By Daniel Howat
As we inch closer to the nominations for the 94th Academy Awards, almost all the major precursor nominations have been unveiled (BAFTA nominations are still to come next week). On one of the busiest days for awards pundits, yesterday saw the DGA, PGA, WGA, and ACE nominations all get announced. All guilds have spoken, and it’s becoming clearer every day as to who is in and who is out of the Oscar race. It was a great day for “Belfast” and “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” but a rough one for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and “House of Gucci.” With Oscar voting underway, let’s dive into each of the guilds’ nominations and see how they could impact the race.
There weren’t too many snubs or surprises among the ACE nominees, as major contenders like “Dune,” “King Richard,” and “The Power Of The Dog” showed up. Only one major film missed an expected nomination: “West Side Story.” For a movie many believed was a significant force in this race, missing a nomination from the guild of editors and an ASC nomination earlier in the week was surprising, to say the least. There have been rumblings that many in the industry are not taking kindly that Steven Spielberg chose to remake a classic that has already won Best Picture from the Academy and is still beloved to this day. Though Spielberg’s film will likely still perform well at the Oscars, as some of the other guild nominations show, it’s becoming weaker as a potential Best Picture winner every day.
With “West Side Story” out of the way, “No Time To Die” swung in with a somewhat surprising appearance. The final Daniel Craig starring Bond film has had an impressive showing across the guilds thus far (with the exception of the big ones: WGA, PGA & DGA) and should do quite well at BAFTAs. While a PGA miss hurt its chances to be a potential Best Picture nominee later in the day, we would not rule this out of getting more nominations below the line.
I’m still predicting “West Side Story” to show up in Best Film Editing at the Oscars despite the miss here, alongside “Dune,” “Belfast,” “The Power Of The Dog,” and “King Richard.” I’m very tempted to add “Don’t Look Up” as well due to Hank Corwin’s previous nominations for “The Big Short” and “Vice,” and the fact that there’s usually at least one of the Comedy nominees at ACE which makes its way into the final Oscar nominations for this category. Still, I’ll stick with these five for now.
Thanks to the abundance of ineligible titles, the WGA nominations are always tricky to analyze. However, there have been times when a film only showed up at WGA and managed to ride that momentum to an Oscar nomination, such as “Judas And The Black Messiah” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” last year. This year’s Best Picture frontrunners, “Belfast” and “The Power Of The Dog,” were deemed ineligible and are thus missing from the nominations. Also ineligible were “Drive My Car,” “The Lost Daughter,” “Passing,” “Mass,” “A Hero,” “Pig,” and more.
Aside from those ineligible titles, USC Scripter nominee “The Tragedy of Macbeth” missed in Best Adapted Screenplay. Joel Coen’s Shakespeare adaptation has been a contender on the bubble for a lot of categories this year, and a boost here was desperately needed. Even with most of the frontrunners in Adapted Screenplay deemed ineligible, not getting in does not bode well for the film in this particular category. Instead, “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” and “Nightmare Alley” joined expected nominees “Dune,” “CODA,” and “West Side Story.”
Adapted Screenplay is a stacked category, and the ineligible titles make this a bit hard to parse. Of these nominees, “CODA” and “West Side Story” are relatively safe for Oscar nominations. “Dune” is in a fine position as well, given the support across the board it’s received so far being the only film to land at every single guild so far and receive both USC and WGA nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay. We know “The Power Of The Dog” is safe for a nomination and will likely win the category. So that leaves one spot open. “Drive My Car” and “The Lost Daughter” both seem strong enough to knock out “Nightmare Alley” and “Tick, Tick…BOOM!.” The stunning screenplay for “Drive My Car” seems like a no-brainer in my mind. Critics’ awards are an entirely different beast, but there’s enough precursor support for the Japanese film to get it into this category.
Original Screenplay had fewer significant exclusions, so “Licorice Pizza,” “King Richard,” “Don’t Look Up,” and “Being The Ricardos” all showed up as expected. It’s a shame that a film like Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” couldn’t find more support here, even with the support of more openings due to the ineligible films. In place of Golden Globe winner for Best Screenplay “Belfast,” was Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” which was expected, but I think it’s unlikely “The French Dispatch” stays in the mix for an Oscar nomination. Replace Wes Anderson with “Belfast,” and that’s likely our Oscar five for Best Original Screenplay. The only other titles that could be in the mix are “Pig” and “A Hero,” which were both ineligible here.
Nearly everyone’s predictions for DGA agreed on a consensus four: Jane Campion (“The Power Of The Dog“), Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story“), Denis Villeneuve (“Dune“), and Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast“). That consensus proved correct, as all four received DGA nominations. As a side note, Spielberg is now the only director to receive DGA nominations in six different decades. Paul Thomas Anderson landed in the final spot for “Licorice Pizza,” making this a relatively unsurprising list of nominees. Of course, others could’ve made it, like Adam McKay (“Don’t Look Up“), Joel Coen (“The Tragedy of Macbeth“), or Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car“), but ultimately there’s nothing unexpected here.
