It’s time for a post-Globe Awards/SAG nominations update. Rather than regurgitate the same contenders we’ve been talking about for months, I wanted to use this edition to take a closer look at a few bubble contenders – those fighting for that fifth spot in their category.
Before we dive into that madness, let’s circle back with what has taken place since the last Good As Gold post a little over a month ago. When published, we recently found out the nominations for the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards (CCA). Since then, the Globes have been handed out and, well, the CCA has been pushed back a couple months to March 13th.
So, what did the Globes tell us that we didn’t already know at the time? Not a lot, honestly. Belfast and The Power of the Dog, the presumed Oscar frontrunners since Telluride, were the only two films to receive nominations for Picture, Director, and Screenplay (Power won the former two, while Belfast took Screenplay). In 45 of the past 51 years, the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner received a Globe nomination for Best Screenplay (the last Best Picture winner without a Globe Screenplay nom was Million Dollar Baby – 2004). That’s an 88% success rate, and one that bodes well for those two films, as well as Licorice Pizza, Don’t Look Up, and Being the Ricardos.
It seems incredibly likely that Belfast will receive Oscar nominations for both Picture and Original Screenplay. If that were to happen, Kenneth Branagh’s career would include nominations in seven different categories: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, and Live Action Short. A pretty remarkable achievement.
We might witness Steven Spielberg get one step closer to accomplishing an extraordinary feat. If West Side Story is nominated for Best Picture, it would be the twelfth time Steven Spielberg directed a film to that honor. That would be one off of William Wyler’s record for helming the most Best Picture nominees (13). Spielberg has also produced 10 Best Picture nominees, a record he already holds on his own.
The historical stats continue. Nomadland and The Shape of Water are the only two Best Picture winners since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to be written or co-written by a woman. If The Power of the Dog were to win, it would only be the fourth film since Mrs. Miniver (1942) to do so. The same can be said about CODA, The Lost Daughter, Nightmare Alley, Passing, and Cyrano, to name a few other great contenders penned by women this year.
Back to the Globes. The biggest surprise of the night was Nicole Kidman winning the Lead Actress (Drama) prize over presumed favorite, Kristen Stewart. That astonishment would only be magnified a few days later when Stewart was egregiously snubbed by her peers at the Screen Actors Guild. What to make of that category now? Lead Actress was always going to be a barnburner, I suppose. But if Stewart is to miss out on a nomination for what many feels is the best performance of the year, then it might be more dumpster fire than anything else.
Let’s move on to those fringe contenders I teased at the start, shall we? We could talk about the above-the-line categories all day. And we often do, focusing on the most important competitions that are full of movie stars and famous directors. They are the most impactful races and therefore the most examined. But they aren’t always the most interesting contests. Let’s dip below-the-line and examine five categories that are too close to call.
The sure bets: I pause to call anything in this category a sure bet. The last four favorites to win weren’t even nominated for Oscar (Jane, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Apollo 11, and Dick Johnson is Dead) despite all winning the CCA. The PGA winner for Doc was not nominated for Oscar three years in a row (2017-2019) before My Octopus Teacher broke that stretch last year. That said, Flee, Summer of Soul, and The Rescue all feel like safe plays for now. All three appeared on BAFTA’s longlist. Flee won Boston, New York, and Gotham prizes. Summer of Soul won CCA, LA, and NBR. The Rescue was the audience winner at TIFF and has received nominations from NBR and a slew of critics’ groups. The people behind The Rescue won the Oscar in 2018 for Free Solo.
The fringe contenders: Fifteen films remain in the race after AMPAS released its shortlist. There are quite a few films that could fill out the nominees or displace one of those “sure bets” above. Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground played well at Telluride and is also longlisted by BAFTA. Jessica Kingdon’s Ascension was an absorbing doc that garnered nominations from IDA, Gothams, NBR, and the Spirits. Robert Greene’s heartbreaking film, Procession, is another critical darling, showing up on the lists of a variety of groups.
