Saturday, May 18, 2024

Chasing The Gold: Best Picture Outlook

Unlike in many other years, 2024 starts with a slate of films that were in Best Picture conversations last year. Films that had solid release dates and critical anticipation were removed from the schedule due to the ongoing strikes of both the Writer’s Guild of America and the Screen Actor’s Guild. That could be to those film’s benefit, though. Production shut down for roughly four months when writers and actors were on strike and many of the films that may have been contenders later this year have had to readjust and may not be ready in time. The late season buzz may have to wait until we can see who makes it to post-production before the year is out. That’s good news for early 2024 releases like Problemista, Challengers, and Dune: Part 2, all of which were considered as part of a possible 2023 slate of nominees. 

It’s tough to say what will survive in the hearts and minds of voters until they cast their ballots at the end of this year. It’s likely that the only one to survive will be the one that can spread itself into a host of other categories. The easiest pick there would be Dune: Part 2, a special effects juggernaut that will likely be competitive in every technical award imaginable. Though, Dune: Part 2 might suffer the same fate as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

With the Lord of the Rings trilogy, voters knew that there was going to be a sequel. They knew that the sequel would be made by the same people who made the previous films. They knew that with a capper on a tremendous work that made millions of dollars for their friends, they could award the third film with all the laurels as a sort of, “thanks for the money,” these count for all three movies, type of award. Thus, Dune: Part 2 may be hampered by the fact that there will be a Dune Messiah. It’s unlikely, though, that the Dune franchise has a real endpoint as there were six books in Frank Herbert’s original series, but with his son Brian’s and author Kevin J. Anderson’s additions, there are twenty-three Dune books so far. Eventually that cash cow will dry up, with or without a series capper.

A sequel, even a sequel in a series, or a reboot, reimagining, or spinoff, isn’t what it used to be when it comes to awards voting bodies anymore. In fact we shouldn’t be surprised if either or both Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and Joker: Folie à Deux join Dune: Part 2 on the ballot. Both are franchise films that have major pedigrees from their predecessors. They are also films that, love them or hate them, will do major box office and garner conversations about their craft. More on those as they release.

And what a release Civil War has had. As the dust settles and the think pieces become more biting, we’ll see if A24’s pivot toward higher budget filmmaking can be the indie darling studio’s major contender this year. Civil War, though, does have several historical strikes against it. The first is that awards bodies more often than not like their speculative films to have a dark comedy edge, see Don’t Look Up and The Triangle of Sadness. American awards bodies especially may nominate, but they don’t appreciate, an outsider attempting to expose the raw nerve of American Exceptionalism, see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. The last strike is that A24 will likely toss much more of their marketing muscle toward their tender prison drama, Sing Sing, which will likely play far better amongst voting bodies.

We’ll now look to Cannes to see what the international set has to offer as they have become far more of a presence in each successive award season since ten Best Picture nominees became the norm. Last year, Anatomy of a Fall went a very long way after its Cannes laurels. There may be something we can’t stop talking about just on the horizon.

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