Back to IndieWire

Oscar Nominations Finally Favor Hit Movies, but Can They Win?

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" and "Top Gun: Maverick" made themselves known, but films like "The Banshees of Inisherin" look more like traditional Oscar winners.

Tom Cruise plays Capt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

“Top Gun: Maverick”

Paramount Pictures

The 95th Oscars on March 12 have a real shot at a ratings boost with brand-name contenders. There’s nominations leader “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (11 nods, A24, $100 million worldwide), sequels “Top Gun: Maverick” (six nods, Paramount, $1.5 billion) and “Avatar: The Way of Water” (four nods, Disney, $2 billion) and original global hit “Elvis” (eight, Warner Bros., $282 million), all vying for Best Picture.

Global box office may succeed in luring more eyeballs to the stateside ABC broadcast and more than 200 countries around the world, but a sequel is unlikely to win the top prize. A mainstream crowdpleaser that tugs at audience heartstrings is more likely to take home the win, like recent winners “CODA,” “Nomadland,” and “Green Book.”

Every year, the entire Academy membership (about 9,000 actually fill in ballots) votes to nominate Best Picture. This year the increasingly international body revealed itself yet again, nominating (for the eighth time) a non-English language film for both International Feature and Best Picture. Germany’s Oscar entry “All Quiet on the Western Front” (9 nods, Netflix) could also notch some craft wins on Oscar night; of those international Best Picture nominees, only “Parasite” has won the big prize. Expect Netflix to campaign.

Also scoring a Best Picture slot was Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s English-language Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness” (three nods, Neon, $10.3 million). Left out of Best Picture contention were PGA nominees “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (one nod, Netflix, $15 million), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (five nods, Marvel/Disney, $830 million), and Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” (three nods, A24, $13.2 million).

Alejandro González Inarritu’s “Bardo” (Netflix) sneaked into Best Cinematography (but not International Feature), Denmark’s “A House Made of Splinters” (POV) landed in Best Documentary Feature, and to the delight of “RRR” fans around the world, we may see the rousing “Naatu Naatu” performed on the Oscars.

Also in the offing: David Byrne could turn up to perform “This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” along with Lady Gaga (“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”) and Rihanna (“Lift Me Up,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”). As for the music branch voting a 14th nomination for crony Diane Warren (“Applause” from the little-seen “Tell It Like a Woman”), who shamelessly campaigns for herself every year — well, winning the Honorary Oscar was supposed to stop this nonsense.

BLONDE, Ana de Armas, as Marilyn Monroe, 2022. © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde”

©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

Speaking of shameless campaigning, a cadre of actresses mounted enough support for British actress Andrea Riseborough, star of micro-budget “To Leslie” (Momentum) to land a slot. This is a film that Academy voters will now need to watch; most have not. And Netflix, which is cheering its 16 nominations (including Animated Feature “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”) managed an Oscar bid for Ana de Armas, despite hideous reviews for “Blonde.” In the end, approval of the rising Cuban-born star’s performance trumped not liking Andrew Dominik’s badly reviewed movie.

The Best Actress race is still between two-time-Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett (Focus Features’ “TAR,” 6 nods) and first-timer Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere”) — the first Asian actress nominee in the category. However, the actors branch put two white actresses in slots that could have gone to newcomer Danielle Deadwyler (United Artists Releasing’s “Till”) or Oscar-winner Viola Davis (Sony’s “The Woman King”). Both films were shut out. Not a good look.

On the other hand, while overdue Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans,” seven nods) landed a fifth nomination, the acting branch did not go with usual suspect Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”). Oscar voters rewarded 16 first-timers, from veterans Colin Farrell (Globe-winner “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Searchlight, nine nods), Brendan Fraser (Critics Choice-winner “The Whale”), and Bill Nighy (“Living,” Sony Pictures Classics, two nods) to youngsters Austin Butler (Globe-winner for “Elvis”) and Paul Mescal (“Aftersun,” A24). Advantage: Farrell, because his movie is a best Picture nominee.

