Oscar Preview: Weekend of Dec. 25-27, 2020

We had four films release this past weekend with the potential for Oscar nominations.

News of the World

Having only directed ten feature films including his 1989 big screen debut, Paul Greengrass hasn’t had much interaction with the Oscars. To date, only three of his films have scored Oscar nominations. His first was United 93 in 2006, which pulled pulled out two nominations, one for Film Editing and a surprise nomination for Directing. It was his fifth feature film. On his sixth, he secured nominations for Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. The Bourne Ultimatum won all three of those nominations. His seventh film was in the Oscar conversation, but Green Zone materialized nothing with the Oscars. The next film, Captain Phillips, doubled the prior set of Oscar nominations, picking up six, including Best Picture and Directing along with the same three categories Ultimatum was nominated in. It went home empty-handed.

After returning for a third Jason Bourne film, he tried again at the Oscars with 22 July, which was also ignored. His eleventh feature film takes him to the American Old West, his farthest shift into the past, and his first genuine western film. With Tom Hanks in the lead, it was sure to be an Oscar contender. So far, the precursors haven’t favored the film at all and the early reviews suggest why. It’s not doing very well at all. Never count his films out in the craft categories, but this one might just be another failure with the Oscars for Greengrass.

Promising Young Woman

Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is a fierce exploration of toxic masculinity with Carey Mulligan as a former medical student who abandoned her goals after her best friend was raped at a school function. Having spent the intervening years exposing different types of men for their overt or underlying sexism, she has begun seeking retribution against the men and women who helped defend her friend’s abusers while navigating a romantic relationship with a guy who seems to be so much better than the scum she’s encountered elsewhere.

The film is receiving significant praise in its long road to cinemas. The film had originally scheduled to release earlier in the year, but was postponed due to the pandemic and possibly to position it for the Oscars, which appears to have been a shrewd move. One of the clear best of the year, the film should be in the conversation for several awards, but the only nomination it is certain to take is for Mulligan in Best Actress. Considering her competition in that category, namely against several previous winners and lesser known names, it’s quite possible that this is the film to finally land her a long-deserved Academy Award. The film should definitely compete in numerous other categories including Best Picture, Directing, Original Screenplay, and Film Editing, though the chances there are uncertain at this time.

Wonder Woman 1984

When director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was released in 2017, it arrived with a great critical reception and a stellar box office tally that helped cement it as one of the most successful female-directed feature films in box office history. Those heaps of praise suggested the film might just enter the conversation for Best Picture in spite of the historical reticence of the Academy to embrace such a film. Marvel’s Black Panther became the first film to do so while Wonder Woman was completely ignored, settling instead for several precursor nominations from prominent groups with its most prominent nomination at the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Stunt Ensemble, a category it won.

The film’s hotly anticipated sequel not only had to overcome comparisons to the original, but to overcome the Academy’s even stronger reticence to recognize sequels. That left the film to compete in the craft categories. While that calculation might just change its chances in Sound and Visual Effects categories, the utter lack of competition from blockbusters this year could enable it to sneak in where its predecessor had failed.

One Night in Miami

Based on a stage play by Kemp Powers, Powers adapts his fictionalized story about Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke coming together to discuss their individual roles in the Civil Rights movement in the United States. The film co-stars Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm, Eli Goree as Ali, Aldis Hodge as Brown, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Cooke. It also represents Oscar winning actress Regina King’s big screen directorial debut.

King is far better known for her work on the small screen where she’s earned countless awards for her work and has even directed 13 programs on television before her shift to the big screen. With such a positive presence in Hollywood, King could very well translate that into Oscar consideration for One Night in Miami. Even without her, the film stands a strong chance of earning Oscar nominations with Ben-Adir in lead and Odom Jr. in support being the most probable. Goree is being campaigned in lead while Hodge is going up against Odom Jr. in Supporting Actor. The film could also pick up nominations for Picture, Directing, and Adapted Screenplay, possibly even some of the craft categories like Production Design, Costume Design, and Makeup & Hairstyling. Oscar nominee Terence Blanchard’s score should also be in competition as well as the original song “Speak Now.” How many the film ultimately comes away with will depend on the competition, which has been heating up, but Odom Jr. seems the most assured if no one else.

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