08 Oct Early October Oscar Predictions
While there’s always the possibility of a late season surprise, the films you see here, in both the predictions and the “could jump in” section, will probably be the films that you will see in the Oscar race as the year season trods on.
In my eyes, there are four films that are undeniably locked for a Best Picture nomination: Killers of the Flower Moon, Oppenheimer, Poor Things, and Barbie. The former three are some of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year, all with Metascores of 88 and above. Barbie is a cultural phenomenon (the number of Barbie-themed parties I see popping up is mind-boggling) as well as being critically-acclaimed. Outside of these four films, however, I see everything else as being vulnerable to missing in one way or another. In my mind, there are only nine other films that I see as having a reasonable shot at a Best Picture nomination: The Holdovers, American Fiction, Maestro, Past Lives, Anatomy of a Fall, The Color Purple, The Zone of Interest, Napoleon, and The Boy and the Heron. Here’s my analysis for each of the nine
American Fiction and The Holdovers respectively won the first and second place prizes at the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Awards and in the past 10 years, at least two of the three winners of the TIFF People’s Choice Award have gone on to be nominated for Best Picture. In my view, American Fiction and The Holdovers have a better chance of being nominated than third place winner The Boy and the Heron for multiple reasons. The only reason The Boy and the Heron is a contender is because of the immense love the world has for legendary director Hayao Miyazaki. The Boy and the Heron is not even touted to be one of his best films and none of his films have ever received a Best Picture nod in the past but this film is his last so I can see a groundswell of support bring this film to a nomination. At the same time, American Fiction and The Holdovers fit the “Oscar film” mold to much greater degree. American Fiction is a satire tackling race, exploitation, and the media industry, and The Holdovers is a feel-good dramedy from Alexander Payne (who’s previous directing efforts Sideways, The Descendants, and Nebraska have all been nominated for Best Picture) that you already know the actors branch is going to love. With heavyweights like Alexander Payne, Mark Johnson (the producer of Rain Man, the kind of “mature” accessible feel-good film The Holdovers hearkens back to), and Focus Features behind it, The Holdovers feels secure in its fifth place slot, but I could also see it not getting the first-place votes needed to be nominated. I don’t think American Fiction will have as much trouble getting those first-place votes since it’s the type of film that provokes strong reactions, but MGM is an unreliable distributor. Other than George Clooney’s The Boys in the Boat, MGM has nothing else on its slate that seems like an awards contender, so they should be able to handle pushing American Fiction. American Fiction also has beloved industry figures like Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, and Rian Johnson behind it so it should be fine. Still, this is a film from a first-time director and as a result I think it must be campaigned very well if it wants to see itself in the Best Picture conversation.
Of these nine films, Maestro has the least amount of critical acclaim (outside of The Color Purple and Napoleon which are sights unseen at this point). I think this is very much a film that a lot of people see as a top six Best Picture contender and then ends up underperforming on nominations morning like Bradley Cooper’s previous major Oscar contender A Star is Born. I just don’t see it getting nominated in many places outside of the acting categories (for Cooper and Mulligan), maybe Makeup and Hairstyling (though that would be highly controversial) and maybe Sound. If it wasn’t Netflix’s biggest contender, I would say it has a very high chance of missing. But Netflix has had at least one film nominated in Best Picture every year since Roma in 2019. Rustin is the streamer’s only other major contender but since the reaction to that film outside of its lead performance has been quite lukewarm so I doubt it gets in. Therefore, Maestro is what the streamer will focus on campaigning and as a result, I think it has pretty good chance of getting in. This is the same distributor that made All Quiet on the Western Front a top six contender in the eleventh hour last year so I think Maestro should be fine.
