Back in the old days, Oscar contenders were born, not made. Now, of course, it’s the opposite. Oscar contenders are targeted early as the “right” choice to deliver in neat packages to Oscar voters. Oscar pundits operate kind of as stylists for Oscar voters: we do the leg work, we vet the movies, and we decide which ones should pass or fail the first round. But we’re not always right. In fact, much of the time we’re totally wrong, especially early on.
Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is most definitely an organic Oscar movie. It wasn’t hyped by pundits — if anything, it was downplayed coming out of Cannes. Even now, it seems to be underestimated. If you look at the critics/audience disconnect, you see:
It’s a “don’t threaten us with a good time” kind of scenario. God forbid Oscar movies should be movies people actually like. To figure out whether Elvis will be a player, you just have to imagine the following:
Golden Globe nominations? Yes. Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor at the very least
Producers Guild nomination? Yes. Um — yah.
Design Guild nominations? Yes. Costumes, Makeup &a Hair, Production Design
Screen Actors Guild nominations? Yes. Austin Butler/Tom Hanks
Directors Guild nomination? MAYBE
Elvis is already a hit. Along with Top Gun: Maverick, we have two good reasons to believe Hollywood is back. A nearly three-hour biopic making that kind of money today is unheard of. It doesn’t have to struggle. People are going to see it multiple times, bringing their relatives, etc. If ever there was a contender for Best Picture of the Year in a year with ten nomination slots — well, I’d say Elvis is a sure bet.
But of course, we can’t put it past the Academy members to faceplant when it comes to choosing films that will cause audiences to, you know, want to engage with them when the Oscars roll around. They really should just keep picking films the film critics like, because that seems to be working out really well. /s
We still have to run the gauntlet, the agonizing long march through the hundreds upon hundreds of critics’ awards. By the end, all that remains are the films that managed to survive because they have great publicists, but no one really thinks much about them when it’s all over but the shouting. We all just kind of stare at each other blank-eyed. The party’s over. The guests have gone home. Balloons bob lifelessly on the dance floor. Someone is cleaning up some kind of mysterious ooze in the corner. But no one called the cops, so there’s that.
We also are on “shitstorm alert,” as in, what will the Children Spies of Twitter uncover this season? Which artist’s past behavior, tweets, opinions, set behavior, relationships, and thematic content will be hurled into the public square for the judgment of the hive mind? This is really the best part of Oscar season, honestly, because how else to decide what films are the best of the year without running them through the puritanical morality filter of Twitter?
David O. Russell became the subject of a few editorials and tweets trying to decide whether or not a groping incident from his past means he is now persona non grata, wished out to the cornfield and strung up for He Who Walks Behind the Rows. No charges were filed, but does that matter? No. The only thing that matters is how it’s interpreted on Twitter, what image people put in their heads, and what they conclude about what happened that day. They always choose the worst option. The nuclear option.
It isn’t just that, of course, now all of his past behavior will be dragged into the light, Scott Rudin-style, to try to purge a baddie from our utopia. The work they do doesn’t matter as much as WHO THEY ARE. What’s the alternative? To ignore all of it and just go on making, producing, and releasing art.
And before you ask, even if I did once believe it’s the public’s job to “hold people accountable” — I no longer feel that way. I think it’s none of our business. Trauma, accusations, and our pasts have all become weaponized for the destruction of the community overall. The way it should work is that people who are upset by it should walk away. But it is unreasonable to keep going through these public persecutions to keep the village pure and righteous. How long has this been going on now? YEARS.
As we cover the Oscars, we then have to calculate the damage of a shit storm. How big of a deal will this be? How much of a headache will this present to public relations strategists to mitigate damage? What is the end goal here? To make sure everyone who puts out a movie or stars in a movie has never been accused of anything bad? Is Armie Hammer ever going to come back?
How can we actually be living through this episode of the Twilight Zone and almost everyone willingly going along with it? Does it ever end? Is this our new normal?
I propose watching David O. Russell’s movie and assessing it on its own merits. That is what I plan to do. But if you’re asking whether the industry will shrink back in the face of a ten-year-old scandal? I don’t know. No one can know. The question going forward will have to be: how to survive the rising hysteria. We all have to train our brains not to care.
I think that many Oscar pundits don’t think much of Elvis at the moment, probably because there are so many more movies coming out. But to me, I run my Oscar contender tracker with movies that have been seen, rather than predicting the unseen. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Erik Anderson has laid out his late June Best Picture predictions and has Elvis at 15. I expect that it will rise as the movie continues to make money. This is what he has:
1. The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures)
2. Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple Original Films)
3. Babylon (Paramount Pictures)
4. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (Netflix)
5. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24)
6. Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios)
7. Women Talking (MGM/UAR)
8. The Son (Sony Pictures Classics)
9. The Whale (A24)
10. Empire of Light (Searchlight Pictures) – 2022 or 2023?
11. TÁR (Focus Features)
12. Thirteen Lives (Amazon Studios/MGM/UAR)
13. Broker (NEON)
14. The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures)
15. Elvis (Warner Bros)
16. She Said (Universal Pictures)
17. White Noise (Netflix)
18. Napoleon (Apple Original Films) – 2022 or 2023?
19. Triangle of Sadness (NEON)
20. Shirley (Netflix)
Film Twitter is very bullish on Everything, Everywhere All At Once. Jeff Wells has commented on Erik’s list too with his own spitballs. I have tried watching this movie and have failed three times, so far. I am still hoping to get back in there and finish it. Regardless of what Film Twitter thinks, it’s not the easiest movie and will be divisive. It’s certainly fascinating and innovative, and has made a lot of money at the box office, which means it will be the internet’s chosen frontrunner. But I have some reservations. I will finish watching it — I promise.
After seeing the trailer for Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, I have to conclude it is now officially on my radar. It looks fun, weird, unique.
When it comes to female directors, you hope that they get in because the movie is good, not necessarily because they’re filling the “female director slot.” But Wilde’s film looks great so far.
Another film by a female director is Watcher. It’s a moody horror movie directed by the very talented Chloe Okuno. Will it get anywhere near the awards race? Maybe? It might get into the Spirit Awards. Watcher is already on my preliminary list for Best of the Year. I know, alert the media.
There are quite a few films directed by women this year in the race, including Women Talking (Sarah Polley), She Said (Maria Schrader), Happening (Audrey Diwan), I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Kasi Lemmons), Red, White and Water (Lisa Neugerbauer). Right now, I have my eye on Wilde and Okuno. But that’s likely to change.
Here are my predictions, which are to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt and are just for fun. Let’s do a full slate. Maybe we’ll revisit this later to see how right or wrong it was.
Best Picture (In order of confidence for a nomination, not win)
Killers of the Flower Moon
Everything, Everywhere All At Once
Don’t Worry Darling
Alts: Empire of Light, Top Gun: Maverick, Napoleon
For the rest of these, I’ll do ten because five is too hard.
Steven Spielberg, The Fablemans
Damien Chazelle, Babylon
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon
Alejandro G. Inarritu, Bardo
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things
Baz Luhrmann, Elvis
Jim Cameron, Avatar
Olivia Wilde, Don’t Worry Darling
The Daniels, Everything Everywhere All At Once
Noah Baumbach, White Noise
Austin Butler, Elvis
Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon
Brad Pitt, Babylon
Adam Driver, White Noise
Hugh Jackman, The Son
Colman Domingo, Rustin
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Colin Firth, Emperor of Light
Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Margot Robbie, Babylon
Viola Davis, The Woman King
Regina King, Shirley
Carey Mulligan, She Said
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once
Emma Stone, Poor Things
Ana DeArmas, Blonde
Naomie Ackie, I Wanna Dance with Somebody
Florence Pugh, Don’t Worry Darling
Olivia Colman, Emperor of Light
Who knows how any of this will end up. It’s still way too early to tell how the race might go. At least we know we have a solid contender with Elvis.