2020 has plenty of promising Oscar contenders ... if the Oscars actually happen


If there’s a movie awards season this year — and right now, that’s a big question mark — there’s only one certainty: Like everything else in this pandemic-altered world, it’s not going to look like anything we’ve ever seen before.

The fall film festivals in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York could be local, virtual or canceled. Movie theaters might be open with a surfeit of product — would-be blockbusters that have been postponed from the spring (the new Bond film, “No Time to Die”) and summer (Marvel’s “Black Widow”) along with the already planned awards season contenders. Or they might not reopen at all. Or studios might decide to push most movies to 2021 when (if) social distancing restrictions are eased ... when (if) there’s a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

Nobody knows. And, frankly, the world has more urgent matters to contend with. But the motion picture academy took the first steps Tuesday toward outlining the new normal, tweaking its rules to allow movies that debuted on a streaming service or on-demand platform, while theaters remain closed, to be eligible for the 2021 Oscars. The Feb. 28 date for the ceremony remains in place.

There would certainly be enough movies to compete. Even with anticipated titles pushed into next year — including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical “In the Heights,” the “Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark” and the character study “King Richard,” with Will Smith playing Richard Williams, father to tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams — there are dozens of prestige pictures either finished or deep into post-production.


So for all you glass-half-full optimists, here are the movies that we might see — hopefully, in a theater together — in the next eight months, along with an update of their current status.



Neon paid $3 million in January for this drama about an unlikely romance between a struggling fossil hunter (Kate Winslet) and a London socialite (Saoirse Ronan) in 1920s England.
Distributor: Neon
Status: Locked, unscheduled



Musical love story between a stand-up comic (Adam Driver) and an opera star (Marion Cotillard) from French director Leos Carax (“Holy Motors”). It’s set in L.A. and features new music from the celebrated art-pop band Sparks. Think of it as a phantasmagorical “La La Land.”
Distributor: Amazon
Status: Post-production, unscheduled


“Da 5 Bloods”

Four black veterans return to Vietnam searching for closure while looking for the remains of a fallen comrade — and buried treasure. Look for the latest Spike Lee joint on Netflix some time this year.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Per an email from Lee: “Done. Finished. Locked And Loaded.”

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Denis Villeneuve will try to ride the sandworm and bring Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi/fantasy opus to the screen in a satisfying fashion. David Lynch, understandably, may have no interest in seeing it, but it’s among the year’s most anticipated titles.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Status: Post-production, scheduled for Dec. 18


“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

One would expect a makeup/hair nomination at the very least for this look at televangelists Tammy Faye Bakker and Jim Bakker. Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield portray the controversial couple in a project based on the documentary of the same name. And, yes, Chastain will do her own singing.
Distributor: Searchlight
Status: Post-production, unscheduled


“The Father”

Anthony Hopkins plays a man refusing help as his mental state deteriorates. Oscar-winner Olivia Colman portrays the concerned daughter in this tough-minded drama, which premiered at Sundance and immediately established Hopkins as an Oscar front-runner.
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Status: Finished and scheduled for Nov. 20


“The French Dispatch”

Wes Anderson’s latest, inspired by his love for the New Yorker, focuses on the French bureau of an American newspaper as its journalists work on three stories: an artist sentenced to life imprisonment, student riots and a kidnapping resolved by a chef. The sprawling ensemble includes Frances McDormand, Benicio del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray.
Distributor: Searchlight
Status: Finished and scheduled for Oct. 16


“Hillbilly Elegy”

Ron Howard directs this adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir looking at his Appalachian upbringing and the failings of working-class politics. Amy Adams and Glenn Close star.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Post-production, unscheduled


“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

The latest from filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (“Adaptation”) is, of course, a brain-bender, following a couple on a road trip to meet the man’s parents. Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley star.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Finished, unscheduled


“The Last Duel”

Ridley Scott had to suspend filming about a month into making this medieval thriller starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver. If it were any other filmmaker, we’d write off a 2020 release. But if Scott could erase Kevin Spacey from “All the Money in the World” in a matter of days, he might be able to make this movie’s scheduled Christmas release date.
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Status: Production suspended


“The Life Ahead”


Sophia Loren plays a Holocaust survivor bonding with a 12-year-old Senegalese immigrant boy. The Italian-language film is directed by Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti. We have no idea how submissions for the international feature category will play out, so this title is iffy. But who doesn’t want to see the magnificent Loren again?
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Finished, unscheduled


“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman star in this adaptation of the August Wilson play exploring tensions between black blues musicians and producers of a white-owned record company in the 1920s. Denzel Washington produces, making good on his efforts to film Wilson’s work.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Post-production, unscheduled



Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) labors to finish “Citizen Kane,” battling director Orson Welles (Tom Burke) along the way in this drama from writer-director David Fincher.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Post-production, unscheduled



The latest from Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Uncle Boonmee Who Could Recall His Past Lives”) stars Tilda Swinton as a nomadic woman dealing with exploding head syndrome (hearing loud noises that don’t exist) as she travels through the Colombian mountains. “Parasite” distributor Neon bought this in November, stoking anticipation.
Distributor: Neon
Status: Post-production, unscheduled


“The Midnight Sky”

Sci-fi thriller about a lonely Arctic scientist (George Clooney, who also directs) trying to stop a group of astronauts from returning to Earth because there’s been a mysterious global catastrophe. Can’t wait to see how this one ends.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Post-production, wrapped filming in February. Unscheduled.



Lee Isaac Chung’s film took both the grand jury prize and the audience award at Sundance, winning raves for its tender look at a young Korean American boy who moves to an Arkansas farm with his family.
Distributor: A24
Status: Finished, unscheduled


“News of the World”

Tom Hanks reunites with “Captain Phillips” director Paul Greengrass in this post-Civil War western about a Texan escorting a 10-year-old girl to her family in San Antonio.
Distributor: Universal
Status: Post-production, scheduled for Dec. 25



Chloé Zhao’s follow-up to “The Rider” is a road movie following a woman (Frances McDormand) traveling through the American West after losing everything in the 2008 recession.
Distributor: Searchlight
Status: Zhao — who also directs the Marvel event movie “The Eternals,” which was pushed to 2021 — finished shooting “Nomadland” in early 2019, but its current condition is a bit ... mysterious. But it would be ready for a 2020 release in the right conditions.


“On the Rocks”

With apologies to Hanks and Greengrass, this is the filmmaker/star reunion we’ve been waiting for: Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray with a story of a father and daughter (Rashida Jones) bonding, in Coppola’s words, on a “little adventure to spy on her husband” (Marlon Wayans).
Distributor: A24
Status: Post-production, unscheduled


“Over the Moon”

Animated musical-adventure about a girl who builds a rocket and travels to the moon hoping to meet a legendary goddess. Disney vet Glen Keane (who won an Oscar for Kobe Bryant’s short “Dear Basketball”) directs in his feature debut. Oscar hopes are high in the animated feature category.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Post-production, unscheduled


“The Prom”

Ryan Murphy adapts the joyful musical about a quartet of Broadway actors traveling to Indiana to help a high school lesbian bring her girlfriend to prom. Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells star.
Distributor: Netflix
Status: Post-production, unscheduled



Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha Franklin. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, indeed.
Distributor: MGM
Status: Post-production with a scheduled Dec. 25 release



Pixar Animation tries to find the meaning of life with Jamie Foxx voicing a middle-school band teacher and aspiring jazz musician who falls down a manhole and lands in the Great Before, a place where souls develop before being sent to Earth. Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”) directs, so you know you’re going to cry. Just accept it.
Distributor: Disney
Status: Post-production, scheduled for Nov. 20



Filmmaker Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to “Spotlight” stars Matt Damon as an Oklahoma oil rigger trying to exonerate his estranged daughter, who is imprisoned in France, accused of murder.
Distributor: Focus
Status: Post-production, scheduled for Nov. 6


“The Souvenir Part II”

Joanna Hogg picks up the journey of young filmmaker Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) in this follow-up to her acclaimed 2019 indie film, adding Robert Pattinson to the mix as a (possible) love interest.
Distributor: A24
Status: Post-production, unscheduled



Time Runs Out. A film by Christopher Nolan. #TENET – in cinemas soon


Everyone wants to live in a world where Christopher Nolan’s $200-million time-travel action thriller actually opens on July 17. Seems unlikely, but Warner Bros. hasn’t budged on the release date while moving several other movies.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Status: Finished, scheduled for July 17


“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Long-gestating Aaron Sorkin drama about the federal government prosecuting political radicals accused of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.
Distributor: Paramount
Status: Post-production, scheduled for Sept. 25


“West Side Story”

Somehoooooooooooow ... some daaaaaaaaaaay ... somewheeeere .... we’ll see Steven Spielberg’s take on the classic Broadway musical. Perhaps even this year.
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Status: Post-production, scheduled for Dec. 18


“The Woman in the Window”

Six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams plays an agoraphobic psychologist who gets more than she bargained for when she befriends a neighbor (Julianne Moore) across the street. Probably more potboiler than prestige pic, but Adams elevates everything she’s in.
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Status: Post-production, unscheduled

Coronavirus may have shut down movie theaters, but even if they stayed closed, we’d have a strong slate of Oscar contenders beyond Elisabeth Moss in “Invisible Man.”

April 17, 2020