Many business of us, a few of whom are little doubt Oscar voters, are grateful to Nolan for all that he’s carried out for the enterprise: tethering auteur-ish status to marketability, vocally resisting the streaming incursion. That, coupled with the truth that Nolan is extensively seen as overdue for his first Oscar, makes him a powerful finest director contender. However Oppenheimer as a complete shouldn’t be discounted. It will not be as screener-friendly as a few of its opponents, however Oppenheimer has loved one of many defining movie narratives of 2023. A finest image win can be a becoming finish to that story.
As for the opposite half of the summer season field workplace equation, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie made extra money than Oppenheimer, most of it with out the benefit of IMAX pricing. It’s not a weighty, masculine affair like Oppenheimer—which higher matches the standard finest image mould—however Barbie’s distinction might be its biggest asset. Gerwig’s movie created a brand new model of branded filmmaking, swaddling its IP commercialism in sociopolitical commentary. If 2023 turns into recognized for one movie, it is going to be Barbie, a film that leaned into its cynical origins laborious sufficient that it broke via to another realm.
However possibly the Academy, or at the least sufficient of the Academy, isn’t fairly prepared for that seismic shift. They may, as an alternative, flip to Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, a Leonard Bernstein biopic that’s comfortably recognizable as an old school awards film whereas nonetheless taking inventive swings. Cooper is mesmerizing within the lead function, as is his costar, Carey Mulligan. Whereas evaluations for the movie could also be considerably muted, the celebs have been virtually universally praised. Which could imply that Maestro’s finest chances are high within the performing classes—or, the movie, buoyed by its beloved performances, may snatch finest image as a well-liked tiered-ballot second alternative.
At this yr’s Venice Movie Competition, Maestro was maybe the glitziest competitors entry. But it surely had a little bit of its thunder stolen by Yorgos Lanthimos’s sex-happy bildungsroman Poor Issues, a film initially scheduled for launch in early September however that was, in a little bit of unusual luck, pushed to the extra prestigious climes of December. Poor Issues is in significantly better place now, with time to construct on the momentum created by its top-prize victory at Venice and sustained good notices from subsequent festivals.
The entire filmmakers I’ve so far talked about have directed finest image nominees prior to now. So what of the brand new class? First-time filmmaker Celine Tune had a debut for the ages in Previous Lives, a Sundance breakout that was a modest summer season hit for A24. A decades-spanning romantic drama, Previous Lives is gauzy and mild however removed from insubstantial. It provides a bleary, soul-stirring consideration of immigration and ageing, animated by pretty performances from Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro.
Jonathan Glazer is probably one of many cinéaste world’s most revered filmmakers, regardless of having made solely 4 movies. His newest is The Zone of Curiosity, a Holocaust film targeted on the perpetrators somewhat than the victims. Glazer’s movie is harrowing, working at a medical take away however definitely not spare in model or impact. The Zone of Curiosity is such a visceral assertion of inventive imaginative and prescient that even the extra art-film-averse members of the Academy may embrace it. The Zone of Curiosity took second place at Cannes; the Palme d’Or winner was Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, an electrifying drama starring finest actress contender Sandra Hüller, who additionally performs a supporting function in Glazer’s movie. Anatomy has performed like gangbusters at subsequent movie festivals—a frequent Telluride speaking level, a hot-ticket sensation at Toronto—and could also be the very best positioned of any non-American movie.