Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Overdue Oscar Contenders Looking For Their First Win This Year

By Cameron Lee 

Another awards season means another chance for long-overdue individuals to net their first Oscar win. This year is no different from any other year as we embark on the fall film festivals and contenders begin to emerge with positive reviews, built in narratives and sometimes both. Here are some individuals we are rooting for this year whose bad luck with the Academy could finally run out.

Paul Thomas Anderson: 8 Nominations

When will Paul Thomas Anderson get his first Oscar? After his first nomination for writing “Boogie Nights” in 1997, he has since received multiple nods for writing and two for directing but has yet to win his first Academy Award. We understand that not every PTA film is considered “Academy friendly.” For every “There Will Be Blood” and “Phantom Thread,” you will get a “The Master” or “Inherent Vice” (although he somehow managed to get a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for the latter). His newest film, “Soggy Bottom” (not the final title), looks to be more in the vein of “Boogie Nights,” telling the story of a child actor in 1970’s Los Angeles. While little is known about the film at this time, the suggested lighter tone and overdue factor could give PTA two more nominations for writing and directing if the film is more accessible than some of his other work. With a possible Best Supporting Actor nomination for overdue actor Bradley Cooper also in the mix (see below), PTA may finally have the right combination of factors to ger his Oscar for either Best Original Screenplay or Best Director. Maybe even both!

Bradley Cooper: 8 Nominations

Bradley Cooper has two significant projects this awards season from two high-profile directors. The previously mentioned “Soggy Bottom” is one of them while the other is “Nightmare Alley,” Guillermo del Toro’s follow-up to his Best Picture-winning “The Shape of Water.” Given the two options at the moment, we think Cooper’s chances are better for a win with “Soggy Bottom,” where he supposedly plays an over the top film producer. The Academy loves a memorable scene-chewing supporting role, so this could easily be his ticket to a long-overdue Oscar. “Nightmare Alley” could also pan out for him but, for now, we see that film as an all-out player in both above and below the line nominations, where Cooper could get in by default as part of the overall package but may not be the standout to warrant a win amongst the film’s other elements.

Wes Anderson: 7 Nominations

Here we go again…another year, another chance for Wes Anderson to not win an Oscar. The 7-time Academy Award nominee was so close to winning Best Original Screenplay for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” back in 2014, but alas, “Birdman” had to win all four Oscars up against Wes’s film. Unlike many others listed in this article, Wes is a contender whose chances we already know a greater deal about this season. Anderson’s much-delayed “The French Dispatch” already premiered at Cannes to good reviews but not at the same level as “The Grand Budapest Hotel” received. While a nomination for Best Original Screenplay is still possible, Wes’s first win seems out of reach this year. But don’t worry! He’s about to shoot his newest film in Spain in a couple of weeks and will more than likely be back in the awards conversation in about two years.

Sarah Greenwood & Katie Spencer: 6 Nominations

Those who are not overly familiar with the Oscar race may not recognize the names Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer at first glance. However, for those that do follow the awards season every year, know that these two immensely talented women are responsible for some of the best sets and production design over the last twenty years with nominations for “Pride And Prejudice,” “Atonement,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Anna Karenina,” “Beauty And The Beast” and most recently, “Darkest Hour.” Four of those nominations came from their collaboration with director Joe Wright, and he will have “Cyrano” coming out later this year. Based on the stage musical of the same name, we may not know much about it just yet, but we expect Sarah and Katie’s work to be exquisite on the Academy’s radar.

​Kenneth Branagh: 5 Nominations

After a prolific career both in front of and behind the camera, Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” is promising to be the director’s most personal work yet. A black and white drama set in Northern Ireland during the 1960s, the film is said to be based on Branagh’s childhood, and like Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” could be the director’s ticket to Oscar glory and his first win. He’ll have two shots as both the director and writer of the film, and Focus Features is said to be giving this one a big push as their top priority this awards season. While Branagh’s directing work hasn’t hit big with the Academy outside of his Shakespeare adaptations, we think this project might be the one to bring him back in their good graces.

Bruno Delbonnel: 5 Nominations

While not having quite the same momentum as Roger Deakins had for many years to get his first Best Cinematography Oscar win, Bruno Delbonnel (“Darkest Hour” & “The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs“) is undoubtedly high up there on the list when it comes to overdue cinematographers for Academy Award recognition. On paper, Joel Coen’s black and white adaptation of Macbeth sounds like everything the cinematography branch of the Academy has gravitated towards as of late. Films with black and white cinematography have won twice over the past three years with “Roma” and “Mank.” This year has a whole host of black and white films, but of all of the various contenders in the mix (including Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”), this is the one we’re most intrigued by. However, will the Academy’s cinematography branch want to go for something different this year? While we want to see Delbonnel rewarded with his first win, it might not pan out this time around.

Ridley Scott: 4 Nominations

A legend in the industry, who is still going strong at age 83, Ridley Scott has yet to win his first Oscar. The closest he came was for “Gladiator” in 2000, and while the film won Best Picture (Scott did not have producing credit), he did not win Best Director that year. A big-time studio for hire director who puts a meticulous touch on every project he works on, his output has been inconsistent throughout his entire career. However, when he hits, he hits big. This year, he has two chances to score either Best Director or Best Picture nominations with “The Last Duel” and “House Of Gucci.” Both are Oscar-baity projects on paper, but due to Scott’s track record, nothing is a sure thing, and we’ll have to wait and see how each performs before we start predicting him to get his first with more confidence.

