On Thursday night, Oscar season was in full swing and Hollywood was, dare we say, busy. Among the numerous events and screenings was a press and industry reception for “The Holdovers” in Century City. Todd Haynes’ “May December” had its formal Los Angeles premiere at the Academy Museum. And, in a rare return to the Samuel Golden Theater on Wilshire (the Academy Museum is the current screening hot spot), Blitz Bazawule’s movie adaptation of the “The Color Purple” musical had its first public screening.
And frankly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg with how much is going on across town. But we digress…let’s discuss what we can for “The Color Purple.”
We are embargoed from reviewing the Warner Bros. release, but we can say the movie found the packed industry audience giving it a standing ovation while the credits still rolled. A Best Picture nomination is unclear at this point, but the positive early buzz about the cast performances was on target. Danielle Brooks, who is reprising her Tony Award-nominated role as Sofia, seems like a safe bet to earn a Supporting Actress nomination this time around. She’s easily the best performance in the movie. In something of a partial surprise, Taraji P. Henson puts her own stamp on the role of Shug Avery and displays some impressive vocal chops (although she’s smartly reminding everyone she does have a BFA in Musical Theater). She has a genuine shot at earning her second Supporting Actress nomination (she previously earned a nomination in 2009 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).
Fantasia Barrino, who plays the iconic role of Celie (portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in the original 1985 version), is absolutely fantastic in the second half of the movie. Whether that is enough to get her into a historically competitive Best Actress class remains to be seen (there will be at least three performances you can deem were “robbed” after they don’t make the cut). Colman Domingo is fine as Mister and has a shot at a Supporting Actor nod, but his best chance for his first Oscar nomination is in the Best Actor category for Netflix’s “Rustin.”
Two new songs including “Keep It Movin,” co-written by Halle Bailey, who stars as the younger Nettie, seem like longshots for the Best Original Song category. Costume Designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck has an outside shot for a Best Costumes nomination.
It’s still unclear if the Screen Actors’ Guild will stick to its original SAG Awards calendar (it seems increasingly difficult), but “The Color Purple” is the sort of large ensemble work that could crack the Ensemble for a Motion Picture category. While screenings will continue for weeks, the movie doesn’t hit theaters until Christmas day. If it’s a surprise box office hit over the holiday frame it may have a better shot at a Best Picture nomination.
As for the rest of the Best Picture contenders, we’re still looking at a three-way race between “Oppenheimer,” “Poor Things” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” for the crown. And, frankly, “Barbie’s” chances at winning it all should not be discounted either (not yet anyway). The rest of the top 10 seems somewhat set except every Oscar consultant or publicist in town thinks one of them isn’t going to make the cut. Place your bets…
Keeping all that in mind, here’s your latest Contender Countdown.
November 17, 2023
5 “Anatomy of a Fall”
They say you win in phase one. Did NEON pull that off by having talent available in October when A24 was the only other distributor with stars on the campaign trail?
6 “Zone of Interest”
If Sandra Hüller earns a Best Supporting Actress nom, watch out.
7 “Past Lives”
Can it pull off a LACMA, NYFCC, or NBR Best Film of 2023 win? Wouldn’t hurt.
8 “American Fiction”
Industry absolutely loves it so far. Looks like it’s Amazon’s easiest Best Picture nominee play.
Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are being unleashed upon AMPAS voters. Will that be enough?
10 “The Holdovers”
The box office expansion this past weekend was absolutely stellar. A word-of-mouth wonder. Is $30 million domestic out of reach?
11 “All of Us Strangers”
Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott have been dispatched. Jamie Bell and Claire Foy are on the way. Still this close to making the cut.
12 “The Iron Claw”
A24 is holding reviews till opening week (Dec. 22). Based on the screening response so far is that a mistake?
13 “May December”
Forget “Maestro” and “Society of the Snow,” is this Netflix’s secret Best Picture player? Or is it “The Lost Daughter” all over again?
14 “The Color Purple”
Maybe the actors pull them across the nomination finish line. Maybe not.
If Affleck, Damon, Davis, and Bateman don’t pound the pavement for this soon, the awards prospects for this hit are going to vanish into thin…
Keep watching this space.
Again, feels like something has gotten lost with this one.
The UK critics saw a movie most American critics didn’t, but its critical ranking still came out to what we originally suspected.
Prediction pages for the other major categories this Oscar season.