It’s only January but the currently happening Sundance Film Festival has given us our first potential Oscar contender for 2016. The film is Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, a New England set drama starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges. Yesterday’s Sundance screening prompted rave reviews and immediate Oscar chatter. Writer/director Lonergan was nominated in 2000 for an Original Screenplay nod for You Can Count on Me and it could happen here. Affleck, Williams, and Hedges in particular have been singled out for their work. Amazon snapped up rights to Manchester quickly and are planning an awards push.
If it seems too early for these predictions, note that Sundance has provided many eventual Oscar nominees over the years. The last two years have provided three: 2014’s Boyhood and Whiplash and 2015’s Brooklyn. Going back further, the list includes Hannah and Her Sisters, Moonstruck, The Full Monty, Little Miss Sunshine, Precious, An Education, Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right, and Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Obviously there’s a full year for many other contenders to emerge, but there’s little doubt that Manchester by the Sea is the first legitimate one.