Oscars Love ‘The whole lot Far and wide,’ however Perfect Image Race Is A long way From Over

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Tuesday’s Oscar nominations brought the jaw-droppers many expected. Some met with joy, and others with heartbreak.

Social media and awards pundit circles have been touting Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as an undisputed front-runner for most of the awards season. With a leading 11 nominations, it’s an excellent position to win the best picture statuette for distributor A24, the same studio that pulled off the memorable “Moonlight” upset over “La La Land” at the 2017 show. A24 led the day for studios with a resounding 18 nominations, with Netflix in second with 16. 

The multiverse flick landed expected noms for acting — Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu — but flexed the artisan races like costume design, original score and original song. However, holding the title of the “one to beat” can bring the claws out of other studios and strategists who want to come out on top. Notably, in the expanded best picture era (since 2009), the film with the most Oscar nominations has won only four times – “The Hurt Locker” (2009), “The King’s Speech” (2010), “Birdman” (2014) and “The Shape of Water” (2017). But, before Film Twitter spikes the ball, this race is far from finished, with influential industry groups still to weigh in, such as DGA, BAFTA, PGA and SAG.

We love to look at the statistics or precursors that typically dictate an Oscar winner. Still, many have been broken this era, most recently with “CODA” (2021), winning without noms for directing or any technical category, along with misses from DGA, which no film in the modern era has been able to achieve. 

Tuesday’s nominations, we witnessed a couple of these precursors crumble.

The best actor race is comprised of all first-time nominees — Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”) and Bill Nighy (“Living”). This hasn’t happened since 1934’s three-person lineup of Clark Gable, Frank Morgan and William Powell. Regarding who wins the category, Butler, Farrell and Fraser have each one a televised award, with BAFTA on the horizon. The British voting bloc seems to favor the Irish black comedy from Martin McDonagh, which could give Farrell the edge, but SAG will have the last word before final voting opens. 

Aside from Farrell, “Banshees” had a strong showing, which, based on traditional standards for what wins best picture, is the only other film outside of “Everything Everywhere” with the precursor makeup to go all the way. Although Martin McDonagh made up for his “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) directing snub, finding a clear path to Academy success for “Banshees” is difficult. The director race looks like a battle between Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) and the Daniels. The original screenplay race is also favored for “Everything Everywhere” (even if it comes up short of best picture). The same British voting bloc that secured nine noms for “Banshees” could vote-split with the German war drama “All Quiet on the Western Front” and the Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness.”

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“All Quiet,” which tied with “Banshees” for the second most-nominated, became the third remake of a former best picture winner to be recognized, following “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962) and “West Side Story” (2021). The inclusion of Edward Berger’s powerful drama provided a resounding sigh of relief for Netflix after showing vulnerability with its other titles struggling on the circuit, like “Glass Onion” (only able to muster adapted screenplay), “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (not able to capitalize on additional tech noms) and “Bardo” (overcoming mixed reviews to nab cinematography). 

Universal Pictures’ “The Fablemans” had a good enough morning to keep it as a viable candidate for the top prize, with a few shortcomings (like cinematography and editing) that suggest the race is still on. Not only is Spielberg now tied with Martin Scorsese as the second most-nominated director ever with nine, but his personal drama marks his 13th movie to be nominated for best picture, which ties William Wyler as the director with the most films nominated. 

For “The Fabelmans,” Michelle Williams’ best actress bid managed to get over the finish line. Still, with no other industry prize to be won until Oscar night and the strong showings for her competitors, Cate Blanchett (“Tár”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere”), she’s likely a distant third (at best).

Speaking of best actress, the day’s shock was undoubtedly English star Andrea Riseborough for her turn as a Texas single mother who wins the lottery Michael Morris’ drama “To Leslie” from indie distributor Momentum Pictures. The grassroots campaign was kicked into overdrive at the top of Oscars voting, where prominent members of the actors branch, including Amy Adams, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet hosted screenings. Riseborough has garnered much respect from the Hollywood community and cinephiles, with roles past best picture winners like “Birdman” (2014). Her inclusion is worth celebrating and will likely inspire future campaigns from actors whose studios don’t have the financial means to mount awards campaigns for their performers. 

