The Cannes lineup has been announced and bits and pieces of potential Venice films as a result give us a glimmer of insight for Best Picture as we mark the halfway point of the year.
Not the halfway point of Oscar eligibility, however. 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 will be the final year DVD screeners will be 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 next year. 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)
Going back to Cannes, what amongst that lineup could make the cut? As it turns out, the same three films we already knew about in May. Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, from reigning Best Picture studio Searchlight Pictures, Leos Carax’s Annette and Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero both from Amazon. I’m a bit torn on what to do with The French Dispatch. Searchlight also has The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Taika Waititi’s Next Goal Wins and they’re too good at this to miss out. But is The French Dispatch another Grand Budapest Hotel or is it a Royal Tenenbaums? It’s difficult to say but we do know one thing; no Wes Anderson film has earned an acting nomination yet so if I’m predicting Benicio del Toro to get in for it why would I not predict the film in Best Picture?
Yesterday, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) announced they will not allow films to be eligible for the DGA Awards without an exclusive 7-day theatrical release window first, firing a shot over the bow at Warner Bros and their commitment to day and date releases for their 2021 films in the post-pandemic era. That obviously impacts Dune here, which will premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September before its October 22 bow in theaters and on HBO Max. Warners will have to backtrack, if only slightly, on their day/date release of the film (or any of their properties they want to push at the DGA). Theoretically, this shouldn’t be that complicated. An exclusive IMAX release of the film beginning October 15, for example, would do it. The studio also has Cry Macho from Clint Eastwood, the Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark and King Richard, Will Smith’s next bet as a Best Actor Oscar contender, so they’ll have to shift that around too. This decision also impacts Disney, who have also adopted a day/date release of some of their 2021 slate.
20th Century Studios has dual dilemmas with its two biggest Oscar hopefuls this year and will have to navigate the PR waters very carefully come December. While Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is expected to land a bunch of nominations, how much will the allegations against its lead, Ansel Elgort – who was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year old girl when he was 20-years old in 2014, impact its chances? Not simply his, but the rest of the cast that will likely have to field questions about their co-star? Elgort denied the allegations when they arose in 2020. To that, the cast of David O. Russell’s next all-star epic (currently untitled but going by Canterbury Glass for now) will also likely be questioned about their director’s well-documented Scott Rudin-like behavior on-set behavior. There’s also the resurfaced story from 2011 from Nicole Peloquin, Russell’s then-19-year-old transgender niece, who filed a police report alleging her uncle had groped her while working out together in a Florida gym. Police reports of the incident confirmed that Russell admitted the inappropriate touching occurred. A decade later and in the meantime, Russell has helmed three films, two of which were Oscar blockbusters.
Two big titles, New Line’s Don’t Worry Darling from Olivia Wilde and Focus Features’ The Northman from Robert Eggers, have packed up and moved to 2022. Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñarrítu is currently shooting his next film Limbo but without an end date or even a distributor it’s tough to say if it manages to squeak in this year.
Here are my ranked Best Picture Oscar predictions for June 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. West Side Story (20th Century Studios) ↓
5. The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24) ↔
6. Dune (Warner Bros) ↓
7. The French Dispatch (Searchlight Pictures) ↑
8. Belfast (Focus Features) ↓
9. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson aka Soggy Bottom (MGM/UA) ↔
10. Flee (Neon)
Other contenders: Annette (Amazon Studios), C’mon C’mon (A24), CODA (Apple), Cry Macho (Warner Bros), Cyrano (MGM/UA), Don’t Look Up (Netflix), Eternals (Disney), 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), Next Goal Wins (Searchlight Pictures), Parallel Mothers (Madres Paralelas) (Sony Pictures Classics), Passing (Netflix), Untitled David O. Russell aka Canterbury Glass (20th Century Studios)
Will it be out this year?: Limbo (TBD), Decision to Leave (TBD), The Lost Daughter (TBD)
Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures