Every week between now and January 24, 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 share insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.
When it comes to the Gotham Awards, the noise outweighs the signal by a significant margin. Restricted to American films with budgets under $35 million and determined by tiny committees, this week’s Gotham nominations are hardly the most indicative precursor. But they are the first, and as such they can tell us a little about what’s resonating on the hipper side of the industry. Case in point: Tár, which led the nominations, confirming the sense that Todd Field’s conductor drama has tár-geted its audience extremely well in limited release (to the point where some viewers can’t believe Lydia Tár is fictional). But Tár will have competition from Everything Everywhere All at Once, which also showed up in a major way at the Gothams. Whichever triumphs in their head-to-head matchups will tell us who’s leading the race to become the season’s tastemaker pick.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
After a star-crossed production, the sequel to the 2019 Best Picture nominee finally premiered in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Those in attendance call it a touching memorial to Chadwick Boseman and a cut above the rest of Marvel’s messy Phase Four output. Many of them also came away with the sense that the film may not repeat the awards-season success of its predecessor. “Beautiful tribute … visual stunner … don’t know about Oscars,” says the usually effusive Clayton Davis. (Our old friend Kyle Buchanan is more bullish.) Considering what’s been shown in the trailer, craft nominations will always be in play, but there may be one fewer sequel at the Best Picture table than we thought.
The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Glass Onion, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, The Woman King, Women Talking
James Gray, Armageddon Time
The James Gray brand is strong: He’s a classical auteur whose films are widely acclaimed in Europe but can barely get a cup of coffee with the Oscars. His new autobiographical drama pips The Fabelmans as the first of this season’s Romas to hit theaters, and its unsentimental depiction of Gray’s early-’80s youth has been well received by critics, some of whom call it a career best. Can the director finally get his due in this iration? Always an eloquent pitchman, Gray is getting out there for his film, and in Focus Features he finally has a studio ready to get behind him. This is a prickly story that some viewers may find hard to love, but others may appreciate Gray’s nuanced and timely grappling with antisemitism and white privilege.
Tobias Lindholm, The Good Nurse
The Danish filmmaker makes his English-language debut with this true-crime tale of nurse turned serial killer Charles Cullen. Though it shares space on Netflix home screens with Dahmer, Lindholm’s drama is a far less lurid affair, more concerned with the way the medical bureaucracy shielded itself from liability at the cost of countless lives. Unfortunately, reviews have topped out at mildly positive, with Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt comparing the film to “one of those lightly prestige-y Sunday-night movies Showtime or HBO used to make.” Lindholm seems unlikely to repeat the feat of his Another Round collaborator, Thomas Vinterberg.
Todd Field, Tár; Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin; Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness; Sarah Polley, Women Talking; Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Hugh Jackman, The Son
Jackman is on the cover of Variety this week in a profile that foregrounds the actor’s relationship with his father, who passed away while he was filming The Son. As Jackman embarks on the hunt for a second career nomination, expect his campaign to emphasize the emotional angle whenever possible: Florian Zeller’s family tragedy has been accused of egregious audience manipulation during its festival rollout, but Team Son will be betting that the quickest way to voters’ ballots is through their tear ducts.
Paul Mescal, Aftersun
The Gothams go gender-neutral in their acting categories, but this year they did not do gender parity. In the 10-strong Outstanding Lead Performance category, there were only three men: Oscar heavyweights Brendan Fraser and Colin Farrell, and Mescal. The tiny Aftersun will need all the support it can get, particularly as A24 already has a leviathan-sized contender in Best Actor, but his inclusion here is a good sign that indie-minded precursors might unite around the Irishman’s mercurial performance.
Austin Butler, Elvis; Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin; Brendan Fraser, The Whale; Hugh Jackman, The Son; Bill Nighy, Living
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Everything Everywhere Oscar pivot starts now. The springtime hit was the subject of a big New York Times feature last week, and it followed that up with a bevy of Gotham noms that signified voters have indeed saved room in their hearts for the multiverse comedy. Yeoh and Cate Blanchett both made it into the Gothams’ Outstanding Lead Performance category in what’s certain to be the first of many face-offs. The case for Yeoh: Not only has she never been recognized before, but she’s also giving the warmer, more emotional performance. In a battle of heart versus head, we know which usually wins out. Though it remains to be seen whether EEAAO’s gonzo humor jibes with the Academy’s taste, Yeoh has been cutting a regal figure on the trail, shoring up what might be the film’s weak spot by lending her personal gravitas to the campaign.
Jessica Chastain, The Good Nurse
The reigning Best Actress winner does everything she needs to in The Good Nurse, bringing the right amount of warmth and sympathy to the part of the real-life nurse who began to suspect her co-worker was a murderer. The faint praise for the film could hold her back, though if Netflix decides it doesn’t want to bother trying to revive Blonde, Chastain at least has the benefit of being the streamer’s backup contender in this race. (If she does get in, she’ll make Oscar history: The Good Nurse will surpass The Imitation Game as the acting nominee with the most laughable closing title card.)
Cate Blanchett, Tár; Olivia Colman, Empire of Light; Danielle Deadwyler, Till; Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans; Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Supporting Actor
Anthony Hopkins, Armageddon Time
If Armageddon Time does find favor from voters, I suspect it will be for Hopkins’s performance as a loving grandfather who personifies the film’s moral complexities. It’s an Oscar-friendly part, similar to the one Belfast’s Ciarán Hinds got nominated for last season, though in the words of A.O. Scott, “Hopkins finds the essential grit hiding underneath the twinkle.” The road can be perilous for lone supporting contenders — only nine of the past 50 nominees haven’t had a Best Picture nomination or an Oscar-nominated co-star on their side — but Hopkins’s late-career hot streak should give him better odds at breaking through than most.
Brad Pitt, Babylon
Babylon still hasn’t screened, but Paramount at least let us know which categories its cast of thousands will campaign in. After mistakenly announcing that Pitt would run in Best Actor, the studio corrected itself and revealed he will actually be slotted in supporting. (Newcomer Diego Calva will join Margot Robbie in the lead acting categories, which lines up with what I’d heard.) I’m most curious how this campaign will go: Pitt was the recipient of extremely friendly press during his successful Supporting Actor bid three years ago, but with more detailed domestic-violence allegations coming out amid his legal battle with Angelina Jolie, this go-round could test his Teflon stardom.
Paul Dano, The Fabelmans; Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin; Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans; Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Ben Whishaw, Women Talking
Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, Armageddon Time
With Dark Waters and now Armageddon Time, Hathaway is doing surprising work in roles others might write off as thankless (when she’s not swanning around a Roman mansion with Zendaya). “She makes magic out of a menial stock mom role” says Rich Juzwiak, who praises her “impeccable naturalism.” Unlike Caitríona Balfe in Belfast or Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans, Hathaway’s performance as a PTA mom is not concerned with being lovable, though that may ding her in what is, at heart, a high-school popularity contest.
Hong Chau, The Whale
Chau might have been the hardest-working actress of festival season, serving three different vibes in three very different films. In The Menu, she’s a devilishly efficient hostess; in Showing Up, she’s a hilariously incompetent landlord; and in The Whale, she’s the friend determined to keep Fraser alive almost against his will. That last role earned her a Gotham nomination, and she seems well equipped to ride Fraser’s coattails. Even those who don’t much care for The Whale admit she’s a standout, while those who do call her “wonderful.”
Jessie Buckley, Women Talking; Hong Chau, The Whale; Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin; Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Claire Foy, Women Talking
*This post has been updated to reflect Babylon’s corrected category submissions.