Saturday, March 2, 2024

Best Picture Contenders That Could Use A Boost From SAG, PGA & DGA This Week

This coming week may be the most important one of Oscar season to date, if only because the guilds are finally about to weigh in. Between the SAG nominations, DGA nominations on January 10th, and the PGA nominations on January 12th, this is the make-or-break week for any films, actors, or directors right on the bubble.

At the moment, seven films appear to be safe no matter what happens, including “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Barbie,” “Poor Things,” “The Holdovers,” “Past Lives” and “Maestro.” But eight more films, at minimum, have a lot more riding on these guild nominations, which could either clinch key Oscar nominations for them or knock them out of the race entirely.

As such, these are the best-case scenarios for these eight films to happen by the end of the week.

“American Fiction” – Jeffrey Wright SAG Nomination & PGA Nomination
In all likelihood, “American Fiction” is still closer to a lock than a bubble film, yet missing the BAFTA longlist for Best Film put a small bit of doubt out there. Ever since winning TIFF, it hasn’t quite gotten the same momentum that runner-up “The Holdovers” has – and now that “Barbie” has joined the Adapted Screenplay category, it suddenly looks like the most vulnerable film among the supposedly locked top 5.

Therefore, “American Fiction” needs to ensure itself in other categories this week before things start to snowball against it at the last minute. SAG can help with that by nominating Jeffrey Wright, which would get him closer to being the kind of Best Actor lock that Cillian Murphy, Bradley Cooper, and Paul Giamatti are. A surprise Sterling K. Brown nomination in Supporting Actor would be a bonus, yet “American Fiction” really needs Wright’s bubble to stay strong first and foremost.

But if Wright misses and “American Fiction” is totally shut out at SAG, the PGA nominations two days later will become a far more nerve-wracking affair – and give the bubble films below an extra bit of hope.

“Anatomy Of A Fall” – Sandra Huller SAG Nomination, PGA & DGA Nominations
Anatomy of a Fall” isn’t a lock yet, though its shocking Golden Globes win for Best Screenplay put it that much closer. Between that, Sandra Huller is racking up Best Actress nominations, and its script is now a direct threat to win the Oscar after these last few days. At a minimum, the Cannes Palme d’Or winner is starting to seem like the ninth film in the field. Nonetheless, it could use a strong guild performance to seal the deal.

Huller getting into SAG would help, though it may not be a deal breaker if she’s snubbed for a bigger name like Margot Robbie, Natalie Portman, or Annette Bening. A DGA nomination for Justine Triet might be a longer shot, as Greta Gerwig and Celine Song have outpaced her as the strongest female director contenders thus far. If “Anatomy of a Fall” misses both guilds and then misses the PGA top ten, then there will be cause to worry – but maybe not panic.

After all, last year’s Neon-produced Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness” had no nominations from SAG, the DGA, or the PGA, yet still rallied for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations at the Oscars. In that larger context, a guild shutout this week for “Anatomy of a Fall” wouldn’t be a killer, though avoiding it would undoubtedly help it breathe easier.

“The Color Purple” – SAG Ensemble Nomination And Multiple Individual Nominations & PGA Nomination
Since about half the first wave of Twitter reviews for “The Color Purple” hailed it as a significant SAG award player – if not SAG ensemble winner – this is as ideal a last stand for the struggling musical as any.

BAFTA longlist mentions for both Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks could point to a repeat at SAG, which can even give a lifeline to Taraji P. Henson as well. However, an ensemble nomination is probably just as important – although getting one ultimately didn’t help last year’s preseason favorite turned stalled holiday release “Babylon” for very long.

Nonetheless, if SAG doesn’t come through for “The Color Purple,” then a PGA nomination would probably be that much more of a longshot. Yet if it can score big with both guilds, it would be just the kind of 11:00 number it needs to announce that it is still here after all.

“May December” – Multiple SAG Nominations, PGA & DGA Nominations
Besides “The Color Purple” being shut out at BAFTA beyond Barrino and Brooks, “May December” had the most disappointing performance on longlist morning, especially concerning Charles Melton’s snub from the Best Supporting Actor top ten. As such, a nomination that was just starting to look secure now needs an extra boost at SAG, to be sure.

Before the BAFTAs, the last week looked promising for “May December,” at least when it came to “Barbie” moving into Adapted. Now that it seems like a more secure top 4 nominee in Original, a Melton nomination and a Julianne Moore Supporting Actress nomination would give it an ideal Best Picture resume. For that matter, SAG could still conceivably revive Portman’s chances with a nomination despite her BAFTA longlist miss.

At the minimum, “May December” needs one, or ideally at least two, SAG nominations to restore momentum before the PGAs. If Todd Haynes can surprise at the DGAs as a bonus, it will be right back in the running to be Netflix’s second Best Picture nominee. Yet if the Melton BAFTA snub proves a bigger sign of things to come, it may become closer to a lone Best Screenplay nomination – if that – than anything else by week’s end.

“The Zone Of Interest” – DGA & PGA Nominations
While Huller made the BAFTA longlist in Supporting Actress, her best shot at any SAG nomination is likely for “Anatomy of a Fall” in Lead. Therefore, the best hope for “The Zone of Interest” this week is the same as it has been from the beginning – to make Jonathan Glazer the frontrunner for the last Best Director slot with a DGA nomination and to make its way into the PGA top ten.

Missing them might not be a dealbreaker, although a PGA and DGA snub would make it shakier. In that scenario, suspicions about “The Zone of Interest” being far more challenging for voters to sit through than critics will linger all the way up to nomination morning. And if another film like “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Color Purple,” “May December,” or some other less brutal film leaps past it with the guilds instead, its road back will look far more daunting.

“All Of Us Strangers” – Andrew Scott SAG Nomination & PGA Nomination
BAFTA was the lifeline “All of Us Strangers” needed to merely stay in the race, with ten longlist mentions. But it didn’t erase the sting of “Barbie” being moved into Adapted Screenplay, which likely took away its chances for a final slot for which it was beginning to look like the frontrunner.

As such, all its hopes now seem pinned on Andrew Scott, which may not be so dire. Although the likes of Zac Efron and Barry Keoghan have had more heat on Film Twitter, Scott has quietly racked up critics nominations to become the most nominated precursor actor besides the Murphy/Cooper/Giamatti/Wright top four.

Scott might be more likely to become “All of Us Strangers‘” sole nominee instead of one that can carry it to a Best Picture nomination. Yet a mention at SAG would give the film extra momentum and maybe prove it isn’t just a BAFTA favorite in the nick of time – though a PGA nomination afterward would really drive it home.

“Saltburn” – Barry Keoghan and/or Rosamund Pike SAG Nominations & PGA Nomination
As “Saltburn” rises up on the Amazon Prime Video charts, garners more Letterboxd votes, and fuels various Twitter memes, it has gone from being nearly dead in Best Picture to rapidly approaching the bubble again. Even so, despite eleven BAFTA longlist mentions, missing the Best Picture longlist is much more puzzling, if not more telling.

Yet SAG can prove that “Saltburn” isn’t just reviving itself online if it bumps Pike further up the Supporting Actress charts, gives Keoghan fresh hope as a Best Actor sleeper, or perhaps even makes it a shocking Ensemble nominee. With some or all of this under its belt, all eyes will be on “Saltburn” to steal a final slot in the PGA top ten next, as it did with the Critics Choice weeks ago when it seemed in much more dire straits.

“Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse” – PGA Nomination
All of the above films have multiple chances to steal or restore momentum at the guilds. But since it is an animated film, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” only has one shot left to make a massive statement.

Losing Best Animated Film at the Globes to “The Boy and the Heron” would seem to blow a hole in its Best Picture resume. But this is a movie that has been on a roll with critic groups and is not just in the animated category.

With a string of Best Picture critic nominations, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is nearly equal with “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Maestro,” and “The Zone of Interest” as the tenth most nominated movie among precursors. Still, since it isn’t eligible at SAG and the WGAs are far too late this year, the one last chance it has to prove it is more than a critic favorite is with the PGA.

The last animated movie to get a PGA nomination was a different animated sequel in 2010 – although “Toy Story 3” had Disney, Pixar, and two worshipped predecessors to put it over the top. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the middle film of an animated superhero trilogy, in a year where it was the major exception to the “superhero fatigue” phenomenon.

Still, the PGA did give the live-action superhero sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” a nomination last year, even if the Oscars didn’t do the same. But that movie had plenty of chances to make its case, as well as a Supporting Actress nominee in Angela Bassett. As it stands, with more limited opportunities ahead, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is making its do-or-die stand at the PGAs – just like a few live-action bubble films will too.

What do you think will be nominated at SAG, PGA and DGA this week? Which of these fringe Best Picture contenders will receive the largest boost? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Also, please check out their latest Oscar predictions here and the 2023 precursor awards tally here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @Robertdoc1984

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