Oscars 2018: Amazon Studios stakes claim with ‘Last Flag Flying,’ ‘The Big Sick,’ ‘Wonderstruck,’ ‘Wonder Wheel’

Last year, Amazon Studios established itself as a significant Oscar player, winning two of six bids for the domestic drama “Manchester by the Sea” (Best Actor, Casey Affleck; Best Original Screenplay, Kenneth Lonergan) as well as Best Foreign Language Feature for “The Salesman.” This year, the streaming service has partnered with various distributors to release five films with great Oscar potential.

Of these, “The Big Sick,” already ranks as one of the best reviewed movies of the year. This romantic comedy with a twist stars “Silicon Valley” scene stealer Kumail Nanjiani, who is Pakistani-American. He and his wife Emily V. Gordon penned the script based on their interracial relationship, which was further complicated by her serious illness. She is played in film by Emmy nominee Zoe Kazan (“Olive Kitteridge”), while Oscar winner Holly Hunter (“The Piano”) and Emmy champ Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) steal scenes as her less-than-understanding parents. It’s directed by Michael Showalter, a comedian in his own right who also helmed last year’s”Hello, My Name is Doris” starring two-time Oscar winner Sally Field.

Todd Haynes‘ “Wonderstruck,” which screened  at Cannes in May, will be the centerpiece of the New York Film FestivalBrian Selznick, who wrote the children’s book that was the basis for Martin Scorsese‘s Oscar-winning “Hugo,” adapted his 2011 bestselling juvenile novel for Haynes. The story takes place in both 1927 and 1977. At the height of the jazz age a deaf girl, Rose (Millicent Simmonds in her screen debut), travels to Manhattan in search of her idol, silent film star Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). Fast forward half a century and Ben (“Pete Dragon” star Oakes Fegley), who is also deaf, runs away from his Midwestern home after the death of his mother (Michelle Williams) to search for his father. Their two tales eventually become interconnected.

Richard Linklater‘s “Last Flag Flying” will open the NYFF on Sept. 28. It is a sequel to the 1973 Oscar contender “The Last Detail,” with Bryan Cranston taking on Jack Nicholson’s nominated role of a salty sailor. Linklater’s last film, “Boyhood,” was a leading Oscar player three years ago, winning Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette, and contending in five other categories including Best Picture. Linklater was nominated for both his helming and scripting.

Below, detailed listings of each of these Oscar contenders, including release dates, creative types, cast lists, running times, plot summaries,  and receptions both critical and commercial.

“The Big Sick” (Amazon Studios/Lionsgate) – June 23
Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, David Alan Grier
Running Time: 124 minutes

Summary: This romantic comedy from Michael Showalter centers on a Muslim man (Kumail Nanjiani) whose girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) falls into a coma following a mysterious illness.

Reception: Rotten Tomatoes – 97; MetaCritic – 87
Box Office: US – $17 million; Rest of World – (as of July 20, 2017)

“Last Flag Flying” (Amazon Studios) – November 17
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater (based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan)
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne

Summary: A sequel to the 1973 film “The Last Detail,” with Bryan Cranston reprising Jack Nicholson’s iconic role of a salty sailor. In this follow-up, Sal and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who once acted as armed escorts to Doc when he was being sent to the brig, now accompany him to bury his son who was killed in the Iraq invasion.

“The Lost City of Z “(Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street) – April 14
Director: James Gray
Writer: James Gray (based on the book by David Grann)
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller
Running Time: 141 minutes

Summary: James Gray directs this true-life drama centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Reception: Rotten Tomatoes – 88; MetaCritic – 78
Box Office: US – $8.5 million; Rest of World – $8.5 million (as of July 20, 2017)

Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios) – December 1
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Kate Winslet, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Max Casella, Jim Belushi, Tony Sirico

Summary: Woody Allen’s latest features an ensemble cast in a period drama set in New York in the 1950s.

“Wonderstruck” (Amazon Studios) – October 20
Director: Todd Haynes
Writer: Brian Selznick (based on his novel)
Cast: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Oakes Fegley

Summary: Based on the bestselling children’s book, Todd Haynes’ latest film tells the simultaneous stories of a young boy in the Midwest and a young girl in New York City fifty years earlier, who both seek the same mysterious connection.

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