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MATTHEW LIEDKE ON FILM: Some contenders and pretenders as award season begins

It's off to the races in Hollywood.

Last week, a trio of important award ceremonies took place marking the start of the season and separated some of the Oscar frontrunners from the movies that will be lucky to snag a few nominations. They included the Independent Filmmaker Project's Gotham Awards, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures' awards and the New York Film Critics Circle.

Based on the results from these events, here are the films that are leading the pack, and the ones that have fallen behind.

Contender: "Roma"

Director Alfonso Cuaron, who helmed 2013's "Gravity," has apparently knocked it out of the park with his new movie "Roma." The film, telling the story chronicling a year in the life of a family in Mexico City during the 70s, earned Best Film and Best Director from the New York film critics. It was also named a top film by the National Board of Review.

Pretender: "First Man"

When the first trailer dropped, many expected "First Man" to be the one to beat this year. The movie told the story of American hero Neil Armstrong and was directed by Oscar-winning Director Damien Chazelle, who previously helmed "Whiplash" and "La La Land." The campaign for the film never really got off the ground, though.

Relatively speaking, the film earned a lower than expected 88% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It also won no awards from the first few ceremonies. I enjoyed the film quite a bit and overall, it has good feedback, but it is unlikely to win many statues.

Contender: "First Reformed"

"First Reformed," starring Ethan Hawke, received a massive boost in momentum this week in its campaign for gold this season. The most likely path to success for "Reformed" is in the writing categories.

Along with being named a top film by the National Board of Review, "First Reformed" writer Paul Schrader (who also directed) earned top screenplay honors from the New York circle and the Gothams.

Pretender: "Boy Erased"

Here's another film I enjoyed, but lacks momentum to make it through the race. Despite featuring a cast with talented, Oscar-winning performers and a powerful story, the film hasn't received enough love from critics and was not awarded any hardware last week.

Contender: "Green Book"

The feel good about an unlikely friendship directed by Peter Farrelly should earn a fair amount of nominations this year. While some reviewers have had mixed reactions to it, the movie has overall built up enough goodwill and was well loved by the Board of Review, earning two awards.

Pretender: "Widows"

Despite earning a large amount of critical praise, "Widows'" campaign for award nominations this season has lost a lot of momentum. The film has had a rather unsuccessful run at the box office and earned no honors from the early award ceremonies. Star of the film Viola Davis still has an outside chance for a nomination, but at this point, it looks like a long shot.

Contender: "A Star is Born"

This is one of the audience favorites of the season and it has a lot of momentum going into December. The National Board of Review was especially high on it, giving the film Best Director to Bradley Cooper, Best Actress to Lady Gaga and Best Supporting Actor to Sam Elliot. Additionally, the Board of Review named it one of their top films. This should be in play all the way to Oscar night.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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