Tuesday, June 18, 2024

What “Maxing Out” On Oscar Night Could Look Like For The Top Contenders

With just weeks to go before the Oscars and multiple major guild awards still pending, the race is finally beginning to take its final shape going into Oscar Sunday. Several categories have accumulated all the data they’re going to before the Oscars. However, the proverbial “floors” and “ceilings” for films are, in theory, wider now than they’re going to be at any point in the future. The wealth was spread evenly in this year’s nominations, but will that be the case as far as winners go? Let’s take a look at some of the top contenders this year and examine their “ceilings”- what does maxing out look like for them at this point in the race?

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” – Max: 6/11
We’ll start with the leader of the pack in this year’s ceremony, which received eleven nominations. Of those, the only absolute lock is Ke Huy Quan in Best Supporting Actor. Best Picture and Best Director seem likely bets, especially following the Daniels’ DGA win. There are three more categories that “Everything Everywhere All At Once” can win. However, all have clear and robust opponents: Michelle Yeoh could eke out win Best Actress (though she would likely need to win at SAG to prevent current sweeper Cate Blanchett from prevailing), Best Original Screenplay is a dead heat with BAFTA-winner “The Banshees Of Inisherin.” Best Film Editing looks possible over “Top Gun: Maverick” after securing the win at BAFTA (plus CCA and a probable upcoming ACE win). The supporting ladies, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song feel like long shots as far as wins go. If the current Best Picture leader maxes out, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” could realistically win the Oscar night haul with six awards.

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Original Screenplay
Best Film Editing

“All Quiet On The Western Front” – Max: 5/9
The German WWI film surged to the tune of nine nominations, but can it convert them to wins? Best International Feature certainly feels like a lock for “All Quiet On The Western Front” (being the only multi-nominee and Best Picture nominee of the category), and it’s the frontrunner for Best Cinematography at the moment with the BSC and BAFTA wins under its belt. Its next surest bets in other BAFTA-winning categories are Best Adapted Screenplay, where it presents itself as the most significant overall contender in a notably weak field (though its absence at USC Scripter and WGA makes it hard to maintain momentum against presumed favorite “Women Talking“), in the consensus-less Best Original Score category, and in Best Sound, where it will have to fend off again the other action/combat player, “Top Gun: Maverick.” Otherwise, it feels like the nomination was the award in Best Picture (especially without a PGA nomination), Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, and Best Visual Effects; all of these categories have two or more other films that feel like solid frontrunners to take the Oscar gold.

Best International Feature Film
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Sound

“Elvis” – Max: 5/8
Elvis” has routes to win a good handful of its eight nominations. The BAFTAs secured frontrunner status for Austin Butler atop the three-way race in Best Actor as well as Best Costume Design, where it is favored over non-Best Picture nominees like “Babylon” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Recent crucial guild wins have boosted the film in Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Production Design, though it faces stiff competition in the latter with ADG winner “Babylon.” Beyond that, Best Cinematography definitely feels within reach if it can win at ASC (where frontrunner “All Quiet On The Western Front” isn’t nominated). Best Film Editing and Best Sound feel like the long shots- despite impressionable work in these techs,- and Best Picture seems out of reach.

Best Actor
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Best Production Design

“Top Gun: Maverick” – Max: 5/6
A big player below the line and a potential big beneficiary of the remaining guild awards wins for Best Film Editing, and Best Sound still seems likely to pan out despite BAFTA losses, while Best Visual Effects seems like a big ask against nine-time VES winner “Avatar: The Way Of Water.” Best Original Song feels like it’s coalescing in favor of “RRR,” but Lady Gaga could pull off her second win in the category if fortune favors “Top Gun: Maverick” on March 12th. It impressed above the line with a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination (and some see a genuine path for it despite its reported withdrawal at the Scripter awards)- I would say if (and only if) it manages to win in that category, its chances to realistically win Best Picture stay alive in the most generous over-performance for the film; both of these feel only barely possible.

