There is a common refrain being heard around Hollywood these days and it’s not one that will make the Academy happy (and, no, it’s not about an Academy Museum which has only three floors of exhibits). As more and more AMPAS members screen this year’s crop of Best Picture contenders – and, granted, they are barely getting started – many are verbalizing their concern over the Academy’s decision to stick with 10 nominees this year. A plan that was put into place before the pandemic began and confirmed earlier this year. And as more and more potential players “appear” to fall to the wayside, it becomes even more concerning.
Of course, a majority of Academy members won’t begin to truly check out this year’s submissions on their digital access site until the Thanksgiving holiday. And many will wait to watch most of their choices over the Christmas and New Year’s break. With voting not kicking off this year until January 27, they have pretty much a full month to stew over the possibilities. Throw in the fact members will go from selecting five nominees to having the option for a full 10, and, well, it could get a wee bit frustrating.
At this point in the race, there are really only four guaranteed Best Picture nominees members will push through: “Belfast,” “The Power of the Dog,” “King Richard” and “Dune” (although there is always time for a good ol’ fashioned Oscar scandal to muck one of them up). If Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” Searchlight’s intentional last arrival, lives up to the hype it is likely also in. After almost a week of screenings at Westwood’s legendary Village Fox Theatre, there is also seemingly major industry love for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” In theory, it’s also a nominee. That would leave four slots to fill.
In theory, international contenders “A Hero,” “The Hand of God,” “Parallel Mothers” and “The Worst Person In The World” should be in the mix. Especially after “Parasite’s” win in 2020 and “Roma’s” nomination in 2019. Somehow, these titles don’t feel like they are getting the serious consideration they deserve. Maybe International Film preliminary voting will change that, but, at the moment, they are losing the buzz war. That means they’ll need some serious member word-of-mouth magic to crash the party.
There are seven other films that could fill out the field and none of them qualify as the big box office hit the Academy was hoping for with this rule change. In fact, “Dune” is the only real player in that game although “West Side Story,” “Nightmare Alley” and “King Richard” may eventually qualify. ABC may have more titles to promote this year’s telecast with, but most of the players will still be smaller films most viewers haven’t seen (which is certainly fine by this pundit).
So, two and a half months out from voting, it increasingly feels like AMPAS members will be delivering some major Best Picture surprises when the nominations are announced on Tuesday, February 8th. Trust us when we suggest you prepare yourself for the unexpected. It’s gonna be a very bumpy ride.
November 12, 2021
It helps to be a tearjerker at the end.
2. “The Power of the Dog”
Netflix smartly not overdoing it. Could genuinely surprise.
3. “Nightmare Alley”
If it’s not good (the word is it is) the season takes a big dive.
4. “King Richard”
“Look at us. Who would’ve thought?” Pt. 1
6. “Licorice Pizza”
Alana Haim a Best Actress nominee? Ponder.
Can Apple pull this nomination off? Pt. 1
8. “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
Can Apple (with A24) pull this nomination off? Pt. 2
9. “The French Dispatch”
Y’all know it’s killing at the box office in the UK and Europe, right? And might hit $18-20 million here? And y’all acting like Wes doesn’t have a fan base in the Academy…
Sure. Why not!
11. “C’Mon, C’Mon”
A24’s underdog just waiting in the wings.
12. “West Side Story”
I’m not sure what’s more concerning: the Ansel problem or whether the Latinx community and media will embrace it.
13. “In The Heights”
Warner Bros could be the first studio in decades to have three nominees if they just gave this one significantly more attention.
14. “The Last Duel”
Ridley’s medieval drama has a growing legion of fans. Is it too late to make a difference?
Landing Animation, Documentary, and International Film nominations are all plausible. Best Picture feels like a reach.
At this point let’s just make sure Tessa and Ruth get nominations, but even that is worrisome.
2022 Contenders and Predictions