Monday, May 20, 2024

How Will These Warner Bros. Sequels To Oscar-Winning Films Perform At The 97th Academy Awards?

2023 was a major year for Warner Bros., as the tentpole studio led the box office with the phenomenon that was “Barbie.” Now that the dust (and awards) have settled, we’re looking towards their upcoming slate for 2024. Denis Villeneuve’s second half of his epic sci-fi adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel, “Dune: Part Two,” has already dominated the first half of the year, earning critical praise and box office success. And yet, Warner Bros. still has three significant sequels to release this year. Funny enough, these sequels are all to films that were showered with a slew of nominations or even won Oscars in the past. Sequels typically have a more difficult time of being acknowledged by Academy voters. It takes a lot to prove to voters that the creative team is just rehashing the same elements over again. It doesn’t help that all these films are from the same studio. Warner Bros. will have plenty of decisions to make as the year goes along, such as which films they want to prioritize for Best Picture when campaigning begins. For now, let’s look at these sequels and how they could make (another) impression with Academy voters, or will they be regarded as “more of the same?”

Joker: Folie à DeuxThe first official teaser of “Joker: Folie à Deux” was released earlier this month, setting the internet ablaze as it racked up millions of views in record time. The sequel to Todd Phillips’ 2019 box office juggernaut is bringing back Joaquin Phoenix’s fan-favorite Joker himself, Arthur Fleck. Not only does the sequel have Phillips and Phoenix returning, but now it’s adding the incomparable Lady Gaga as the iconic Harley Quinn. Regarding the box office, this film will surely be a hit. Fans of the original are guaranteed to return alongside the die-hard Gaga stans that are relentlessly loyal. It would be shocking if this film performed poorly at the box office (unless critical reception is in the gutter). However, in terms of the Academy Awards, “Joker: Folie à Deux” might have a greater appeal than the original. The sequel is said to have musical components, as it’s allegedly a jukebox musical. The trailer shows sweeping set pieces, highlighting how the technical aspects of Phillip’s filmmaking look to have improved. It’s hard to say the film will increase in Oscar nominations over the original as the first “Joker” earned a leading eleven nominations (and won two Academy Awards) in 2019. It’s not comparable to “The Dark Knight,” which earned more nominations compared to its predecessor, “Batman Begins,” which only received one nomination for Best Cinematography. The only real possibility of this sequel adding to its original nomination haul is Best Actress (and Best Production Design), as previous Best Actress nominee Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”) is entering the conversation. Currently, it is unknown if there’s an original song written for the film, but that is another possibility, bringing the film’s possible nomination total to thirteen on its absolute best day. Still, that is a challenging goal to reach, especially considering Warner Bros. has other films they will aggressively push above and below the line. The critical reception for “Joker: Folie à Deux” will have to be so undeniable they put most, if not all, their chips towards this campaign. 

Furiosa: A Mad Max SagaFuriosa: A Mad Max Saga,” the prequel film to the Best Picture nominee “Mad Max: Fury Road,” is another Warner Bros. release that everybody is wondering if the post-apocalyptic desert-set franchise can return to the Dolby Theater. “Mad Max: Fury Road” was a surprise hit at the box office and received ten Oscar nominations, winning six in 2015. Many are questioning whether this long-anticipated project lives up to the unrealistic expectations George Miller’s previous film set. It’s an unachievably high bar to clear and a completely different type of film. That being said, it seems from the previews that Miller, now in his 80s, still has the juice, as it looks like a splendor of visual riches. Also, this film has an out-of-competition premiere at Cannes this year. In terms of awards potential, it is possible that “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” could be a below-the-line contender, only contending in categories that the original landed nominations in. Unless this film is another all-timer by Miller, it could only end up securing nominations comparable to that of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which went from nine nominations with the first “Avatar” film to only four with the second. The biggest difference in that comparison is that James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel became the highest-grossing film of that year (and also the third-highest-grossing film of all time). Still, one shouldn’t doubt Miller, who has defied convention at every turn, crafting an undeniable legacy out of a highly imaginative franchise that is still driving us all mad (in a good way) to this day.

Beetlejuice BeetlejuiceThe other Warner Bros. sequel that appears to be an only below-the-line contender is Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice. The original film was only nominated for Best Makeup & Hairstyling at the Academy Awards, which it won. Based on the first teaser and what we’ve heard about Burton’s commitment to using mainly practical effects, like the original, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this long-awaited sequel not only earn another Best Makeup & Hairstyling nomination but possibly Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects nominations as well. As for anything else, despite a solid (but brief) first look, it’s been a while since Burton has made a quality film. “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice might be a return to form for the filmmaker, but there is little urgency for Warner Bros. to back some major all-around campaign for this film for the Academy Awards at the end of the year unless it surpasses all expectations, much like “Top Gun: Maverick did two years ago. If it makes Warner Bros. and company feel better, “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice will probably dominate the conversation (and box office) from its September release up until the Halloween season.

Dune: Part TwoAnd, of course, we would be fooling ourselves if we didn’t continue to discuss “Dune: Part Two.” The gargantuan sequel has garnered a far better critical reception than the first film and has already outgrossed its predecessor. Like the original “Joker,” it’ll be hard to top the original in nominations, especially since it earned ten nominations and won six Oscars. There’s a possibility the Academy could overlook it in specific categories, like Best Film Editing and even Best Original Score (due to ineligibility rules). Also, “Dune: Part Two” will likely not receive any acting nominations, despite many fans of the film’s stars clamoring for it. That being said, the Academy has been open to acknowledging actors for genre films from strong Best Picture contenders in the past few years. Think of someone like Ryan Gosling, who was just nominated for “Barbie or Jamie Lee Curtis for “Everything Everywhere All At Once. Sure, both had strong narratives or were previous nominees. You can say the same thing about Timothee Chalamet, Austin Butler, or Javier Bardem, who are realistically the only three acting contenders for the film. What will help “Dune: Part Two maintain the same nomination haul as the first and possibly add onto it is the overall “weak year that is approaching us. This will be the first year where we see the impacts of the recent WGA/SAG strikes, and the slate of films on paper set to release is far slimmer than it was in 2023. It feels like Denis Villeneuve will be able to do what he didn’t with the first and earn a Best Director nomination. He has been openly praised by the likes of Steven Speilberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Christopher Nolan, and many others. “Dune: Part Two,” at this point, already seems like the year’s first real Best Picture contender as it basks in all its praises from critics, audiences, and the industry. People will be talking about the film until the day of the Academy Awards as a massive achievement of a book that was once deemed unfilmable. As a result, unless one of the above surpasses expectations, this will likely remain the biggest push from Warner Bros. this year for a Best Picture nomination.

All that said, Warner Bros. has gotten multiple Best Picture nominations in the same year before. It’s wholly possible for such a huge Hollywood studio to juggle a variety of contenders and rack up nominations across the board for multiple films. What remains to be seen is which films they will prioritize as we only know about the response towards one so far. But despite that, just how many sequels will score Best Picture nominations this year? 2022 was the first and only year where more than one sequel was even nominated, so asking for anything more than that might be a stretch. But given the slate for the rest of the year, if these films all deliver, then it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility. It’s too early to tell at this point in the year, but from the Warner Bros. big-budget sequels alone, there’s plenty to choose from.

Do you think we’ll see multiple Warner Bros. sequels nominated for Best Picture this year? Do you think we’ll see multiple sequels nominated for Best Picture this year, period? What’s the most likely Best Picture contender from Warner Bros.? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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