Poor Things, American Fiction and More

“Poor Things” can win things. That’s a nugget of information we gleaned at the conclusion of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, the three major fall festivals.

For starters, Yorgos Lanthimos’ sci-fi dramedy collected the Golden Lion at Venice. Divided into palettes of monochrome and bold color, “Poor Things” is led by a cast of Oscar regulars, including winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”) and oft-nominated Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe. Steered by distributor Searchlight Pictures, responsible for four best picture victors since 2009, Lanthimos’ latest opus has already established itself as a formidable contender.

Another noticeable trend: Biopics and inspirational stories littered the festival lineups.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Ava DuVernay’s “Origin,” a biographical drama adapted from Isabel Wilkerson’s book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” boasts a moving performance from Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, following her Oscar-nominated turn in 2021’s “King Richard.” Debuting at Venice before moving to TIFF, “Origin” will command respect from industry voters. DuVernay was the first Black woman to helm a best picture nominee (2014’s “Selma”) and could be on track to become the first Black woman nominated for directing, a milestone whose time is way past due.

The Colorado-based Telluride peppered the movie landscape with good old-fashioned filmmaking likely to appeal to the establishment wing of the Academy. Focus Features’ “The Holdovers” from two-time Oscar winner Alexander Payne, 20th Century Studios’ “The Bikeriders” from Jeff Nichols and Neon’s “Ferrari” from Oscar-nominated Michael Mann, are stylish or emotionally undeniable choices for that contingent to consider.

Bradley Cooper is also storming the field after nine losses with his Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro,” in which he stars, along with producing, writing and directing. Add in two-time nominee Carey Mulligan, and streaming giant Netflix is hopeful the two stars will be the first pair of lead winners from the same movie since Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt for “As Good as It Gets” (1997).

Courtesy of TIFF

In fact, the acting races are overflowing with contenders, notably in the best actor category. In addition to the aforementioned, count in respected vets Jeffrey Wright from MGM’s penetrating satire and TIFF Audience Award winner “American Fiction,” (from debut director Cord Jefferson) and Colman Domingo from Netflix’s inspirational biopic “Rustin” (from Tony winner George C. Wolfe).

The Academy has evolved in the past decade, rewarding movies that it wouldn’t previously have navigated toward, including last year’s martial arts head trip “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” That bodes well for “Poor Things.” Marked by graphic nudity and a narrative web that gets untangled in spectacular fashion, Lanthimos’ sensual opera will be tricky for conservative members to endorse. However, its Venice win suggests voters may respond to something more outré than usual.

Of course, wooing nine jury members at a festival is vastly different from finding favor with 10,000 AMPAS members. Nonetheless, the Searchlight Pictures darling emerged from the fall fests as the leading pony against acknowledged front-runners “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.”

Speaking of Barbenheimer, autumn may be upon us, but the double-feature phenomenon of the summer will be the best thing to happen to the Oscars. The Academy should start painting the Dolby Theatre pink now, and installing a makeshift Los Alamos onstage. In several key races Greta Gerwig’s existential comedy will battle Christopher Nolan’s biopic about the man who created a technology that could bring about the end of civilization. It helps that unlike past Oscar telecasts, most people may have actually seen some of the top contenders.

But ABC shouldn’t be fantasizing about a ratings bump just yet. There are potential spoilers that could build momentum. The New York Film Festival is up next, bringing Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” (after its Venice bow) and the world premiere of “Foe,” a parable about climate change and technology starring Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal.

Once those red carpets get rolled up, we could have a fresh set of front-runners.

Read the latest prediction updates below.

Best Picture
“American Fiction” (MGM)
“Barbie” (Warner Bros.)
“The Holdovers” (Focus Features)
“Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)
“Maestro” (Netflix)
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures)
“Origin” (Neon)
“Past Lives” (A24)
“Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures)
“The Zone of Interest” (A24)

Greta Gerwig, “Barbie”
Cord Jefferson, “American Fiction”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “Poor Things”
Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”
Martin Scorsese, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Colman Domingo, “Rustin”
Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”
Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”
Jeffrey Wright, “American Fiction”

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, “Origin”
Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Sandra Hüller, “Anatomy of a Fall”
Carey Mulligan, “Maestro”
Emma Stone, “Poor Things”

Supporting Actor
Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”
Robert DeNiro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”
Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”
Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things”

Supporting Actress
Emily Blunt, “Oppenheimer”
Penélope Cruz, “Ferrari”
America Ferrera, “Barbie”
Sandra Hüller, “The Zone of Interest”
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

Original Screenplay
“The Holdovers”
“May December”
“Past Lives”

Adapted Screenplay
“American Fiction”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

Animated Feature
“The Boy and the Heron”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
“Trolls Band Together”

Production Design
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“The Zone of Interest”

Costume Design
“The Color Purple”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

Film Editing
“American Fiction”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Poor Things”

Makeup and Hairstyling
“The Color Purple”
“Poor Things”

“The Bikeriders”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
“The Zone of Interest”

Visual Effects
“Blue Beetle”
“The Creator”
“The Little Mermaid”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Original Score
“American Fiction”
“Poor Things”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Original Song
“I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie”
“What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie”
“Road to Freedom” from “Rustin”
“Am I Dreaming” from “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
“Better Place” from “Trolls Band Together”

Documentary Feature
“American Symphony”
“Little Richard: I Am Everything”
“The Pigeon Tunnel”
“They Shot the Piano Player”

International Feature
“Anatomy of a Fall” (France)
“Fallen Leaves” (Finland)
“Perfect Days” (Japan)
“The Teachers’ Lounge” (Germany)
“The Zone of Interest” (United Kingdom)

Top 5 Nomination Leaders Tracking (Film)

  1. “Oppenheimer” – 12
  2. “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” – 11
  3. “Poor Things” – 10
  4. “American Fiction” – 7
  5. “Maestro” – 6

Top 5 Nomination Leaders Tracking (Studios)

  1. Warner Bros. — 14
  2. Apple Original Films and Netflix — 13
  3. Universal Pictures — 12
  4. Searchlight Pictures — 10
  5. Neon — 9

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