Every week between now and February 8, when the Academy Award nominations are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes of this year’s Oscars race. In our “Oscar Futures” column, we’ll let you in on insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.
The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion’s Western officially surpassed Roma in precursor awards this week, and while most of those came from critics’ groups with zero overlap with the Academy, the comparison is instructive. Roma took Best Director, but missed out on the top prize thanks in part to Netflix skeptics within the Academy. The big question for POTD is whether two pandemic seasons have worn down traditionalists’ streaming fears or only heightened their desire to champion the theatrical experience. Still, Dog’s appearance at this week’s USC Scripter nominations, a key bellwether for Adapted Screenplay, is a reminder of its potency. The road to Best Picture runs through Director and Screenplay, and Campion has a fair shot at picking up both.
The Tragedy of Macbeth
The Scripters honor both the screenwriter and the original author, so Macbeth’s inclusion there was a nice little boost for the British playwright William Shakespeare, who received his first career nomination. It’s a prime pickup for Joel Coen too, since his stark, stagebound interpretation hadn’t been considered a major player in the Adapted Screenplay race. While Macbeth has lurked in the shadows of the Best Picture conversation, AppleTV+ projects do tend to be slower-burning than other streamers’. If the Academy once again skews more auteur-friendly than the precursors, King Duncan might not be the only one getting usurped.
Belfast, Being the Ricardos, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Dune, House of Gucci, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story
Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Wags have joked about the possibility of Death on the Nile becoming Branagh’s Norbit, but that hazard appears to have passed: Disney scheduled the sequel’s review embargo to lift February 7, a week after Oscar nomination voting ends. Branagh’s Belfast candidacy will sink or swim on its own merits. Huzzah!
Asghar Farhadi, A Hero
Farhadi has directed two foreign-language Oscar winners, but he has never been nominated himself. His track record, plus A Hero’s second-place prize at Cannes, made him a popular preseason pick as a potential breakthrough. But though the film, an intricately constructed morality play about Iranian cancel culture, has been positively received, it hits Amazon Prime this weekend stuck behind Drive My Car in a traffic jam in the international-cinephile lane.
Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza; Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog; Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car; Steven Spielberg, West Side Story; Denis Villeneuve, Dune
Peter Dinklage, Cyrano
MGM is slow-playing Cyrano, dropping it in limited release on the eve of nomination voting before going wide during Phase Two. I’ve been bearish on Cyrano, but I do want to credit the movie’s team for an innovative promotional strategy: It apparently got NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate to air a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Know your audience!
Nicolas Cage, Pig
After a few exciting Best Actor races, we’re back to a world where none of the options for the fifth spot exactly blow you away. Besides Dinklage, there’s SAG nominee Javier Bardem in an Oscar-friendly biopic role and Leonardo DiCaprio leading a presumed Best Picture player. Neither of them feel likely to garner too many No. 1 votes, so perhaps there is room for a surprise passion pick like Cage to sneak in?
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog; Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up; Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick … Boom!; Will Smith, King Richard; Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
As you may have gleaned from the previous mentions of embargo dates and local TV listings, there was not a huge amount going on awards-wise this week. Instead let’s talk more about the biggest shock of last week — the precipitous fall of presumed front-runner Kristen Stewart. Early advantage would seem to go to Kidman, who is furrowing fertile soil with this biopic transformation. She already won the Globe, and considering SAG liked Ricardos enough to hand Javier Bardem a coattail nomination, she could come into the Oscars with two major precursors on her side.
Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
On the other hand, Colman has home-field advantage at the BAFTAs and may see a degree-of-difficulty bonus: Not only is she the lone Globe+SAG nominee playing a fictional character, her role is designed to test the audience’s sympathy at every turn. That both Kidman and Colman are past Best Actress winners adds another wrinkle — can Jessica Chastain or Lady Gaga make the case that it’s their time now?
Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye; Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter; Lady Gaga, House of Gucci; Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos; Kristen Stewart, Spencer
Best Supporting Actor
Jon Bernthal, King Richard
Bernthal got a moment in the sun this week courtesy of a New York Times profile that painted him as the consummate egoless supporting player. The photos also remind readers that, despite his goofy-sidekick role in King Richard, the real Bernthal is actually a total hunk. That’s its own kind of transformation, even if it’s one less likely to catch the Academy’s eye.
Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog
Writing in The Film Experience, Christopher James looks at the history of performers who snuck into the Oscars lineup despite missing at the precursors. To have a shot, the numbers suggest you should be in a Best Picture contender with a strong lead acting performance. Bernthal fits the bill, but with Power of the Dog surging, Plemons’s nice-guy suitor seems the most likely candidate for a nomination-morning surprise.
Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza; Ciarán Hinds, Belfast; Jared Leto, House of Gucci; Troy Kotsur, CODA; Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog
Best Supporting Actress
Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Weirdly, the Supporting Actress category has become the mirror image of the Best Picture race. While West Side Story had yet another disheartening snub at the USC Scripters, DeBose keeps racking up precursor wins and is the current odds-on bet to take home the trophy.
Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog
Conversely, Dunst seems to be losing ground even while Power of the Dog continues to clean up. While her co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee have been dominating their respective races, she trails both DeBose and Ruth Negga in terms of precursor wins. Is Dog simply getting its due elsewhere, or do the film’s male roles carry an element of surprise that Dunst’s lacks?
Caitríona Balfe, Belfast; Ariana DeBose, West Side Story; Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog; Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard; Ruth Negga, Passing
More From This Series
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