Well, now that the film industry has lost its streaming virginity to Apple, it sort of feels like losing your actual virginity – it was a little painful, but not that bad. Now the industry is forever changed, and we can all just get back to the business of finding the best, however that is defined now.
And that’s good because this year Apple has come to play. They have an impressive slate headed our way this year, not just Martin Scorsese’s big fish Killers of the Flower Moon, but also Napoleon and The Greatest Beer Run Ever. Netflix is also coming to the race with their usual slate of great movies, like Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, Bradley Cooper’s Maestro. They have David Fincher’s The Killer but it has not yet been announced if it will be released at the end of this year or next.
One of the biggest bummers about having such a top-heavy industry of awards watchers is that we can kill a movie out of the gate. If you are setting them up to be WINNERS before anyone has even seen them, that sets up perceptions and expectations most movies and contenders can’t meet. The idea is to AVOID pundits thinking your movie is going to win. That’s truly one of the worst things about the business of Oscar watching. There should be an attempt to help make sure the garden is fertile so seeds can grow. But the competition is so great that everyone feels they have to lay it out so they can have bragging rights about being “first.”
But in fact, a wild guess is not a skill. It’s simply luck. Yet, there is no real way to stop this from happening. The game demands people play along. At some point most people do, with a few holdouts like Anne Thompson and Scott Feinberg. Our contender tracker only puts contenders up after they’ve been seen.
The list of requirements seems to grow longer for what the community deems acceptable for the Oscars. We’re a long way from “just a good movie” or even a great movie. There are so many particulars in what gets put in the Oscar pile. That is why publicist’s really do the Lord’s work. They push movies and push them hard such that pundits can’t ignore them. Without that kind of urgency, though, movies can very easily be ignored, rejected or dismissed out of hand.
The problem now is still the same problem as before: the really great movies can’t win Oscars. This is especially true with the preferential ballot. The Departed, No Country for Old Men – these movies probably would not have won on a preferential ballot, which is your best bet for a divisive, groundbreaking movie to win. Otherwise, forget it. You might say, well how did Parasite win? There were, I think, extenuating circumstances that year that had voters wanting to see the first International Feature winner to also win Best Picture, and perhaps a movie by a non-white filmmaker that year. It wasn’t just the movie. The movie is great, of course, but that was a unicorn.
I have been doing this long enough to know that there are essentially three ways a movie lands in the race now.
- It’s just a great movie and it gets great reviews.
- It is a pretty good movie but the status of the filmmaker and the kick-ass publicity team makes it a contender.
- There is some social justice component that pushes it into the race. The desire to level the playing field or make history can sometimes advance a contender.
Right now, looking at the slate – anyone who covers the Oscars would see the standouts. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, etc. If you look at the list, though, you’ll see an abundance of contenders. Without having seen them, though, none of us has any idea how this will go this early.
We don’t know what the driving narratives will be. We don’t know what will happen at Venice, Telluride and Toronto. We don’t know what will happen at the box office. We don’t even know if we’ll be going to war. We have no idea what happens when we have an election in November, which we will. We don’t even know when the 95th Oscars will be, at least I don’t think we do.
But let’s look first at the calendar as it is now, courtesy of Cinemablend. I have bolded the ones that sight unseen seem like the strongest Oscar-y movies.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – starring Nicolas Cage and Demi Moore (Lionsgate)
Men, written and directed by Alex Garland, starring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear (A24)
Downton Abbey: A New Era – Rated PG – Dominic West, Laura Haddock (Universal)
Elvis – Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly awaited biopic with Austin Butler. (Warner Bros)
Where the Crawdads Sing – starring Daisy Edgar Jones, directed by Olivia Newman (Sony)
Nope – Jordan Peele’s film starring Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya (Universal)
Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde (Warner Bros)
Till, directed by Chinonye Chukwu and starring Whoopi Goldberg and Haley Bennett (MGM)
Ticket to Paradise writer/director Ol Parker, starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney (Universal)
Black Panther Wakanda Forever – Ryan Coogler directs, starring Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett, among others (Disney)
She Said, (based on the NY Times story that broke the Weinstein allegations) Maria Schrader directs, starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan (Universal)
13 Lives, based on the young boys trapped in a cave in Thailand (The Rescue), directed by Ron Howard, starring Viggo Mortensen (Universal)
The Fabelmans – written by Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, directed by Spielberg, loosely based on his life, starring Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, David Lynch, etc (Universal)
Avatar 2 – Jim Cameron’s epic is back with the same stars plus a few others. Looks like our best bet for a blockbuster at the Oscars (20th Century)
Babylon – written and directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie – yee haw, can’t wait. (Paramount)
A Man Called Otto (remake of A Man Called Ove, Swedish) – directed by Marc Forster, starring Tom Hanks. (Sony)
Here are the titles with no release dates:
The Banshees of Inisherin, starring Colin Farrell, Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh (Searchlight)
Bardo, written and directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu
Blonde – Netflix Release, Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody
Bride – Apple TV+ Release, Scarlett Johansson
Chevalier, directed by Stephen Williams, starring Kelvin Harrison, Jr. playing Chevalier de Saint-Georges (Searchlight)
Crimes of the Future, Written and directed by David Cronenberg
Disenchanted – Disney, with Amy Adams
Emancipation – Apple TV+ Release, Will Smith, Ben Foster, directed by Antoine Fuqua
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande – Emma Thompson, directed by Sophie Hyde
The Greatest Beer Run Ever – Apple TV+ Release, Zac Efron, Russell Crowe, directed by Peter Farrelly
I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Naomi Ackie plays Whitney Houston, directed by Kasi Lemmons (Sony)
Killers of the Flower Moon – Theatrical and Apple TV+ Release, Jesse Plemons, Leonardo DiCaprio, Directed by Martin Scorsese
Maestro, starring Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper, who also directs. (Netflix)
Napoleon – Apple TV+ Release, Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, directed by Sir Ridley Scott
Raymond & Ray – Apple TV+ Release, Ewan McGregor, Ethan Hawke, directed by Rodrigo Garcia
The Son, with Anthony Hopkins, directed by Florian Zeller
Three Thousand Years of Longing, Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, written and directed by George Miller (UA)
Tar, starring Cate Blanchett, written and directed by Todd Field (Universal)
The Way of the Wind, Written and Directed by Terrence Malick
White Noise – Netflix Release, Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, directed by Noah Baumbach
Women Talking, starring Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Frances McDormand, written and directed by Sarah Polley (MGM)
Already, it’s looking like we will have a fantastic year for films both in theaters and on streaming. Let’s just hope people show up to watch them.