Halfway To Oscars 2024 Qualifying: 40 Movies In The Mix

19 mins read

Here we go again. It’s only been three and a half months since the 95th Academy Awards, but with June coming to an end the race to make next year’s ceremony is making its first turn around the bend. Campaigning for fall film festival slots is in full effect (the crowd at the annual Telluride Film Festival reception in Los Angeles last week was packed full of consultants and studio publicists) and the end of year release calendar is beginning to take shape. Throw in reactions (and awards) from the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals and, well, the 2024 Best Picture race already has a slew of contenders fighting for pole position. It’s almost Oscars time! Are you excited yet?

(Wait, don’t answer that.)

READ MORE: Did the 2024 Oscars get a Cannes boost?

As we dive into the contenders looking to make a dent in the Best Picture race there are absolutely under the radar films or last minute releases we’ll miss (who doesn’t love a surprise?). And, no doubt, someone could argue an “Eileen” (Anne Hathaway for Supporting Actress, please), “Beau is Afraid,” “A Little Prayer,” or “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret,” among others, deserve a mention somewhere in these rankings. But, honestly, they’ve been seen. We know their strengths and weaknesses. And at this point, it’s just..unlikely (for Best Picture at least).

Moreover, we have clocked 40 films that have either been screened, are on the release schedule or have a good shot to make that Best Picture nomination cut. That’s a one out of four chance. Not bad, no? So, until the Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York Film Festivals weed the field down even further, let’s ponder the possibilities…

Please note: Films that are asterisked have not been screened at publication date. Each film is also listed alphabetically per grouping. They are not ranked beyond the groupings.

LIKELY

“Killers of the Flower Moon”
This is a better movie than “The Irishman,” a 2020 nominee, and Apple’s no. 1 awards priority. Plus, Marty. That should do it. Only a box office disaster could ruin its chances.

“Past Lives”
Slightly concerned for a variety of reasons, but still think it will have a passionate enough following in The Academy to make the cut.

“Zone of Interest”
Actually A24’s better shot at a nod, Jonathan Glazer‘s WWII set drama should have won the Palme d’Or and will be a must-see for any prestige film fan, guild or Oscar voter. Oh and save a Best Sound nomination slot too.

“Dune: Part II”*
Could it disappoint? Sure. Is it likely the second chapter of a previous nominee that gets its own nomination? You bet.

CLOSE

“The Color Purple”*
If the trailer didn’t move you, we’d suggest you double check that you have a pulse. Granted, it’s a lot of pressure for director Blitz Bazawule, but that cast! Fantasia’s voice! Danielle Brooks reprising her Tony Award winning role! Producer Oprah Winfrey on the campaign trail! A must-see at the Christmas holiday box office! Is it clicking for you yet?

“Maestro”*
Bradley Cooper directs, co-wrote and stars as Leonard Bernstein in his follow up to “A Star is Born.” Throw in Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre Bernstein and the pedigree speaks for itself. For now.

“Oppenheimer”*
It’s time for Christoper Nolan‘s third Best Picture nomination, no? “Inception,” “Dunkirk” and now…? We’ll know it’s chances soon enough.

IN THE MIX

“Anatomy of a Fall”
Justine Triet‘s Palme d’Or winner absolutely has a shot at Original Screenplay and, thanks to Sandra Hüller‘s impressive performance, Best Actress. Could this mostly courtroom drama crack the Best Picture ten? Gonna depend on how the rest of the field plays out, but it has a shot.

“Air”
The Amazon Studios release has a couple of things going for it. It was a nice hit at the box office before killing it on their Prime Video service ($89 million global), is an entertaining crowd pleaser, features a nomination worthy performance from Viola Davis, a great screenplay and three actors who are guild and industry favorites who know how to work a room: director Ben Affleck and stars Matt Damon and Jason Bateman. That might just be enough.

“Barbie”*
There has been potential Best Pic buzz on Greta Gerwig‘s lastest for months. The question is can the movie transcend its corporate origins enough for Academy members to vote for it? Or is it just a smart but entertaining summer blockbuster destined for below the line love?

