It’s hard to believe it’s already Friday, August 26, and in one week a few hundred or so bloggers will be in Telluride, Colorado, watching movies and writing about them. It doesn’t feel like Telluride, Venice, Toronto, and New York can possibly be upon us — but indeed, they are upon us. Though I won’t personally be attending the other festivals, we have writers covering most of them. Twitter is a non-stop explosion of opinions of people who watch movies at festivals, the biggest of these being Toronto.
Festivals can sometimes be disorienting in terms of what movies ultimately bob to the surface. For instance, CODA flew mostly under the radar as a Sundance get. But when it came down to it and the year wound to a close, the frontrunner, The Power of the Dog, faltered. And in the end, even with its 12 Oscar nominations, it only won Best Director for Jane Campion, while CODA won a clean sweep of all three of its Oscar nominations. This was a highly irregular year but one that ultimately satisfied the needs of the film industry.
The other film that would have probably been in the race, if the industry had not changed as dramatically as it has in the past few years, was Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. When you think about what the Academy was when I started and where they arrived 22 years later, you can see both a generational, economic, and ideological shift. Belfast would have been the choice in the days of the old Academy, where those who still remembered and cherished the World War II era, the 1950s, and even the 1960s were the bulk of the membership. Many new members of the Academy, however, probably doesn’t really see the point of awarding a period film by and about a white male.
Demographics are everything now, which explains why Best Director has not gone to a white male since 2016. This results from a desire to make change, and fear of being called out for not making change fast enough. However, it is what it is.
Knowing this heading in, however, can be helpful in Oscar races like the ones over the past two years. If you thought, say, The Trial of the Chicago 7 had any chance whatsoever of winning Best Picture, there is a good chance you might not be reading the room. I knew Belfast probably had no shot last year for the same reason. They would be leaning in another direction, as they’ve done every year since Green Book, so as not to be the object of scorn in the media and on Twitter.
Also I think it feels good to many voters to feel they’re doing the right thing instead of just picking what they like. Despite their desire to make change overtly, the entire industry (with the sole exception of the Screen Actors Guild), the critics and bloggers seemed to block Jennifer Hudson from a nomination and a win deliberately. In that case, they seemed to have no problem deciding on what they believed was merit (even if, in this case, they were wrong).
New Trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
At any rate, this is something that we should all pay attention to heading into festival season and then into the season of the guilds. My guess is that we’re still very much in this kind of shift in thinking. There are enough options in the upcoming slate that there should be enough representation to satisfy activists, or at least I think so anyway. I guess we’ll wait to see how it goes.
Let’s dig into our predictions.
Michael Patterson’s predictions for Telluride gets, a week out:
So I’m going to try to do a pre-festival predictions list of all of some of the major categories.
The key with Best Picture is that it’s the ranked choice (preferential) ballot, now expanded to ten solid slots for nominees. That’s obviously different from having five Best Picture nominees. It’s changed the Oscar race in significant ways. There would have been no way CODA would have won Best Picture with five nominees. That’s because in that format, the Best Director is the star of the Best Picture race. Now it isn’t so much. Best Picture has been mostly decoupled from Best Director, which is why since 2009 we have had three winners without a Best Director nomination: Argo, Green Book, CODA. That was mostly unheard of in the era of five Best Picture contenders. The Best Picture calculus now with ten nominees (they should go back to five) largely looks at broad consensus support rather than passion.
Nominations also require broad support, although to a lesser extent. Given that…
Elvis — driven by Best Actor
Everything Everywhere All at Once — driven by Best Actress
Babylon — driven by Best Director
The Greatest Beer Run Ever — crowd-pleaser
Bardo — driven by Best Director
The Fabelmans — driven by Best Director
Avatar: The Way of Water — driven by visual effects and Best Director
She Said — politically important
Empire of Light — Best Actress/Director-driven
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — inclusive blockbuster
The Son — Best Actor-driven
TÁR — Best Actress-driven but also artful and unique
The Whale — Best Actor-driven
White Noise — Best Director-driven
Women Talking — Ensemble-driven, politically important, Best Director-driven
The Banshees of Inisherin — Best Director/Actor-driven
Top Gun: Maverick — Best Actor-driven. Not wise to ignore the movie of the year but they probably will.
Still not known: Killers of the Flower Moon, Emancipation. If either of these are released this year it obviously changes things.
Austin Butler, Elvis
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Hugh Jackman, The Son
Daniel Giménez Cacho, Bardo
Zac Efron, The Greatest Beer Run Ever
Alts: Christian Bale, Pale Blue Eye; Coleman Domingo, Rustin; Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chevalier; Adam Driver, White Noise
Not known yet: Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon or Will Smith, Emancipation
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once
Cate Blanchett, TÁR
Olivia Colman, Empire of Light
Viola Davis, The Woman King
Ana DeArmas, Blonde
Alts. Naomi Ackie, I Wanna Dance With Somebody; Margot Robbie, Babylon (lead?)
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Alejandro G. Inarritu, Bardo
Damien Chazelle, Babylon
Sam Mendes, Empire of Light
Jim Cameron, Avatar: Way of Water
Alts: Maria Schrader, She Said; Todd Field, TÁR; The Daniels, Everything Everywhere All At Once
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Empire of Light
Alts: Elvis, TÁR, Till
Obviously, this is all complete fantasy. No one knows how any of it will go, whether this is right track, wrong track. This is just to put something down before Telluride. When next we meet it will be from the mountains of Colorado.