Welcome to Future of Movies Week. Too often this year we’ve been left baffled at the multiplex. It’s been 10 months, and we’re struggling to come up with a viable top-10 list. Streaming platforms are encroaching on Hollywood’s share of our collective attention, preexisting intellectual property is providing diminishing returns, and moviegoers largely skipped Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Wild days.
November will be different. It’s packed with interesting releases — Oscar contenders like Loving and Arrival and Manchester by the Sea, blockbusters from Marvel (Doctor Strange) and J.K. Rowling (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), a Disney movie with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Rock (Moana), and old-fashioned fare from big-name directors like Robert Zemeckis (Allied) and Warren Beatty (Rules Don’t Apply).
This week, we’re looking at the future — of film school, horror, the Marvel Universe, movie stars, and the medium itself.
Next week, the Statue Monger will be back with its regularly scheduled programming: the 2017 Oscars race, in all of its [checks Gold Derby; checks again; checks one more time; wistfully throws “Destiny’s Child Stand-ins from Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” three-person Halloween costume into the trash and regroups] glory.
But for this week, the Future of Movies Week, I hope you’ll agree — there was only one sensible direction for our column to go: the future.
It wasn’t easy to get there: awful weather; flights canceled; Amy Adams asked us questions on a whiteboard for like an hour at customs. But we made it — and now that we’re here, there’s a lot to discuss. Below, you’ll find the Statue Monger’s final predictions for the big four categories at this year’s Oscars: Actress, Actor, Director, and Picture. And for this week only: “This year” doesn’t mean 2017.
It means 2027.
2027 Best Actress
1. Meryl Streep, American Election
2. Emma Stone, Michelle
3. Eva Mendes, The Place Beyond the Place Beyond the Pines
4. Viola Davis, The Trip
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Cooler Ranch
The biggest story of this year’s Oscars comes in the lead acting categories, where Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis are both nominated for playing both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in competing movies about the 2016 presidential election. Streep stars in Clint Eastwood’s American Election (more on that later); while Day-Lewis stars in Alexander Payne’s Election 2, which critics are calling “a dramedy” (The New Yorker), and “almost like a comedy, but not quite, and almost like a drama, but not quite — a sort of … hybrid of the two” (The New York Times).
The consensus surrounding American Election is that it represents the major work of Streep’s life — and one would be hard-pressed to disagree. The scene where she wipes off her makeup, takes off her Trump hat, takes off her Trump wig, climbs out of her body suit, turns to the camera, and says, “I honestly forget how many Oscar nominations I have” — it’s so … I don’t know: levitating, and yet humanly grounded. And when she hits “publish” on the Hillary meme, in the film’s last shot, while humming “God Bless America” (Deer Hunter callback?), and stroking the head of an Oscar trophy like the mother to a spoiled child: It feels like a total reinvention of the form — while still remaining, somehow, purely Streep.
As we head into Oscar night, Streep is probably the Best Actress favorite — which is saying something … considering that Emma Stone has won the category in eight of the last 10 years. How did Stone manage such a run of dominance? Well, believe it or not, it started with adversity. After giving the performance of her life in 2016’s La La Land, but losing out to Natalie Portman for her role in the Jacqueline Kennedy biopic, Jackie, Stone was devastated. (“I’m devastated,” she told one interviewer. “I’m not Natalie Portman, I’m not a vegetarian, I’ve never read your books, please stop emailing me,” she told another.)
And so Stone regrouped — and vowed to beat Portman at her own cutthroat game: by playing every First Lady in American history. At a clip of three or four per year, of course, some of the films have been better than others. (That shaky-cam felt a little unnecessary in Mamie, the Mamie Eisenhower story.) But the wins have been memorable: Martha in ’18; Mary Todd in ’21; Eleanor in ’24; Laura in ’26, to name a few. And this year, Stone has returned with what she vows will be her final performance in the series: playing Michelle Obama for Cameron Crowe, in his ill-advised return to features, Michelle.
