Half Way Through 2019, Have We Already Seen Oscars Contenders?

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For the most part, as cinephiles know, Oscars contenders don’t arrive until the fall and winter. In fact, this pattern has become something of a problem, with award-seeking films coming out in such a bunched-up fashion even enthusiastic moviegoers have a hard time seeing them all in theaters. As much as this may be the case though, there are often one or two exceptions – just a couple of films that come out earlier in the year that, one way or another, earn consideration for major awards. 

Now that we’re halfway through 2019, these are a few films that might ultimately wind up being in this category of early releases that become surprise contenders. 

Toy Story 4

As has been noted here already, Toy Story 4 makes for an emotional journey, and we think it’s the last one for these wonderful, iconic characters. Buzz, Woody and the gang have been in our lives for decades now, and really epitomize Pixar’s impact on the film industry. And while the love fest for this latest installment might not quite be matching what we saw for Toy Story 3, the film has still been a major critical hit. Not only is it virtually guaranteed to contend for Best Animated Feature – there’s an outside chance of a Best Picture nomination, if only to recognize the total achievement of the franchise.


Rocketman is going to be a very interesting film to keep an eye on come award season. On the one hand, it’s a natural follow-up to Academy darling Bohemian Rhapsody, and one that’s done better among critics. On the other, it had a somewhat mediocre spring release and doesn’t seem to have resonated in the culture the way Bohemian Rhapsody did. It’s a bit difficult to imagine a real Best Picture or Best Director campaign here, but it would seem to be a good bet that Taron Egerton, who plays Elton John, vocals and all, will get a Best Actor nomination. That is, unless he’s simply blown away by a slew of fall and winter performances (which is a possibility with any spring contender).

Gloria Bell

Online oddsmakers aren’t showing Oscars odds just yet, but they will. Despite limitations on this forecasting industry in the U.S., British-based bookmaking sites tend to expand past their sporting interests to check in on American entertainment by fall. And when they do, we’d bet that aside from Toy Story 4 in the Best Animated category, Julianne Moore will have the strongest odds at Oscars glory out of any of the people or films mentioned here. She’s a beloved actress among critics, and Gloria Bell, while merely good and not great, is fully the Julianne Moore show. It’s exactly the sort of performance that can sneak in for an actor nomination even fi the film itself doesn’t register much attention come award season.

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame wasn’t head-and-shoulders above its franchise counterparts in terms of critical reception. In fact, many critics seem to have it just behind installments like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. However, here as with Toy Story 4 there seems to be real potential for cumulative recognition – an Oscar campaign for 10 years’ worth of Avengers material rather than this specific film. We won’t be surprised if that culminates in a Best Picture nod – or, quite possibly, in a Best Actor campaign for Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr.

Knock Down The House

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include a clear contender in the documentary category. Following four women on their road to Congress during the 2018 U.S. midterms, this Netflix documentary has received nearly universal praise from critics (discounting purely political takes on its substance). Yes, it focuses on one party, and its central figure, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a polarizing politician between the two major parties. But politics aside, it’s an extraordinary documentary, and one that’s made too big a splash not to be in contention for Best Documentary Film.

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