A canceled Golden Globes, a postponed Critics’ Choice ceremony. Is it even really awards season yet?
Of course it is. We have dozens of critics groups with already announced winners and even better, the Oscar shortlists. You know, actual Academy voters. Not critics, not pundits, but real voters. The shortlists are our very first glimpse into the possible mindset of an Oscar voter. Several of this season’s Best Picture contenders showed up where expected, some showed up where they needed to to remain contenders, some flopped miserably and a few may have established themselves as new ones.
Belfast and The Power of the Dog remain the two frontrunners and there’s very little anyone else is going to be able to do to change that. But, as the season continues, the race between the two films seems to be getting closer and closer. Belfast feels like it’s slowly losing grip of its lead as The Power of the Dog feels like it’s gaining. It’s no secret that Jane Campion’s slow burn drama is the clear critics’ favorite; it has 12 Best Picture wins to Belfast‘s three. But this is still only one part of the puzzle. Both films also are the nomination leaders with Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes, with 11 and seven nods apiece, respectively, in a neck-and-neck race. The Golden Globes will announce their winners on January 9, 2022 (in a format still yet to be revealed) and Critics’ Choice, which was set to hold their live and in-person ceremony the same night, is now off the calendar until late February at the earliest due to the Omicron surge of the coronavirus.
Outside of these two frontrunners still beats the heart of a December film that some think could win. I don’t think it can based on 15 years of Best Picture history but Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is certainly a contender. While its box office has been less than thrilling, the response to the film by critics and audiences has been. Newcomer Rachel Zegler is in position to break into the Best Actress race, Ariana DeBose has quickly turned into the critics’ favorite and possible frontrunner for Supporting Actress and the film hit both sound and makeup shortlists this week.
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car has emerged as not just the potential frontrunner in the International Feature Film race but also as a contender in Best Picture and Best Director after its LAFCA and NYFCC Best Picture wins. The Cannes-winning film has the pedigree, the nominations and wins to back it up and the 3-hour drama with a very Euro-centric approach could find Hamaguchi in the position that we saw happen with Paweł Pawlikowski (Cold War) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) recently, not to mention Best Director winners Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), all of whom had BAFTA and/or general European support. The directing branch of the Academy is one of the most daring and over the last five years has seen the biggest increase in international members, more than any other branch. But, when they do they tend to lean very Euro so it’s tough to know how hard they’ll go for Hamaguchi. There have only ever been two Japanese Best Director nominees, Hiroshi Teshigahara for 1965’s Woman in the Dunes and the 20 years later when Akira Kurosawa was nominated for 1985’s Ran.
Taking a peek at the NBR and AFI top 10 lists, where we usually find our list of Best Picture nominees before the PGA chimes in, we have a lot of crossover. Some of it tells us what we already know.
The National Board of Review named Licorice Pizza the best of 2021 and their Top 10 films were: Belfast, Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, The Last Duel, Nightmare Alley, Red Rocket, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story.
AFI’s top 10 was: CODA, Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, tick, tick…BOOM!, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story.
That makes the crossover films: Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story. But where have AFI and NBR agreed and disagreed when it comes to what will ultimately earn a Best Picture spot at the Oscars?
Best Picture-nominated movies at the Oscars that were snubbed by both NBR and AFI
2018: Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice
2015: The Revenant
2014: The Grand Budapest Hotel
2013: Dallas Buyers Club
2011: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
2009: Avatar, District 9, The Blind Side
With the exception of 2018, the trend has certainly been that getting snubbed by both groups is not a good sign for your Best Picture nomination prospects. But when you look at the list of films that were, all but two (EL&IC and District 9) ended up being Oscar winners elsewhere, some in several categories. So if you’re looking for the film that is going to buck the trend, it’s probably going to need to be an Oscar winner somewhere else. That’s where a Cyrano, LAFCA and NYFCC winner Drive My Car, shortlist monster No Time to Die, Best Actress frontrunner Spencer or even Spider-Man: No Way Home could come into play.
Best Picture-snubbed movies at the Oscars that were nominated by both NBR and AFI
2020: Da 5 Bloods, Soul
2019: Knives Out, Richard Jewell
2018: If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place, Eighth Grade
2017: The Florida Project
2016: Sully, Silence
2015: Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton
2014: Nightcrawler, Unbroken
2013: Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, Fruitvale Station
2011: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, J. Edgar
2010: The Town
2009: The Messenger
Here we have several films that, while they didn’t make the Best Picture cut, still earned nominations elsewhere, and in the cases for Soul, If Beale Street Could Talk, Inside Out and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, came out with wins.
The Screen Actors Guild nominations will land on January 12 and then on January 27, aka awards season D-Day, we’ll have the Directors Guild, Producers Guild and Writers Guild nominations, all coinciding with the first day of Oscar nomination voting.
Here are my ranked 2022 Best Director and Best Picture Oscar predictions for December 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Belfast (Focus Features) – GG, CCA ↔
2. The Power of the Dog (Netflix) – GG, CCA ↔
3. Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA ↔
4. West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – GG, CCA ↑
5. King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA ↓
6. Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA) – GG, CCA ↔
7. CODA (Apple Original Films) – GG, CCA ↑
8. The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films) ↑
9. The Lost Daughter (Netflix) ↔
10. Drive My Car (Janus Films) ♦
Being the Ricardos (Amazon Studios)
C’mon C’mon (A24) ↓
Cyrano (MGM/UAR) – GG
Don’t Look Up (Netflix) – GG, CCA
The French Dispatch (Searchlight Pictures)
The Hand of God (Netflix)
A Hero (Amazon Studios)
House of Gucci (MGM/UA)
Mass (Bleecker Street)
Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) – CCA ↓
No Time to Die (MGM/UAR) ♦
Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics)
Spencer (NEON) ↓
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony Pictures/Marvel Studios)
tick, tick…BOOM! (Netflix) – GG, CCA
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog (Netflix) – GG, CCA ↑
2. Kenneth Branagh – Belfast (Focus Features) – GG, CCA ↓
3. Denis Villeneuve – Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA
4. Steven Spielberg – West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – GG, CCA ↑
5. Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA) – CCA ↓
6. Ryûsuku Hamaguchi – Drive My Car (Janus Films) ♦
7. Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter (Netflix) – GG ↑
8. Joel Coen – The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films) ↑
9. Reinaldo Marcus Green – King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↓
10. Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up (Netflix) ↑
Aaron Sorkin – Being the Ricardos (Amazon Studios)
Siân Heder – CODA (Apple Original Films)
Jonas Poher Rasmussen – Flee (NEON)
Paolo Sorrentino – The Hand of God (Netflix)
Asghar Farhadi – A Hero (Amazon Studios) ↓
Guillermo del Toro – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) – CCA ↓
Pedro Almodóvar – Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics)
Rebecca Hall – Passing (Netflix)
Pablo Larraín – Spencer (NEON)
Lin-Manuel Miranda – tick, tick…BOOM! (Netflix)
Photo: Rob Youngson / Focus Features