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Saturday, February 24, 2024

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The Biggest Questions Heading Into The 2024 Oscar Nominations

SAG, the PGA, DGA, Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and now BAFTA have spoken in awards season – but it is finally the Oscars’ turn. On the morning of Tuesday, January 23rd, Oscar nominations will finally be out, and the debates and questions over the race will truly begin. But for these last few days, here are the 12 biggest questions we’re still asking and will actually have answered soon.

Is The PGA 10 The Oscar 10?

Although there have been years where the Producers Guild nominated every single eventual Best Picture nominee, those were in years without a set field of 10. But in 2023, more and more people are convinced that the PGA field of “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Poor Things,” “The Holdovers,” “Past Lives,” “Maestro,” “American Fiction,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” and “The Zone of Interest” will match the Oscar Best Picture field to a t for the first time ever.

Frankly, half the reason is that no one else has made a real, lasting surge with the guilds or BAFTA. “All of Us Strangers” had one last chance to make a move at the BAFTAs, but notable misses for Best Film, and Andrew Scott in Best Actor might be the last straw. “The Color Purple” is the only other film besides the top 10 to get a single major guild nomination from SAG, and it just got BAFTA nominations for both Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks, but actors’ support alone may not save it. And while “Saltburn” has Internet passion and BAFTA nominations for both Barry Keoghan and Rosamund Pike, little else suggests a happy Oscars ending – in whatever way “Saltburn” defines a happy ending.

Will “Barbie” & Greta Gerwig Get “Argo”’d?People who are rooting against “Barbie,” for whatever reason, likely rejoiced at its BAFTA miss for both Best Film and Best Director. As such, the popular theory is that while Greta Gerwig has long been considered in the top four for Director – along with Christopher Nolan and fellow BAFTA snubs Martin Scorsese and Yorgos Lanthimos – she will be the big Oscar miss to make room for either Jonathan Glazer, Justine Triet, Bradley Cooper or Alexander Payne.

To be honest, those who hope “Barbie” won’t make it to a final showdown with “Oppenheimer” for Best Picture should hope Gerwig makes it in. Otherwise, the resulting backlash in some circles could resemble that of Ben Affleck missing Best Director for “Argo” – which then swept the industry Best Picture awards anyway. And if it doesn’t, the hypocrisy of the industry rallying around a film for its male director’s snub but not for Gerwig’s would be a loud talking point.

Nonetheless, Affleck didn’t miss BAFTA like Gerwig did, and neither did “Argo” for that matter. And the cynical view is that if Triet snubs Gerwig out and ensures there isn’t an all-male Director field, there shouldn’t be much of an outcry then. Yet an all-male Director lineup can’t be ruled out – and if the last remaining male is current Film Twitter “villain” Cooper, or more egregiously, formerly accused sexual abuser and enabler Payne, some noise will certainly be made all the way up to Oscar night.

For various legitimate and outrageous reasons, maybe “Barbie” won’t be the next “Argo” if Gerwig misses. But it is probably best for all involved if they don’t have to run that risk.

Is “Killers Of The Flower Moon” Still A Top Contender?

To be perfectly blunt, if there is a presumed top-four Director that should be vulnerable for a snub, it should be Scorsese and not Gerwig or Lanthimos – at least in the context of “Killers of the Flower Moon’s” shaky last few weeks.

If its director was anyone but Scorsese, its recent spotty resume would be getting many more side-eyes. Between its now somewhat shaky place in the Adapted top five after its BAFTA miss, Leonardo DiCaprio teetering on the bubble after his own BAFTA and SAG misses, Lily Gladstone taking a big hit with her far more shocking BAFTA miss, and the film not looking win competitive anywhere. Still, Actress, there is real reason to wonder just how strong “Killers of the Flower Moon” really is. And despite Robert De Niro making all the major industry precursors in Supporting Actor, it’s not out of the question to think one or two “Poor Things” supporting actors and passion choices like Charles Melton or Dominic Sessa could squeeze him out too.

There is still a scenario where Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress are “Killers of the Flower Moon’s” only above-the-line nominations. In that case, the question wouldn’t be whether it is in the Best Picture top two or three but whether it’s even still in the top five.

Will Any “Oppenheimer” Competition Get A Big Boost?OppenheimerEveryone knows “Oppenheimer” will make pretty much every category it is a serious contender for on nomination morning. The real question is whether any of its competitors will do the same – and if none of them do, maybe it is the most significant sign yet that Best Picture is just about over.

Barbie” might need to tie or beat “Oppenheimer” for the most nominations to make a big enough statement – not just with Gerwig in Director, but for Margot Robbie in Best Actress and maybe even America Ferrera in Best Supporting Actress. “The Holdovers” certainly won’t get that many nominations, yet overperforming enough to get both Payne and Sessa in would send a louder message.

