There is no doubt that 2020 has been a particularly unusual year for movies. With theaters across the country closing mid-March, and then re-opening on different schedules depending on location, many people have gotten used to watching all their movies from the comfort of their own couch. Movie distributers had to adapt, leading to an unprecedented amount of movies being released simultaneously on demand and in theaters.

Amidst the pandemic and changing movie viewing habits, how likely is it that Netflix will win Academy Awards this year? With the pandemic in mind, the Academy Awards have changed their qualifying rules, making the it an even better possibility that a Netflix Original could finally win the big prize, Best Picture. The streaming service has snagged several nominations over the past few years, but the Academy’s desire to support theatergoing may be one reason they have yet to win big. Let’s break down some of the most anticipated Netflix releases that have their eyes on some Oscar trophies this year!

Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy

Released last week, Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy is one of the most controversial films on this list. Based on an equally controversial novel, this movie tells the story of a Yale Law student who returns to his Appalachian hometown. The film debuted to tepid reviews, with only 27% on Rotten Tomatoes as of its premiere date. Critics of the book and the movie believe that it has a reductive take on socioeconomic issues, while proponents of them applaud the discussion of these important themes.

It has all makings of traditional Oscar bait: big stars, big themes, and big acting transformations. Both Amy Adams and Glenn Close have famously have been nominated many times but have yet to win. In this film, they tackle characters that require them to change their accents and their appearances, and The Academy loves to reward major transformations in the acting categories.

David Fincher’s Mank

The Academy Awards love to honor stories about filmmaking. This movie about the making of one of universally agreed upon best films of all time, Citizen Kane, is sure to get some Oscar buzz. It does not debut on Netflix until December 4, but Film Twitter has been abuzz about it for months. With a buzzy director, cast, and crew, this film could be Netflix’s big shot at the big prize.

Gary Oldman, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 2018 for his take on Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour, plays the titular screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz. Amanda Seyfried and Lilly Collins also star. The score is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who collaborated with Fincher on 2011’s The Social Network and a received Best Original Score win for their work.

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods

After Spike Lee’s Best Adapted Screenplay win for 2018’s BlackkKlansman, his next film explores the experience of Black American Vietnam war soldiers. Da 5 Bloods tells the story of a group of Black veterans who return to Vietnam after the war to recover the remains of their late squad leader and a fortune they hid together. It stars Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clark Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. It also features the late Chadwick Boseman, who is getting acting buzz for the next film featured on this list.

Released in June, amidst the peak of Black Lives Matter discourse in the United Stated, this movie received special praise because of its unique narrative about a specific veteran experience extremely underrepresented in the longstanding cannon of American war films. Especially given the #OscarsSoWhite controversies of the past several years and the spotlight on Black issues in 2020, it is likely that The Academy will make efforts to reward diverse voices and perspectives this year.

George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Another Black American story, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is about blues singer Ma Rainey in 1927 Chicago. It is based on a play of the same name, written by Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. Wilson also wrote the play Fences which was adapted for the screen by Denzel Washington to critical acclaim and awards attention in 2016.

Viola Davis, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in Fences, stars as Ma Rainey, acting alongside the late Chadwick Boseman in one of his last roles. There has been Best Supporting Actor buzz for Boseman. Although post-humous nominations and especially wins are rare, Boseman’s high profile passing from cancer this year at only age 43 has led to many people paying special attention to his final roles.

Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Tackling traditional Charlie Kaufman themes of memory, time, and death, I’m Thinking of Ending Things weaves the twisty story of a nameless young woman who goes to her boyfriend’s hometown for the first time to meet his parents. As with other Kaufman films, everything is not as it seems, and the ending will leave you with a lot to think about. Due to the abstract and thought-provoking nature of Kaufman’s style, this movie is polarizing to audiences, receiving 81% positive reviews from critics, but only a 47% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Academy is clearly a fan of Kaufman’s screenwriting, as he has been nominated for best original screenplay four times, and one once for 2005’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It is rare to win a Best Picture Oscar without also picking up a screenplay win, so that is in Kaufman and Netflix’s favor. Additionally, star Jessie Buckley, who plays the woman narrating her experience, carries the film and gives an emotional and grounding performance within this complicated movie, garnering her lots of potential awards buzz.

Share: