‘The Irishman’ is leading Oscar contender across the board

Martin Scorsese’s epic film “The Irishman” closed the London Film Festival and played just as well on this side of the pond as it did in New York. Last year, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” came thisclose to becoming the first Netflix movie to claim Best Picture (it won three Oscars, including Best Director but lost the big race to “Green Book”). The streaming service has an even stronger contender with “The Irishman.”

It has all the makings of a Best Picture winner. There are awards-worthy performances from a trio of Oscar champs: Robert De Niro as mob hitman Frank Sheeran; Joe Pesci as mafioso Russell Bufalino; and Al Pacino as the doomed union organizer Jimmy Hoffa.

Scorsese should be a shoo-in for his ninth Best Director nomination; he won in 2007 for “The Departed.” A director of his magnitude is really overdue a bookend. With “The Irishman,” he crafts a sprawling story across multiple periods, and pulls off quite a technical achievement – with the de-aging technology proving a masterstroke. The Best Director Oscar usually goes to the biggest technical achievement – such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s consecutive wins for “Birdman” (2014) and “The Revenant” (2015), Cuaron’s 2013 “Gravity” win, or Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” victory in 2012.

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This marks De Niro’s first time working with his pal since “Casino” in 1996. Before his Best Actor win for Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” in 1981, he had claimed Best Supporting Actor in 1975 for “The Godfather: Part II,” which also earned Pacino a Best Actor bid. This would be De Niro’s first lead nomination since 1992 – which he received for “Cape Fear,” directed by (yep, you guessed it), Scorsese; he contended in supporting in 2013 for “Silver Linings Playbook.”

“The Irishman” marks a return to form for Pacino, who could earn his first Oscar nomination since winning Best Actor in 1993 for “Scent of a Woman.” Before that, he’d lost a whopping seven times  (three in supporting, four in lead). This marks his first collaboration with Scorsese.

Pesci’s last movie was 2010’s “Love Ranch.” He, he delivers a performance that acts as the yin to the yang of his role in Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” (1991), for which he won Best Supporting Actor. He was nominated in the same category 10 years prior to that for Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.”

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Cutter Thelma Schoonmaker could earn her eighth Oscar nomination with this picture. Only one of her seven nominations came for a film not directed by Scorsese (her first bid in 1971 for “Woodstock”). She won for “The Departed.”

Steven Zaillian‘s script (based on the memoir “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt) has been hailed as his tightest and best since he was nominated for Adapted Screenplay with Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin for “Moneyball” (2011). He won Adapted Screenplay for Steven Speilberg’s 1994 masterpiece “Schindler’s List.”

Costumers Christopher Peterson (Emmy-nominated in 2011 for Scorsese’s gangster drama “Boardwalk Empire”) and the legendary Sandy Powell (a three-time Oscar winner for 1999’s “Shakespeare in Love,” 2005’s “The Aviator” – a Scorsese picture – and 2010’s “The Young Victoria”) are also strong contenders. While this would be Peterson’s first nomination, it would be Powell’s 15th. Production designer Bob Shaw would also earn his first Oscar nomination; he won an Emmy for “Boardwalk Empire” in 2011 – plus one more for “Madmen” in 2008.

And surely “The Irishman” will be up for Best Visual Effects? It may not be the splashy sci-fi/superhero movie you frequently see nominated but its de-aging of DeNiro and co is revolutionary. We’ll have to wait to see who will be submitted as potential nominees for the film’s visual effects. Currently, the movie has 212 (yep, I counted) visual effects wizards credited on its IMDB page.

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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