Oscar tracker: It looks like Will Smith, Denzel Washington are heading for a best actor rematch

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with the end of sunday New York Film Festival, the Fall Festival sprint is finally slowed down to a jog.

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Over the past month and a half, hundreds of new films have premiered at the Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York film festivals, including A-listers Ben Affleck (“The Last Duel”), Francis McDormand (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) And Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”) began its Oscar campaign with red carpet, after-party and personal Q&A.

“Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh’s scholarly ode to his childhood in volatile Northern Ireland, has emerged as Early Best Picture Front-Runner, after taking home the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival (a credible bellwether for future Oscar glory). The 1960s-set drama co-stars Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds, all of whom will compete for supporting acting awards.

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Oscar Tracker:Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Belfast’ enters best picture race

Meanwhile, “The Rescue” is about to beat for Best Documentary Feature. Directed by the husband-and-wife filmmakers behind the Oscar-winning “Free Solo,” The Nail Bitch Doctor (now in theaters) tells the incredible true story of the 2018 Thai cave rescue 12 boys and their football coaches, using dramatic reenactments and interviews. The gripping film won the People’s Choice Award for Documentaries in Toronto and has 98% positive reviews on the site overall. rotten Tomatoes.

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Here on March 27, 2022, the race came to a standstill as we ran towards the Oscars ceremony.

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Ajonew Ellis, left, Mikayla Bartholomew, Will Smith, Sania Sidney, Demi Singleton and Daniel Lawson in the tennis drama "King Richard".

It’s Will vs Denzel for Best Actor

The Best Actor race is shaping up to be a showdown between two of Hollywood’s most enduring stars. Washington is vying for its third little gold man Playing the title “Macbeth”, After acting victories for 1989’s “Glory” and 2001’s “Training Day.” Smith also has an important role as the tennis coach father to Serena and Venus Williams. The crowd-pleaser “King Richard.”

Smith lost Best Actor for “Ali” to Washington for “Training Day” at the Oscars nearly two decades ago. Both stars have phenomenal reviews and “overdue” narratives they could carry forward this year: Washington hasn’t won an Oscar in 20 years, while Smith hasn’t won at all, despite two nominations. If he wins, Washington will become the first black actor to win three Oscars.

But we’ll give Smith the edge this season, together GQ. A rare profile published in Last month that sparked days of buzz on social media, and was a more audience-friendly film than Joel Coen’s surprising but chilly “Macbeth.”

Where to watch: “King Richard” is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max November 19; “The Tragedy of Macbeth” is in theaters on December 25 and streaming on January 14 on Apple TV+.

Joaquin Phoenix, left, plays Woody Norman's uncle in Mike Mills'

Joaquin Phoenix is ​​the anti-Joker in heartwarming new film

Hip distributor A24 has two potential Best Actor contenders in Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“C’mon C’mon”), both of whom star in critically-loved festival films. We imagine that Rex, a former MTV VJ, will be a tough sell for Academy members, as his film has the subject of a deceiving porn star who has an affair with an underage girl (Suzanna Son).

That leaves Phoenix, a four-time Oscar nominee and 2020 winner for “Joker,” who delivers one of the most sensitive performances of his career in the low-key attraction “Challo Chalo.” The actor plays a radio journalist who is reunited with his semi-estranged sister (Gabby Hoffman) and young nephew (Woody Norman). Phoenix is ​​warm and funny in this deeply sympathetic film, which beautifully considers that children’s feelings are just as complex and real as adults.

Where to watch: “Challo Chalo” opens in theaters on November 19; “Red Rocket” is in theaters on December 3.

The lives of Anna (Milena Smit, left) and Janice (Penelope Cruz) are intertwined after sharing a hospital room in "Parallel Mothers".

Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz waiting in the wings

Kristen Stewart is still fully led Best Actress for her mesmerizing turn as Princess Diana in “Spencer”. But three more deserving contenders have emerged from the festival circuit: Olivia Colman, brilliant as a professor, weighing personal freedom and maternal responsibility. “The Lost Daughter” Penelope Cruz in Pedro Almodovar’s heartbreaking “Parallel Mothers,” a twisty melodrama about newborn babies at birth; and Renate Reinsway, endlessly watchable in Norwegian relationship drama “The Worst Person in the World.”

"The Worst Person in the World" breakout Rennet Reinesway at a press conference in Cannes, France.

Cruz won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival in September, while Rinsway won the award at this summer’s Cannes Film Festival. The 33-year-old gives the kind of star-making performance that comes along only once in a long time. If enough voters see “the worst person,” Reinsway will be very hard to resist.

Where to watch: “Spencer” opens in theaters on November 5; “The Lost Daughter” is in theaters December 17th and streams December 31st on Netflix; “Parallel Mothers” is in theaters December 24; “The Worst Person in the World” is expected to release later this year.

Josh Brolin, left, and Timothée Chalamet in a scene from "Dune."

‘Dune’ will spice up the race – but by how much?

There are big movies, and then there’s “Doon”. A studio film hasn’t felt this epic and touching since 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” with sweeping sets and locations that immerse you in the space world of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel . Like “Fury Road,” which won six Oscars for technical achievements, “Dune” is destined to be a formidable player in categories including Best Production Design and Cinematography. Eleven-time nominated composer Hans Zimmer could also earn his second Best Original Score Oscar for his groundbreaking work here.

But what about Best Picture or Director (for Dennis Villeneuve)? The main complaint many critics have about “Doon” is that it doesn’t feel like a complete film, with heavy performances and a planned sequel meant to end abruptly. And despite a strong ensemble led by Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and scene-stealing Charlotte Rampling, Villeneuve favors the realm of storytelling, which may prove alienating to some voters, who have similarly expressed their views on the story. “Blade Runner: 2049” for the top prizes.

Where to watch: “Dune” is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max October 22.

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