The dark horse(s): Two films stand out to me as longshots that could sneak in. And for two separate reasons. The members of the Academy continue to get younger and younger. Might a film about a popstar grip the group enough to garner a nomination? If so, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry stands alone with that demographic. Similarly, the Academy has grown much more diverse and inclusive in recent years. Could the racially charged (and brilliant) film Attica sneak in? Nothing would please me more, however, the film seems to have been looked over by critics and BAFTA alike.
The sure bets: It feels like there are six sure bets in this category. Trouble is, there’s only five openings. Dune is the one true lock to be nominated, and a distant front-runner to win. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Matrix Resurrections, and No Time to Die all received nominations from the Visual Effects Society (VES) and CCA and have each been cited on the BAFTA longlist. These three seem right behind the pack leader. Then there is the record-breaking Spider-Man: No Way Home. While arriving too late for CCA and (assuming) BAFTA, Spidey still earned a VES nomination. That leaves Marvel’s third horse in the race, Eternals, as the likely odd man out. Eternals missed both VES and CCA, and now desperately clings to that lone BAFTA longlist placement as its best shot to stay in the race.
Back to Dune and its chances of winning. My favorite Oscar stat ties this category back to Production Design: 18 out of the last 21 winners for Visual Effects were also nominated for Art Direction/Production Design. The three exceptions were Spider-Man 2 (2004), Ex Machina (2015), and The Jungle Book (2016). Of all the shortlisted films for Visual Effects, Dune might be the only one to garner a Production Design nomination to match (where it also may win).
The fringe contenders: On Twitter, Gold Derby’s Matthew Stewart pointed out some interesting stats on Marvel’s performance in the Oscar race for Visual Effects. It’s shocking to see how poorly their films have done with the Academy. Matthew points out that this is the first year with four MCU releases, and therefore the first time the Oscar shortlist for Visual Effects has contained four mentions. His research shows that whenever there were three MCU films in contention, only one film cracked the Oscar lineup for Visual Effects. This might mean Eternals is a longshot, with Spider-Man and Shang-Chi the likely duo to be nominated. And Black Widow… well, it might just be lucky to have been mentioned here.
The dark horse: Watch out for the team behind Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The magic they created with (redacted) was pretty special, and one that might tickle a few nostalgic voter’s hearts.
The sure bets: Eight of the last nine BAFTA Cinematography winners matched with Oscar (Nomadland lost to Mank last year). That’s good news for our front-runners: The Power of the Dog, Dune, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and West Side Story, who are all listed on BAFTA’s longlist. Each of those films have also received significant praise from various critics’ groups as well as nominations with the CCA.
The fringe contenders: Belfast and Nightmare Alley are the other two films that can state the same claim, both of which feel like they are battling for the fifth spot at Oscar. Belfast has shown up well where it matters: SAG Ensemble, Picture/Director/Screenplay nominations at the Globes, Pic/Director/Screenplay noms at CCA, as well as receiving special recognition from the AFI. Nightmare Alley has… not done as well. Guillermo del Toro’s film only cracked one of the shortlists recently: Makeup & Hairstyling. It just doesn’t have half the steam that Belfast does, but it is certainly not out of the race for Cinematography. Dan Laustsen, the film’s cinematographer, was nominated in 2017 for another del Toro film – The Shape of Water (the pair has worked together four times), so he is no stranger to the Academy. The film is gorgeously pre-lit with a steel-blue backlight, astonishingly capturing side-shows from the Depression-era world del Toro envisioned.
The dark horse: This is such a deep category this year (and every year, it seems). There is plenty of talent in the industry, with several past Oscar nominees in contention again. Robbie Ryan has C’mon, C’mon, one of the many films beautifully captured in black and white this year. Seamus McGarvey’s Cyrano is certainly one of the best shot films this year – with that closing image of Peter Dinklage and Haley Bennett’s faces merging burned in my mind. Andrew Droz Palermo’s work on The Green Knight has become a critical darling, taking home prizes from seven groups so far. But the real dark horse here is Claire Mithon, the DP for Pablo Larrain’s haunting film, Spencer. Shot with KODAK, in Super 16mm and 35mm film formats, Mithon’s work is breathtaking. She is more than worthy of a nomination, and if she and fellow contender Ari Wegner (The Power of the Dog) were to end up in the Oscar five, they would join Rachel Morrison (Mudbound) as the first three to ever be recognized in this field.
The sure bets: Dune, West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, and The French Dispatch seem the most likely to be nominated in this category. All were recognized by the Art Directors Guild (ADG), Set Decorators Society of America (SDSA), CCA, and appear on the BAFTA longlist. As I mentioned in the Visual Effects portion above, Dune has the chops to go all the way. It fits the mold of other recent technically driven films to win here (Black Panther, Mad Max: Fury Road, Avatar). Wes Anderson films are popular with the Academy (they even found room to nominate Hail, Caesar! here), and I’d expect the meticulous and detail-driven work of Oscar-winning production designer Adam Stockhausen to be recognized again. West Side Story is all about the sets and might be my personal favorite this year. The 1961 version was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10, including this category. And then there’s Nightmare Alley, whose art deco-inspired interiors and Depression-era grittiness are they very best parts of del Toro’s film.
The fringe contenders: The Tragedy of Macbeth is another likely contender here, picking up citations from ADG, SDSA, and BAFTA’s longlist. While CCA left the film off their list – opting instead to go with Jim Clay and Claire Nia Richards’ great work on Belfast – there’s a good chance the Academy picks up on the outstanding design choices of Stefan Dechant and Nancy Haigh. Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton’s work on Cruella’s set has gained a lot of steam recently. Cruella was mentioned by ADG, SDSA, and BAFTA’s longlist. Could this be a sneaky choice to shake up an otherwise prestige film lineup? Those three films will likely be in a dead heat for the fifth spot in Production Design.
The dark horse: Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer’s set designs in Cyrano are being criminally overlooked by critics’ awards. In fact, not a single critics’ organization has nominated their work. The SDSA was the first to make sure AMPAS remembered this outstanding achievement, and BAFTA has also now kept the team’s chances alive with a mention on their longlist.
Makeup and Hairstyling
The sure bets: This should be a two-horse race between Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr’s awe-inspiring craftsmanship on Dune and the chic and fearless work from Nadia Stacey and Carolyn Cousins for Cruella. The two films have mentions from the Makeup and Hairstylists Guild (MUAH), CCA, and BAFTA longlists. As do The Eyes of Tammy Faye and House of Gucci. I would imagine those four are in, but what film earns that fifth spot?
The fringe contenders: I think it’s between West Side Story and Coming 2 America. If the former is nominated, this will be one way the Spielberg version shows up in a way the classic, Best Picture-winner from 1961 could not. The answer for that is simple, though: this category did not come around until three years after the ’61 version. And even then, it was just an honorary award given out in 1964 and 1968 before becoming an actual category in 1981. Then it wavered a bit, with the Academy taking 1983 off from this craft until settling back to it in 1984. They haven’t missed a beat with it since, and in 2019 the category finally went from three nominees each year to the standard five. In 1988, Coming to America received a nomination for its work in this field. Both West Side Story and Coming 2 America were mentioned by MUAH and BAFTA longlists, and have made the first cut with AMPAS’ shortlist.
The dark horse: Where did that fifth CCA vote go then? It went to Cliona Furey and Jo-Ann MacNeil for their efforts on Nightmare Alley. del Toro’s film is the one I have the hardest time forecasting momentarily, and in a variety of categories. There’s a chance the film gets 10 nominations, and there’s an equal chance it gets zero nominations. If it were to show up anywhere, I would hope Production Design and Makeup & Hairstyling are its best shots. The work here is impeccable.