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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

2024 Oscar Preview - Ranks 41-33: The Outsiders Peaking In

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.

We’ve made our way out of the fog and are now in the middle of a cloudy forest. These movies still have quite a few obstacles in their path, but their paths toward success are identifiable. To be honest, this is probably where I would have placed Everything Everywhere All at Once and Top Gun: Maverick at this time last year, so there’s no reason to think these films can’t go all the way. But before we start fantasizing about all that, let’s see what I have to say about them right now.

Read Part 1 - Ranks 50-42: The Wildcards

41. Drive-Away Dolls (Focus)

With brother Joel making Oscar waves with his solo directorial effort The Tragedy of Macbeth, it only seems right that Ethan gets his individual outing. The plot is that it’s a road trip comedy, written by Ethan and his wife Tricia Cooke and starring Beanie Feldstein, Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Pedro Pascal, and Matt Damon. That plot seems more in line with something like Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading, which doesn’t make for a big Oscar player like a Shakespeare play. But you can’t immediately write off a four-time Oscar winner like Ethan.

40. The Zone of Interest (A24)

It’s been ten years since Jonathan Glazer’s last film Under the Skin, which itself came after a nearly ten-year gap since Birth. The Oscar prospects for the movie seem slim to none based on the combination of Glazer’s past awards success (or lack thereof) and that the central story covers a Nazi officer falling in love with the woman of the commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Glazer and A24 will need a Drive My Car situation with a unified front by critics if the film is to have any shot of being in the conversation.

39. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony)

With Into the Spider-Verse becoming a cultural phenomenon and winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature over Incredibles 2, the expectations for the sequel have been set sky-high. If the reviews and box office haul are similarly spectacular, then there’s a slim outside chance for contention for a Best Picture push.

38. The Piano Lesson (Netflix)

“Samuel L. Jackson still doesn’t have an Oscar” is going to be the message plastered on every billboard as part of Netflix’s campaign for this August Wilson play adaptation. Denzel Washington will be a prominent producer, with his son Malcolm making his directorial debut. John David Washington leads the cast, along with Corey Hawkins, Danielle Deadwyler, and Ray Fisher.

37. Priscilla (A24)

Now that Elvis has finally come and gone, it’s now time for us to shift our focus to the other side of the story. Sofia Coppola writes and directs the biopic, with relative newcomer Cailee Spaeny playing the titular character and Euphoria star Jacob Elordi as Elvis. It’s been twenty years since Coppola was last nominated for an Oscar, with her winning Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation. She’s already stated how this won’t be a straightforward biopic, which puts a big question mark on whether anyone will be able to join the conversation this year.

36. Foe (Amazon)

Two of the hottest actors working today in Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal lead Lion director Garth Davis’ sci-fi/thriller about a future farming couple. The genre and concept sound a little outside the Academy’s wheelhouse, but you can’t fully take it out of the conversation on account of the Ronan/Mescal combination. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon positions it next to Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn.

35. Strangers (Searchlight)

Writer/director Andrew Haigh was able to get Charlotte Rampling a surprise Best Lead Actress nomination in 2015 for 45 Years, so there’s potential for anyone in the cast of his newest film to get some attention. The $64,000 question is who gets it between Paul Mescal, Claire Foy, Andrew Scott, and Jamie Bell, and which categories they are placed in. There were rumors for a bit that Searchlight was going to defer the film to Hulu, which slightly signaled that it’s not one of their top prospects this season. Those rumors seem to have been squashed, but the question remains how much they’ll push it?

34. The Actor (Neon)

Writer/director Duke Johnson made his name co-directing 2015’s Anomalisa with Charlie Kaufman. Now he’s going solo with The Actor, based on the novel about a man who wakes up with no memory of who he is and must retrace his steps. André Holland plays the amnesiac, with Gemma Chan and Toby Jones by his side. Holland has been a steady supporting role for most of his career, and this could be the chance for him to shine in the starring role. We’ll have to wait and see what vibe the trailer gives before considering it a bigger contender.

33. Fair Play (Netflix)

Netflix parted with a whopping $20 million at Sundance to secure the distribution rights for Chloe Domont’s directorial debut, so, in theory, they should have a plan for it in the awards race. At the very least they should be gunning for a host of awards early in the season at the Gothams and Film Independent Spirit Awards, as well as debut director and writer awards at various guilds. If the film is successful at those places, then it could be in contention at the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay.

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