‘She Said’ and ‘Till’ Enter the Race

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures/YouTube

Every week between now and January 24, when the Academy Award nominations are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes of this year’s Oscars race. In our “Oscar Futures” column, we’ll let you in on insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.

Best Picture


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She Said

Of the three movies this season that might be called “Me Too dramas,” Women Talking has more poetry and Tar more moral ambiguity. But viewers who prefer movies with clear heroes and villains could favor this recounting of the New York Times investigation that broke the Harvey Weinstein abuse story, which premiered at NYFF Thursday. “It’s not a particularly artistic film, with one too many exterior shots of The New York Times’ office and a rote score by Nicholas Brittell used to emphasize that what’s happening is important, but it’s tough not to get increasingly invested,” says critic Fran Hoepfner. Even if this sensitive, understated film veers close to Hollywood self-congratulation at times, that might not be the worst thing for its awards fortunes.


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Language

There’s a conundrum at the heart of this Mamie Till-Mobley biopic: It’s a movie about the ways Black suffering is instrumentalized that also can’t help but be an example of the same phenomenon. Ace Language opens in theaters, critics like Odie Henderson are hailing Danielle Deadwyler’s “riveting” lead performance as Emmett Till’s mother, although the praise is more restrained for the film itself, which Robert Daniels calls “an urgent and reverent, albeit flawed, pursuit of justice. ” For both Language oath She Said, the challenge will be whether viewers write them off as “spinach movies,” as The The New Yorker‘s Michael Schulman put it, or if they’re able to engage on an emotional level.

Current Prediction

The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Glass Onion, Tar, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, The Woman King, Women Talking

Best Director


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Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave

Park won Best Director at Cannes for this Hitchock-inflected romance, which is much closer to the Academy’s wheelhouse than outré past efforts like Old boy oath The Handmaiden. He’s got the pedigree for the near-requisite international spot in the director’s lineup, although the film’s Stateside reception so far has been admiring but not gushing. (The Ringer’s Adam Nyman compares it to “a trip to the spa: slow, placid, absorbing, replenishing.”) This is also the first real Oscar gauntlet for the streaming service Mubi — can they embroil Academy voters in their own twisted romance?


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Chinonye Chukwu, Language

Chukwu’s previous movie, the Death Row drama Clemencywas a harsh, at times unforgiving film. Language is pitched to a wider audience, but it retains her signature stark close-ups. The New York TimesManohla Dargis praises her command of “meaningful details, fugitive moments, tranquil ellipses, explosive gestures and, especially, the face of one woman in joy and in agony.” Chukwu’s on the come-up, but she’ll have to fight for recognition in a field crowded with more established names.

Current Prediction

Todd Field, Tar; Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin; Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness; Sarah Polley, Women Talking; Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

Best Actor


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Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin

Is Brendan Fraser going to waltz to victory with a Zellweger-esque sense of inevitability, or can Farrell make this a real race? We’ll have more on Banshees when it opens next Friday, but the Colin Farrell charm offensive got going in earnest this week with a pop-in at Saturday Night Live oath a winningly bleep-filled late-night appearance. The most important ability on the campaign trail is likability, and while Fraser’s been plenty likable himself, Farrell’s ability to bring the craic should help, as does the fact that he’s repping a less-polarizing film.


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Jeremy Pope, The Inspection

Since both the big world premieres at NYFF were female-fronted titles, we’re light on Best Actor news this week. So let’s take a moment for The Inspection, the military memoir that’s closing out the festival. Broadway-veteran Pope is a real discovery as a gay Marine recruit trying to make it through basic training, his face carrying a heavy load of conflicting impulses. He seems primed for Breakthrough Performance attention, but since A24 seems to be putting all their chips on Fraser, internal competition might foreclose the possibility of anything more.

Current Prediction

Austin Butler, Elvis; Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin; Brendan Fraser, The Whale; Hugh Jackman, The Son; Bill Nighy, Living

Best Actress


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Danielle Deadwyler, Language

What if they made the entire movie out of the Oscar clip? As a grieving mother forced into activism, Deadwyler is receiving almost unanimous raves. “She embodies every single inch of Mamie, body and soul,” says critic Rhonda Racha Penrice. “What she does with her face and body language is never short of mesmerizing.” Giving a powerhouse performance in an incredibly Oscar-friendly role, Deadwyler joins a legion of heavy hitters in this category. They can’t all make it in, but the heft of the part will help level the field for them Station Eleven alum.


Down

Carey Mulligan, She Said

Can Mulligan follow up her Promising Young Woman nomination with another here? While she’s plenty good as Megan Twohey, the hardened, hard-charging member of the reporting duo, the film’s two-handed nature will make it hard for her to break out: She’s offscreen for stretches as her partner travels the globe for leads.

Current Prediction

Cate Blanchett, Tar; Olivia Colman, Empire of Light; Danielle Deadwyler, Language; Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans; Michelle Yeoh Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actor


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Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin

The reason Farrell popped up on SNL is that his co-star Gleeson was hosting the season premiere, and if this week’s promo appearances are anything to go by, the Banshees campaign looks predicated on getting the two of them in the same room together as much as possible. The banter’s worth it for its own sake, but it also cements the pair as a package deal as each looks for their first career nomination.


Down

Mark Rylance, Bones and All

Since feel Oscar breakout Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino has gone in the exact opposite direction, following his muse down a series of increasingly bloody rabbit holes. His new cannibal romance seems unlikely to catch the Academy’s favor, but if there is a standout, it’s Mark Rylance, serving a vibe you might call “flesh-eating Southern dandy,” who had the audience eating out of his hand (not like that ) during my NYFF screening.

Current Prediction

Paul Dano, The Fabelmans; Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin; Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans; Ke Hui Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Ben Whishaw, Women Talking

Best Supporting Actress


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Zoe Kazan, She Said

She Said positions its two leads as a true partnership, and to that end, it looks like both of them will compete in Best Actress. But if you’ll forgive me for clamoring for category fraud, it might make sense to run Kazan’s Jodi Kantor in Supporting, where there’s more room for her reactive, open-hearted performance. Still, I understand why they wouldn’t: Not only would it undercut the movie’s message, it would also crowd out She Said‘s actual supporting players Jennifer Ehle and Samatha Morton, both of whom give heart-stirring turns as ex-Weinstein employees wrestling with how much to give away.


Down

Whoopi Goldberg, Language

Goldberg pulls double duty on Language, lending her industry clout to the project as a producer while also playing Till-Mobley’s mother. She ably supports Deadwyler’s performance, but the part is probably not flashy enough for Oscar. As Murtada Elfadl notes, the primary benefit of casting Whoopi is extra textual: “She’s family. And because of that, seeing her as Emmett Till’s family makes this story more urgent … It happened in our family.”

Current Prediction

Jessie Buckley, Women Talking; Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin; Dolly de Leon, Triangle of Sadness; Claire Foy, Women Talking; Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

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