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Tom Hanks portrays one of America’s most cherished icons, Mister Rogers, on the set of TriStar Pictures’ A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.LACEY TERRELL/Sony Pictures

Congratulations to Mahershala Ali, director Peter Farrelly, and everyone else not on Twitter who helped propel Green Book to Oscar gold on Sunday night. But now, let’s get down to serious business: Which film is going to triumph at next year’s Academy Awards? The dust has barely settled at the Dolby Theatre, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get into some semi-serious prognosticating. Take this with a Tony Lip-sized grain of salt, but here are the top 10 contenders for the 2020 best picture trophy, listed alphabetically, and at the earliest moment possible. (All release dates subject to change.)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

If there was one slack-jawed surprise out of this year’s Academy Award nominations, it was the absence of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Morgan Neville’s universally acclaimed documentary on the life and career of television’s Mister Rogers. Expect a full-blown revenge campaign, then, to be mounted for this biopic from Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), which casts Tom Hanks as the beloved Fred Rogers. See? You’re crying already. We’re all crying. (Nov. 22)

The Goldfinch

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Ansel Elgort in The Goldfinch.Warner Bros.

After his well-respected work at bringing Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn to the screen in 2015, director John Crowley takes on a far more polarizing novel with this adaptation of Donna Tartt’s bestseller. Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort stars as Theodore Decker, a rootless young man who descends into a world of crime after a museum bombing takes the life of his mother. While Tartt’s work engendered an incendiary lit-community debate that, as Vanity Fair put it in 2014, pivoted on “nothing less than the future of reading itself,” the film may find more receptive hearts and minds in filmgoers, thanks to its epic narrative and high-meets-low cultural pitch. Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson, and Jeffrey Wright co-star, and producers are obviously confident, slotting the drama for a prime early-fall release. Expect this one to figure prominently at TIFF, too. (Oct. 11)

The Irishman

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Robert De Niro, right, and Al Pacino star in The Irishman.Supplied

All right, this time I’m serious. A year ago, I floated the theory/hope that Martin Scorsese’s long-in-the-works gangster epic might be squeezed into a 2019 Oscars qualifying run. That didn’t happen, but everything seems on-track for Netflix to release this massive production (rumoured cost: US$140-million) later this year, possibly in time for Cannes – should the French film festival lift its persona non grata status against the streaming giant. Either way, this decades-spanning drama about hit-man Frank Sheeran is destined to be one of this year’s major film events. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and newly minted goodfella Ray Romano (!) star. (Release date TBD)

Just Mercy

If the 2020 Oscars are looking for an inspirational true-life tale to mine, it could do a lot worse than the story of Bryan Stevenson, an American lawyer and social-justice activist who in 1993 helped exonerate Walter McMillan after he served six years on Alabama’s death row. And if you’re looking for star power to carry Stevenson’s tale, you cannot do better than Michael B. Jordan, who plays the litigator, or Jamie Foxx as McMillan. Currently scheduled to open the Martin Luther King weekend of Jan. 17, 2020, don’t be surprised if Warner Bros. slides Just Mercy into a limited release in the final weeks of December 2019 to qualify for Oscar consideration. Or maybe that’s just my inner optimist talking. (Jan. 17, 2020 ... for now)

The King

Last year, Netflix placed a huge historical-drama bet on Outlaw King, which ended up being more notable for a three-second flash of Chris Pine’s penis than the 120 minutes surrounding the full-frontal antics. It’s a similar but different tale this year, as the streaming giant prepares to release The King, which has the grit of Outlaw King but the substance of Shakespeare, as director David Michod (working with a screenplay by co-star Joel Edgerton) adapts parts of Henry IV and Henry V into one, presumably genital-free epic. Man-of-the-moment Timothee Chalamet stars as King Henry V, while the industry’s go-to villain-for-hire Ben Mendelsohn takes on Henry IV. (Release date TBD)

The Laundromat

Potentially one of two Netflix movies about the Panama Papers to come out in 2019 (the other is still in development with producer John Wells), Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat will be one of the streaming giant’s big prestige plays this awards season. Following a group of journalists who help uncover millions of files linking the world’s elite to secret bank accounts, the film appears to be peak Traffic/Contagion territory for Soderbergh. Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, and David Schwimmer co-star. (Release date TBD)

Little Women

For her follow-up to Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig decided to reach into the past – and well-trodden history, at that. Her forthcoming version of Little Women will mark the eighth adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, keeping the original era of 1860s Massachusetts and filling out the cast with the most sought-after young actors of today. Gerwig’s Lady Bird lead Saoirse Ronan stars as Jo March, while Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep fill out the March clan. The busy Timothee Chalamet co-stars, as do Bob Odenkirk and Chris Cooper. (Dec. 25)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.Andrew Cooper/Sony Pictures

How excited should we be for a new Quentin Tarantino film in 2019? That depends on whether you feel his latest output skews toward more indulgent (Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight) than revelatory. But there is a more-than-decent chance that this Helter Skelter-era drama will be everything studio Sony (which won an intense bidding war) hopes it will be: violent, provocative, hilarious, dangerous, original, and prime Oscar bait. At the very least, the film rivals The Irishman for the most stacked cast of the year, with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, James Marsden, Dakota Fanning, plus familiar Tarantino collaborators Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Zoe Bell. Prepare for a deluge of think-pieces. (July 26)

Queen & Slim

Lena Waithe, who’s enjoyed a remarkable stretch thanks to her work on The Chi and Master of None, adapts an original story by James Frey in this romantic thriller with a distinct Black Lives Matter angle. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Widows) and Jodie Turner-Smith (television’s Nightflyers) star in this story of a first date gone horribly wrong, after the two are pulled over by a cop and kill the officer in self-defence. The film is helmed by first-time feature director Melina Matsoukas (known for her television work on Waithe’s Master of None), and has secured a prime late-fall release date. (Nov. 27)


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Lupita Nyong'o in Us.Universal Pictures

Singling out a horror film as a potential best-picture contender would have seemed a step too far not long ago, but that was before Jordan Peele’s Get Out accomplished just that. So it’s only natural to have high expectations for Peele’s follow-up, which follows a couple (Black Panther co-stars Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o) who find terror when confronted by their doppelgangers. (March 22)

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