Timing is everything.
If a studio releases a film too early in the year, it’s probably sunk come Oscar time.
If it’s released too late, it may not enjoy attention from critics organizations.
And, if it does well at the Golden Globes, it could be cruising to a victory on Oscar night.
Such is the case with this year’s contenders. When the nominations are announced next week, expect “1917” to do extremely well.
Although it only reached most theaters Friday, it had a two-week qualifying run in Los Angeles that helped it get on the ballot. Sunday’s Globes wins for Best Picture/Drama and Best Director helped its chances immensely and should make it a strong contender to go up against “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” (which also won Best Picture/Comedy, Musical) and “The Irishman,” a critics darling.
That seals three spots in the Best Picture race.
What else is possible? Look for “Marriage Story,” “Little Women,” “Parasite,” “Jojo Rabbit” and “Joker” to have shots. But also toss in “Rocketman.” It did well Sunday and proved Hollywood likes big-screen rock star bios (remember “Bohemian Rhapsody”?). Other potential: “Ford v. Ferrari,” “The Farewell” and “Knives Out.” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” could be in the hunt, but it’s likely to be happy with a Best Supporting Actor nod for Tom Hanks.
Because the stars of “1917” are largely unknown, they probably won’t get nominations. Look for strength in technical areas – Cinematography, Sound, Music, Set Design. And don’t forget a hat tip to director Sam Mendes.
“Parasite” also has the ability to show well on Oscar night. In addition to Foreign Language Film, it could get nods for Directing, Screenplay, Set Design and one or more for the supporting actors.
“Rocketman” will probably get a nod for Elton John’s original song with Bernie Taupin but may have difficulty getting a Best Actor slot for Taron Egerton.
Looming over everything is Netflix, that 800-pound gorilla that the Academy doesn’t quite know how to handle. The streaming service produces lots of quality content, but it doesn’t necessarily play by studio rules. Last year, “Roma” appeared destined to win Best Picture. It got Best Foreign Film and Best Director, but lost the biggie to “Green Book,” a studio film.
That inability to land Best Picture could hurt “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story” and “The Two Popes,” three Netflix films that might have had a better shot had they stayed off the streaming service for at least six months. Individuals from those films could win, but it’s unlikely there will be a sweep by any of them.
That hurts director Martin Scorsese, whose “Irishman” was one of his best to date. He could still win Best Director, but it’s unlikely he’ll get Picture, Director, Acting and Screenplay awards for his team.
Only Quentin Tarantino, who hasn’t gone to the Netflix dark side, could pull that off. And his film, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” was produced by a studio and did have a lengthy theatrical run.
Even better? Brad Pitt is considered a lock for Best Supporting Actor. His nomination checks all the boxes, even though he’s going to go up against the likes of Tom Hanks, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.
Renee Zellweger seems pretty solid, too, for playing Judy Garland in “Judy.” She won the Golden Globe (and lots of prizes leading up to Sunday’s trophy) and doesn’t appear to have a strong challenger. Both Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”) and Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) need to do more talk shows to give them a chance.
Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) and Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) are likely Actor and Supporting Actress winners, but it’ll depend on their ability to work the room during the next month.
Phoenix, like Sean Penn before him, is considered a brilliant actor but a less than user-friendly talk show guest. Dern is about as close to insider as an actor can get. Their fate rests on wooing Academy voters, particularly since they have Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) and Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”) breathing down their necks.
This year, there’s a shorter stretch between the Golden Globes and the Oscars, which could change everything.
Particularly if you have a Netflix subscription.