The same week 2022’s Oscar race began to take shape with the fall festivals TIFF and Venice announcing their lineups, a rumor spread that Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated “Killers Of The Flower Moon” was being delayed until 2023. Nothing is certain at this time, as Apple has not officially commented on this, but the possibility has been met with lots of speculation and debate. If true, the Apple-backed crime drama is the latest in a string of would-be contenders–Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things,” George C. Wolfe’s “Rustin,” Taika Waititi’s “Next Goal Wins,” and Ari Aster’s “Disappointment Blvd.”–to get pushed to 2023. Before growing despondent over having to shift your Oscar predictions, ask yourself whether anyone really wants their predictions at the end of an awards cycle to look the way they did when it began? The Oscars are increasingly decided months before any of the actual nominees are released. Shake-ups like these make for a more interesting race. It’s no accident that 2020 had an especially varied Best Director shortlist when many potential contenders were delayed because of the pandemic. So what opportunities are now open as a result of this potential move?
Films like “Killers Of The Flower Moon” weigh a season down from the moment they’re announced. You may be thinking, “It’s not a zero-sum game, though,” but consider the number of upcoming films that have already been declared frontrunners in various categories. Between “Babylon” and “The Fabelmans” (and, it seems more and more with every passing day, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “Top Gun: Maverick“), 2022 is chockful of placeholders. If “Killers Of The Flower Moon” is out of the mix, many new possible contenders can emerge.
In the acting categories, slots that would’ve been occupied by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Plemmons, and Lily Gladstone are now potentially open to Paul Mescal (“Aftersun“), Song Kang-ho (“Broker“), Brendan Gleeson (“The Banshees Of Inisherin“), and Dolly De Leon (“Triangle Of Sadness“). Most of our wishlist picks will still go ignored (I’m talking to the fans of genre films like “Resurrection,” “Prey,” “Nope,” and “Watcher“), but “Stranger Things” star Sadie Sink for her performance in “The Whale” is now a stronger possibility than ever before.
In Best Director, the obligatory Scorsese nomination could just go to another obvious choice (like James Cameron), but imagine if it was someone like Lukas Dhont (“Close“) becoming this year’s Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round“) or Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car“) as a result of Apple’s decision to delay the 200-million-dollar epic. Perhaps Charlotte Wells breaks through in her feature directorial debut in a massive way with “Aftersun,” or Park Chan-wook is finally recognized for “Decision To Leave.” Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees Of Inisherin“), Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”), Maria Schrader (“She Said“), Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Broker“), Noah Baumbach (“White Noise“), Todd Field (“TÁR“), and Ruben Östlund (“Triangle Of Sadness“) are just some of the filmmakers whose shot a first Best Director nomination has increased because Scorsese is potentially not competing for his tenth. Expectations should be tempered, but it’s difficult not to dream big when the alternative is a soporific race between Scorsese, Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”), Damien Chazelle (“Babylon”), Sam Mendes (“Empire Of Light”), Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Bardo”)—all previous nominees and winners.
Moreover, Apple would have unused resources to dedicate to the Sundance Film Festival hit “Cha Cha Real Smooth” and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon,” which is said to be wrapping post-production. Considering the director’s notorious reputation for completing his projects at a fast rate (“All The Money In The World“), would anyone be surprised if “Napoleon” managed to come out this year at the last possible moment? It would be great if one of our most prolific directors got to compete for an Oscar a year after delivering back-to-back films with “The Last Duel” and “House Of Gucci.” Or, if “Napoleon” doesn’t crash the party, Apple could campaign Antoine Fuqua’s “Emancipation.” Will Smith’s (last year’s Best Actor Oscar winner for “King Richard“) recent resurgence in the news following a social media post from the beleaguered star has fueled speculation that Apple is mounting a PR tour for the historical epic to be released later this year (as per the Deadline article). I’m not saying Apple can’t walk and chew gum at the same time or that Lily Gladstone’s presence in the Best Supporting Actress race necessarily precludes Dakota Johnson’s. Still, a project of “Killers Of The Flower Moon’s” scale does require the kind of focused strategy that diverts attention from other contenders. Even Netflix, with its deep coffers, hasn’t fared well juggling multiple FYC campaigns in the past.
Personally, I don’t believe the stats paint an entire picture. There are correlations, of course, but that doesn’t mean they recur by design. Nevertheless, I’m going to entertain that perspective for the sake of this argument. Say “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” for which Searchlight just released an excellent trailer, is competitive in Best Original Screenplay and one other category–Best Actor, Supporting Actor, or Best Supporting Actress (with or without DiCaprio, it would be a crime not to nominate Colin Farrell, given the year he’s having). If Jesse Plemmons is no longer in contention, perhaps Brendan Gleeson becomes more than a dark horse to receive his first nomination. Maybe Kerry Condon has a breakthrough role that catapults her career to a new level. Suddenly, the movie, with its screenplay-and-acting-nominations package, that a purely stats-driven prognosticator will tell you is as sure a thing as a Pythagorean triple, is suddenly a viable Best Picture contender. All because there is flexibility in an ever-shifting race that hasn’t even fully begun in earnest (that will happen once the Venice Film Festival begins).
Whether or not the long shots already discussed materialize, it’s exciting to consider what an awards season could look like without a mega-juggernaut such as “Killers Of The Flower Moon” eating at, say, 12 nominations—a huge haul that can be split between several productions without its pedigree or budget. Besides, pre-ordained Oscar glory has set many a film up to fail, not least of all Scorsese’s own “The Irishman” just a few years ago.
Do you think “Killers Of The Flower Moon” will indeed not be ready in time for this year’s Oscar season? Should it move to 2023 or come out this year if ready? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.
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