That’s already 13 films fighting for what looks like the final three to four nominations, and two major would-be contenders haven’t even premiered yet: Ridley Scott’s long-anticipated “Napoleon,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, and the new musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” which opens on Christmas Day. In other words, prepare yourselves for a lot of blistering oppo takes over the next four months.
Best Director: Is it Finally Christopher Nolan’s Year?
Nolan has been nominated for five Oscars, but somehow, only one of those was for Best Director (for 2017’s “Dunkirk”). The stunning success of “Oppenheimer” may strike voters as the perfect opportunity to honor one of the most adored and successful filmmakers of the 21st century. In case you missed the news, “Oppenheimer” recently became the highest-grossing non-action/sci-fi drama ever, and for a three-hour, partially black-and-white history lesson mostly featuring long-dead scientists talking to one another, that’s an achievement the Academy may find too irresistible to ignore.
Who could reasonably compete against Nolan? Three names immediately come to mind. Greta Gerwig is Nolan’s Barbenheimer partner in crime, and if jaw-dropping financial success could propel Nolan to the win, Gerwig has to be considered a serious contender for the same reason. Martin Scorsese has still only won a single Oscar (against 14 nominations), and “Killers of the Flower Moon” could become one of the most acclaimed films in his career. And if “Poor Things” musters in audiences anything close to the gushing enthusiasm it elicited from critics, Yorgos Lanthimos could also become a serious contender.
There’s a great chance those will be four of the five nominees. If that happens, then who has the best odds of taking the last slot? Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”), Sofia Coppola (“Priscilla”), David Fincher (“The Killer”), Andrew Haigh (“All of Us Strangers”), Todd Haynes (“May December”), Cord Jefferson (“American Fiction”), Michael Mann (“Ferrari”), Alexander Payne (“The Holdovers”), Ridley Scott (“Napoleon”), and Celine Song (“Past Lives”) will all have a chance to stake their claim. But the Academy’s Directors Branch leans heavily international, esoteric, and arthouse, so more than likely, the final slot will go to an international auteur like Jonathan Glazer (“The Zone of Interest”), Justine Triet (“Anatomy of a Fall”), or the great Wim Wenders (“Perfect Days”), who has been nominated three times for Best Documentary Feature, but never for his narrative films.