A24 now has multiple Best Picture wins under its belt and the regard the indie distributor has in the industry grows by the day. A24’s two major Picture contenders this year are Past Lives and The Zone of Interest. Both films are probably going to top many end-of-year critics lists, the former has a 94 Metascore on 51 reviews, while the latter has a 95 Metascore on 23 reviews. They are incredibly different films, Celine Song’s romantic drama is very warm and vulnerable, while Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama is deliberately cold and puts the audience at a distance. That creates the pause I have with the film. The people that love Glazer’s film rave about it, but for many this will be a film that they respect rather than adore. That could hurt it especially if it doesn’t perform as well on the end-of-year critics’ list as expected. Past Lives may have peaked too early in the year. It played at Sundance in January and Berlin in March and became something of an indie phenomenon when it came out in the United States in late June. We’ve seen films retain momentum throughout almost a whole calendar year, case in point last year’s BP winner Everything Everywhere All at Once, but will Past Lives be able to do the same? I think it should be able to, especially since its star Greta Lee has been going to events frequently and reliably.
Palme D’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall is the kind of film that I think that will benefit from people starting to see it in greater numbers. For some reason, Neon doesn’t seem to be promoting it as much as Michael Mann’s Ferrari and Ava DuVernay’s Origin, but they need to realize that they have absolute gold on their hands in Justine Triet’s film and they should push it as much as they can. I think this is a film that could very well win Best Picture if handled properly. And Neon translating a Palme D’Or winner into a Best Picture winner is something they already have experience with in the form of Parasite. Of course, Anatomy of a Fall winning Best Picture is very unlikely, but I am just high on the possibilities of what a good campaign could do for this film. I really want to see a Best Director nod for Triet, so get to it Neon!
That leaves The Color Purple and Napoleon, the only two major contenders that have no official reviews. The Color Purple, in my view, is a much bigger contender. Warner Bros. clearly has confidence in it, giving it a prime Christmas day release spot. Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Quincy Jones are supporting the film alongside a stacked group of incredibly talented people both in front of and behind the camera. If the reviews are good, this could be a powerhouse. The fact that the film has the blessings of the writer of the source material Alice Walker does not hurt. I am only leaving it out of my predictions this month because if the reviews are not good, this film will receive no nominations outside of the techs. But, if the Metascore is 80 or above, this will undoubtedly be a top Oscar player. Napoleon, on the other hand, could be very good, and if it is very good it will be nominated. I just highly doubt this film will be very good. Ridley Scott hasn’t been successful as a director as of late and with a screenplay from David Scarpa, who’s previous work has been mostly just ok, nothing outside of Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski inspires much confidence in me about the film. It will likely be good, not great, and be restricted to the technical categories.
Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple TV+)
Poor Things (Searchlight)
Barbie (Warner Bros.)
The Holdovers (Focus)
American Fiction (MGM)
Past Lives (A24)
Anatomy of a Fall (Neon)
The Color Purple (Warner Bros.)
Could Jump In: The Zone of Interest (A24), The Boy and the Heron (GKids), Napoleon (Apple TV+), Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony), All of Us Strangers (Searchlight), Rustin (Netflix), Saltburn (Amazon), Origin (Neon), Priscilla (A24), The Killer (Netflix), Wonka (Warner Bros.), The Boys in the Boat (MGM), May December (Netflix)
Director has been such a strange category in recent years. It always feels like there’s one major snub here, but predicting who that will be seems almost impossible. But there are some trends. The directors branch of late likes to nominate those they consider auteurs. As a result, I think Scorsese, Nolan, and Lanthimos are probably the closest things to locks in this category. Glazer, Triet, and Gerwig are the next most likely contenders. If Gerwig cements itself as a top four or five Best Picture contender, I think that she could easily replace Triet or Glazer for a nomination here.
Martin Scorsese – Killers of the Flower Moon
Christopher Nolan – Oppenheimer
Yorgos Lanthimos – Poor Things
Jonathan Glazer – The Zone of Interest
Justine Triet – Anatomy of a Fall
Could Jump In: Greta Gerwig – Barbie, Celine Song – Past Lives, Alexander Payne – The Holdovers, Blitz Bazawule – The Color Purple, Hayao Miyazaki – The Boy and the Heron, Ava DuVernay – Origin, Cord Jefferson – American Fiction, Ridley Scott – Napoleon
Best Actor is incredibly competitive this year. Cillian Murphy, Colman Domingo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, Andrew Scott, and Joaquin Phoenix are all legitimate contenders and would probably have been nominated in most other years. Best Actor has historically been connected strongly with Best Picture and if I were to go just by my Best Picture predictions the nominees would be DiCaprio, Murphy, Giamatti, Wright, and Cooper. However, I think both Domingo and Scott both have a pretty good chance of getting in. Both will benefit from the end-of-year critics’ awards that will start popping up in December and January. If they underperform there, they have no chance with the performances being as strong as they are this year. I think only Murphy is locked in for a nomination and that DiCaprio, Cooper, Giamatti, and Wright are all vulnerable to being snubbed. Cooper, Giamatti, and Wright are the three most vulnerable to being replaced and I think Domingo can easily accomplish that jump into the slate.
Cillian Murphy – Oppenheimer
Colman Domingo – Rustin
Bradley Cooper – Maestro
Leonardo DiCaprio – Killers of the Flower Moon
Jeffrey Wright – American Fiction
Could Jump In: Paul Giamatti – The Holdovers, Andrew Scott – All of Us Strangers, Joaquin Phoenix – Napoleon, Barry Keoghan – Saltburn, Christian Friedel – The Zone of Interest, Kingsley Ben-Adir – Bob Marley: One Love, Michael Fassbender – The Killer
With Lily Gladstone entering the Actress fray from Supporting Actress, we now have another major contender here. In my view, the three biggest players in this category are Stone, Gladstone, and Huller. I think one of these women will end up winning here in the end. Outside of these three, the last two slots are very much up in the air. Carey Mulligan, Margot Robbie, Fantasia Barrino, Annette Bening, and Greta Lee all have a strong chance at a nomination here. If Barbie remains a top five contender, I think Margot Robbie gets in as the tour-de-force face of the film. While Carey Mulligan seems like the common sense pick to round out the five nominees, I think there’s a good chance she will miss. While she has received more acclaim for her work in Maestro then her costar Cooper has, she needs critics prizes for me to think a “standard Oscar face” performance like hers will receive a nomination. And with Stone, Gladstone, and Huller also competing in Best Actress, I can see Mulligan getting pushed to the side like Michelle Williams almost was last year for The Fabelmans. However, Williams managed to secure a nomination yet The Fabelmans was a much stronger contender than I imagine Maestro will be. Fantasia Barrino’s work in The Color Purple is a sight unseen so I am keeping her at the sixth spot. For some reason, I have a feeling that Greta Lee will get in for Past Lives. This could be due to exposure bias since she’s been consistently on the campaign trail especially since A24 signed an agreement with SAG-AFTRA and as a result, actors in A24 films like Lee are allowed to promote their films. But her work in Past Lives is so subtle yet so powerful and I think she will do well in the critics’ awards later this year.