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in “Elvis”
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Elvis” performed on par with where experts had it projected, picking up multiple tech noms but missing out for Baz Luhrmann. However, the Australian auteur is nominated for best picture as a producer alongside his wife, Catherine Martin. Martin is also the most-nominated woman of the year, with additional noms production design and costumes, both of which are within reach for the four-time winner. The biopic about the King of Rock and Roll also scored noms for cinematographer Mandy Walker, who also landed an ASC nom. This comes after the day’s most shocking snub of Claudio Miranda for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which was favored to run away with the prize. With Roger Deakins’ “Empire of Light” and Darius Khondji’s “Bardo” as the sole nominees for their movies, and Florian Hoffmeister (“Tár”) and James Friend (“All Quiet on the Western Front”) missing ASC, the category is in a state of flux. Only twice has a movie won cinematography without an ASC nod – “Glory” (1989) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006).

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Todd Field’s return to cinema after 16 years was embraced heavily by the Academy, with “Tár” snagging six massive noms, including two for artisans that many weren’t expecting. So naturally, this boosts Blanchett’s awards run to win her third statuette. Still, with the disappointing underperformance of women of color lead actress, following the snubs of Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”), Yeoh could wiggle her way to the forefront of the tight race.

Neon’s “Triangle of Sadness” managed to repeat the same nomination makeup of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” (2021). It got noms for original screenplay and directing for Ruben Östlund, plus best picture (unfortunately without actress Dolly De Leon).

Also calling back to another unique nominee for best picture, MGM/UAR’s “Women Talking” limped into the morning with only two noms for best picture and adapted screenplay for Sarah Polley. Similarly, the first year of the best picture expansion to 10, the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man” (2009) only landed a picture and original screenplay.

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“Avatar: The Way of Water”
©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

While the box office is robust for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which recently crossed $2 billion, it pulled in a modest four mentions, down from the nine nods of the original. The other sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” took off with six, including adapted screenplay. But, of course, a preferential ballot can be a movie like “Top Gun’s” best friend — as we’ve known, it’s what’s “most loved” that wins best picture, rather than “most liked.”

Other notable mentions include Judd Hirsch breaking the record for the longest gap between a first and second nomination, long held by Henry Fonda. Hirsch’s first nom for “Ordinary People” (1980) came 42 years before his second supporting actor bid for “The Fabelmans.” Meanwhile, Angela Bassett’s nod for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” came with other love in the crafts and will likely provide an uninterrupted winning streak to the Dolby Theatre on March 12.

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Regarding the actual ceremony, the Academy has a gift in the original song race with Lady Gaga (“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”), Rihanna (“Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), David Byrne (“This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Sofia Carson (“Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman” and the dancing sensations of NTR Jr. and Ram Charan (“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR”) on deck to (hopefully) all perform. The producers should curate the evening around these powerhouses. 

For now, we venture forward into an elongated phase two.

The first winner predictions are below:

Best Picture:
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)

Director:
Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans” (Universal Pictures)

Actor:
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale” (A24)

Actress:
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)

Supporting Actor:
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)

Supporting Actress:
Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel Studios)

Original Screenplay:
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) – Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Adapted Screenplay:
“Women Talking” (MGM/UAR) – Sarah Polley

Animated Feature:
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (Netflix) – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Bulkley

Production Design:
“Elvis” (Warner Bros.) – Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy, Bev Dunn

Cinematography:
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix) – James Friend

Costume Design:
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel Studios) – Ruth Carter

Film Editing:
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures) – Eddie Hamilton

Makeup and Hairstyling:
“The Batman” (Warner Bros.) – Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine

Sound:
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures) – Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor

Visual Effects:
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures) – Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson and Scott R. Fisher

Original Score:
“The Fabelmans” (Universal Pictures) – John Williams

Original Song:
“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” (Variance Films) – Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose  

Documentary Feature:
“All That Breathes” (HBO Documentary Films/Sideshow) – Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer

International Feature:
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany)

Animated Short:
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” (Apple TV+) – Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud

Documentary Short:
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” (Netflix) – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison

Live Action Short:
“An Irish Goodbye” (Floodlight Pictures) – Tom Berkeley and Ross White