The Oscar nominations dropped this morning. The Academy’s nominations were live for the first time in a while, which was nice to see. They are slowly building their way back from COVID and everything else that’s contributed to the current state of things.
Plenty of people at Gold Derby were bullish on Triangle of Sadness, including Anne Thompson and Joyce Eng. I definitely did not think it would get in myself, as I believed The Menu and The White Lotus were better. Apparently it is well-liked. I thought the Academy would go bigger this year and not smaller. I thought it would be Black Panther and Top Gun, for instance. But they went smaller. The “Drive My Car slot” is real, and is likely the product of all of the new members they’ve added in recent years who tend to be younger and more international, taking the Oscars more in the direction of, say, the Cannes Film Festival. And for them that is one potential path forward.
The Oscars are probably not too far from doing what the SAG Awards just did: make the jump to Netflix in an effort to draw a more international audience since Americans have essentially lost interest in award shows, or so the story goes anyway. Things are changing dramatically as we round the bases of the “Fourth Turning,” which is starting starting to disrupt the order of things politically and culturally. We have the populists vs. the aristocracy and the aristocracy’s best move is to align with more global, European sensibilities if they hope to survive because the populists are going to mostly obliterate them where the free market is concerned.
This year’s Oscar race has a very nice example of this coming war, with Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water representing the populist faction, standing in the Best Picture race up against more sophisticated fare. The BAFTA shunned them, preferring Triangle of Sadness and All Quiet on the Western Front instead. One world has a foot in the everyday lives of Americans who work all week for the chance to sit back on a Saturday night and enjoy a movie like Top Gun which takes them away and makes them feel good.
The other world prefers more introspection: what is wrong with us that needs to be fixed? Everything Everywhere All At Once is the marriage of tradition with the multiverse and how people are becoming aligned not by geography as much but by ideology as human civilization begins to migrate to virtual, AI worlds.
The Banshees of Inisherin sits somewhere in the middle of those worlds. It’s a nuts and bolts character drama that is both a commentary on our nature without being a fix. Triangle of Sadness is the same. It’s a class/race movie about privilege and how no one can really elevate themselves in society because of the structures of society. That, plus a whole lot of barfing.
In our Best Picture lineup we have a little bit of our past, our present, and our future. This is true in both how the films were made, how they were distributed, how much of an impact they had on our culture.
What we can take from last year’s winner, CODA, and the previous year’s, Nomadland, and Parasite from 2019 is that the Oscar race has, until today, existed inside of an insulated, isolated bubble. It’s the First Class section of an airplane where those who are lucky enough to sit there get their meal made custom to their exact tastes (aka The Menu, great movie).
But today, the Academy took a step forward with Top Gun: Maverick, which earned the essential Adapted Screenplay nomination. Though it feel short with Director, it has a DGA nom and that is often the key. CODA, however, wiped the stats clean. What that win said was the ideology in the voting Academy (especially among actors) matters more than anything else. They want their votes to matter. They want their lives to matter. They want to be seen as good people doing good things.
They voted for the movie that warmed the cockles of their hearts. Look, that ain’t nothing new. What was The King’s Speech? Same thing. If there is one thing about the Academy that remains true (but for a few years here or there, a Departed or a No Country for Old Men): they pick the one that warms the cockles of their hearts. Which of these ten films will be the one that does that? Think: actors. Think: actors on Instagram. Think what movie they want to be associated with and use to express who they are?
Well, that’s easy. It’s Everything, Everywhere All At Once, which leads with 11 nominations and made around $70 million at the box office. That’s probably your winner. We have to ask ourselves what will win the PGA, the DGA, the SAG ensemble heading into the race? Moonlight’s win showed that just a WGA could bring in a winner if the “good people doing good things” impulse was high enough.
Finally, where Best Picture is concerned — and this matters more than anything else — how will people rank all of these movies on their ballot and why. Everything Everywhere is a film people will push to the top of their ballots even if they didn’t like it. It’s well-intentioned, identity-focused, and has a really moving scene toward the end (if they can make it that far).
What, if anything, can challenge it? At the moment, I think it’s challengers are Top Gun: Maverick, The Fabelmans, The Banshees of Inisherin
The Frontrunner is still Steven Spielberg, especially if Everything Everywhere or Top Gun Maverick are the two frontrunners.
Challenger: I think the Daniels, obviously, but also I’d watch out for Todd Field for TAR
The Frontrunners are still Austin Butler v. Brendan Fraser v. Colin Farrell
The frontrunner is probably Cate Blanchett but Michelle Yeoh might get in there too. Pausing here to talk about the inclusion of Andrea Riseborough, Michelle Williams and Ana de Armas, and the exclusion of Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler. Likely, these two canceled each other out because voters wanted to be inclusive with their picks but they were divided between these two women. Riseborough obviously got the push like Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman got the push in 2021 and pushed out Jennifer Hudson. It’s one of those things – be careful what you wish for.
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan, EEAAO
Best Supporting Actress: Angela Bassett, Black Panther
The frontrunner is probably still The Banshees of Inisherin, but Everything Everywhere is not likely to win Best Picture without winning Screenplay or Director. So if you’re predicting that, keep that in mind. I could see only Top Gun Maverick winning without Screenplay or Director but not EEAAO.
The frontrunner is probably Sarah Polley for Women Talking, which landed a Best Pic nom. But I would watch out for Top Gun: Maverick in this category if it does find some momentum and win. Maybe All Quiet on the Western Front too.
We can work through the rest of the categories as the season marches onward. It’s an interesting year for sure.
The Best Picture race as it stands now, and previous years: