Yesterday, the Academy announced a slew of changes coming to the Oscars including moving back to a solid 10 Best Picture nominees as they did when they expanded the lineup in 2009 and 2010. In subsequent years it’s been a sliding scale of anywhere from 5-10 potential nominees (it’s never been either, only 8 or 9) and then using a preferential (ranked) ballot for selecting the winner.
As any good Oscar watcher or predictor does though, we always wonder: What was the next nominee? What happens when a film hits major precursors like SAG cast, Producers Guild and Directors Guild but just falls short? Is it really the next in line or are there other factors in play? Box office? Studio? Producer? Take a look at when Warner Bros. 2009 hit The Blind Side made a shocking appearance on the Best Picture list. Was it really that shocking? Here was a truly massive blockbuster – $255M domestically – and the eventual Best Actress winner (Sandra Bullock), in the shape of a very traditional dramatic biopic. Movies like this don’t make $255M, ever. But the Academy loves a success story and WB has a lot of support within the Academy (I always think about the ‘executive’ branch and where they lean and place their votes) to push their faves up the list.
Let’s take a look at the sliding scale years – 2011 to 2019 – and evaluate what would have or could have rounded out to a complete Top 10.
2011 (9 nominees)
The Artist (The Weinstein Company) (Best Picture winner)
The Descendants (Fox Searchlight)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros)
The Help (Dreamworks/Disney)
Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics)
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)
War Horse (Dreamworks/Touchstone)
What was in 10th?
The most likely candidates: Bridesmaids (Universal), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Columbia), A Separation (Sony Pictures Classics), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Focus Features)
In the first year of a sliding scale of nominees we got 9. A hodgepodge of critical fare like The Tree of Life and The Descendants, box office hits like The Help, a Cannes winner in The Artist and Academy stalwarts like Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) and Steven Spielberg (War Horse). We also got that shocking inclusion of the box office flop and critically derided Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (will anyone ever forget Jennifer Lawrence’s perfect pause before announcing this as the last Best Picture nominee?). Even with an expanded lineup we still saw some shocking snubs with Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at the top of the list. Bridesmaids was blockbuster success and came in with PGA and WGA nominations then earned two Oscar nominations (Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy – who got in everywhere – and Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo) but the comedy curse hit it hard. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was having a very good precursor run with nominations from the Producers Guild and Directors Guild and ending with Oscar nominations for Best Actress, Film Editing (which it won), Cinematography and both Sound categories.
My pick: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Columbia)
2012 (9 nominees)
Argo (Warner Bros) (Best Picture winner)
Amour (Sony Pictures Classics)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight)
Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company/Columbia)
Les Misérables (Universal)
Life Of Pi (Fox 2000)
Lincoln (Dreamworks/20th Century Fox)
Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)
Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia/Annapurna)
What was in 10th?
The most likely candidates: Flight (Paramount), The Master (The Weinstein Company/Annapurna), Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features), Skyfall (MGM)
Skyfall is probably the closest a Bond film has ever come to getting a Best Picture nomination. It landed five nominations and won two, including the first ever Original Song win for a Bond film. Previous Oscar winners Judi Dench and Javier Bardem earned acting nods from BAFTA and Bardem also pulled in a SAG nom. It’s also the highest grossing Bond film domestically and worldwide, being the only in the 26-film series to break the $1B mark. The Master had a quite precursor run, even at SAG, and then came back with three acting Oscar nominations. But, of all things for it to miss, it wasn’t among the Adapted Screenplay nominees. Flight had a Best Actor and Original Screenplay nomination and Moonrise Kingdom just the latter (although, A Serious Man made it in 2009 with just that as well).
My pick: Skyfall (MGM)
2013 (9 nominees)
12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) (Best Picture winner)
American Hustle (Columbia/Annapurna)
Captain Phillips (Columbia)
Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)
Gravity (Warner Bros)
Her (Warner Bros)
Philomena (The Weinstein Company)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount)
What was in 10th?
