DAVID: Hi Joey, it’s time for 100-odd random international journalists to tell us where the Oscar race is heading! As you and I both know, this group has eclectic tastes and court plenty of controversy, but — for their exposure and attunement to campaigns — manage to do a pretty good job of predicting the Academy Awards. So what’s the headline for you out of today? Is The Irishman going to sweep again? Is this where JLo’s campaign truly begins? Is Cate Blanchett our new Best Actress frontrunner for disappearing in Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
JOEY: I think you’re ignoring the biggest development of them all: We need to break out the festive neckwear in honor of Annette Bening’s surprise nomination for her performance as Dianne Feinstein in The Report. It doesn’t get better than icons playing icons with great taste in scarves.
All joking aside, the key takeaway from this morning’s nominations is that no one’s trajectory definitively ends here (Robert De Niro might’ve been snubbed, but he’s going to show up at SAG this week and all will be well). But the Globes certainly boosted visibility for several budding contenders at a key stage in the race. I was starting to get concerned that Lopez’ buzz existed only in our media bubble, but it’s nice to see she has legitimate traction in the race with a nomination here. Even though Marriage Story scored six nominations and Laura Dern is getting swept up in that domination, Lopez is shaping up to be our top contender, right?
DAVID: I think Lopez emerges as Dern’s chief challenger for Best Supporting Actress here, yes. These are the folks who gave Aaron Taylor-Johnson the equivalent actor prize a few years ago, after all — they like to shake things up with splashy choices.
JOEY: I’m still hesitant on Bening’s chances at the Oscars as well, given that they’ve long tended to ignore her, even at her finest (hello, 20th Century Women!). However, I have a feeling SAG — which typically throws a few outlier nominations into the mix as well due to an early voting schedule… remember Sarah Silverman for I Smile Back? — will give her another boost before she disappears.
DAVID: Anyone else you think gets a boost here? Cynthia Erivo going back-to-back with Critics’ Choice and the Golden Globes certainly keeps her in the thick of that Best Actress conversation. And are we really about to see Todd Phillips get a Best Director nomination? Surely the Academy won’t do Greta Gerwig that dirty.
JOEY: Erivo and Jonathan Pryce absolutely benefit most in the acting races. Harriet performed decently at the box office, and was a total crowd-pleaser. I anticipate SAG to elevate her even further. They saw Harriet early and, with one of the largest nominating committees on the circuit, their taste often best represents the general consensus among the actors branch (the Academy’s largest). It’s a performance that really speaks to actors, as does Pryce’s. The Two Popes of it all might seem surprising to many, but at its core this is a movie the industry tends to love: two iconic, older (white) actors acting the hell out of each other in religious drag via a punchy, super smart script. It’s awards season gold.
DAVID: Right there with you on Bening and SAG, but I’m a little more bullish on The Two Popes. It’s an extremely likable movie, absolutely, but feels a bit light, and is hardly at the top of Netflix’s priority list. (I mean, four of the HFPA’s 10 Best Picture nominees are Netflix!) I think it missing the Critics’ Choice Top 10 is a real warning sign; the Globes really embracing this movie doesn’t sell me on its Best Picture chances, but we’ll have to see.
DAVID: I think we’d agree that the strongest Oscar Best Picture players — The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, Parasite, and 1917 — all performed as expected here. (Very well.) Though with Noah Baumbach missing both Indie Spirits and now the Globes for directing, I have a feeling his contributions there may be overlooked in such a competitive category come Oscar-time. Even voters who deeply love the movie seem content with leaving him off that part of things.
JOEY: Marriage Story is a movie with themes you feel. It’s an emotional experience that washes over you, and less a visual journey. I think general, non-industry voters like those in the HFPA and Film Independent (anyone who pays their membership fee can vote on nominees) respond to director contenders they can more easily see because it’s easier to pinpoint the exact elements a director had to wrangle, whereas the Academy’s directors branch is better versed in the art of filmmaking. On the surface, when you look at the competition — Scorsese, Bong, Tarantino, Mendes — each of them built something that’s visibly weighty. Baumbach’s hand is less visible than theirs, and it’s unfortunate that the subtleties of his direction weren’t recognized by the HFPA. But in a crowded field, they’re going to go for spectacle and industry impact (Joker made $1 billion and was a pop cultural phenomenon all on its own, with Todd Phillips right out there at the head of the promotional campaign) nearly every time.
DAVID: Baumbach’s “replacement” here, if you will, is Todd Phillips. And much is being made of no female director getting nominated once again. This happened to Greta Gerwig two years ago, for Lady Bird, and outrage there helped fuel her to an Oscar nom. Could that happen again? The Globes didn’t love Little Women, but Critics’ Choice did, and, boy, is this shaping up to be a dude-heavy season.
JOEY: Gerwig’s exclusion is a little more perplexing. Little Women was clearly an ambitious undertaking, and Gerwig’s personal stamp is all over that movie in both grand and subtle ways. I’m not sure there’s going to be as much outrage this year as there was back in 2017, but we’ll see. Still, so many films by women were ignored by the HFPA this year. I’m most disappointed about Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood‘s virtual shut-out (save for Tom Hanks), one of the boldest directorial visions of the year.
But, to answer your original question, yes: The main contenders in the race have not shifted. Though I am concerned about Jojo Rabbit, which only scored two nominations for Roman Griffin Davis and Best Picture — Musical/Comedy. Should Taika Waititi and company be concerned?