But if “Poor Things” keeps Lanthimos in Director and pulls off getting both Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe in Supporting Actor after all, it can prove it’s still very much in the running. Meanwhile, if “Anatomy of a Fall” gets both Triet in for Director and Sandra Hüller in for Best Actress, right as it is looking like a potential Original Screenplay favorite, it could be worth keeping a much closer eye on soon.

If one or a few of these films hit every target they are aiming for, “Oppenheimer” can’t breathe easily quite yet. However, if they all have a significant miss or two, the early carving for its Best Picture Oscar will proceed on schedule.

Will Sandra Hüller Be A Double Nominee?

As some suspected, BAFTA didn’t just nominate Hüller for “Anatomy of a Fall,” but for her other potential Cannes success turned Best Picture nominee in “The Zone of Interest.” Between both films surging as likely nominees and Hüller’s growing chances as a Best Actress sleeper – especially after Gladstone missed at BAFTA – there is a real chance she could become the 13’th actor to get two nominations in a single year.

Hüller would only be the second to do so in the preferential ballot era, after Scarlett Johansson’s nominations for “Marriage Story” and “Jojo Rabbit” in 2019. However, ever since Al Pacino and Holly Hunter won for one of their two nominations in 1992 and 1993, only Jamie Foxx in 2004 has won as a double nominee in the last 30 years.

While a Supporting Actress nomination for “The Zone of Interest” would be Hüller’s victory for that movie – and perhaps clinch its own Best Picture nom – it could first and foremost be the latest case for her budding “Anatomy of a Fall” Best Actress winning resume as well. 

Can A24 Get Two Films In This Time?Past LivesThe Zone of Interest” can also be part of another historic double nomination scenario. As of now, both it and “Past Lives” represent A24 in the projected Best Picture lineup, giving the studio the chance to do the only thing it couldn’t do last year – get two movies in the final 10.

Despite winning all but one above-the-line Oscar last year, A24 only had historic sweeper “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as a Best Picture nominee, while “The Whale” narrowly missed in spite of Brendan Fraser’s eventual Best Actor win. However, Sundance critical darling “Past Lives” and Cannes runner-up “The Zone of Interest” can now make a new bit of Oscar history for A24 if they both get in and perhaps make it the only studio with two nominees this year.

Nonetheless, despite “Past Lives” being in most critics’ top 10 all year, “The Zone of Interest” got a far bigger boost from getting into the PGA and BAFTA. Though the assumption most of the year was that “Past Lives” might get in while “The Zone of Interest” barely misses, what happens if it is actually the other way around?

What Will Become Of “Maestro?”

If either “Past Lives” or “The Zone of Interest” misses, the film that will probably get the biggest backlash for staying in instead is “Maestro.” After all, it is by far the least critically acclaimed movie among the projected top 10, has the worst Letterboxd rating, and is in danger of eventually becoming the only Best Picture nominee in the preferential ballot era with a “rotten” Rotten Tomatoes audience score.

Yet, as BAFTA further proved, industry voters are not online voters. As such, the question isn’t whether “Maestro” will be a Best Picture nominee, but what else it will get in for besides Cooper in Best Actor. If he gets in for Director as well, if Carey Mulligan survives the final Best Actress gauntlet, and if Cooper and Josh Singer’s script rounds out the Original Screenplay field, it will be among the big winners of the morning – and probably the biggest Film Twitter target of them all.

“Origin” = “To Leslie?”Whether people are overly cautious after Andrea Riseborough’s “grassroots” rise to a Best Actress nomination last year, or whether they are just bored by a seemingly locked Best Picture field, some last-minute chatter suggests Ava DuVernay’s “Origin” is the most prominent threat pundits aren’t paying attention to. Yet despite only opening in select cities this weekend, “Origin” already has Frances Fisher and Riseborough’s other controversial champions throwing their weight behind it – and behind recent Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as a potential Riseborough-esq Best Actress nominee.

However, just because something unlikely happened last year doesn’t mean the same thing will happen again this year. After all, early signs that “Society of the Snow” would surge as a late-breaking Netflix-produced foreign favorite, just like “All Quiet on the Western Front” did, have not panned out. And while “Origin” is being hyped up by Fisher’s inner circle for more than just a Best Actress nomination, unlike “To Leslie,” there are various reasons – legitimate or not – why it might be a tougher sell to voters who listened to them last year.

Whether a minority-centered and directed film about the history of caste systems is not the Academy’s cup of tea, or whether various fields are already too locked in for another Riseborough situation, “Origin” has a more daunting last-minute task ahead of it – but would be an even more unlikely success story if it pulled some or all of it off. 

