Oscar season is nigh, and overdue talents are looking gold-bound

Forget tumbling leaves. The surest sign that the movie weather is changing is the official start of awards season, which kicks off this Wednesday when the 75th Venice International Film Festival begins its 11-day run. Next up: the 45th Telluride Film Festival, Sept. 1-4. And, after that, the major unspooling begins on Sept. 6 with the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival’s 11-day cinematic orgy.

We could wait to hear the word of mouth on anticipated titles as it trickles forth on social media and online commentary once anticipated contenders are seen and evaluated at these yearly events. But Gold Derby-ites can get a preview just by looking at the current Academy Awards prediction site, where more than 1,000 Users have made their early picks.

SEE Oscar predictions by more than 1,000 savvy Gold Derby users (updated once per hour)

Judging by the top choices, it looks to be shaping up to be a season when Oscar may be paying some overdue bills, at least in the top-five categories. Among likely best picture and director contenders, 800-plus picked the summer success “BlackKklansman” and over 700 chose its creator, Spike Lee, as the leaders. Coming in second: Alfonso Cuaron and his Mexican-themed drama “Roma” with Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic, “First Man,” close behind.

Both Cuaron and Chazelle have directing statuettes on their shelf. But the filmmaker whose contributions to movies have been ignored  for much too long is Lee. He was up for his screenplay for 1989’s “Do the Right Thing” and for his 1997 documentary ”4 Little Girls.” The academy tried to do the right thing by presenting him with an honorary statuette in 2015. But this pioneer whose provocative films did much to bring much-needed perspective on racial relations in America deserves to win a directing prize outright. If he does so, Lee would make history, since a black director has yet to win an Academy Award, even if their film took Best Picture. That was the case in 2013 with Steve McQueen and “12 Years a Slave” and also in 2016 with Barry Jenkins and “Moonlight.”

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Meanwhile, Jordan Peele won best screenplay for 2017’s “Get Out,” but had to make do with  nominations for director and picture.  Lee Daniels got both directing and picture recognition, but came away empty-handed for 2009’s “Precious.”The first black director to vie in the category was John Singleton for 1991’s “Boyz n the Hood,” which was nominated screenplay but not best pic.

But there are three other black directors who could join Lee in the directing category this season, according to Gold Derby users, who placed the trio in the top 10 for now. They include McQueen for “Widows,” Jenkins with “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and Ryan Coogler, whose “Black Panther” could be up for both Best Picture and the new Most Popular Film.

Who is overdue among actors? Definitely Glenn Close, with six nominations and no wins in her illustrious career. Most reviews of her recently-opened “The Wife” have focused on her well-tempered performance as a put-upon spouse who realizes how wrong she was to deny her own aspirations while boosting her husband’s aspirations. At 71, the “Fatal Attraction” femme fatale has waited long enough for her gold — and, at least for now, nearly 800 Users have put her on top while an overwhelming amount think she will win.

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But don’t discount that Irish lass Saoirse Ronan. She might be just 24, but she has been Oscar-nominated three times — for supporting actress in 2007’s “Atonement” and lead in 2015’s “Brooklyn” and last year’s “Lady Bird.” According to 100-plus users, she is the second likeliest candidate to win Best Actress for her title role in “Mary Queen of Scots.”

As for how the supporting-actress contest is shaping up, another popular performer who has been patiently waiting to get a turn at the winner’s podium is Amy Adams, 44, who has been nominated in the acting categories five times. This season, she plays Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, opposite Christian Bale in “Backseat.” She appears in the lists for both lead and supporting actress, but more than 800 Users predict her claiming a supporting win.

Among lead actor candidates, Bale – a three-time nominee who took home a supporting Oscar 2010’s “The Fighter” – is ahead of the pack with about 400 backing him to win. But don’t discount the Sundance Kid aka Robert Redford, who won a directing and Best Picture Oscar for 1980’s “Ordinary People,” but was nominated just once as an actor for 1973’s “The Sting.” At 82, he has said that this year’s “The Old Man & a Gun” will be his last movie performance. Users have put him in fifth place for now, with just about 70 or so predicting a win.

The closest actor among the pool of supporting players is a 74-year-old veteran who has rarely if ever given a bad performance – Sam Elliott – although you wouldn’t know it from his total lack of acknowledgement by the Academy. He shows up as a music manager to both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s characters in the latest version of “A Star is Born.” He lurks in fourth place on the Gold Derby roster for now.

All of these scenarios could go “poof” once the films in question are actually seen. But it is satisfying to see how many possible chances there are to make up for some long-held oversights at the Oscars this year.

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