Arthur Max: 3 Nominations

Speaking of Ridley Scott, Arthur Max’s three nominations for Best Production Design have all been for Ridley Scott-directed films (“Gladiator,” “American Gangster,” & “The Martian“). Luckily for him, two Ridley Scott-directed films are coming out this year. The first is “The Last Duel,” which will have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and provides Max with a medieval period piece setting that could be very appealing to voters. His other contender is “House of Gucci,” which could be a massive hit with the Academy in the same vein as “American Hustle” and score multiple nominations across the board. Or it could just as easily be outclassed by other contenders the same way Ridley Scott’s last true-story lavish period film was with “All The Money In The World.” Perhaps Arthur Max will be a double nominee this year? Only time will tell. 

Adam Driver: 2 Nominations

Why stop the “House Of Gucci” and “The Last Duel” talk here? Adam Driver has blown up these past few years, netting two Oscar nominations in the process for his performances in “BlacKkKlansman” and “Marriage Story.” This year, he is starring in both Ridley Scott films and has his acclaimed work in Leos Carax’s “Annette” already behind him. While he garnered respectable notices for his performance in “Annette,” we don’t see Carax’s bizarre musical being Adam’s ticket to the podium this year. We don’t know yet which of the two Scott projects he will stand out the most in, but we know this: he’s one of the best and most versatile actors we have working today, and a first win is not a question of “if” but rather a question of “when?”

Jessica Chastain: 2 Nominations

Jessica Chastain has been a force in the industry since her breakout year in 2011, which resulted in her first nomination for “The Help.” She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination the following year for “Zero Dark Thirty” and has been turning in a solid work ever since, coming close to another nomination for her Golden Globe-nominated turns in “Miss Sloane” and “Molly’s Game” but never quite getting there again. She has not only the best shot at another nomination in years with “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” but also her first win. The film is an over-the-top biopic about the infamous televangelist Tammy Faye, with Chastain adopting the woman’s infamous accent and fully transforming herself with tons of makeup. It’s the type of performance that actors love to vote for, especially with a possible Best Makeup & Hairstyling nomination to coincide with Chastain’s. The Best Actress field is still relatively wide open, and a strong Toronto premiere could do a lot to cement Chastain in this year’s race.

​Richard Jenkins: 2 Nominations

Richard Jenkins may have only two Oscar nominations to his name (One for Best Actor Actor with “The Visitor” and one for Supporting with “The Shape of Water“), but he has two supporting roles this year that could put him in line for his first Oscar. One is a reunion with Guillermo del Toro with “Nightmare Alley.” Judging by the cast list and the role from the source material, his part is much more important than the other supporting male roles in the film. The other is his role in “The Humans,” directed by Stephan Karam, who also wrote the original Tony-winning play. This part was Tony-nominated so expect him to deliver an outstanding performance that could easily slide into the race. 

Will Smith: 2 Nominations

If there’s anything we have learned in the lead actor race in the past decade (besides last year), the best performance rarely ever wins. We all have to mostly settle with a performance that’s fine to overall good in a movie that appealed to the broadest audience possible (How winning an Oscar works in a nutshell). Enter Will Smith in a sure-to-be crowd-pleasing performance as Richard Williams in the biopic “King Richard.” We all like Will Smith. We know he’s going to have a large push this fall with a variety of specials on Netflix, the release of his autobiography, and his incredible superpower to charm the pants off anyone, which includes Oscar voters. It’s almost like he’s planned all of this a few years in advance. If “King Richard” starts its campaign at Telluride or Toronto and gets primarily positive reviews, then watch out! Whether you like it or not, this is the type of performance that usually wins a beloved actor his first Oscar.

Joe Walker: 2 Nominations

Joe Walker is one of the best editors working today, having garnered two nominations for his work on “12 Years A Slave” and “Arrival.” His latest addition to his filmography is the long-awaited science fiction epic “Dune.” Of course, his first Oscar win for this massive project will depend on if the film is not only exceptional but also a perceived financial success because if it’s a disappointment, then not even a nomination will happen in Walker’s favor this year. We have a good feeling about “Dune’s” quality based on early buzz, the first ten minutes of footage shown in IMAX, and the passion from everyone involved in making the film. For such a sprawling and epic story, the editing is bound to be first-rate and maybe even a possible winner.

Hank Corwin: 2 Nominations

Another editor could surely win his first Oscar this year, and that’s Adam McKay’s right-hand man, Hank Corwin. McKay’s films are the very definition of “most editing,” and his newest film, “Don’t Look Up,” will probably be no exception. The Academy typically tends to award the film with the most editing in it. It’s silly, but that’s how things have been for years (last year’s winner “Sound Of Metal” being a rare exception). If the film clicks for the Academy, there is no reason to suggest “Don’t Look Up” won’t follow in the same footsteps as McKay’s past two films, “The Big Short” and “Vice.” If that happens, then prepare for a fight in the Best Film Editing category.

These are just some of the possible contenders looking for their first Oscar win this year. There are obviously a lot more. Many others are looking for their first nomination, such as Kristen Stewart for “Spencer” or Peter Dinklage for “Cyrano.” Who are some other possible overdue Oscar contenders you think could win their first Oscar this season? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

You can follow Cameron and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @Cameron85913678

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