Monday, March 4, 2024

Chasing the Gold: What Oscar Contenders Have Been Released So Far This Year?

As the month of May begins, let’s take stock of what films released so far this year have the best chance of receiving at least one Oscar nomination at the 2024 ceremony. This time last year the eventual Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once had been released, and the Oscar nominees The Batman and Turning Red had come out, too. What’s been in theaters or on streaming in the last few months that have a chance at the Academy Awards? Here are five titles that have potential…

1. Air 

Air is the most likely Oscar contender that’s been released in the first four months of 2023. Ben Affleck’s newest drama tells the true story of how a shoe salesman led Nike in its pursuit of Michael Jordan. Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis lead a stellar cast, and the reviews with critics and audiences have been strong since the film’s debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival. Alissa Wilkinson in Vox, for example, called the film “pitch-perfect” and “deeply entertaining.” One major detriment to the movie is that it’s had a quiet release since opening wide in theaters in early April, and I’m not sure if enough voters will remember the movie by the time we get to the awards season. But if the film stays in the awards consideration long enough, we could be looking at nods in Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis, and/or Best Costume Design. 

2. John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick: Chapter 4 received the strongest box office and best reviews of the Keanu Reeves franchise upon its opening at the end of March, and if there’s enough room for a surprise fifth nomination in Best Sound, John Wick: Chapter 4 could make it into that category. A Best Editing nod a la The Bourne Ultimatum (which won, by the way, in 2008) would be a great show of strength for the movie, too. What hurts the film’s chances is that none of the first three films has been nominated at the Oscars, and the extreme violence might turn voters. However, if there was ever a chance for a John Wick movie to get in, this would be the one.  

3. The Super Mario Bros. Movie

It might not have gotten the greatest reviews, but its behemoth box office and acclaim from audiences might signify a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination next year, especially if there’s not a lot of competition in the category. The biggest knock against the film’s chances aren’t the reviews necessarily but the lack of respect from the Academy for video game adaptations, both animated and live-action. But when looking back on the last decade of Animated Feature nominees, a few films that got in weren’t loved by critics, particularly The Boss Baby from 2017. The Super Mario Bros. Movie might be able to ride its popularity with audiences all the way to an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, especially if some of the late-breaking animated films of 2023 underperform. 

4. Beau is Afraid

Beau is Afraid has been a divisive film with both critics and audiences, but Ari Aster’s new three-hour epic might have enough praise to keep the film in the awards conversation. For example, Megan Navarro in Bloody Disgusting says, “Those willing to ride the wave of genre and mind-bending insanity will find themselves rewarded by a profoundly imaginative Kafkaesque odyssey as dementedly funny as it is often horrifying.” Phoenix’s best chance at a Best Actor Oscar nomination next year will be for Ridley Scott’s upcoming historical drama Napoleon, not Beau is Afraid, but Patti LuPone has been getting some of the best film reviews of her career for her supporting performance as Beau’s mother, Mona. The film’s awards chances have been hurt by some poor reviews, low box office, and Ari Aster’s previous two films Hereditary and Midsommar both coming up short on Oscar nominations morning. However, Beau is Afraid could receive a surprise acting or screenplay nod if enough people continue talking about it throughout the year. 

5. Little Richard: I Am Everything

It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, just dropped in theaters and on VOD, and it’s easily one of the best reviewed documentaries so far this year. It’s an engaging celebration of the rock pioneer Little Richard that currently has 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and countless rave reviews from critics, like David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter, who said, “Even if you’re not a fan of Little Richard going into this film, chances are you will be by the time it’s over.” Outside of there being a glut of impressive documentaries near the end of 2023, look for Little Richard: I Am Everything to make it into the Oscar final five for Best Documentary Feature in early 2024. 

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