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

“The Banshees of Inisherin”

Jonathan Hession / courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The fifth Actor slot was wide open, as Hugh Jackman didn’t gain traction for the widely disliked “The Son,” and while the mainstream SAG Awards went for comedian Adam Sandler in “Hustle” (Netflix), that wasn’t going to repeat at the snobbier Oscars. Finally, tiny British indie “Aftersun” got enough attention from critics groups and BAFTA to lure the acting branch to sample Charlotte Wells’ debut. It doesn’t hurt that Mescal is hot as flapjacks and starring as Stanley Kowalski in a well-reviewed London production of “Streetcar Named Desire.”

On the supporting side, Globe and Critics Choice winner Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) leads the actress field, followed by Asian actresses Hong Chau (“The Whale”) and Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere”), Hsu’s veteran costar Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”). Among the actors, the expected Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan (“Banshees”), were joined by Judd Hirsch (“The Fabelmans”), frontrunner Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere”), and long-shot Brian Tyree Henry, who scored raves for his performance in small drama “Causeway” (AppleTV+).

In the end, Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” (two nods, United Artists Releasing) landed nominations for Adapted Screenplay, (where it is favored to win) and Picture, while “The Whale,” supported by actors and Makeup & Hairstyling, missed both. The Academy not only respects auteur Polley, who was nominated in Adapted for “Away from Her,” but also her producers Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”) and Oscar perennials Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who backed Best Picture winners “12 Years a Slave” and “Moonlight.”

After two back-to-back wins for Best Directors Chloe Zhao and Jane Campion, Polley was the woman filmmaker most likely to land a slot. But it was not to be; DGA nominee Joseph Kosinski (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and “Avatar: The Way of Water” helmer James Cameron didn’t make the cut, either.

Sarah Polley

Sarah Polley


Directing and editing nominations help determine Oscar momentum. Three films landed both: “Everything Everywhere,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” and “TAR,” which is expected to win Best Actress for Blanchett. The momentum going forward favors nominations leader “Everything Everywhere” and runner-up “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Even though it is a chaotic comedy featuring multiverses and hot-dog fingers, Critics Choice Best Picture and Director winner “Everything” is surging in popularity. Its passionate supporters could push it forward on the preferential ballot.

But the same is true of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” which is likely to get a fresh boost from the BAFTAs on February 19. This is Martin McDonagh’s second Best Picture nomination after “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017), his first directing nomination, and his third for writing (“In Bruges,” “Billboards”). He won an Oscar out of the gate with his 2004 short “Six Shooter.”

THE FABELMANS, from left: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Keeley Karsten, Julia Butters, Sophia Kopera, 2022. ph: Merie Weismiller Wallace / © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Keeley Karsten, Julia Butters, and Sophia Kopera in “The Fabelmans”

©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

So what became of Steven Spielberg origin myth/early awards-season frontrunner “The Fabelmans,” which took off at the Toronto International Film Festival by winning the often Oscar-predictive People’s Choice award? First position is often a dangerous place to be. The film lacks international support, landing just one BAFTA nomination for writer Tony Kushner, who earned his third writing Oscar nomination (after Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and “Munich”). “The Fabelmans” landed PGA, DGA, and SAG Ensemble nominations, plus acting Oscar nods for Williams and Judd Hirsch, but not Paul Dano.

Spielberg broke his own record as an individual producer by earning his 12th Best Picture nomination and tied with the late William Wyler as director of the most films nominated for Best Picture. This is his ninth nomination for director, tying him with Martin Scorsese for the most nominations for a living director. (Wyler had 12 nods.) But not getting an editing nomination is a blow; it’s rare for a movie to win Best Picture without it. Only 10 films have accomplished that feat, including “Birdman;” that was an anomaly because it was edited as one long, single take.

The likeliest scenario for Spielberg is to win Best Director. Either “Everything Everywhere” or “Banshees” could take the Best Picture crown. Both are original, surprising, and emotionally resonant. Daniels’ action comedy doesn’t quite look like a Best Picture contender; the heartrending and violent breakup between two old chums does. A24 pushed “Moonlight” to a Best Picture win in 2017, but never underestimate Disney-owned specialty distributor Searchlight, which boasts a mighty slate of Best Picture wins: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman,” “The Shape of Water,” and “Nomadland.”

Winners will be announced at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 12, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Jimmy Kimmel is set to return as the host for the third time, with the telecast streaming on ABC.com, Hulu Live TV, and YouTubeTV in addition to broadcast. Check out the full list of this morning’s nominations right here.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Awards and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox