Thursday, May 23, 2024

Luca Guadagnino’s History With The Oscars And What It Could Mean For “Challengers” & “Queer”

Sometimes, one movie is all it takes to rocket a filmmaker to immense notoriety. So it is with Italian director Luca Guadagnino, a man who has been helming feature-length movies and documentaries since 1999. However, it wasn’t until 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name” that Guadagnino exploded as a director. Since then, this filmmaker has kept moviegoers and critics alike on their toes with a slew of eclectic titles. This collection included “Suspiria,” “Bones and All,” and a contender for the most sensual tennis movie ever made, “Challengers.” All the while, Guadagnino’s works have become staples of recent award seasons. “Call Me By Your Name” was especially a juggernaut in this regard. That inspiration for a hit Lil Nas X tune scored four major nominations at that year’s Oscars.

Luca Guadagnino’s track record at the Oscars and precursor award shows isn’t limited to a 2017 movie that forever changed how people looked at peaches. This filmmaker’s varying presence at modern Oscar ceremonies reflects how acclaimed his works are. Then there are Guadagnino movies the Oscars snubbed. These titles reflect what kind of motion pictures this ceremony often struggles with recognizing. 

Luca Guadagnino’s movies didn’t secure significant awards season attention until roughly a decade into his filmmaking career. Everything changed once the 2009 motion picture “I Am Love” rolled around. This Italian motion picture (which featured Tilda Swinton in its cast) transformed into an awards season fixture. “I Am Love” procured nominations in various Best International Film categories across ceremonies like the BAFTA awards, Golden Globes, and the Critics Choice Awards. That track record suggested great things for “I Am Love” at the Oscars. Surely, it would soon join “In a Better World” and “Incendies” in that year’s Best International Feature Oscar category.

However, Italy itself torpedoed “I Am Love’s” Oscar chances in that category. This country never submitted “I Am Love” as Italy’s contender for that year’s Oscar category. Instead, a motion picture called “The First Beautiful Thing” secured the submission. It’s a mystery why this motion picture got picked over “I Am Love.” What is clear, though, is that this acclaimed Luca Guadagnino feature joins “Anatomy of a Fall” and “RRR” as movies that would’ve been shoo-ins for Best International Feature Oscars. If only their respective countries had submitted them for consideration. 

That setback wasn’t enough to derail all of the film’s Oscar hopes, though. “I Am Love” still got costume designer Antonella Cannarozzi an Oscar nod in the Best Costume Design section. The seal was broken. A Luca Guadagnino film had finally made it to the Oscars. It was a major first, but it also wouldn’t be the last.Guadagnino’s next narrative directorial effort, “A Bigger Splash,” was a different awards season story than “I Am Love.” It never quite had much in the way of Oscar hopes, primarily because of its May 2016 release date. Pre-September movies can make it to the Best Picture field or other significant categories. This is especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it helps to become a pop culture phenomenon on par with “Oppenheimer” or “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” That way, you can be on the minds of award body members once voting time rolls around.

A Bigger Splash” never achieved that level of notoriety. However, one of its performers did become a minor fixture of the subsequent award season. Ralph Fiennes appeared in that year’s Best Supporting Actor roster for organizations like the Toronto Film Critics Association or the Independent Spirit Awards ceremony. Those were impressive nods. However, they weren’t enough to propel Fiennes or any other aspect of “A Bigger Splash” to the Oscars.

A Luca Guadagnino movie would score four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, just one year later. That particular nomination for “Call Me By Your Name” also gave Guadagnino his only Oscar nomination to date. As one of the four “Call Me By Your Name” producers nominated for Best Picture, Guadagnino was finally an Oscar-nominated artist. No longer was he just the director of Oscar-nominated movies. “Call Me By Your Name” eventually scored a Best Adapted Screenplay win for James Ivory at the Oscars. This victory didn’t just benefit Ivory. Guadagnino’s profile also went up considerably. Now, any new movie he embarked on would have all eyes on it in terms of its Oscar potential.

A year after “Call Me By Your Name,” Guadagnino returned with a “slightly” different movie. His follow-up project was a grisly and somber “Suspiria” remake/sequel/reimagining. Distributor Amazon Studios positioned this incredibly bizarre and avant-garde motion picture as a potential awards season contender through maneuvers like a splashy Venice International Film Festival premiere. However, “Suspiria” was always going to be too bloody and gruesome to gain much traction in award season. “Suspiria” ended up going nowhere as an awards season contender, save for Thom Yorke’s score. Those compositions did show up in the Best Original Score category at a handful of smaller award shows.

Four years later, Guadagnino would deliver another graphically violent directorial effort with “Bones and All.” Like “Suspiria,” “Bones and All” received no Oscar nominations. Unlike “Suspiria,” though, “Bones and All” actually garnered some traction as precursors to the Oscars. At the 2022 edition of the Venice International Film Festival, Guadagnino took home the Silver Lion for Best Director prize. Subsequently, “Bones and All” showed up in a surprisingly varied number of categories at various award ceremonies. Mark Rylance was briefly a Best Supporting Actor fixture for various film critic groups. Leading lady Taylor Russell got an Outstanding Lead Performance nod at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. 

The most high-profile of “Bones and All’s” artists in terms of nominations, though, was screenwriter David Kajganich. This fellow was a staple of that year’s Best Adapted Screenplay category at pre-Oscars award shows. It briefly seemed like this cannibal love story may follow in the footsteps of titles like “Inherent Vice” in being an oddball motion picture that scores an unexpected Oscar screenplay nod. That never happened, of course. “Bones and All” was popular with critic groups. However, it never gained traction at big Oscar precursor ceremonies like the BAFTA’s or any Guild award shows. Like “Suspiria,” “Bones and All” showed that the Oscars preferred Guadagnino’s works to be more grounded than grisly.Perhaps that will help “Challengers” breakthrough at the Oscars later this year. After all, it’s a steamy tennis tale devoid of cannibalism and witches. It doesn’t hurt that there’s also rampant early praise surrounding the feature, especially around Zendaya’s lead performance. All those qualities could make “Challengers” a potential big star come this impending award season. However, one thing that could mess up “Challengers” is that it potentially won’t be the only Luca Guadagnino movie at play for the next Oscars ceremony. Guadagnino’s Daniel Craig star vehicle “Queer” finished shooting last summer. Outlets like Variety have claimed that the motion picture will debut in the final months of 2024. That would give it an ideal launchpad for award season and potentially turn it into an Oscar opponent for “Challengers.”

“Queer” follows a man named Lee’s relationship with a former Navy serviceman in the 1940s. That certainly sounds like the kind of down-to-earth material that the Oscars gravitate toward when it comes to Guadagnino’s works. Plus, Craig is a famous face that the Oscars have been overdue to recognize. Do not underestimate “Queer” in the months ahead. Even with “Challengers” established as the first Guadagnino cinema titan of 2024, “Queer” could still soar. 

Guadagnino’s penchant for the obtuse and strange has sometimes alienated major awards season voters. This director has been working for a long time in the American and Italian film industry. Despite being around for a while, only two of his movies have scored any Oscar love. Still, the outpouring of Oscar nominations (and even a win) for “Call Me By Your Name” indicates hope. That romantic drama showed that Guadagnino’s features can become Oscar titans. Perhaps “Challengers” and “Queer” will bring this filmmaker back to the Dolby Auditorium. Soon, Luca Guadagnino will have two chances to expand his Oscar profile in one award season. 

What do you think of Luca Guadagnino’s filmography? Do you think either “Challengers” or “Queer” will breakthrough with the Academy this year? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

You can follow Lisa and hear more of her thoughts on the Oscars & Film on her portfolio here

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