused of rape by a racist police officer. The teaser trailer showcases the material’s urgency and depth as well as Jenkins’ gift for imagery that is both natural and lyrical. The movie premieres in Toronto.

Chazelle’s fourth film, the Apollo 11 biographical drama “First Man,” reunites him with “La La Land” star Ryan Gosling, who plays astronaut Neil Armstrong. It feels like a bit of a departure for Chazelle, who says he employed a documentary style of filmmaking that plays up the space mission’s risks and peril. With a big theatrical release via Universal, it could be a hit with the Space Force crowd.

Director Alfonso Cuaron's next film is "Roma," a personal story of a Mexican family in the 1970s.
Director Alfonso Cuaron's next film is "Roma," a personal story of a Mexican family in the 1970s. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP)

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón and Steve McQueen

If the Jenkins/Chazelle pairing feels a little too recent, how about this blast from the past? Cuarón and McQueen were both nominated for their 2013 films, with Cuarón winning the Oscar for directing “Gravity” and McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” taking best picture.

They took their time with their follow-ups. McQueen’s “Widows,” which he adapted with Gillian Flynn (“Sharp Objects,” “Gone Girl”), is a heist thriller focused on a group of women uniting to finish an elaborate robbery planned by their late husbands. The gritty trailer seems made for anyone put off by the formulaic escapism of the “Ocean’s” movies. Viola Davis is front and center, as she should always be.

Cuarón’s “Roma” is a family drama set in Mexico City based on his own formative years in the early 1970s. He has called it his most personal film, his most “essential” film. Cuarón shot it himself, and the black-and-white visuals, as glimpsed in the trailer, are breathtaking. Netflix is betting heavy that “Roma” will finally make it a player in the best picture race. Its confidence appears well-founded.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in "A Star Is Born."
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in "A Star Is Born." (Clay Enos / Warner Bros.)

ACTOR: Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale

Five years ago, Cooper was rocking perm rollers and Bale a world-class comb-over on their way to Oscar nominations for David O. Russell’s “American Hustle.”

Now, Cooper goes the elegantly wasted route in “A Star Is Born,” the remake costarring Lady Gaga that marks his directorial debut. Sun-baked and sporting the beard oils of a thousand Bergamot oranges, Cooper looks as beautiful as he sounds. Can he bring his guitar to the Oscars?

Bale, meanwhile, gorged on pies and went bald and gray to make like former Vice President Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s story of political power and eroding ethics, “Backseat.” (He also plays Cheney as a younger man.) The movie promises to be a pellet blast to the face — in the best possible sense.

Saoirse Ronan arrives at the Oscars in March. She was nominated for her lead turn in "Lady Bird."
Saoirse Ronan arrives at the Oscars in March. She was nominated for her lead turn in "Lady Bird." (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

ACTRESS: Saoirse Ronan and Glenn Close

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Lamentations for the Oscar-less are as much a part of the awards season as whisper campaigns, DVD screeners and the overuse of the word “snub.” With six nods, Close, 71, stands as the most nominated living actor to have never won an Oscar. With her smart, simmering turn in “The Wife” (now in theaters in limited release), Close has another opportunity this year. Expect her advocates to be out in force.

Ronan has earned three Oscar nominations — and she hasn’t yet celebrated her 25th birthday. The title role in “Mary, Queen of Scots” (also featuring Margot Robbie, nominated last year for “I, Tonya”) offers a prime chance to add to the total — and to the impression that she’s on a path that will put her within shouting distance of Streep's Oscar record someday.

Daniel Kaluuya, left, and Timothée Chalamet on the red carpet at the 2018 Oscars.
Daniel Kaluuya, left, and Timothée Chalamet on the red carpet at the 2018 Oscars. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Daniel Kaluuya and Timothée Chalamet

You loved them last year, so why not an encore? Kaluuya anchored “Get Out” through tears and those amazingly expressive eyes and now has a choice supporting role in McQueen’s “Widows.” We’re ready for him this time around.

Chalamet could go lead or supporting for “Beautiful Boy,” playing a young man struggling with drug addiction. Call it Oscar bait all you want. I’m bringing a handkerchief to the theater.

Regina King has a standout role in "If Beale Street Could Talk."
Regina King has a standout role in "If Beale Street Could Talk." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Amy Adams and Regina King

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OK, this one’s a little bit of a cheat as King has long reigned at the Emmys (she has won two and is nominated again this year), but has yet to break through at the Oscars. (Her powerful work as Margie Hendricks in “Ray” remains a highlight of that movie.)

Readers of “If Beale Street Could Talk” know that it may be about the lovers, but it’s the mothers who own some of the juiciest, fiercest dialogue and scenes. So watch out for King and for Aunjanue Ellis, the onetime “Quantico” star who’s about to bust out in a big way with this film and roles on HBO’s anthology horror series “Lovecraft Country” and the Netflix limited series “Central Park Five.”

As for Adams, her five nominations without winning put her right behind Close among the ranks of the Oscar-less. Currently earning raves for her work on the HBO limited series “Sharp Objects,” Adams will play Lynne Cheney opposite Bale in “Backseat.” If this woman is anything like Adams’ steely string-puller in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” she’ll have another chance to snag that Oscar this year.

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