The Oscars race is officially on, and potential nominations are in store for a host of Hollywood royalty — as well as some bright-eyed newcomers — as the fall festivals wrap up.
With contenders buying up prime real estate in the awards conversation, EW will survey the Oscars race as it progresses, analyzing who has the momentum to go all the way to the Academy Awards. Read on to find out which films and performances have the gusto to earn gold Oscars race in our Awardist heat index, before winners are announced on March 10.
Warner Bros / A24 / Pixar Ryan Gosling in 'Barbie' is a major Oscars contender.
Oct. 26: Ryan Gosling will be Kenough for the Academy, Gotham Awards boost Past Lives and Priscilla stars
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ryan Gosling, Barbie — In what feels like an ironic twist of fate, given Barbie's thematic focus, the actor behind Ken is getting the most pre-Oscars attention from awards groups (and pundits) so far. Though Barbie was technically eligible (and reportedly submitted) for Gotham Awards consideration following the group's newly lifted cap on budgets, Gosling landed the titanic hit's sole nomination. He'll contend in the Supporting category (opposite his ex and one-time Notebook costar, Rachel McAdams) as the movie's lone representative, ticking the first major acting box for any of the film's heavily favored cast — notably before producer-star Margot Robbie.
PICTURE, ACTRESS: Greta Lee, Past Lives — Thanks to voting body inconsistencies, the Gotham Awards typically don't hold weight outside of anointing a Best Picture winner that, coincidentally, can predict the Academy's corresponding choice in the same category. These early-bird nominations can also bolster an acclaimed, smaller film like Past Lives' platform at the top of the race, and with three nods overall and an interim agreement in place for guaranteed visibility ahead, things are looking up for this prestige favorite and its central star.
ACTRESS: Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla — Spaeny's portrayal of the titular figure in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla Presley biopic continued building a stacked report card with a nomination at the Gothams — just over a month after she won Best Actress at Venice, an award that's gone to eventual Oscar winners or nominees including Emma Stone (La La Land), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), and Cate Blanchett (TÁR) in the recent past. Here, the awards body itself might not mean much, but Spaeny stacking recognition this early in the season shouldn't be ignored.
ANIMATED FEATURE: Elemental — With 20 category nominations in the category's 22-year history, Disney is the safest bet in the industry for a Best Animated Feature nod. When compared against past releases, though, the film didn't perform well out of the gate at the box office. That narrative plagued it from the start, though it has gone on to quietly earn nearly $500 million globally, atop generating the studio's biggest premiere streaming numbers of the year. So, word of mouth is on Elemental's side.
Disney/Pixar Leah Lewis voices Ember and Mamoudou Athie vocies Wade in Pixar's 'Elemental'
PICTURE: Maestro — Bradley Cooper's directorial follow-up to A Star Is Born launched strong out of Venice, but as it's traveled the globe, reviews have quieted. While Cooper and lead actress Carey Mulligan feel safe for their lauded (and, arguably, career-best) portrayals of real-life entertainment figures in the biopic, the film overall feels like it could lose momentum as it rolls out. Based on over 2,700 viewer ratings on Letterboxd, the film holds a 3.5/5 score, meaning that attaining "general consensus favorite" status could prove difficult.
On the horizon:
With the primary fall festivals in the rearview, the last major festival on the circuit is AFI Fest, which is currently underway and could give one final publicity boost to Maestro, American Fiction, and recent Gotham Awards nominations leader All of Us Strangers. We're also on the cusp of critics season, with the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and more gearing up to announce their respective nominees. The NYFCC is set to go first on Nov. 30.
Alex Sandoval - Source: Searchlight Pictures / Warner Bros. 2024 Oscars contenders: Emma Stone in 'Poor Things,' Margot Robbie in 'Barbie.'
Sept. 27: Festivals foster rich prospects for Poor Things
PICTURE, DIRECTOR, ACTRESS: Poor Things — Usually, bonkers vibes don't sit well with the Academy, but Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Favourite) has found an oddball sweet spot as the industry's outsider darling, regularly landing big-name stars to play around in his twisted cinematic sandbox. His latest offering, a tale of a dead Victorian woman (Emma Stone) who embarks on a journey of personal liberation after she's revived by a mad scientist, earned universal raves out of Venice and Telluride, placing it on an ideal pedestal as the must-see title of the first round of fall festivals.
PICTURE, ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: American Fiction — Thanks to the concurrent WGA and SAG strikes barring talent from promoting their projects, the Toronto International Film Festival's 2023 slate was a relatively muted affair when it came to potential awards players, with its commercial might and Oscars prognostication profile weakening as a result. Still, statistics are statistics, and Cord Jefferson's Jeffrey Wright-starring satire American Fiction joined an elite rank upon taking the TIFF People's Choice Award — 10 eventual Best Picture winners or nominees across the last decade have won the Canadian festival's top prize before winning win or scoring a nomination for the Best Picture Oscar, including Nomadland, Green Book, 12 Years a Slave, and last year's Steven Spielberg-directed drama The Fabelmans.
ACTRESS: Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla — With critics (and early awards bodies) crooning in favor of Priscilla, the Presley family biopic is shaping up to be director Sofia Coppola's first across-the-board awards contender since 2003's Lost in Translation. Following Priscilla Presley's complicated relationship with Elvis, the film's reportedly muted tone offers a stark contrast to last year's bombastic Elvis blockbuster but has all the hallmarks of a typical Oscars contender: a respected filmmaker casting buzzy actors (Euphoria's Jacob Elordi plays Elvis) for a fact-based dive into entertainment industry history. The film has already earned ace marks on the trail, with the Venice Film Festival bestowing its Best Actress prize to Spaeny for her work in the titular role. With the victory, the 25-year-old could fall in line with the likes of Venice winners such as Emma Stone (La La Land), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), and more who went on to win the Oscars' corresponding prize.
Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in 'Barbie'
ACTRESS: Margot Robbie, Barbie — Before you freak out and banish us to Weird Barbie's basement that smells like soup, hear us out. Robbie is still very much a contender in the race, and we fully expect her to land among the Academy's eventual nominees for Best Actress, but, at this moment, the buzz around summer blockbusters (like Barbie and Oppenheimer) tends to cool as the festivals usher in shiny new contenders. Robbie's campaign has yet to reach its peak, so look out for her to soar in the weeks ahead, but all of the focus right now appears to be on emerging performances from Stone, Spaeny, Carey Mulligan (Maestro), and Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon), but once the novelty of festival praise wears off outside of the seasonal vacuum, the strengths of Robbie's work — coupled with her producing hand in making Barbie happen in the first place — will surge and make the awards trail a pink Barbie world once again.
Netflix Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in 'Maestro'
On the horizon:
The New York Film Festival kicks off on Friday, with many of the usual suspects in the race so far (Maestro, Anatomy of a Fall, Poor Things, Priscilla, The Zone of Interest) hitting this end of the circuit. Fringe hopefuls including Andrew Haigh's All of Us Strangers and Todd Haynes' May December could get a boost from NYFF screenings as well.