The Contenders and Pretenders of Awards Season 2017

It’s time to weed out the Oscar bait.
By  · Published on September 12th, 2017

It’s time to weed out the Oscar bait.

With festival season in full swing and Oscar season close approaching, there is a lot of buzz about possible Oscar 2018 contenders. Sadly, not all features released during this time are nomination worthy no matter how star-studded the cast or tear-jerking the trailer, but their release date was by design. Hopefully, I can save you some time and money by looking at the possible worthy contenders and those that fall short.

Disclaimer: Just like the Oscar nominations, not every great (or awful) film this year could make this list.

I picked these based on reviews, buzz, and trailers. Feel free to tweet us which ones I missed, because I know how you love to do that.

The Big Sick: Contender

One of the funniest and most original romantic comedies of all time, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon’s real life love story is certainly award-worthy. It’s certainly qualified for a Best Writing Original Screenplay award, but Nanjiani’s performance could very well deserve the Best Actor in a Leading Role award.

Red Dots

Suburbicon: Pretender

Sorry, Julianne Moore. George Clooney’s latest directorial effort doesn’t stick its landing on political critique. Behind its star-studded cast lies an unnuanced script thanks to Clooney’s meddling with a Coen brothers’ screenplay. Xan Brooks writes in his review for The Guardian: “But Suburbicon is too lightweight and mannered; it lacks proper fury. Watching it is like having your trouser-leg savaged by an energetic small dog.”

Red Dots

Call Me By Your Name: Contender

The most talked about film this festival season seems to live up the hype. This romance set in 1983 Italy is a languid queer masterpiece that is sure to get the Academy’s attention, and hopefully a Best Picture nomination. In Bohn van Hoeij’s review for The Hollywood Reporter he points out: “Though Hammer might be the bigger star and he certainly has a juicier-than-usual role here that he clearly relishes, the true breakout of the film is 21-year-old Chalamet. Elio is someone who is experiencing a lot of things for the first time, for which he barely has any words, but Chalamet’s face and body language turn his character into an open book.” So, the Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination could be in the future too.

Red Dots

Dunkirk: Contender

Arguably Christopher Nolan’s best film to date, this World War II thriller was one of the films that defined the summer box office. Masterfully crafted to raise the hair on your arms, this film should definitely be considered for the Best Sound Editing/Mixing and Best Cinematography awards at least. Here’s our own Tomris Laffy’s review of Dunkirk.

Red Dots

Films Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool: Pretender

Gloria Graham, one of the greatest ladies to grace film noir, had a life worth talking about even in her old age. Paul McGuigan’s adaptation of a memoir of Graham’s lover Peter Turner, however, is a tired look at romance and does very little justice to the subject herself. Not to the fault of leading lady, Annette Bening, but the script itself. David Ehrlich says in his review for IndieWire: “Gloria Grahame starred in too many great movies to be the subject of one this bland.”

Red Dots

Stronger: Contender

This biopic may look like a typical Hollywood depiction of a hero, but Jake Gyllenhaal plays a man who is anything but. This film goes beyond the surface of heroism and shows the painful guilt that goes with surviving a disaster. This refreshing, although heart-breaking, film should be considered for the Best Adapted Screenplay category to show that biopics don’t have to be generic. For The Film Stage, Jared Mobarak writes: “But while he could have easily minimized this man’s struggle into a generic fluff piece of Hollywood inspirational perseverance, he admirably highlights the darkness those “lucky” enough to survive endure instead.”

Red Dots

Get Out: Contender

A groundbreaking film directed by Jordan Peele not only set a new standard for horror/thriller films but killed the box office as well. If the Academy is concerned with awarding that reflect today and break the conventions of filmmaking, then Get Out deserves Best Picture, Best Writing Original Screenplay and Best Director nominations.

Red Dots

Rebel in the Rye: Pretender

Another formulaic film about a famous person (Spot a trend?), Danny Brown’s look at writer J. D. Salinger’s life hardly does the genius justice. David Sims puts it nicely in The Atlantic: “The new film about Salinger’s career, Rebel in the Rye, is a work of searing mediocrity about an author who was horrified by the very idea of mediocrity, eventually sealing himself away from public life rather than subject his work to mainstream scrutiny.”

Red Dots

The Disaster Artist: Contender

No one loves movies about filmmaking more than Hollywood, so James Franco’s behind-the-scenes look at the production of a cult classic The Room fares well for this upcoming Oscars. A release by A24 certainly helps. Ben Travers describes The Disaster Artist for IndieWire: “There’s meta humor, self-referential gags, and human reverence paid to the earnest pursuit of a Hollywood dream.” Directing himself Franco could score a Best Actor in a Leading Roll in a Best Writing Adapted Screenplay worthy script.

Red Dots

The Florida Project: Contender

Following Sean Baker’s Tangerine is his beautiful depiction of gritty Floridian life only he can make look glorious on film. A filmmaker worth considering for the Best Director award, Baker directs a young and dynamic Brooklynn Prince in a Best Actress in a Supporting Role performance. In Emily Yoshida’s review for Vulture she says of the ending: “But the film’s finale, a more effective dream ballet than anything nominated for an Oscar this year, revisits Baker’s digital-guerrilla style in a stunning escape to the Magic Kingdom itself.”

Red Dots

Lady Bird: Contender

Greta Gerwig has her directorial debut this fall with a semi-biographical coming of age movie starring Soarise Ronan as the title character. A success at TIFF has created quite the buzz around Gerwig’s film, and it looks to be rightfully so. Whether you love her or you hate her (there hardly seems to be a person who falls in between), it’s obvious that her work differs from the norm we see with coming of age dramas. This film feels like the most authentic you can get in a fictional film, and that certainly deserves consideration for awards, including Best Director and Best Actress in a Leading RoleIn his review for The AV Club, A. A. Dowd writes: “And Gerwig’s dialogue hits that rare, special sweet spot between authenticity and zing—an ideal middle ground, in other words, between the way people really talk and the gut-busting way we only wished they did.”

Related Topics: ,

Emily Kubincanek is a Senior Contributor for Film School Rejects and resident classic Hollywood fan. When she's not writing about old films, she works as a librarian and film archivist. You can find her tweeting about Cary Grant and hockey here: @emilykub_