Rounding out the list of Best Actress nominees: Eva Mendes shines in The Place Beyond the Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance’s long-awaited sequel to 2012’s The Place Beyond the Pines. And Viola Davis, reprising her role as Amanda Waller for a reboot of 2010s franchise The Trip (Davis, in character as Waller, travels along the California coast eating red meat) gives what might be my favorite performance of the whole year.
But if there is anyone who can challenge Streep this year, it might be Jennifer Lawrence, for her astonishing work in David O. Russell’s Cooler Ranch. The film is a sprawling, big-budget period drama that tells the story of a moment that will forever live in infamy: when Doritos, overcome by ’00s hubris, briefly changed the name of its Cool Ranch flavor to Cooler Ranch. Lawrence plays Theresa Anderson, a fictional Frito-Lay executive whose rise and fall spearheaded the change — and she’s simply electric. The tragic undertones of her campaign — that Lawrence literally turned into a Dorito while filming — are also sure to tug at Academy heartstrings.
But I don’t think it will be enough.
PREDICTION: Meryl Streep, American Election
2027 Best Actor
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Election 2
2. Michael B. Jordan, Creed IV
3. Adam Driver, Welcome to the Black Parade: A Kylo Ren Story: A Star Wars Story
4. Donald Glover, Lando 3
5. Robert Downey Jr., Old Iron Man 2
PREDICTION: Daniel Day-Lewis, Election 2
2027 Best Director
1. Clint Eastwood, American Election
2. No Director, American Captain
3. Various Directors, TV
4. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Dickpic
5. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
After finally cracking the formula for Oscar efficiency (shoot everything in first takes and just put “American” in the title), Clint Eastwood reeled off nine straight Best Director Oscars: American American (2018); American American American (2019) (masterpiece); American American American American (2020); American American American American American (2021) (happy for Katherine Heigl); American American American American American American (2022) (rewatched this recently — it holds up); American American American American American American American (2023) (really great movie); American American American American American American American American (2024) (a bit of a slog); American American American American American American American American American (2025) (a lot of people didn’t think Jonah Hill could play an anthropomorphic eagle — they were wrong); and, of course, American American American American American American American American American American (2026).
However, in his bid for a 10th straight directing Oscar (with 2027’s much-lauded and nominated American Election), the 96-year-old auteur has competition.
The success of Eastwood’s 2018–2026 formula caught the eye of Marvel executives, who promptly filmed and released a gritty, back-to-basics, stand-alone Captain America film called American Captain. American Captain scored an easy Best Director nomination, and for a while actually seemed like the odds-on favorite. But a scandal (Chris Evans revealed that there was no director working on American Captain — after being quoted as saying, “Yeah, they just took me to a parking lot in Atlanta and left me there for a few hours; I think they used the parking lot’s security footage. They said it was the right aesthetic.”) has ultimately brought the film back to the pack.
Also nominated for 2027’s Best Director Oscar is Various Directors, for TV (the entire medium, submitted for consideration in the category as a single work). Critics have raved about the revolutionary technical artistry employed in the film — “sometimes scenes are shot from not the normal angle you would expect for them to be shot from,” gushed one review.
Going for his third directing Oscar is Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Iñárritu is nominated for Dickpic, a polarizing period drama that no one can stop talking about. Dickpic stars Edward Norton and tells the unflinching story of one man’s journey to take the bravest picture of his own dick of all time.
And rounding out the group is Bradley Cooper, nominated for his long-gestating, Lady Gaga–starring, multiple-studio-bankrupting vanity project — you always see “vanity project” deployed as an insult; are there even five better reasons than vanity to do a project? — A Star Is Born: which finally saw its release, in 2026, after languishing for almost 10 years in post-production. “I wanted to get it right,” Cooper told Vanity Fair in a wide-ranging interview, before adjusting his beret. “‘Action’, ‘cut’, ‘shot’, ‘take’ — these are some words I know.”
PREDICTION: Various Directors, TV
2027 Best Picture
1. Star Wars Episode XXI: Back At It Again With the Force
2. Lando 3
3. Welcome to the Black Parade: A Kylo Ren Story: A Star Wars Story
4. Star Wars Episode XXI: The Force, Though
5. A Stand-alone Adventure On a Planet That Looks A Lot Like China and Is Called China: A Star Wars Story
6. Avatar 5
7. Adam Sandler, Untitled Adam Sandler Netflix Project
The Best Picture race this year is murkier than ever — and I mean that in the best possible way. After six straight years of Star Wars–universe-only Best Picture nominees … to see two (two!) non–Star Wars films join the 2027 field is pretty heartwarming. Particularly heartwarming is that a movie with ambitions on a smaller scale made the cut: James Cameron’s Avatar 5 scored a nomination — his first since coming out against The Force Awakens — despite a shoestring $500 million budget, and barely earning $2 billion at the box office.
But the big news comes from the other party crasher, Netflix’s Untitled Adam Sandler Netflix Project — whose Best Picture nomination represents the culmination of over a decade of partnership between Sandler and the streaming juggernaut. Actively ridiculed at first, the Sandler-Netflix pairing gradually gained a cult following among cinephiles — as Sandler Auteurism (the semi-ironic fringe effort to reposition Netflix-period Adam Sandler as a consciously unsparing self-meditation on the emergency state of the declining man and the general post-internet, late-capitalist apathetic condition) has emerged as the dominant reading of The Ridiculous Six, The Do-Over, and the other films that followed. Untitled Adam Sandler Netflix Project (“We honestly just forgot to title it,” Sandler confided to Diane Sawyer in a recent interview. “That’s what they told me you’d say,” Sawyer responded, winking) has been received as the defining masterpiece of this period — a harrowing tone poem on the flesh-and-blood majesty of never ever even remotely giving a single shit.
A late-December qualifying theatrical run* (*that just means it was released on Netflix in December; laptops in bed count as theaters now) put Untitled on the Oscar radar, and the buzz grew organically from there. The Oscars are often criticized for providing a safe haven to the baity middlebrow — but many insiders see Untitled Adam Sandler Netflix Project’s recognition as a sign that the Academy is doing its level best to graduate from such stigma. One future pundit I spoke with reluctantly agreed: “At first, I wasn’t so sure about Sandler Auteurism’s viability at the Oscars. It’s so … dark, and dense, and severe. And it has such a singular, artistic focus. Those are the kinds of films that have traditionally struggled to resonate with Academy voters. But Untitled Adam Sandler Netflix Project is different. There is just something about it. I’ve never, in my entire life, seen a film care less — and that really fucked me up. You finish a movie like that, and your first thought is, just, like, ‘What’s the point? I mean: of anything?’ So, yeah, to nominate UASNP — to me, for sure, that’s the Academy making a statement. That’s voters saying, ‘Art is radical. Art is political. Art is cinema. And the Oscars … are all of those things.’ I think that movie has a real shot this year.”
It’s a nice idea — and in another year, it might have even meant a win. But this is the sort of year when a “statement” Best Picture campaign is all for naught. And that’s because this is the year that Disney finally unleashed its “2000s Emo Jukebox Musical” / “Kyle Ren Standalone Adventure” mash-up movie, Welcome to the Black Parade: A Kylo Ren Story: A Star Wars Story. Damien Chazelle’s 250-minute opus is the culmination of four* of the most enduring trends in movies over the last decade: (1) Disney snatching up every talented director in the world and paying them to toil away on kids’ stuff; (2) Adam Driver ascending to the throne of The Biggest Movie Star in the World; (3) The prestige-musical revival, ushered in by La La Land’s Best Picture triumph in 2017; and (4) America’s second Star Wars epoch. (*Emo isn’t a trend; it’s a way of life.)
Is there a chance of a chance that one of these other nominees — Untitled Sandler, or Avatar 5, or any of the smaller Star Wars films — might pull off the upset and take home Best Picture? Sure: There’s always a chance. But if there’s one thing that won’t change over the next 10 years, I can exclusively report that it’s this: Dream about the underdogs at the Oscars.
But bet on the favorites.
PREDICTION: Welcome to the Black Parade: A Kylo Ren Story: A Star Wars Story