Paul Thomas Anderson’s history with the Oscars is one that’s felt like it’s been closing in Best Picture for a while. Will it finally happen?
Since he burst on the Academy’s radar with 1997’s San Fernando Valley-set Boogie Nights (his first of four nominations for writing), Anderson’s film settings have expanded across the globe, across time and theme. Whether it’s the turn-of-the-century of 2007’s There Will Be Blood, the post-WWII malaise of 2012’s The Master or the world of 1950s London fashion in 2017’s Phantom Thread, Anderson coalesces around richly drawn characters at crucial turning points in their lives whether it’s vocation, relationship or craven ambition.
In the newly titled Licorice Pizza, starring Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, a PTA staple), Anderson returns to the San Fernando Valley for what could be his most tender film yet. With the release of the film’s first trailer this week, which recalls everything from his own Boogie Nights to Lady Bird to Almost Famous, I’ve heard that Licorice Pizza is his most “romantic” film to date (Punch-Drunk Love might like a word) and it could play like gangbusters with the Academy, who’ve been on his side enough to give him eight Oscar nominations so far. Since Boogie Nights, all of Anderson’s film except PDL have received at least one Oscar nomination and for There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread it was the big time, with Best Picture and Best Director nominations.
The big question is can beleaguered studio MGM put some campaign money behind it when they also have Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci with Lady Gaga and Joe Wright’s Cyrano with Peter Dinklage to push? The $8.45B buy of the near century-old film studio by Amazon last May is still pending regulatory approval (in this age of media conglomerates there won’t be anything standing in its way) so MGM won’t see any of that cash in their coffer for Oscar season. They also have the upcoming Bond film No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last turn as 007, but that will likely barely turn a profit in the COVID era of box office.
One thing MGM does have is a fantastic history with Oscar. As a studio it has 40 Best Picture nominations and nine wins, including Gone With the Wind, The Apartment, West Side Story and Rocky. More recently though, their Best Picture prowess has been almost non-existent, save for 1987’s Moonstruck and 2018’s A Star Is Born, which was a co-production with Warner Bros. Can MGM get its old school groove back and break into the Best Picture race in a big way once again?
Here are my ranked 2022 Best Picture Oscar predictions for September 2021.
Green – moves up ↑ Red – moves down ↓ Blue – new/re-entry ♦ Black – no movement ↔
1. Belfast (Focus Features) ↑ [Telluride, TIFF]
2. The Power of the Dog (Netflix) ↓ [Venice, Telluride, TIFF, NYFF]
3. Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures)
4. King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↑ [Telluride, AFI]
5. Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) ↓ [Venice, TIFF, NYFF]
6. The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple) ↓ [NYFF]
7. Licorice Pizza (MGM/UA) ↑
8. West Side Story (20th Century Studios) ↓
9. Spencer (NEON) ↑ [Venice, Telluride, TIFF]
10. Flee (NEON) ↓ [Sundance, Telluride, TIFF, NYFF]
• C’mon C’mon (A24) [Telluride, NYFF]
• CODA (Apple) ↓ [Sundance]
• Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
• The French Dispatch (Searchlight Pictures) [Cannes, Telluride, NYFF]
• The Hand of God (Netflix) [Venice, Telluride]
• A Hero (Amazon Studios) [Cannes, Telluride]
• House of Gucci (MGM/UA) ↓
• The Last Duel (20th Century Studios) [Venice, TIFF]
• The Lost Daughter (Netflix) [Venice, Telluride]
• Mass (Bleecker Street) [Sundance]
• Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) [NYFF]
• Passing (Netflix) [Sundance, NYFF]
• tick, tick…BOOM! (Netflix) ♦ [AFI]
• The Worst Person in the World (NEON) ♦ [Cannes, TIFF, NYFF]