“May December”
Many at Cannes were surprised Netflix went all in on Todd Haynes‘ latest, but, trust, they are all in. Natalie Portman may be the only “close to lock” for a Best Actress nomination (the field is insane) and Juliane Moore has a great shot at Supporting Actress (assuming she smartly decides to campaign in that category). The script from Samy Burch is incredible.

“Saltburn”*
We’ve been hearing hype about Emerald Fennell’s follow up to “Promising Young Woman” for months. Throw in a fresh Oscar nominee in Barry Keoghan, “Euphoria’s” Jacob Elordi, Oscar nominees Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant, and Amazon may have another special player on their hands.

CURIOUS

“Asteroid City”
Critical reaction to this Wes Anderson opus is almost exactly the same as “The French Dispatch” which was shockingly snubbed across the board (even in Production Design). “Asteroid” is gonna need substantial U.S. and global box office to get in the Oscar mix (it’s off to a great start).

“The Bikeriders”*
Is Jeff Nichols‘ latest even getting a 2023 release? If it is, Tom Hardy, Jodie Comer, Mike Faist, Michael Shannon and Austin Butler have our attention.

“The Book of Clarence”*
Jeymes Samuel follows up “The Harder They Fall” with a period piece (we think) starring James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, Alfre Woodard, and LaKeith Stanfield, among others. Samuel has proven he’s a talent. Can this Legendary and Sony Pictures release take his career to the next level?

“The Boys in the Boat”*
George Clooney directs this true story about an underdog rowing team that ended up representing the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Christmas day release date says MGM/UA thinks they have a crowd pleaser, an awards player or both.

“Dumb Money”*
We were slightly more confident about Craig Gillespie‘s look at the GameStop stock phenomenon after a killer extended preview at CinemaCon and when Sony Pictures first dated it on October 20. Then they moved it to September 22nd. That date definitely telegraphs a TIFF premeire(no problem there), but here’s a little tip. There are very, very, very few Best Picture nominees that open between Labor Day and the third weekend of September. Last weekend of the month? Maybe. Doesn’t mean “Dumb” won’t be a nice little hit, but…

“Freud’s Last Session“*
Anthony Hopkins as Sigmund Freud. Matthew Goode as C.S. Lewis. A meeting between the two stirs a lively debate on…God. Sounds like a filmed play (Mark St. Germain did, in fact, adapt his own play for the screen), but U.S. distributor Sony Pictures Classics has had success with this sort of film before (see Best Picture nominee “The Father” with surprise Best Actor winner Hopkins).

“Foe”*
Garth Davis‘ latest is set in the near future when climate change has ravaged the landscape, Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan play a couple who deal with the consequences of an offer they cannot refuse. This Sci-Fi drama should come out in time in theaters to qualify. Curious.

“The Holdovers“*
Alexander Payne and Paul Giamatti reunite for the sort of melancholy dramedy that put them both on the map. If it doesn’t have its world premiere at Telluride (Payne attends almost every year), we’ll be shocked.

“The Iron Claw”*
Wait, did you say A24 has another serious Best Picture and awards player in the wings? Keep an eye out for Sean Durkin‘s wrestling biopic starring Zac Efron, Lily James, Harris Dickinson, and Jeremy Allen White, among others.

“Nightbitch”*
Marielle Heller‘s follow up to “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” has a title that might be tough for even the more liberal 2023 Acadmey to stomach. And it features Amy Adams as a stay-at-home mom who thinks she might be turning into a…dog. The bigger question is will this Searchlight Pictures release finish in time for a proper festival send off or not.

“Nyad”*
“Free Solo”
Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi make their narrative feature directorial debut in this biopic about Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old marathon swimmer who swam from Cuba to Florida in 2013. Annette Benning potrays Nyad while Jodie Foster plays her longtime friend and trainer, Bonnie Stoll.

“Perfect Days”
Not only does NEON have “Anatomy of a Fall” on its campaign docket, but Wim Wenders‘ moving and nuanced Cannes comeback. Set in contemporary Japan and almost completely in Japanese, it features an incredible performance from Koji Yakusho who won Best Actor at the festival in May.

“The Pot au Feu”
Tran Anh Hung took Best Director at Cannes for this delectable period romance about a gourmet (Benoît Magimel) and his beloved cook (Juliette Binoche). Expect lots of reviews and stories to use every possible cooking adjective they can think of. It has a shot at not only an International Film nomination (assuming its France’s submission), but much more. That is if IFC Films, which whipped up U.S. distribution rights, can get members and guilds to taste it.

