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The (very) early frontrunners for Oscars 2019

Next year’s Academy Awards may still be five months away, but with a raft of strong contenders emerging, the race is in full swing

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A matter of time: Saoirse Ronan is excellent in Mary Queen of Scots and in with a great shot at another Best Actress nomination

A matter of time: Saoirse Ronan is excellent in Mary Queen of Scots and in with a great shot at another Best Actress nomination

A matter of time: Saoirse Ronan is excellent in Mary Queen of Scots and in with a great shot at another Best Actress nomination

If making Oscar predictions in September seems a little obscene, well that's because it is. But even now some clear frontrunners are emerging in the build-up to the 2019 awards season.

When someone like Damien Chazelle, whose last two films received 19 Oscar nominations between them, is about to release a movie about the first moon walk, everyone gets excited. There's a lot of buzz around First Man, and a lot of anticipation, too, about If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins' eagerly awaited follow-up to his Best Picture-winning 2016 film Moonlight.

Everyone's predicting big things for Bradley Cooper's remake of A Star is Born, and the George W Bush-era political comedy Backseat is another potential awards magnet. Though just 24 years old, Carlow actress Saoirse Ronan has already been nominated for an Oscar three times, and is very likely to get a nod again for Mary Queen of Scots. But they are just a few of the early favourites set to win big at the Kodak Theatre on February 24, 2019.

If Damien Chazelle's First Man doesn't earn a raft of nominations, I'll buy a hat and eat it. Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong, whose famous moonwalk was preceded by years of hard work and heartache, and Chazelle's recreation of the early space flights is breathtaking. A fine supporting cast includes Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Lukas Haas and Claire Foy, whose portrayal of Armstrong's first wife, Janet Shearon, may well earn her a Best Actress nomination.

Lady Gaga has emerged as one of the favourites for next year's Best Actress Oscar thanks to her much-talked-about starring role in Bradley Cooper's A Star is Born. This is actually the third remake of a 1937 melodrama, and previous versions have starred Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. No pressure then, but early reviewers are raving about Lady Gaga's performance as Ally, an unknown singer whose rapid rise to fame overwhelms her jealous mentor.

Barry Jenkins' 2016 film Moonlight thoroughly deserved its Best Picture Oscar. His follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, is based on a James Baldwin novel, and Jenkins uses vivid colours and impressionistic touches to tell the story of an African-American woman's quest to free her wrongly imprisoned husband. I'll be shocked if it isn't nominated for something.

It might seem that Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman was released too early to stand any chance of figuring at the Oscars, but that hoary old rule of thumb doesn't seem relevant any more: after all, Get Out won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar this year despite having been released almost a year before the ceremony took place. So Lee's thoroughly entertaining 1970s crime thriller might just get a couple of nominations, and maybe even a Best Picture nod.

Felix Van Groeningen's Beautiful Boy also has a solid chance of getting a Best Picture nomination: the Academy loves stories built around battles with addiction, and Steve Carell stars as a dad who can only watch and be there for a son (Timothée Chamelet) who's trying to kick a crippling methamphetamine habit. Because he's best known as a comic actor, Carell's serious work has not always been given due credit: he's been nominated once before in the Best Actor category, so this might just be his year.

Robert Redford, however, may also feature in the Best Actor race. Though the legendary star announced his retirement recently, he has one last performance in the can. In David Lowery's upcoming drama The Old Man & The Gun, he plays a veteran crook who breaks out of jail and embarks on a string of skilfully executed heists. Redford has never won an acting Oscar, and the Academy are prone to bursts of sentiment, so you never know.

Actors getting fat is a fruitful route to Oscar glory, and I'm really looking forward to watching a rotund Christian Bale play Dick Cheney in Adam McKay's political comedy Backseat. The perceived wisdom about the most recent Bush administration is that George W was an amiable dupe who became a pawn in the neocon machinations of conservative hawks like Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld (played here by Steve Carell).

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Bale is not known for his comic timing, but this film looks like fun and might just be an awards season contender.

Glenn Close has won an Oscar, right? Incredibly, despite six nominations, she hasn't, which makes her the sentimental favourite to win Best Actress this year. She is, apparently, at her very best in The Wife, playing the long-suffering spouse of a monomaniacal writer whose big head swells up like a watermelon when he goes to Sweden to collect a Nobel Prize.

Both stars of Josie Rourke's upcoming historical drama Mary Queen of Scots were nominated in the Best Actress category last year, Margot Robbie for I, Tonya, and our own Saoirse Ronan for Ladybird. Might they make appearance again this year? It seems only a matter of time before the breathtakingly talented Ronan wins an Oscar, and the word is she's brilliant as Mary, Elizabeth the First's implacable royal enemy.

The ensemble cast of Steve McQueen's Widows may feature in the acting categories, too. The British film-maker is best known for dense and heavy dramas like Hunger and 12 Years a Slave, but his latest is based on a 1980s Lynda La Plante TV crime drama about a group of women who must complete the heist their late husbands started. Viola Davis, Jacki Weaver and Colin Farrell head the cast of a film that I for one am really looking forward to.

Olivia Colman will shortly take over from Claire Foy in Netflix's The Queen, and in Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite she plays another, more mercurial monarch. During her short but unhappy reign, Queen Anne, last of the Stuarts, struggled with sectarian strife and the treachery of her underlings. Colman is Anne, while Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz play ladies at court who vie for her attention.

Best known for brash comedies, Melissa McCarthy is getting rave reviews for her performance in Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me? The biopic is based on the true story of Lee Israel, a struggling writer who for three decades made a living forging letters and claiming they'd been written by screen legends like Katharine Hepburn and Tallulah Bankhead. She could be in with a chance.

Cate Blanchett's had plenty of nominations, and may well get another for Where'd You Go, Bernadette, in which she plays the misanthropic mother of a teenage girl who suddenly and inexplicably goes missing.

Actor Paul Dano makes his directorial debut with Wildlife, a familial drama adapted by Dano and Zoe Kazan from a Richard Ford novel. It is set in 1960 and tells the story of a boy who moves to the wilds of Montana with his parents and watches horrified as his mother falls in love with another man. It stars Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom have been Oscar nominated in the past, and are due a win.

Steve Carell makes a second appearance on the list of possible nominees for the film Welcome to Marwen, directed by Robert Zemeckis.Carell plays Mark Hogancamp, a man who retreats from the world after being badly beaten outside a bar, and builds an intricate miniature World War II-era village in his back garden, which quickly becomes more real to him than anything else. He is, we are told, excellent in it, and if he's not nominated for something, I'll buy another hat and eat that as well.


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