One Big Thing Is Missing From Awards Season So Far

It’s 2024. The awards season that got rolling back in August and September is in its final two months. By this point, we should know quite a bit.

We know, for instance, that Golden Globe voters loved “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things.” That New York Film Critics Circle flipped for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” That their Los Angeles counterparts went for “The Zone of Interest.” That the National Society of Film Critics swooned for “Past Lives.”

We’ve heard from the National Board of Review (more “Killers”), the Gotham Awards (more “Past Lives”), from groups giving acting awards to Sandra Hüller, Andrew Scott, Emma Stone, Lily Gladstone, Charles Melton, Cillian Murphy and, again and again, to Da’Vine Joy Randolph.

We know what critics think, what journalists think, what academics think.

But one huge piece of information is missing, because we don’t know what the industry thinks. Aside from the hints dropped by shortlists in 10 specific categories back in December, we don’t know what the Academy thinks.

We’re at the same point we were in 2022, when “The Power of the Dog” was winning everything and nobody was taking the little Sundance movie called “CODA” seriously as a Best Picture contender. Or the point we were in 2011, when “The Social Network” was sweeping the critics awards, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards before the tide turned in favor of “The King’s Speech” at the Producers Guild Awards on Jan. 22.

So, yes, the five “Oppenheimer” awards at the Golden Globes are a lot. But no, they won’t lock in its status as an Oscar Best Picture frontrunner unless we get some confirmation from voters who make movies for a living.

Everything we’ve learned so far might be accurate, because the critics and the industry do often agree on quality. But it might also be misleading, causing us to overestimate the Oscar chances of some movies and underestimate others.

Remember: In the seven years since 2016, when the Academy began to transform its membership to become more diverse and more international, the Golden Globe Award for dramatic motion picture has accurately predicted the Oscar Best Picture winner only twice. The Globe for comedy has predicted it once. The National Board of Review has agreed with the Academy once. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Society of Film Critics and the Critics Choice Awards have done it three times, a success rate of slightly over 40%. And the New York Film Critics Circle hasn’t agreed once in that stretch.

We’ll get the first real hints of how the industry thinks on Wednesday when the Screen Actors Guild becomes the first of the major Hollywood guilds to announces its nominations – but it’s worth noting that SAG Awards nominations are made by a randomly selected group of slightly more than 2,000 members, who have in the past given the coveted ensemble nomination to films like “Babylon” and “House of Gucci,” which did not do especially well with other groups.  

PSIFF 2024 featured image

Wednesday will also bring the Directors Guild Awards nominations, another major clue (almost everybody in the Academy’s directors branch is also in the DGA), and Friday will bring the Producers Guild Awards nominations, another valuable precursor. By the time the week comes to an end, we’ll also have heard from the members of the Costume Designers Guild, the Motion Picture Sound Editors, the Cinema Audio Society, the Art Directors Guild, the American Society of Cinematographers and the International Animated Film Association, ASIFA-Hollywood.

At that point, it will be accurate to say that we know quite a bit. And then over the weekend, we’ll get the Critics Choice Awards, an occasionally reliable Oscar barometer that is nonetheless the result of ballots cast by journalists rather than industry folks.

So keeping in mind that we might not know as much as we think we know, how does the Best Picture race look as we head toward the start of Oscar nomination voting on Jan. 11?

It has “Oppenheimer” as a sensible frontrunner, albeit with the huge caveat that the big movies that often seem to be sensible frontrunners haven’t usually won in recent years — and the counter-caveat that there’s not a clear choice for the position of sneaky little movie that will beat the favorite.

At any rate, it would be astonishing if “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Barbie,” “Maestro,” “Poor Things” and “The Holdovers” didn’t make the Academy’s Top 10. “American Fiction” seems increasingly secure, and “Past Lives” is beloved by almost everyone who sees it, with its NSFC win perhaps prompting a few more Oscar voters to see it.

That leaves two slots that in the past might have gone to the likes of “May December,” “The Color Purple,” “Ferrari” or “Napoleon” — but with the Academy growing increasingly international over the past eight years, non-English films have found their way into the Best Picture lineup for the last five years in a row. And this year, a pair of Cannes Film Festival entries, Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall” and Jonathan Glazer’s Grand Prix recipient “The Zone of Interest,” seem poised to make the cut with Oscar voters.

Or do they? It’s time to speak up and give us some real evidence, industry voters.

Matthew McFadyen, Sarah Snook in Succession "With Open Eyes"

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