DAVID: I have been wondering about Jojo Rabbit. I like the film, but a lot of critics don’t — enough, in fact, where you have to wonder how much of that sentiment is shared by Academy members. It’s done well on the precursor circuit, and it’s really winning in the end in a way where I’ve seen some go so far as to think it has winning potential. But like Joker, it’s quite polarizing. And in a year where a lot of movies bubbling under the surface are more widely liked, I could see it not being the Oscar juggernaut many expect it to be. It’s less of a lock, that’s for sure.
DAVID: Between Critics Choice and Golden Globes, it feels like most of the acting contenders have been set. Any that haven’t gotten listed by a major group that you think still stand a chance? And conversely: There’s always that one (or two!) that gets in almost everywhere — big Jennifer Aniston Cake energy! — only to lose out come Academy time. Who is racking up noms right now that you think still doesn’t have what it takes? Eddie Murphy’s running high on Dolemite love right now, but I wonder if that can last.
JOEY: As evidenced by Bohemian Rhapsody‘s four wins last year (including one for Rami Malek, who took a lot of heat on Film Twitter over the Bryan Singer controversy), I feel like the Academy just doesn’t care when a movie ruffles feathers, and the “controversies” for Jojo Rabbit and Joker seem to have brewed specifically inside the liberal media bubble. Jojo won the TIFF People’s Choice Award, after all, which is voted on by a huge segment of public festival attendees, and Joker made $1 billion at the box office, so people clearly weren’t staying away. And the Academy will be no different. Both films’ merits (and popularity) exist far outside what we see reflected on social media. Voters like what they like, and they’ll support movies that entertain and impress them on a technical level regardless of outside factors.
And yes, all acting contenders (the leaders, anyway) have surely been set. But, okay, way to come at me with that Cake reference. That movie destroyed me and I was gutted when she pulled off the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG trifecta without following up with an Oscar nod. We know Renée Zellweger, Adam Driver, and Brad Pitt are safe. The one I keep coming back to — despite how amazing she is — is Lopez. The industry awards support for the film outside of her domination on the precursor circuit is almost nonexistent, and that worries me. I can see a scenario where someone like Zhao Shuzhen or Bates (and her instantly iconic microphones from Richard Jewell) steals her slot.
DAVID: I think both Jojo and Joker present their own challenges. Jojo‘s satire might sit uneasily with some Academy members; Joker‘s general… unpleasantness hardly makes it a typical contender. But, agree that controversy will not bring them down. Already, the evidence for this is there. (Remember when the HFPA nominated The Tourist? They love drama more than any awards pundit!)
Lopez is starting to rack up critics awards but you’re correct — she’s a bit of an outlier in a field where the movies behind the performances are also getting more support. Last year, Timothée Chalamet swept the major precursors, but his movie, Beautiful Boy, was utterly ignored otherwise, and he ultimately didn’t make the cut. That could happen here. But I’m pretty confident in JLo’s chances for a nomination at minimum, given how loopy the category feels this year.
I’m a little bit worried about Tom Hanks. We all thought he’d get in for Saving Mr. Banks. Then Captain Phillips. He’s coming on 20 years of going without an Oscar nom, though (his last was 2001’s Cast Away). We take him for granted! You mentioned A Beautiful Day falling off the radar, and while this Globe nom is important for him, I do think he’s vulnerable. On the other side, two of my very favorite performances of the year — Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory and Lupita Nyong’o for Us — are really coming in under the wire. The former is a critics’ fave and now Globe nominee; the latter a critics’ fave and Globe snub. In both cases, at least, they live to fight another day.
JOEY: Even talking about Hanks falling off feels like driving a nail further into his awards season coffin and I don’t want to sabotage him! I’m just so used to being disappointed by the Academy’s handling of his work over the last two decades. The difference is: I think, at least for casual voters/audiences, Hanks’ performance sort of defines A Beautiful Day for them in a way that’s unique to how Saving Mr. Banks played through the season. He sort of is that movie for a lot of people, so his profile feels a bit larger this year. There’s hope!
DAVID: Looks like we’re pretty agreed on our acting frontrunners. Based on this Globes slate, and the week of awards that ran up to it, who’s our Best Picture frontrunner right now? With the De Niro snub, The Irishman may not be our top Globes player — OUATIH and 1917 feel more their stylish vibe, anyway — but I still think Scorsese’s crime epic is the one to beat.
JOEY: As for Best Picture, I think the support for The Irishman is too far-reaching (from non-industry groups like the HFPA and Critics Choice to topping the National Board of Review’s list) to speculate that anything else is out front at this point, even with the De Niro snub. Scorsese is (unfortunately) nearing the end of his career, and while awards bodies don’t tend to think like one giant hive mind, a lot of them sense that this might be one of the last opportunities to recognize one of the greatest filmmakers in cinema history. And the work that went into bringing The Irishman to life is too big of a technical feat for them to ignore. The critics/industry journalists groups thus far (including NYFCC) have all gone wild for The Irishman, so it’s logical to assume the HFPA will vote that way, too.
DAVID: I love The Irishman, but these are the Globes! Who cares about taste; I can’t help hoping things get a little messier. For the record, I agree with you — The Irishman is, by a wide margin, the one to beat. But the thought of Todd Phillips beating Martin Scorsese? Honey, grab the popcorn.