READ MORE: “The Pot-Au-Feu” Review: Tran Anh Hung returns with an awe-inspiring ode to pleasure in all Iits forms [Cannes]

“Poor Things”*
Listen, we love Yorgos Lanthimos (truly). We love Emma Stone. But this September 8 release date is a major red flag for any true awards contender.

“Priscilla”
Sofia Coppola
returns with a biopic centered on the life of Priscilla Presley and her relationship with Elvis. Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Erodi star. We have no doubt it will have Coppola’s signature aesthetic (the teaser trailer is evidence enough of that), but is it too soon after Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” to make a dent with Oscar?

“Rustin”*
Not only is Coleman Domingo in “The Color Purple,” but he headlines this Netflix biopic on Bayard Rustin, an adviser to Martin Luther King who organized the 1963 March on Washington and was public about his homosexuality in the Civil Rights movement.

“Strangers”*
Paul Mescal, Andrew Scott, Jamie Bell and Claire Foy star in Andrew Haigh‘s follow up to 2017’s “Lean on Pete.” Another Searchlight release that may or may not be done in time for a proper festival launch. Fingers crossed.

NEED CONVINCING

“A Thousand And One”
The Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner – Dramatic, has the reviews. The box office was fine. Now, Focuas has to try and get AMPAS and guild members to see it this fall.

Bob Marley: One Love“*
Kingsley Ben-Adir looked compelling as the legendary Marley in a preview shown at CinemaCon, but the movie itself, less so. Paramount Pictures is currently planning on a limited release in late December to qualify for Oscar.

“Challengers”*
We’ve heard just a Venice debut for Luca Guadagnino‘s love triangle starring Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor. Not even TIFF before its September 15th release date. And you already know how we feel about that September release window…

“The Creator”*
Gareth Edward‘s Sci-Fi epic sneaks right into that last weekend of September, first weekend of October slot that “Gravity” and “Blade Runner 2049” jumped on. Is it closer to the former or the latter?

“Fair Play”
Completly forgot Netflix picked this up after a fierce bidding war at Sundance. Will they still push hard for awards campaigns for Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich? Or will the service see it as a buzzworthy weekend binge? Ponder.

READ MORE: “Fair Play” Review: Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich-fronted erotic thriller is a series of missedopportunities [Sundance]

“Ferrari”*
Michael Mann
has an automobile empire biopic about Enzo Ferrari starring Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, Jack O’Connell and Penélope Cruz. It’s close to done or, by now, finished. Distributors saw it close to two months ago. It publicly does not have a distributor as of yet. Will it even arrive in theaters this year?

“The Killer”*
David Fincher returns with a thriller based the graphic novel of the same name by Alexis Nolent and Luc Jacamon. Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton top the cast and the film has a Nov. 10 release set on Netflix proper. Its produced by the Oscar-winning Plan B, a company that rarely puts its name behind straight commercial fare. Is it a big streaming release for Netflix or something more?

“Napoleon”*
Ridley Scott reunites with Joaquin Phoenix for a biopic about the infamous French conqueror. The battle footage previewed at CinemaCon was impressive. The actors speaking in their native accents was even more offputting than in Scott’s underrated 2021 thriller, “The Last Duel.” Sony Pictures is distributing in theaters for Apple.

“Next Goal Wins”
Taika Waititi’s
latest is reportedly a crowd-pleaser already scheduled for its world premiere at TIFF. It also appears to be the last “new” release that began shooting before the pandemic stoppage in March 2020 (uh huh). Searchlight and Disney believe in its box office (wide release just in time for Thanksgiving). Maybe that’s enough?

“Pain Hustlers”
Emily Blunt and Chris Evans star in this new Netflix thriller from director David Yates which screams TIFF premiere. Is it really an awards player or “The Good Nurse” deux?

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
Massive hit. Critical acclaim. Simply don’t see it being the first animated film to earn a Best Picture nomination since “Toy Story 3.” Anything is possible though.

Halfway To Oscars 2024 Qualifying: 40 Movies In The Mix

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