Best Picture
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Film Editing
Best Sound
Best Visual Effects

“The Banshees Of Inisherin” – Max: 4/9
Of its nine nominations, the only one I’d say it’s genuinely out in front for would be Best Original Screenplay. “The Banshees Of Inisherin” feels ripe for a big overperformance, though, if it can overcome the conventional wisdom and take down some frontrunners. From my vantage point, it looks next in line behind “Everything Everywhere All At Once” for Best Picture. In the acting categories, critical Best Actor favorite Colin Farrell could win (though he took a major hit losing at home at BAFTA), alongside Kerry Condon in Best Supporting Actress if the Academy’s anti-Marvel bias turns out to be as strong as some hypothesize. She can ride the momentum of her BAFTA win. Martin McDonagh came out of the DGA/BAFTA weekend empty-handed, effectively ending his shot in the Best Director category. Despite Barry Keoghan’s surprise Best Supporting Actor win at BAFTA, it feels fairly uncrackable at the Oscars for him and Gleeson. Best Film Editing and Best Original Score seem like long shots, though the latter category remains without a repeat winner.

Best Picture
Best Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Screenplay

“The Fabelmans” – Max: 4/7
The Fabelmans” curbed whispers of a steep decline in momentum by scoring a still-impressive seven nominations in January. While behind “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “The Banshees Of Inisherin” in categories like Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, I think Steven Spielberg still has second-best odds to win Best Director. However, he would need to ride entirely on the Academy’s good graces after losing the DGA, which felt like his home turf. If the Academy really does love the movie and it performs well on Oscar night, it could win those others above the line, too. The only other one that feels reachable is Best Original Score (especially in a case where it wins those other major categories), where John Williams seems solidly in the mix against previous category winners “Babylon” and “All Quiet On The Western Front.” Michelle Williams and Judd Hirsch face steep climbs, and Best Production Design seems like a longshot.

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Score

“Babylon” – Max: 3/3
It only received three nominations (a measly return on sky-high expectations), but it could incredibly win all three if the Academy does a massive about-face. It is in line to win Best Original Score after starting momentum at the Golden Globes, though competition remains wild. Widely heralded as one of the best (and most ambitious) aspects of the film, Best Production Design feels possible- it surprisingly lost the SDSA guild award to “Elvis” recently but secured the ADG bellwether. “Babylon” has hit all the needed precursors in Best Costume Design (CDG, BAFTA, Critics Choice), but a win at the CDG awards feels necessary if it’s going to contend for the Oscar.

Best Costume Design
Best Production Design
Best Original Score

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” – Max: 3/5
Angela Bassett in Best Supporting Actress seems like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s” best shot at scoring gold among its five nominations. Beyond that, a repeat win for Ruth Carter in Best Costume Design still feels possible after the confusing combination of winning the Critics Choice Award but not being nominated at the BAFTA. In the case of an upset in Best Original Song, Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” feels like a genuine spoiler (maybe she rides a post-Super Bowl boost? Worked for Phil Collins in 2000, and the only other time a headliner performed with a pending nomination!). However, Best Makeup & Hairstyling and Visual Effects seem out of reach.

Best Supporting Actress
Best Costume Design
Best Original Song

“TAR” – Max: 3/5
Best Actress is the only realistic win for Todd Field’s “TAR.” Cate Blanchett has maintained frontrunner status at every stop on the campaign. The only reason I even venture to put it on this list is that the film did overperform with nominations, receiving six total, which may suggest a broader and deeper well of support. Even if it maxes out on Academy love, it interestingly has better shots above the line in Best Director and Original Screenplay than below in Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Even in the admittedly extreme longshot case that the Academy is head over heels for it in a way few would have seen coming, its technicals don’t stack up to their challengers in the way that its strong screenplay and direction do.

Best Actress
Best Director
Best Original Screenplay

Of the other films with multiple nominations, the only one I see maxing out with more than one award would be “The Whale” for Best Actor and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Otherwise, “Avatar: The Way Of Water” likely maxes out just with Best Visual Effects in probably the surest bet of the evening, “Women Talking” maxes out with just a Best Adapted Screenplay win. “The Batman,” “Triangle Of Sadness,” and “Living” doesn’t look to be in an excellent position to realistically win any of their nominations, in my eyes, based on overall strength and their competition within categories.

If any of these movies benefit from a real overperformance on March 12th, this is my best guess at what that would look like. Of course, it’s maybe more realistic to suspect the wealth will be spread much more evenly, especially regarding the winners. But when films have strong momentum in some categories (especially the major ones), it’s not unusual for many others to follow!

What do you think will win Best Picture Feature at this year’s Academy Awards? Which film do you think will win the most awards? Do you think any of these films will max out? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account, be sure to check out our latest Oscar nomination predictions here.

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

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