Last week, I revealed that Amy Adams’ The Woman In The Window had been bumped from the Oscar race, leaving a wide-open path in several categories. I also hinted at the time that I was hearing word of a new contender that may sneak into the race. And finally, I have confirmation that this film is not only coming out for sure in 2019, but it should be a major player for several Oscar categories.
You may recall from my first Best Picture predictions that I mentioned Just Mercy as a potential Oscar contender. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the man behind the fabulous Short Term 12, Just Mercy tells the remarkable true story of Bryan Stevenson and Walter McMillian. In the late 1980s, Walter McMillian was accused of murdering a young white woman he had never met. Despite an airtight alibi at a church potluck, and despite two police officers as witnesses, McMillian was put on trial for armed robbery and murder by a new sheriff in a mostly-white district, based on the testimony of convicted criminal Ralph Myers. After being found guilty, the judge – who I kid you not was named Robert E. Lee – overruled the jury’s sentence of life in prison to slap an extra-harsh death penalty on McMillian, thanks to a rare loophole in Alabama law. Hotshot Harvard grad Bryan Stevenson snapped up McMillian’s appeal, and the two men worked together to save McMillian from the needle. The case was ended when the recording of Myers’ confession was flipped over to reveal a Side B in which Myers angrily refuses to lie anymore, only to be forced into the false confession by the police. Again, all of this is true.
The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson, Jamie Foxx as McMillian, Tim Blake Nelson as Myers, Brie Larson as Eva Ansley, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Anthony Ray Hinton. And looking at that cast, that plot, and that director, I’m sure you’re wondering, “How could you not have this as your #1 Best Picture nominee? Well, it’s simple: for the longest time, the film was listed as a January, 2020 release date, without an early release schedule. While this typically means a film will get an Oscar berth, I couldn’t take any chances on an unknown variable. So I marked it as a “We’ll See.” And my patience, as it turns out, paid off. Not only is the film being moved to Christmas Day, 2019, but early buzz has encouraged Warner Bros. to make it their big Oscar contender this year. The film will experience a Toronto premiere, a full Oscar push, and more as WB tries to emulate the Universal Green Book model to win Best Picture. I’m personally completely onboard with this decision. I love this cast, and I love this director. And “Real Life Cases Where The Innocent Man Is Freed Because The Conspirators Were Really Dumb” is my favorite niche film genre (see also: In The Name Of The Father). I’m moving Jamie Foxx into my Best Supporting Actor predictions, while Jordan, Larson, the film, the director, and the screenplay all leapfrog their respective charts to high-ranking positions. It’s going to be a fun year, guys. Stay tuned.