Cannes winners, Venice and Toronto lineups and the trailers for Dune, King Richard and House of Gucci all highlight July’s Best Picture Oscar predictions.
We have a shortened year this season due to the extended season last year. March 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 is the eligibility period for the 2022 Oscars. With that change, I am including below a large section from the May prediction piece that covers changes to this year’s Oscars that cover screeners, the new inclusion standards and the return to a solid 10 Best Picture nominees. This information is crucial this year so I will be including in most monthly pieces so that we’re all on the same page.
Beginning with the 94th Academy Awards (2021), the Best Picture category will return to a set 10 nominees, rather than a fluctuating number of nominations from year to year that we’ve seen since 2011. The Academy will also implement a quarterly viewing process through the Academy Screening Room, the streaming site for Academy members, also starting with the 94th Academy Awards. By making it possible for members to view films released year-round, the Academy will broaden each film’s exposure, level the playing field, and ensure all eligible films can be seen by voting members.
For the 94th Oscars (2022) and 95th Oscars (2023), submitting a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form will be required for Best Picture consideration, however meeting inclusion thresholds will not be required for eligibility in the Best Picture category until the 96th Oscars (2024). Beginning that season, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility in the Best Picture category, as part of its Academy Aperture 2025 initiative. The standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience. Academy governors DeVon Franklin and Jim Gianopulos headed a task force to develop the standards that were created from a template inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards used for certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) Awards, but were adapted to serve the specific needs of the Academy. The Academy also consulted with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), as it presently does for Oscars eligibility.
As part of the Academy’s sustainability effort, the 93rd Awards season was the final year DVD screeners were allowed to be distributed; these mailings will be discontinued starting in 2021 for the 94th Academy Awards. Access to the Academy Screening Room will continue to be made available for all eligible releases. The distribution of physical music CDs, screenplays and hardcopy mailings, including but not limited to paper invites and screening schedules, will also be discontinued. Digital links to materials will be permitted. All screeners, DVD or otherwise, will also now be required to include closed captioning.
Something interesting to note is that for the last six years in a row, only one Best Picture winner, 2017’s The Shape of Water, earned below the line technical wins to go along with its BP win. All other winners found themselves in the top spot because of the preferential ballot that was introduced in 2009.
2015: Spotlight (no tech wins, only won Original Screenplay)
2016: Moonlight (no tech wins, Adapted Screenplay + Supporting Actor)
2017: The Shape of Water (Production Design, Original Score + Director)
2018: Green Book (no tech wins, Original Screenplay + Supporting Actor)
2019: Parasite (no tech wins, Original Screenplay + Director)
2020: Nomadland (no tech wins, Director + Best Actress)
This year’s Cannes winners were unique in that nearly all films that took home an award already had U.S. distribution, with NEON the big champ of the festival. It will release the Palme d’Or winner Titane from Julia Ducournau, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, with Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve, and Jury Prize winner Memoria from Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Amazon holds two winners in its pocket: Grand Jury Prize winner A Hero from Asghar Farhadi and Best Director winner Leos Carax (Annette).
Venice will give us world premieres of Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog (Netflix), which I’ve been bullish on for months and feel better about every day. It will also his Telluride, Toronto and is the Centerpiece film of the New York Film Festival, following the path of the streamer’s Marriage Story two years ago. Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated adaptation of Dune will also world premiere (out of competition and show up at TIFF) but so much rides on this film needing to be a huge hit for Warner Bros and their day/date strategy with HBO Max. Also out of competition will be the world premieres of Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. Both could be below the line contenders but Scott has a bigger cannoli up his sleeve this season.
The Toronto International Film Festival will see the world premieres of A24’s The Humans and Focus Features’ Belfast (from Kenneth Branagh) as well as Netflix’s The Starling with Melissa McCarthy and Kevin Kline, and Searchlight Pictures’ The Eyes of Tammy Faye with Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield as the most famous disgraced televangelists of all time. Up to this point I’ve only really had Belfast as a major contender. The Humans still could be but I do know that it’s not going to be a top priority for A24 the way two other films will be: Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand and Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon with Joaquin Phoenix. We know that Macbeth is skipping Venice, Telluride and TIFF as it will be a world premiere at the New York Film Festival. A co-distribution with Apple, it’s a risky bet to have skipped those top tier fests and put all their chips in for NYFF. For C’mon C’mon, we haven’t heard much at all about the plans for the film but I expect it to show up at Telluride and NYFF as well.
That leaves quite a few titles up in the air including what’s been my #1 all season, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. Am I holding onto it too long? Maybe, but the test will be Telluride for me. If it shows up there (and we won’t really know until the day before the festival) then I can rest easy. Last week the Oscar-winning director tweeted that he finished the first mix of the film but not showing up at Venice gives me a bit of pause. Paul Thomas Anderson’s untitled film aka Soggy Bottom will also be rushing to finish post-production and could bypass all festivals for a late December release like Phantom Thread and that worked out pretty well for him, earning Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actress nominations along with the expected one for Best Actor.
The King Richard trailer has 3.3M views in two days just on the WB YT page alone. Add the UK page and Will Smith’s and it’s up to almost 5 million. If it’s a crowdpleaser, as the trailer looks like it will be, it could be a huge hit. While I currently have Smith at #2 in Best Actor, if he starts looking like a winner then his film is going to need to be a Best Picture nominee. The last Best Actor winner to come from a non-BP nominee was Jeff Bridges in 2009’s Crazy Heart, the first year of the Academy’s extended BP lineup and preferential ballot. We only need to look to this last season where Anthony Hopkins upset Chadwick Boseman here; The Father was a Best Picture nominee while Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was not.
The House of Gucci trailer dropped late afternoon yesterday to throngs of salivating little monsters and they were fed. Over the top accents, imminently quotable dialogue, dramatic photography, soapy intrigue and hair and shoulder pads to the ceiling all gave viewers a camp extravaganza. But, will voters go for it? Will it be too over the top?
But if you really want to talk trailer action, Dune‘s official full length trailer released last week is at 14M. Do views equal box office dollars? Sometimes, and for Dune it’s going to be crucial for its awards success, especially in the era of day/date releases.
David O. Russell’s untitled film aka Canterbury Glass sets its sights for 2022 and is off all charts for this season. According to a source at Disney, the film was always intended for 2022 despite most pundits pegging it for this year.
Here are my ranked Best Picture Oscar predictions for July 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) ↔
2. The Power of the Dog (Netflix) ↔
3. House of Gucci (MGM/UA) ↔
4. Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↑
5. The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple) ↔
6. West Side Story (20th Century Studios) ↓
7. Belfast (Focus Features) ↑
8. King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ♦
9. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson aka Soggy Bottom (MGM/UA) ↔
10. Flee (NEON) ↔
Other contenders: C’mon C’mon (A24), CODA (Apple), Cry Macho (Warner Bros), Don’t Look Up (Netflix), The French Dispatch ↓ (Searchlight Pictures), A Hero (Amazon Studios), The Humans (A24), The Last Duel (20th Century Studios), Last Night in Soho (Focus Features), Mass (Bleecker Street), Mothering Sunday (Sony Pictures Classics), Parallel Mothers (Madres Paralelas) (Sony Pictures Classics), Passing (Netflix), Respect ♦ (MGM/UA), Spencer ♦ (NEON)
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros