fall movies fantasy league

Fall Movies Fantasy League: Nomadland and Soul Score Big at This Week’s Awards

Nomadland was one of two draftable films to earn a place on both the American Film Institute and National Board of Review lists. Photo: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

In Vulture’s Fall Movies Fantasy League, contestants stake their pride, and the respect of their peers, on their ability to predict the tumultuous next few months of cinematic releases.

And now, the end is near, and so we face the final curtain … of the Fall Movies Fantasy League!

At the beginning of the season, our drafters had many different ways to play the board. Would they spend loads of money on Tenet, then hope to find value on the margins? Would they economize with riskier blockbusters and try to put together a stronger overall slate? Or would they ignore the box-office element entirely and stake their success on critical faves and year-end best-of lists?

Each of these strategies has been on display in the staff league, and last time we checked in, the three teams at the top of the table were running neck and neck. But now it’s time for the update that could change everything. This week we got our last big batch of results, as both the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review released their picks for the top films of 2020. A place on each list was worth three points, which meant that, if the AFI and NBR were aligned in their picks, savvy drafters could be in for a real windfall.

As luck would have it, the lists did overlap on six titles … but only two of them were draftable picks in the FMFL: Nomadland, the presumptive Best Picture front-runner, which most people probably expected; and Soul, which was a little more of a surprise. (The other movies were Da 5 Bloods, which came out last summer; Minari and Sound of Metal, end-of-year titles that weren’t scheduled at the time of the draft; and Judas and the Black Messiah, a 2021 release that got in because of the expanded eligibility window.) Otherwise, there were snubs all across the board. The AFI overlooked the Tom Hanks Western News of the World, while the NBR decided Da 5 Bloods was all the representation Netflix needed and thus passed over Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, and Trial of the Chicago 7. The result? What could have been a deluge of points turned out to be more like a drizzle.

But still, points are points, and we did get delightful surprises, like the black-and-white indie comedy The Forty-Year-Old Version making the cut for the NBR list. Let’s see how these results shook up the staff league.

Week 19 Results

Jackson McHenry
Mank: AFI Top 10 list (3) = 3 points
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: AFI Top 10 list (3) = 3 points

Total: 6 points

Tolly Wright
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: AFI Top 10 list (3) = 3 points

Total: 3 points

The dearly departed Hunter Harris
Soul: AFI Top 10 list (3) + NBR Top 10 list (3) = 6 points
The Forty-Year-Old Version: NBR Top 10 list (3) = 3 points

Total: 9 points

Justin Curto
The Forty-Year-Old Version: NBR Top 10 list (3) = 3 points

Total: 3 points

Current Standings

1. Katy Brooks: 59 points (8 movies)
2. Rachel Handler: 58 points (8 movies)
3. Neil Janowitz: 57 points (8 movies)
4. The dearly departed Hunter Harris: 51 points (8 movies)
5. Justin Curto: 47 points (8 movies)
6. Tolly Wright: 46 points (8 movies)
7. Jen Chaney: 44 points (8 movies)
8. Jackson McHenry: 36 points (8 movies)
9. Alison Wilmore: 32 points (8 movies)
10. Chris Murphy: 27 points (8 movies)

And give or take a Soul hitting $100 million, that’s pretty much it! I’ll be back soon with the final standings.

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Nomadland and Soul Score Big on the AFI and NBR Lists