Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Top 10 Awards Season Contenders Teased At CinemaCon 2024

Every year, CinemaCon studio presentations skew toward the blockbusters. It makes sense, of course. As the convention for the National Association of Theatre Owners, these attendees want to see the product that will drive steady attendance to their theaters. Plenty has been written about the disparity between box office returns and Academy Award nominees over the last decade; however, the fact remains that huge box office successes are still nominated for Best Picture every year. We’ve seen this even just recently with “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and so on. So, even with a CinemaCon crowd of movie theater owners and exhibitors, studios teased a handful of potential awards contenders for 2024.

10. Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve StorySuper/Man The Christopher Reeve StoryAfter debuting at Sundance this year, James Gunn and Peter Safran reportedly lobbied Warner Bros. to do whatever they could to pick up “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story.” This tearjerker of a documentary follows the life of actor Christopher Reeve, from before playing Superman to well after his paralyzing accident. It’s an inspiring journey that shows the actor overcoming incredible obstacles while also working tirelessly to make others’ lives better along the way. Safran took time to introduce the trailer at CinemaCon, and a few sniffles could be heard throughout the press section of the room. It’s extraordinarily rare for a studio to take this much time to present a documentary at CinemaCon, showing just how dedicated Warner Bros. must be to making this documentary a hit. These sorts of celebrity bio-docs haven’t been doing well at the Oscars in recent years, but perhaps with the right push, “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” could break through.

9. The Wild RobotLoads of animated films were teased throughout CinemaCon 2024, including “Inside Out 2,” “Moana 2,” “Transformers One,” and “Despicable Me 4.” None appeared as breathtaking as Dreamworks Animation’s “The Wild Robot.” Star Lupita Nyong’o and director Chris Sanders appeared on stage to talk about their excitement for this film. Based on the wildly popular kids’ books, “The Wild Robot” follows a robot built for city life who gets lost in the wilderness, becoming a part of nature. Sanders talked about taking inspiration from the landscapes of Miyazaki films, the animals of early Disney movies, and Monet’s paintings for the visual style of “The Wild Robot.” Those inspirations truly paid off, at least judging by the extended footage they provided. Even with some unfinished shots, the animation is spectacular. In a season drowning in sequels, this is an early favorite to win Best Animated Feature.

8. Mickey 17It’s been a long five years since Bong Joon-ho’s Best Picture-winning “Parasite,” but he’s finally back with “Mickey 17.” The project has been delayed numerous times and finally landed on a curious, non-traditional awards date: January 31st, 2025. Bong and star Robert Pattinson arrived at the CinemaCon stage to discuss the movie and introduce its first trailer. The film is adapted from a book called “Mickey7,” but Bong explained the name change. “The character is called Mickey, and the number is how many times he dies,” he said with a laugh, “and I killed him ten more times.” The trailer showcases a sci-fi story with huge laughs, all set to “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” Pattinson’s Mickey is an “expendable,” destined to die repeatedly in various experiments. It looks bonkers, but Bong described it as a very human story. While the Academy tends to shy away from both comedy and sci-fi, there’s no question that Bong will be firmly on their radar. If Warner Bros. decides to give this a qualifying release before January, “Mickey 17” could find some strong support.

7. NosferatuAnother title far from typical Academy fare is Robert Eggers’ “Nosferatu.” Focus Features debuted the first trailer for the film, which arrives in theaters on December 25th, 2024. The striking cinematography, full of disturbing images, makes it impossible to look away. We see a great deal of the cast – including Lily-Rose Depp, Nicholas Hoult, and Willem Dafoe – but the trailer keeps the Vampyr himself in the shadows, not letting us get a glimpse just yet. Hopefully, they keep it that way, saving the monster for a beautiful reveal in the movie. Could it be an awards contender? That’s certainly possible, judging from the stunning costume and production design found in the trailer. And while we haven’t seen Bill Skarsgård’s Nosferatu yet, it’s easy to imagine the stellar prosthetics. Focus Features’ Chief, Peter Kujawski, promised “a different sort of Christmas feast” when the movie debuts this holiday season, and perhaps it’ll come with a surprising awards run.

6. Furiosa: A Mad Max SagaCan lightning strike twice for George Miller? “Mad Max: Fury Road” was an unlikely awards success, but based on the footage shown to us at CinemaCon, it’s possible “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” could bring them back to the Oscars. While there was some apprehension online after the first trailer, which appeared to lean more heavily into CGI as opposed to practical effects, the footage shown at CinemaCon looks just as impressive as the first film. Whether “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” will be good enough to crack the above-the-line categories is yet to be seen, but it has stunning production design, inventive imagery, and mind-blowing sound work. The CinemaCon tease has me confident the film could score at least a handful of craft nominations.

5. Joker: Folie à DeuxWhile “Joker” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” are wildly different movies, their unlikely awards runs share many similarities. Both films felt like unexpected, impossible-to-replicate successes whose sequels would be doomed to flop with awards bodies if not audiences. That future is still possible, but, like it or not, the CinemaCon footage for “Joker: Folie à Deux” teased a more elevated story than in the first film, with imagery that pulls from classic musicals as much as it resembles the first “Joker.” Regarding rumors that the movie is actually a musical, director Todd Phillips explained that “much like the first film, it’s a movie where music is an essential element,” rather than a straightforward musical. The craftwork appears to be just as stellar this time around, so it’s likely to be on voters’ minds for that alone. Add in Lady Gaga and appeal to old Hollywood musical fans, and it’s easy to imagine the Academy falling for this world yet again. I’m skeptical for now, but it’s certainly possible.

4. Kinds Of KindnessThis is a little bit of a cheat since Searchlight didn’t show anything new from Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Kinds of Kindness” during Disney’s presentation, but it’s undeniably in the awards conversation. Fresh off back-to-back Best Actress wins alongside Best Picture nominations, any Lanthimos film will have plenty of Academy eyes until proven otherwise. There are reasons to doubt, though. Rumor has it that “Kinds of Kindness” is an anthology film. If that’s the case, that could hurt its awards viability. Further, it’s Lanthimos’ first film without screenwriter Tony McNamara since “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” Some wonder if McNamara helps make Lanthimos’ films more palatable to a broad audience. The early release date would hint that it’s not a traditional contender, as well. Regardless, we still don’t know much about “Kinds of Kindness;” it will be premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in May before debuting in theaters on June 21st, where we’ll finally have a better idea about its awards chances.

3. WickedBack in 2021, Jon Chu’s critically acclaimed “In The Heights” performed poorly in theaters and was eventually shut out of the awards conversation entirely. It was a tragic turn of events for a genuinely wonderful film. Now, Chu is back for a much more high-profile musical adaptation: “Wicked.” The musical has been divided into two parts, though the title was presented without hinting at the split. Musicals are hit or miss with the Academy. Only a handful of nominations have been scored in the two decades since “Chicago” won Best Picture. Looking at other similar musical adaptations (meaning no “La La Land“), only “Les Miserables” (2012) and “West Side Story” (2021) received a Best Picture nomination. Nevertheless, the visuals showcased at CinemaCon emphasized real, tangible sets, production design, and stunning costumes. While a Best Picture nomination may be wishful thinking, a Thanksgiving release may be the right timing to score a handful of craft nominations this year.

2. Gladiator II

An extraordinary amount of sequels were teased throughout CinemaCon, but only one is a sequel to a Best Picture winner: Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator II.” Best Picture sequels rarely come close to the same level of award success as their predecessor. With that in mind, along with Scott’s recent misfires, “Gladiator II” has a lot to prove. When Paramount debuted the first-ever look at the film, it checked nearly every box it needed to. The movie looks genuinely thrilling, with naval battles in the Colosseum, gladiators fighting monkeys and rhinos, and a head-to-head battle between Paul Mescal and Pedro Pascal’s characters. Academy favorite Denzel Washington could easily score a supporting nomination, while Joseph Quinn was a particular standout, looking absolutely mad as the crazed emperor. While this may sound silly, the most beautiful thing about the footage is just how similar it looks to the first “Gladiator.” As with any blockbuster, there’s a danger nowadays that it could’ve been drowning in CGI and poor visual effects, but tangible sets and locations help it feel vibrant and fit in line with the first film. Scott says “Gladiator II” is “possibly even more extraordinary than the first film.” While it may not reach the heights of “Gladiator,” the new footage of “Gladiator II” made me believe it’s possible.

1. Conclave

In a CinemaCon field of blockbusters and franchise rehashes, it’s easy to spot a genuine awards contender when they give it a chance to shine. No other film teased as CinemaCon 2024 stood out as much as “Conclave.” Edward Berger, who directed the Oscar-winning “All Quiet on the Western Front,” helms this twisty drama inside the Vatican. Ralph Fiennes portrays a Cardinal who is in charge of selecting the new pope and discovers an ominous secret. The footage Focus Features debuted showcased precisely the right blend of high-brow drama and intrigue that could click with the Academy. Berger firmly landed on the Academy’s radar in 2022. This looks like a legitimate awards contender, with gorgeous imagery and a stellar cast, including Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow, and Isabella Rossellini. Any of those actors could snag a solid overdue narrative, but Fiennes, most of all, seems ripe for a win. “Conclave” will likely make a run at the festivals before hitting theaters on November 1st. This was already on our radar before CinemaCon – and this pushed it over the edge.

Which films teased at CinemaCon do you think could be awards contenders? Do you think we’ll see multiple sequels nominated for Best Picture this year? Or could we finally get another animated film nominated for Best Picture? Please let us know in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howat
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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