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Awards Update: Chucking At The Wall And Seeing What Sticks

May 11, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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Welcome to an ongoing series where I cover the 2024/2025 awards season. On a regular basis, I will update my Oscar predictions, taking into account the new information that has been received since the last update. Full predictions in every category can be found on the Home and Awards page.

Christopher Nolan’s ascendancy to Oscar glory with Oppenheimer might have only happened two months ago, but that doesn’t mean the awards train has stopped altogether. As the old saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. 

Of course, there is such a thing as opening the door too early, but there’s also a great deal of fun to be had at this time of the year when almost anything is possible. The final few months of any awards season can start to feel repetitive, with the same group of nominees and winners appearing at every successive awards show. And now the puzzle pieces are completely scattered, leaving their final configuration up to anyone’s imagination. Who could have predicted the resurgence of CODA in 2021, or the meteoric sustainability of Everything Everywhere All at Once the following year? How many of us truly thought at this point last year that the famously anti-audience Jonathan Glazer would become such a stalwart contender with The Zone of Interest?

Speaking of The Zone of Interest, its birthplace, the Cannes Film Festival, is just around the corner. Historically located on the French Riviera, the festival’s Oscar influence has greatly expanded over the years, with notable premieres including Cold War, Parasite, Another Round*, Drive My Car, Triangle of Sadness, and Anatomy of a Fall. It’s no surprise that the world’s most prominent international film festival has courted increased favor from the ever-growingly diverse AMPAS voting body.

So, what’s on the horizon at this year’s edition? Hot off his very successful Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos reunites with Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe for Kinds of Kindness, an anthology film rumored to return to the Greek director’s darker roots. While I don’t think the film will reach the heavyweight status of The Favourite and Poor Things, the Academy’s overwhelming passion for Lanthimos’ work signals a willingness to weather the weirdness. I have my eye on Dafoe and Hong Chau getting some overdue narrative buzz. Also overdue are Paul Schrader, Uma Thurman, and Richard Gere, who have Oh, Canada. There’s also David Cronenberg with The Shrouds, which is said to be his most personal work yet.

On the international front is Paolo Sorrentino with the stunningly black-and-white Parthenope, Jacques Audiard with the Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldana-led Emilia Perez, and Jia Zhangke’s cryptically long-gestating Caught by the Tides. Almost all of our recent international Best Director nominees have come from Cannes, so it stands to reason that someone in this competition lineup will pop.

2024 is the year of question marks, and no bigger question at Cannes is Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis. Early buzz from industry screenings tells the tale of an enormous film too unusual for the Oscars, so Coppola will need to lean on the critics (and festival jury) to put some wind back in his sails. I’m skeptical about any above-the-line nominations, but could maybe see some movement in the craft categories. Of course, the question of which distributor takes its domestic rights is almost as important as its overall reception.

Sticking with the theme of questions, we have a lot of those once we veer our sights later into the year. Warner Bros. has a trio of sequels to huge Oscar hits in Dune: Part Two, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (premiering out-of-competition at Cannes), and Joker: Folie à Deux. Dune: Part Two seems safe to repeat or improve on its previous iteration’s nomination tally on account of its improved critical and commercial success. I have a little more confidence in Todd Phillips to capture lighting in a bottle again, mostly due to his sequel seemingly pushing itself (and the comic-book genre) in a different direction. The trailer also displayed some immaculate craftsmanship, giving strength to a potential Best Picture repeat. Since the expansion of the Best Picture category to a locked ten system, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever remains the only film to receive more than three overall nominations and not be nominated for Best Picture.

Another Oscar-hungry sequel is Gladiator II. Ridley Scott has been hot and cold (mostly cold) with awards since the turn of the century, but the prestige and hype surrounding this project might inspire a decent haul of craft nominations. Other substantial below-the-line players include Wicked, Twisters, and Nosferatu.

Looking further into the above-the-line categories, the potentially biggest player is Steve McQueen’s Blitz about the London bombings during World War II. McQueen may have already claimed Best Picture with 12 Years a Slave, but he didn’t receive Best Director. He’s got Saoirse Ronan, Harris Dickinson, and Stephen Graham leading his cast. Focus Features has its own historical prestige project in Conclave, directed by Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front) and starring Ralph Fiennes, John Lithgow, and Stanley Tucci. Despite being a legend in the industry, Fiennes hasn’t been nominated in over twenty-five years, a fact that I think will play very well into his Lead Actor campaign.

My biggest no guts, no glory predictions this year revolve around Mike Leigh and his film Hard Truths. It didn’t show up on the Cannes lineup, signaling a debut in the fall. Leigh has seven career nominations to his name, and he’s reuniting with his Secrets & Lies star Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Other competitors in the Lead Actress category will likely be Angelina Jolie for Pablo Larraín’s Maria and Jessica Lange in the film adaption of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Being that it’s only May, I expect almost half of my initial predictions to be wrong. That’s just the way the game is played. Luckily, I’ll be in Cannes in a few weeks to check out the contenders premiering there, and then be in the thick of the summer blockbuster season.

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