Speculation about the 2020 Academy Awards is already well under way and among the crowded field of contenders, there’s an interesting outsider in the shape of Clemency.
Directed by Chinonye Chukwu and starring Alfre Woodard in the main role, it is the story of a prison warden responsible for executing prisoners on death row who is forced to confront her demons and who forms a connection with a man she is scheduled to kill. With a relatively unknown director and few Hollywood stars on the cast-list, Clemency would appear to be at a disadvantage in what looks like a particularly competitive race for the Best Picture Oscar this year.
The current favourite is Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, which bookmaker Paddy Power have priced up at 3/1. Political thrillers The Laundromat (4/1) and The Last Thing He Wanted (6/1) are also prominent in the betting, along with the latest Tom Hanks film A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (9/1). In fact, even Tom Hanks’ other contender for Best Picture, Toy Story 4, is regarded as a more likely winner at 14/1.
But whereas all these movies are yet to be released, and some won’t hit theaters until the end of the year, Clemency has an advantage over most of its rivals in that critics have already had a chance to see it. The movie had its international premiere at the Sundance Festival at the end of January, and was judged a big hit by critics, taking the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. The talented Chukwu, who as well as directing the movie, wrote the screenplay, is a rising star in the movie world, and while the subject matter of Clemency may be grim, recent winners of the Best Picture Award have included the likes of The Hurt Locker (2009), Twelve Years A Slave (2013), and Spotlight (2015), all of which tackled difficult subjects. At odds of 16/1 Clemency could prove to be a lively outsider.