The most likely candidates: August: Osage County (The Weinstein Company), Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics), Frozen (Disney), Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)
Despite its pair of acting nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (her first in 13 years), the lack of anything else for August: Osage County – especially Adapted Screenplay – doesn’t give much of a reason to see it in 10th. Inside Llewyn Davis was in even worse shape. Blue Jasmine had the eventual Best Actress winner, another Original Screenplay nomination for Woody Allen and Sally Hawkins finally getting in. At $33M it was a hit by Allen standards. The first two years of a straight 10 BP nominees saw an animated film get in each time. Since moving to the sliding scale, none have. Frozen was the highest grossing animated film of all time (at the time) and won Original Song and Animated Feature. It’s close between these two but my answer is…
My pick: Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
2014 (8 nominees)
American Sniper (Warner Bros)
Birdman (Fox Searchlight) (Best Picture winner)
Boyhood (IFC Films)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight)
The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
The Theory Of Everything (Focus Features)
Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
What was in 9th and 10th?
The most likely candidates: Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics), Interstellar (Warner Bros), Unbroken (Universal), Wild (Fox Searchlight)
One of the easier years, at least for one choice. Foxcatcher nabbing a Best Director nomination was a huge shock and while it wasn’t uncommon in the era of five BP nominees to have a lone director mention, in the expanded era it was unheard of. Add in its Producers guild nomination with its two acting nominations, original screenplay and makeup and it definitely was the closest to getting in. Interstellar and Unbroken take up the oxygen for the two films that earned below the line nominations and if you followed me back in 2014 you’ll remember that I was all in for Unbroken as early as March, thinking that it and director Angelina Jolie were going to go all the way. Interstellar not only performed better, nomination-wise, it at least won one. Wild has two acting nominations but, as I highlighted earlier (and will again), without a screenplay nomination it’s hard to find a place for it.
My picks: Foxcatcher (Sony Classics), Interstellar (Warner Bros)
2015 (8 nominees)
The Big Short (Paramount)
Bridge Of Spies (Dreamworks/Disney)
Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight)
Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros)
The Martian (20th Century Fox)
The Revenant (20th Century Fox)
Spotlight (Best Picture winner)
What was in 9th and 10th?
The most likely candidates: Carol,(The Weinstein Company), The Danish Girl (Focus Features), Ex Machina (A24), Inside Out (Disney), Steve Jobs (Universal)
Carol played out similarly to Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven, falling short in crucial areas that kept it from Best Picture contention. But with six nominations, including two acting and adapted screenplay, and a hugely successful distributor, it had to be very close. The Danish Girl brought with it the eventual supporting actress winner, a lead nomination, two craft noms and a strong studio. Ex Machina made history with its visual effects win over two huge BP nominees and might have earned Alicia Vikander a supporting nomination had she been pushed lead for The Danish Girl. But that didn’t happen and we have what we have. Inside Out, as with all animated films in this era, is just on the outside looking in. Steve Jobs might have earned two acting nominations but its Golden Globe win for screenplay wasn’t even enough to get it an Oscar nomination for a film Universal was hoping would be its new A Beautiful Mind.
My picks: Carol,(The Weinstein Company), The Danish Girl (Focus Features)
2016 (9 nominees)
Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate)
Hell Or High Water (CBS Films)
Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox)
La La Land (Lionsgate)
Lion (The Weinstein Company)
Manchester By the Sea (Amazon)
Moonlight (A24) (Best Picture winner)
What was in 10th?
