It's the busiest time of the year at the movies, with tons of Oscar contenders hitting screens as part of our AMC Artisan Films series. Yes, audiences are flocking to FROZEN II and the action-packed 21 BRIDGES. But this also is the time of year, annually, when the cream-of-the-crop awards contenders start to screen, so that they are fresh in the minds of Academy Awards® voters when those crucial Oscar ballots land in the mail.
That’s where AMC’s Artisan Films comes in handy. This series casts a bright spotlight on quality cinema that serves people looking for something more than the latest Hollywood blockbusters. These are films that will challenge and provoke an audience, the stories that stick with us and force post-screening conversations. And they usually are in the Oscar discussion, which is where we expect to find these films, in these categories.
Honey Boy — Original Screenplay
The story of Shia LaBeouf’s rough childhood, as told by Shia LaBeouf. HONEY BOY has been critically acclaimed from the moment it started playing on the film festival circuit, with pundits praising its raw, emotional honesty as it dissects Shia LaBeouf’s rise to childhood fame. Shia had an interesting relationship with his father, and the actor plays his (fictionalized) dad opposite powerful newcomer Noah Jupe in the lead role. The honesty in the portrayal could land Shia LaBeouf a Best Original Screenplay nod, if voters connect to his confessional script.
Dark Waters, Mark Ruffalo — Best Actor
The story of a whistleblower connects with today’s headlines. Long before he was a Marvel superhero, Mark Ruffalo held down powerful dramas and traded lines with some of the industry’s best performers. He’s a key member of the SPOTLIGHT ensemble that helped the movie win Best Picture in 2016. Ruffalo is back at it again in a terrifying true story of a corporate defense attorney and small-town community fighting back against a huge corporation, and it could get him into a competitive Best Actor field.
Queen & Slim, Jodie Turner-Smith — Best Actress
A newcomer shines alongside a former Oscar nominee in this timely drama. A date goes horribly wrong when a police officer pulls over Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) for a routine traffic violation. Tensions escalate and the officer is shot, meaning the unlikely lovers need to hit the road and stay ahead of the law. What could have been played as a straight thriller takes on new social impact in the hands of these two amazing actors. They both deserve Oscar recognition, but the Actress field seems like it has room for Turner-Smith and her knockout performance.
Bombshell, Charlize Theron — Best Actress
Yes, that’s really Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly! BOMBSHELL is a late addition to the Oscar fray, about the takedown of the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). And it will be a ripped-from-the-headlines story of the women who spoke up against sexual harassment in the workplace, as the Me Too movement tore through top newsrooms at several major networks. But the buzz on BOMBSHELL has been reserved for Charlize Theron’s transformation into former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, who found herself at the center of the various scandals.
Just Mercy, Jamie Foxx — Best Supporting Actor
A fight for justice could land Jamie Foxx back in the Oscar spotlight. The courtroom drama JUST MERCY has been generating insane buzz since its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. In fact, the movie’s Oscar chances seem so strong, Warner Bros. moved the film from a late January release date to December, so it could qualify for awards consideration. Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson command respect as a young lawyer and a social activist fighting for Southern prisoners who’ve been wrongly jailed. But it’s Jamie Foxx as a convict who has audiences crying and cheering as the credits for JUST MERCY roll.
Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler — Best Actor
Adam Sandler breaks away from comedy and comes up with the most memorable role of his career. Get used to saying this phrase: Academy Award® nominee Adam Sandler. That will happen if enough Oscar voters take the time to see UNCUT GEMS, which casts the former "SNL" funnyman as a degenerate gambler trying to make a ton of money and stay ahead of bookies with his various schemes. Sandler’s character thinks he has a can’t-miss scenario when he secures a rare gem that draws the interest of NBA icon Kevin Garnett (playing himself). Naturally, everything that can go wrong does, but that means things might go right for Sandler on Oscar night.
Ford v Ferrari, Christian Bale — Best Supporting Actor
James Mangold’s racing thriller is hitting home with audiences, and we expect the Academy to fall in line. Oscar buzz is valuable, but it doesn’t always translate into box office success. James Mangold’s FORD V FERRARI, though, has been turning its critical raves into tickets sold, as word of mouth is helping power the excellent drama at the multiplexes. Both lead actors certainly deserve Oscar recognition for their outstanding performances, but if we had to place a bet, we'd say that Christian Bale will edge out his co-star, Matt Damon, for an Oscar nomination, though Bale would be the first to tell you that FORD V FERRARI only works so well because both men are excellent in their parts.
Waves, Sterling K. Brown — Best Supporting Actor
The devastating story of a broken Florida family could push the "This Is Us" star to newfound levels. In a perfect world, WAVES would be the frontrunner in almost every Oscar category. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults has crafted a powerful drama about a family ripped apart by one bad choice, and their efforts to pick up the pieces. We all know Sterling K. Brown from the hit TV show "This Is Us," and he could quickly become an Oscar-nominated performer if WAVES makes waves (sorry) with Academy voters.