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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

2024 Oscar Preview - Ranks 32-24: The Middle of the Pack

With the dust cleared in 2022 and Everything Everywhere All at Once reigning supreme, it’s time to pick ourselves back up and trek into the unknown of 2023. And what better way to prepare for our journey than mapping out the awards prospects for dozens of films that have Oscar gold in their sights.

Of course, trying to predict and outline how the season will go at this exact moment is a bit of a fool’s errand. To quote Julia Garner from Ozark: “I Don't Know Shit About Fuck.” Who could have predicted Everything Everywhere All at Once and All Quiet on the Western Front to combine for 11 Oscar wins a year ago? Definitely not me, that’s for sure. But then there was also Women Talking, which I had pegged as the frontrunner for Best Adapted Screenplay from the get go, so some stuff on paper does pan out.

This new six-part series (can I submit it for an Emmy?) will give a scouting report on fifty films that I think will factor into the upcoming awards race. Bit by bit, I’ll work my way down from the fringe contenders all the way to heavy hitters, using past precedent and the intel available to guide my beliefs. At the end of it all, I’ll give my first predictions for the season.

The time has come to lay out some of the movies I expect to make their presence known this awards season. The films listed here may not have the highest pedigree, nor will they probably command the headlines like the blockbusters. But many of them have the goods on paper to be established as venerable contenders and deserve attention on account of their immense potential.

Read Part 1 - Ranks 50-42: The Wildcards

Read Part 2 - Ranks 41-33: The Outsiders Peaking In

32. Flint Strong (MGM)

After becoming the first woman to be nominated in the Best Cinematography category for Mudbound in 2017, Rachel Morrison is stepping further behind the camera for her directorial debut, telling the story of Claressa Shields, a boxer from Flint, Michigan who would become the first American woman to win Olympic gold. Moonlight director Barry Jenkins wrote the script, with recent Oscar-nominee Brian Tyree Henry in a supporting role. A spotlight premiere at a fall festival will be needed for this movie to get off the ground in a big way, as well as a strong push by MGM.

31. Bob Marley: One Love (Paramount)

With a wide release already set for January 12, 2024, it seems only logical that Paramount’s Bob Marley biopic will try to crash the party with a qualifying limited bow at the end of the year. King Richard director Reinaldo Marcus Green and writer Zach Baylin are reuniting in their respective creative roles, with One Night in Miami breakout Kingsley Ben-Adir playing the titular character.

30. Nyad (Netflix)

Bookended by American Beauty and The Kids Are All Right, Annette Bening had a good stretch where she was a regular Oscar contender. Those days seem to have faded away, with good work like 20th Century Women and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool keeping her in the conversation. Her next role, a biographical portrayal of Diana Nyad’s attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida, could be enough to bring her back into contention to get her long overdue win.

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi are making their narrative debuts here after winning the Best Documentary Oscar for Free Solo. The pair have premiered several of their films at the Telluride Film Festival, which would be a likely landing spot for this outdoorsy film.

29. Firebrand (TBA)

With Killers of the Flower Moon, Oppenheimer, Dune: Part Two, and Barbie potentially filling up quite a few of the craft categories, the options for smaller films to work their way into the conversation start to become slim. Firebrand, which tells the story of the marriage between Queen Catherine Parr and Henry VIII, could be a victim of those lost opportunities. Alicia Vikander and Jude Law play the royal “lovers,” with the story being categorized under the genres of drama, history, and horror. But the shocking inclusion of the film in the Official Competition lineup at this year’s Cannes Film Festival does produce some good vibes.

28. Dumb Money (Sony)

Director Craig Gillespie already handled a wildly true story with I, Tonya, and it seems he’s doubling down on that concept with this retelling of the GameStop stock market chaos. It’s not hard to envision this material having Adam McKay-like vibes, especially with a cast comprising of names like Seth Rogen, Sebastian Stan, and Nick Offerman. A theatrical release is set for October 20th, making a world premiere at one of the fall festivals (most likely TIFF) a strong possibility.

27. How Do You Live? (GKIDS)

While animation master Hayao Miyazaki has claimed to retire after several of his previous films, this time feels like the real deal. Spirited Away remains the only foreign language film to win Best Animated Feature, with Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises also being nominated in their respective years. The film has already been given a July 14 release date for Japan, which historically means it could play within the fall festival circuit. I wouldn’t be surprised if a campaign for Miyazaki was mounted for him to be considered in other categories like Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Director. If any animated director was to become the first to get into Best Director, it would be him.

26. Challengers (MGM)

MGM secretly moved the release date for Luca Guagadnino’s newest movie from August to September 15, which lines up almost too perfect for a premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where the Italian auteur has debuted almost all of his films, most notably winning Best Director last year for Bones and All. The trio of Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor star in this tennis romance. Guadagnino is such a chameleon filmmaker (who else could edit Call Me By Your Name and begin pre-production for Suspiria at the same time?) that it’s hard to predict how exactly this will turn out.

25. Ferrari (TBA)

There are several variables at play here, the biggest one being that there still isn’t a North American distributor attached to it. It’s not a reason to panic just yet as Bardo wasn’t picked up by Netflix until late April. But it does raise some eyebrows since this is a $90 million biopic from a respected director with big stars attached. A world premiere in Venice seems most likely because of the Italian ties.

There’s also the big question mark surrounding Michael Mann, who’s been out of the spotlight for a while. The Insider remains his only big Oscar success, with his most recent output of Blackhat and Public Enemies not meeting expectations.

24. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (Paramount)

The path for Dead Reckoning’s Oscar success has been gradually smoothed over thanks to the sympathy-inciting snubs for Fallout and the huge overperformance by Top Gun: Maverick. Of course, Maverick’s success was closely tied to its box office narrative and how much it surpassed expectations. Dead Reckoning probably won’t have that advantage, and it will have to deal with some voters delaying their recognition until the second part comes out. There’s a pretty good chance it will still be a contender in a few craft categories such as Film Editing, Sound, Score, and Visual Effects.

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