The most likely candidates: Captain Fantastic (Bleecker Street), Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount), Jackie (Fox Searchlight), Loving (Focus Features)
Without a doubt, the toughest year of the decade to call. It might be the year where nine was truly as far as it could go. Each of the possible contenders earned an acting nomination but for two it was their film’s only nom (Captain Fantastic, Loving). For Florence Foster Jenkins picked up a costume nomination to go along with Meryl Streep’s Best Actress mention but Paramount already had two BP locks with Fences and Arrival (but not Best Actress as we found out). Jackie got a costume and a score mention to go along with Natalie Portman’s nod. But without something stronger like a screenplay or editing mention, who comes out ahead? Box office doesn’t help us much because none of these films lit that fire either. I’m giving the edge to the film that had slightly broader support and a strong studio.
My pick: Jackie (Fox Searchlight)
2017 (9 nominees)
Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)
Darkest Hour (Focus Features)
Dunkirk (Warner Bros)
Get Out (Universal)
Lady Bird (A24)
Phantom Thread (Focus Features)
The Post (Dreamworks/20th Century Fox)
The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) (Best Picture winner)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight)
What was in 10th?
The most likely candidates: Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros), Coco (Disney), I, Tonya (Miramax), Mudbound (Netflix)
As a box office flop, Blade Runner 2049 is probably out of it even though it finally gave Roger Deakins his first long overdue Oscar. Coco was a big hit but against falls under the animated film curse. That leaves I, Tonya and Mudbound. The supporting actress win plus the lead actress win, and most importantly, the film editing nomination give I, Tonya an upper hand. Mudbound, in a single swoop, earned historical status with three different records: first female cinematographer nominated (Rachel Morrison), first Black female Adapted Screenplay nominee (director Dee Rees) and the first time ever the same performer was nominated for acting and song for the same film in the same year (Mary J. Blige). But, the Academy wasn’t quite ready to give Netflix that Best Picture nomination just yet. This is a very tough year and a tough choice.
My pick: Mudbound (Netflix)
2018 (8 nominees)
Black Panther (Disney)
BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features)
Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox)
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)
Green Book (Universal) (Best Picture winner)
A Star Is Born (Warner Bros)
What was in 9th and 10th?
The most likely candidates: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight), Cold War (Amazon), If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna), First Man (Universal)
This is actually one of the easier years to choose and really, it should have been a 9 or 10 year anyway. Cold War may have gotten that lone director nomination for Paweł Pawlikowski but it’s in 11th at best. First Man was a critical hit but shocked both in its box office grounding and Oscar nominations that never took off, most especially that score snub. Despite winning for visual effects, this was no Interstellar. If Beale Street Could Talk won for supporting actress and hit Adapted Screenplay. Can You Ever Forgive Me? got two acting nods and screenplay. This is an easy choice.
My picks: If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna), Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight)
2019 (9 nominees)
Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
The Irishman (Netflix)
Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
Joker (Warner Bros)
Little Women (Sony Pictures)
Marriage Story (Netflix)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Columbia)
Parasite (Neon) (Best Picture winner)
What was in 10th?
The most likely candidates: Bombshell (Lionsgate), The Farewell (A24), Knives Out (Lionsgate), The Two Popes (Netflix)
This is tougher than it seems. Bombshell didn’t really take off and played out exactly as expected on nomination morning. The Farewell was a Golden Globe and Spirit Award winner but the Academy denied the film entirely. That leaves us with the box office whodunit that got an original screenplay nomination (and only that) and the papal dramedy that earned dual acting mentions and a screenplay nod. Here’s the thing; I’ve made the argument against just a screenplay nomination being enough to get in (Moonrise Kingdom) and that blockbuster comedies have a hard time (Bridesmaids). But for The Two Popes, that would have meant a third Netflix film getting into Best Picture when they had only just let the streamer join the party the year before. Knives Out had PGA, The Two Popes was a Golden Globe hit. Tough call.
My pick: Knives Out (Lionsgate)
Since the new rule won’t go into effect until the 94th Oscars, this year’s batch of films won’t benefit from it. We’ll revisit this piece when the Best Picture nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards are announced next January.
So what are your thoughts? Who were the most likely nominees for those 9th and 10th spots from 2011-2019?