Emma Stone – Poor Things
Lily Gladstone – Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Huller – Anatomy of a Fall
Margot Robbie – Barbie
Greta Lee – Past Lives
Could Jump In: Fantasia Barrino – The Color Purple, Carey Mulligan – Maestro, Annette Bening – Nyad, Cailee Spaeny – Priscilla, Natalie Portman – May December, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor – Origin
Robert De Niro, Robert Downey Jr., and Ryan Gosling are by far the top contenders here. All three are highly-acclaimed for their work in top five Picture contenders. I think Ruffalo’s work in Poor Things will be nominated as well for the same reason. That fifth slot, however, could be filled my multiple people. Willem Dafoe could join his Poor Things co-star and it would continue the streak of two performers from the same film being nominated in Supporting Actor that’s gone on since 2020. Newcomer Dominic Sessa’s fantastic turn in The Holdovers is also a likelihood. I really want John Magaro to be nominated, but his work may be too subtle in comparison to these other turns. However, I think Sterling K. Brown’s vulnerable work in American Fiction could give the three-time Emmy winner his first Oscar nod.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert De Niro – Killers of the Flower Moon
Robert Downey Jr. – Oppenheimer
Ryan Gosling – Barbie
Mark Ruffalo – Poor Things
Sterling K. Brown – American Fiction
Could Jump In: Willem Dafoe – Poor Things, Dominic Sessa – The Holdovers, John Magaro – Past Lives, Charles Melton – May December, Colman Domingo – The Color Purple, Paul Mescal – All of Us Strangers, Matt Damon – Oppenheimer, Jesse Plemons – Killers of the Flower Moon, Glenn Howerton – BlackBerry
With Lily Gladstone now being campaigned in Best Actress, there was a void for the top spot in this category since Gladstone was by far the top contender here. That void was filled by The Holdovers’ Da’Vine Joy Randolph who broke out with 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name. The raves for her work in that film have surpassed those for its star Paul Giamatti and as long as The Color Purple remains unseen, Randolph will undoubtedly be the number one contender here. Emily Blunt is definitely the strongest contender outside of Randolph but I don’t see her winning. This is definitely the weakest of the acting categories so far, but who knows, there could be a surprise later this season that throws a wrench in the mix.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Da’Vine Joy Randolph – The Holdovers
Emily Blunt – Oppenheimer
Danielle Brooks – The Color Purple
Taraji P. Henson – The Color Purple
Julianne Moore – May December
Could Jump In: Penelope Cruz – Ferrari, Jodie Foster – Nyad, Viola Davis – Air, Sandra Huller – The Zone of Interest, America Ferrara – Barbie, Vanessa Kirby – Napoleon
This seems pretty easy to predict. Outside of these five, I don’t really see anything else getting in here outside of Maestro. While Past Lives has a good chance of winning, I think The Holdovers fits the mold of past winners Green Book and Belfast really well and will win.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Anatomy of a Fall
Could Jump In: Maestro, Asteroid City, Saltburn, Dream Scenario
I think this is between Poor Things and American Fiction. If American Fiction becomes a top four contender which is very possible, I definitely think it will win here. It’s a satire about the literary scene, something I would imagine the writers branch would fall in love with. As a result, I am very confident about it being nominated. Killers of The Flower Moon and Oppenheimer also seem like shoo-ins here. The last slot to me is between All of Us Strangers and The Zone of Interest. I think that The Zone of Interest is more of a directing achievement than a writing one and as a result, I think this category is All of Us Strangers’ best chance for a nomination.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Killers of the Flower Moon
All of Us Strangers
Could Jump In: The Zone of Interest, The Color Purple, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Origin
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Boy and the Heron
Could Jump In: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Killers of the Flower Moon
Could Jump In: The Color Purple, Wonka, Asteroid City
Killers of the Flower Moon
The Zone of Interest
Could Jump In: Napoleon, The Color Purple, Saltburn, Barbie, The Killer
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Color Purple
Could Jump In: Killers of the Flower Moon, Priscilla, Oppenheimer, Chevalier, Maestro
BEST FILM EDITING
Killers of the Flower Moon
Anatomy of a Fall
Could Jump In: The Holdovers, Maestro, The Color Purple, American Fiction, Ferrari, The Killer
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
The Color Purple
Could Jump In: Ferrari, Napoleon, The Bikeriders
The Color Purple
Could Jump In: Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Wonka, The Marvels. Barbie
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Could Jump In: Barbie, The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Blue Beetle
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Boy and the Heron
The Zone of Interest
Could Jump In: Napoleon, Elemental, Barbie, Past Lives, Lee, Killers of the Flower Moon, White Bird, Nyad, Ferrari
With France shockingly not selecting Anatomy of a Fall as their submission for this category, The Zone of Interest will likely be the unopposed frontrunner here.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
The Zone of Interest (U.K.)
The Taste of Things (France)
The Society of the Snow (Spain)
The Monk and the Gun (Bhutan)
Could Jump In: The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany), The Promised Land (Denmark), Fallen Leaves (Finland), Io Capitano (Italy), The Settlers (Chile), Perfect Days (Japan)