The nominees for First-Time Feature Film are magnificent as always, with four out of the six nominations going to women. While Jeymes Samuel (“The Harder They Fall“) faced a disappointing miss, pleasant surprises such as Emma Seligman (“Shiva Baby“) make it a bit better.
So what does this tell us is happening for Best Director predictions at the Oscars? Could DGA go five for five at the Oscars? It’s unlikely, as this hasn’t happened since 2009. The consensus four are likely safe, with one open spot, but there are signs of weakness.
“West Side Story” did well today, showing up at DGA, PGA, and WGA, but the ACE, ASC, and SAG Ensemble misses show that the support from the industry might not be unanimous. Spielberg has received DGA nominations without being nominated at the Oscars a whopping four times, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented for him to miss.
Many believe Branagh could also be vulnerable, as it’s a somewhat less flashy, slightly smaller-scale film that the Director’s branch may be prone to snub. While these arguments have merit, it’s just hard to bet against a movie that’s shown up everywhere it’s needed to this season. “Belfast” is the only film to receive nominations at DGA, PGA, ACE, and have a SAG Ensemble nomination. It likely would’ve received WGA as well but was deemed ineligible. “Belfast” is in too strong a position to ignore, and Branagh is at the heart of its campaign.
So if we don’t want to predict the DGA five, but we feel good about the consensus four, that means Paul Thomas Anderson is out. Realistically, that means McKay, Hamaguchi, or Coen are the only real names who could replace him (Sorry del Toro fans, but “Nightmare Alley” just doesn’t seem to have the support). The most robust case can be made for Hamaguchi, as the Academy has nominated a non-English language film director the last three years in a row. Two of those three were overlooked at DGA as well. Additionally, the last time the Academy didn’t include a first-time nominee in Best Director was 1950!! Hamaguchi is the only director without a nomination who could realistically receive fit in this category. Given that his film has won Best Picture prizes from NYFCC, LAFCA, and NSFC, the feeling is that it has to show up somewhere outside of Best International Feature Film.
On the other hand, if you want to ignore the over seventy-year-old stat, McKay and Coen each make a lot of sense. The Coen Brothers are Academy favorites, and even though this is only one of them in the awards race this time, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” seems like the sort of arthouse film that the Director’s branch would be drawn to. The film’s directorial flourishes stand out the most when working with such familiar material. And for McKay, his last two films were nominated across the board by the Academy in Picture, Director, Writing, Acting, and crafts. With the amount of conversation generated lately by “Don’t Look Up,” it makes a lot of sense for him to receive the same recognition as his previous “important” films.
For now, I’m sticking with Campion, Spielberg, Villeneuve, and Branagh and hesitantly adding Hamaguchi to the mix. I still have a strong hunch McKay gets in, but I would be elated if Anderson could make it instead.
Finally, the PGA revealed their ten nominees for the best theatrical productions of 2021. Often a blockbuster movie will land here, like “Wonder Woman” or “Deadpool.” Some hoped that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” would score a PGA nomination to booster its Best Picture chances. Unfortunately for those fans, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was not on the list. Nor was “No Time To Die,” which had a much better chance given its recent performance with the other guilds. With “Dune” being the only “bigger” movie on the list, no real outside contenders were getting a chance to shine here.
Instead, the shocking omissions were minimal. “House of Gucci” didn’t show up here, making its Best Picture chances slimmer and slimmer, despite scoring a SAG Ensemble nomination. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” continued its streak of missing all of these prominent guilds, as did “Nightmare Alley.” “Being The Ricardos” and “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” scored those last two spots alongside all the other expected nominees. “Belfast,” “CODA,” “Don’t Look Up,” “Dune,” “King Richard,” “Licorice Pizza,” “The Power Of The Dog,” and “West Side Story” all feel pretty safe for Best Picture nominations, which leaves two open slots.
“Being The Ricardos” feels solidly in, with Kidman looking like she’ll pick up a second Oscar for her performance as Lucille Ball. And although many started to count it out, with a strong showing among these guilds, “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” is now in an excellent position to pick up that tenth spot. “Drive My Car” has lots of critics’ support, but it’s unlikely to translate to a Best Picture nomination at this point. “House of Gucci” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth” really needed any boost from the guilds yesterday and found none essentially.
Predicting the PGA ten to match the Academy’s nominees for Best Picture exactly feels wrong since that’s never happened before (they’ve matched 8/8 and 9/9 but not a straight 10/10), but these ten nominees genuinely make the most sense. Plus, this is only the third year since the Best Picture expansion in 2009 that both PGA and the Academy will have ten nominees, so it’s not exactly a long-standing stat. For now, I’m sticking with the PGA nominees as our Best Picture nominees, which would make this from a critical standpoint the lowest-rated crop of Best Picture nominees ever.
What excited you most about yesterday’s guild announcements? How did these change your predictions? Will the PGA match up with Best Picture ten for ten? Do you agree with my picks for the Oscar nominations? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and be sure to check out the NBP Team’s updated Oscar predictions here.
You can follow Daniel and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @howatdk