February 27, 2024

The Oscar race is coming into focus with the Golden Globes nominations.

Four clear candidates have emerged in the race for best picture – Apple Original “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Universal Pictures’ “Oppenheimer” from drama and “Barbie” and “Poor Things” from comedy. Those four movies also received the most nominations of the day.

Greta Gerwig’s meta-comedy “Barbie,” which tied “Cabaret” (1972) for the second-most noms in Globes history with nine, is showing it’s not only the highest-grossing movie of the year, it’s also viable to take home the Academy’s most coveted prize, despite being an unconventional candidate. It’s noteworthy that the three song noms for “Barbie” – “Dance the Night,” “I’m Just Ken” and “What Was I Made For?” – can’t repeat at the Oscars since there’s a cap of two songs nominated from a single movie. The Warner Bros. blockbuster also had a notable nominations miss, with America Ferrera snubbed in best supporting actress.

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

Its “arch-nemesis” “Oppenheimer” from Universal Pictures landed in every category it was expected to, including three for acting, Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt. Christopher Nolan’s historical biopic about the man who helped create the atomic bomb checks all the boxes of an Oscar winner. Still, at the Globes, it’s unclear how many statuettes it can take home outside of directing and best picture, given the competitive races.

Interestingly, “Barbenheimer” will face off in three Globe categories – supporting actor (Downey vs. Ryan Gosling), director and screenplay. Who will triumph in those spots? Regarding “Flower Moon” and “Poor Things,” which picked up seven noms apiece, the secret weapon exists in their two extraordinary lead actress performances.

“Poor Things” producer and star Emma Stone, coming off her recent win at the Los Angeles Film Critics, is extraordinary as a woman brought back to life by a scientist. Already an Oscar winner for “La La Land” (2016), she’s making a compelling case for a second statuette in a six-year time frame such as past two-time winners like Elizabeth Taylor (“BUtterfield 8” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”). She’ll battle for the Globe against the other two actress-producer nominees, Margot Robbie (“Barbie”) and Natalie Portman (“May December”). Also, three women landed double noms for acting and producing for the first time in history.

Stone’s main Oscar competition is undoubtedly “Flower Moon” star Lily Gladstone, coming off her wins at the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics. Facing some stiff competition in her drama race with Carey Mulligan (“Maestro”) and co-Los Angeles Film Critics winner Sandra Huller (“Anatomy of a Fall”), she looks to be on a clear pathway to becoming the first Indigenous lead actress nominee in history (she just did it today at the Globes). 

I’m curious to see what will come of the double supporting actor nominations for “Poor Things” by veteran stars Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo, who have yet to win Globes (for film) and Oscars. Competing in a tight race with Gosling, Downey Jr., Charles Melton (“May December”) and Robert DeNiro (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), it’s hard to decipher which five will make the Academy list, even with snubs like Sterling K. Brown (“American Fiction”) and Dominic Sessa (“The Holdovers”).

Neon

Speaking of Huller’s “Anatomy,” the Justine Triet courtroom drama is a bit firmer in the race after landing four massive Globes nods, including best picture (drama), screenplay and international feature. The Palme d’Or winner, which isn’t the official Oscar selection for France (its selection “The Taste of Things” was snubbed), is presenting its case to enter the best picture category.

It wasn’t all roses for Neon with the shutout of two other awards titles – “Ferrari” from Michael Mann and “Origin” from Ava DuVernay. With six nominees in every category, seeing names like Adam Driver and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor fail to make the cut is a significant blow to their campaigns. Critics Choice nominations later this week will be crucial.

An encouraging trend is the immense number of comedies that make it into the Oscar nominations. Typically, one or two comedies or musicals gain Oscar attention, though some years have none. However, the past two years have seen three comedy/musicals pop up in Oscars’ 10 best films selection – “Don’t Look Up,” “Licorice Pizza” and “West Side Story” in 2021, and “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Everything Everywhere” and “Triangle of Sadness” in 2022. This year, we could see anywhere from four to all six enter the Oscar race.

“Maestro”
©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

Netflix, leading the tally for all film studios, has two viable best picture nominees with “May December” (although it missed a screenplay nom) and Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro,” which netted the producer, director and star three noms overall. Cooper could start his overdue coronation for acting if he can best Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy and Colman Domingo. But the streamer came the animated feature race, where “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” “Leo” and “Nimona” failed to garner noms.

Best picture reigning champion A24 can flex with two movies making the drama cut, “Past Lives” from Celine Song and “The Zone of Interest” from Jonathan Glazer. The former added to the double mention of women in directing alongside Gerwig and gave hopes to lead actress Greta Lee trying to break into an overflowing race.

With Glazer hot off the heels of winning directing and picture at LAFCA, the screenplay and directing snubs are notable, if not completely conclusive. The United Kingdom selection, shot in Poland and spoken in German, is likely to appeal to international Academy members, similar to the makeup of Globe voters. With an added feather of nabbing a score nom, it feels safe to continue in the season.

A few movies and performers got injections of energy in their campaigns.

Amazon MGM’s “Air” getting a best picture comedy nom over the musical “The Color Purple” is enormous and will help it in its quest for original screenplay. Regarding Blitz Bazawule’s bold re-imagining of the beloved 1985 classic, Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks’ deserved nods will keep the film alive on the circuit. However, it must overcome significant hurdles with its miss in the Globes’ top comedy/musical race. The last comedy/musical movie to miss the Globe and still land at the Oscars’ best picture race was “A Serious Man” (2009), written and directed by Oscar darlings Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. 

As previously explained, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is not eligible for Oscar consideration, despite the nom in the inaugural cinematic and box office achievement category.

Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction” and Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” may have missed out on directing and screenplay noms, but the love for each is palpable on the circuit. I wouldn’t allow the low nomination tally to fool you. Past best picture winners like “CODA” (2021) and “Crash” (2005) only managed two Globe noms.

I was pleasantly surprised to find two animated features recognized outside their conventional categories – “The Boy and the Heron” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” which both picked up mentions for their respective composers Joe Hisaishi and Daniel Pemberton.

Aside from Neon’s shutouts for “Ferrari” and “Origin,” other movies that blanked include Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” (with Joaquin Phoenix nabbing a nom for another film “Beau is Afraid”), Sean Durkin’s “The Iron Claw” (perhaps screening too late for voters?) and Kelly Fremon Craig’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” (despite a Rachel McAdams win at LAFCA).

Variety parent company PMC owns Dick Clark Prods. in a joint venture with Eldridge.

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