“The Holdovers” The Next “Three Billboards?”

Bored pundits and/or “Barbenheimer” haters – or just “Barbie” haters – are starting to loudly hope for “The Holdovers” becoming “Oppenheimer’s” top competition instead. Now that Paul Giamatti has become a serious Best Actor threat after his Critics Choice and Golden Globes wins, and now that Da’Vine Joy Randolph has been all but crowned for Best Supporting Actress, all it might take is a Best Original Screenplay win to seal the deal. But first and foremost, a Payne nomination for Best Director – potential optics be damned – and/or a surprise Sessa nomination for Best Supporting Actor would really showcase “The Holdovers” growing strength.

However, maybe “The Holdovers” is on track to go the way of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” instead. That was the last movie to have multiple acting winners without taking Best Picture – and before that, it got a third last-minute acting nominee in Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson, just as Sessa hopes to be. But in an early red flag, it still missed a Best Director nomination for Martin McDonagh, showing that there was indeed a limit to its support.

Payne has a more considerable track record with the Academy than McDonagh had in 2017, yet a similar miss remains possible. If so, it could signal “The Holdovers” is still more likely to max out with two acting winners, a narrow loss in Best Original Screenplay, and no Best Picture win – making it the next “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” instead of the following “CODA,” “Green Book” or “Moonlight.”

Will “The Color Purple” & “May December” Get Blanked?May DecemberThere’s usually one film that stands out for getting completely blanked on Oscar nomination morning – and this year, there could be two.

The Color Purple” was supposed to be one of the biggest contenders of the year just a few months ago. Likewise, “May December” was being pushed for multiple acting nominations and a potential sneak into Best Picture as recently as a month ago. Yet between both audiences and Warner Bros marketing ignoring “The Color Purple” after Christmas Day, and industry voters ignoring “May December” for the last few weeks – even Julianne Moore and critically championed Supporting Actor breakout Melton – both movies are scrambling just to keep the one “safe” nomination they still have.

For “The Color Purple,” it is still assumed that Brooks is a Best Supporting Actress nominee, although she is far from being the favorite anymore. For “May December,” it is still assumed to at least be safe as a potential lone Screenplay nominee, especially after “Barbie” left the Original Screenplay field. Still, it isn’t impossible that they could each get additional acting nominations after all – for Melton and/or Moore and for “The Color Purple’s” Barrino – though it also isn’t impossible at this point that one or both films could get nothing at all.

What’s Taking “Barbie’s” Place In Original Screenplay?

After “Barbie” was transferred into Adapted Screenplay, Original was left with just four supposed “locks” in “Past Lives,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “May December,” and “The Holdovers.” Assuming that’s still true and “Barbie’s” abandoned slot is the only free one left, which film will take it?

Maestro” is the presumed frontrunner in that race after making the BAFTA cut. But in certain Internet circles, “Saltburn” is the film being pushed to take it instead – and like “Maestro,” it too has a past Oscar-winning writer on its resume. There’s also a scenario where both get in and “May December” misses, which would get a lot of people riled up one way or the other.

The only other possibility seems to be “Air,” despite its complete lack of attention this season. But maybe there is still a world where “Air” debut writer Alex Convery and “May December” debut writer Samy Burch can snub bigger names Cooper, Singer and Emerald Fennell out.

Is Adapted Screenplay Really Locked Up?American FictionAs for Adapted Screenplay, “Barbie” was presumed to have ended the fight over its final slot. Now “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” “Poor Things,” “American Fiction,” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” are seemingly locked as the five nominees, while “All of Us Strangers,” “The Zone of Interest” and “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” lost their chance to sneak in the minute “Barbie” was put in.

But between the BAFTA snub for “Killers of the Flower Moon” and its increasingly shaky Best Picture chances, maybe there is a scenario where it drops out and leaves a free spot again. “American Fiction” also looked a little wobbly for a bit, though its surprise Critics Choice Adapted win seemed to keep it on track for now.

If there is one other film that can get in, “The Zone of Interest” appears to be the frontrunner after it beat out “All of Us Strangers” at the BAFTA. Yet since “The Zone of Interest” is more of a director-centric film, and since it may overperform with nominations for Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress already, perhaps “All of Us Strangers” will be gifted a lone Screenplay nomination here – or maybe a Scott Best Actor nomination can push it over the top.

If not, this answered question should lead to even more questions ahead – just like every other burning question and much more after they are answered on Oscar nomination morning.

What do you think will be nominated for the Oscars this Tuesday? Do you have answers to any of the questions I’ve asked here? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Also, please check out their latest Oscar predictions here and the 2023 precursor awards tally here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @Robertdoc1984

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