Every week between now and January 24, when the Academy Awards 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.
After two years of choosing films outside of the Best Picture conversation — the second of which, Drive My Car, was pushed in through sheer force of will — the New York Film Critics Circle returned to more familiar territory with its Best Film pick this year going to Todd Field’s discourse-y drama. (How familiar? Key scenes play out only yards from the room where the NYFCC makes its decisions.) I don’t suspect this honor will hugely boost Tár, which was already on track for a Best Picture nomination, but it comes close to sealing the movie’s status as the official cinéaste contender. Start prepping your “Tár was robbed!” Tweets now.
I’m not sure what the plan was here. Netflix did give its murder-mystery sequel the theatrical release fans and pundits were clamoring for but only for a week and on 700 screens. When all was said and done, the Knives Out sequel pulled in somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million — enough to break even, experts say, but far short of what it could have made in a wider release. It wasn’t just the profits the streamer lost out on but the chance to stand out in an Oscars race where most other fall contenders have failed to light up the box office. Did Netflix outsmart themselves?
The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Glass Onion, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, The Whale, The Woman King, Women Talking
S. S. Rajamouli, RRR
A few weeks back, the guy running RRR’s Oscars campaign tried to sell me on the notion that the Tollywood blockbuster could be this year’s Drive My Car — the international contender that the global film community rallies around. I was intrigued, and I’m even more intrigued now that S. S. Rajamouli has been named Best Director by the NYFCC, the same group that kick-started Drive My Car’s bid last season. The Telugu-language auteur can boast a lot of things this branch likes: technical accomplishment, a singular aesthetic, and a creative vision that comes through in every inch of his frame. Don’t underestimate that it’s simply very fun to pull for RRR, which has been playing to packed houses with some in-theater dancing during its Los Angeles awards screenings.
Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation
Apple’s late-breaking contender debuts this week, and surprise surprise, it turns out to be much more of a survival epic than the solemn period piece you might have expected from its promo campaign. Think of it as a less visceral version of The Revenant, though Antoine Fuqua is not the maestro Alejandro Iñárritu is — Fuqua’s direction alternating at times between pulpy and hokey. On paper, this slavery drama is squarely in the Academy’s wheelhouse — it even shares the oh-so-serious desaturated look of another competitor, Women Talking — but its Oscar fortunes will come down to how voters are feeling about Emancipation’s leading man.
Todd Field, Tár; Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin; Sarah Polley, Women Talking; S. S. Rajamouli, RRR; Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Will Smith, Emancipation
He’s banned from the ceremony for the next ten years, but will the owner of the most famous palm this side of Ruben Östlund be able to nab a nomination anyway? For a Best Actor vehicle, Emancipation is more of a physical feat than an emotive one and most impressive as a display of movie-star presence: Will Smith commands the screen for long stretches without the aid of dialogue. (Thanks to a leaden script, the parts when he does speak are among the film’s weakest.) If there’s a Best Actor race worth trying to sneak into, it’s this one, and Smith has been careful to cut a penitent figure on the campaign trail. Considering the history, though, Emancipation would probably have to be undeniable for Smith to have a shot. I’m skeptical.
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Given the intense hatred that many critics have for The Whale, the NYFCC going for Colin Farrell over Brendan Fraser for Best Actor was not exactly a surprise. But the group still managed to put its own spin on the prize, honoring Farrell jointly for Banshees and After Yang. We’ll have to wait for industry groups to weigh in before we can tell if the Irish actor is a bona fide challenger or merely a critical darling, but the likability of the role should ensure he’ll continue to linger in the wings as a more pleasant alternative.
Austin Butler, Elvis; Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin; Brendan Fraser, The Whale; Hugh Jackman, The Son; Bill Nighy, Living
Cate Blanchett, Tár
Thankfully, the New York critics were able to put aside their long and troubled history with the real Lydia Tár and award Cate Blanchett’s imperious turn in Todd Field’s biopic. Tár’s appeal may ultimately prove to be too parochial to mount a serious shot at Best Picture, but that could rebound to Blanchett’s benefit. With Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Fabelmans competing elsewhere on the ballot, the decks could clear for the disgraced conductor to add another statue to her impressive trophy case.
Danielle Deadwyler, Till
Three women from surefire Best Picture nominees are taking up most of the oxygen in this race, so it can be hard for a small, early season contender to stay in the conversation. Danielle Deadwyler wasn’t helped by last week’s Independent Spirit Awards nominations, which blanked Till entirely, and her big win at Monday’s Gotham Awards didn’t entirely erase the snub. Although she triumphed over both male and female rivals in the Best Lead Performance category, she wasn’t in attendance, so the postgame chatter centered around the night’s other big winners.
Cate Blanchett, Tár; Viola Davis, The Woman King; Danielle Deadwyler, Till; Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans; Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Supporting Actor
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Have we found our Supporting Actor front-runner? Ke Huy Quan triumphed in the gender-neutral Supporting Performance category at the Gothams, then followed it up with a win from the NYFCC. Last year’s Gothams ceremony was the first time veteran jobber Troy Kotsur was able to charm an industry crowd with an emotional acceptance speech, and Quan, the former child star who once walked away from acting due to a lack of good roles for Asian Americans, served up similar vibes in his own heartfelt speech.
Paul Dano, The Fabelmans
Was winning the People’s Choice Award at TIFF actually the worst thing that could’ve happened to The Fabelmans? Becoming the presumptive front-runner so early meant Steven Spielberg’s film was greeted with a crossed-arms “prove it” attitude when it finally screened for normies. But while Fabelmans performing wanly at the box office over Thanksgiving might have been expected, that it would then be completely shut out by the NYFCC was not. There’s still plenty of time for things to turn around — starting next week with the National Board of Review, which gave Spielberg’s The Post its top prize back in 2017. But at the moment, The Fabelmans may not be the all-conquering colossus it once appeared to be, which is bad news for Paul Dano’s chance at a coattail nom.
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin; Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans; Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin; Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Ben Whishaw, Women Talking
Best Supporting Actress
Keke Palmer, Nope
Can the meme queen sneak into the Oscars race? Keke Palmer’s effervescent performance was singled out as a highlight in almost every Nope review, and the NYFCC planted a flag by proclaiming her its Best Supporting Actress winner. (You can argue that she’s a co-lead, but I’d rather use my limited supply of category-fraud complaints on Michelle Williams.) I’m a little more bearish on Nope than other pundits — its central metaphor doesn’t push Hollywood liberals’ buttons the way Get Out did — but the awards race will be 1,000 percent more fun with Palmer in it. Campaign her, Universal!
Carey Mulligan, She Said
I’m perplexed by pundits dancing on the grave of She Said after its meager $2 million opening. (And about the agonized response to such dancing. The movie is … fine.) What’s less perplexing is the underperformance itself. A glossy, ripped-from-the-headlines drama set in the very recent past filled with familiar faces but few A-listers is exactly the type of project audiences have been trained to expect on streaming platforms. Fair or not, voters like to feel they’re rooting for a winner, and these dismal headlines won’t be easy for Mulligan to overcome.
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