What Are the Oscar Contenders of Q1?

As the first quarter of the new year wraps up, we assess the wins and losses of the last Oscars whilst also start thinking ahead to next year. Even so soon after the previous ceremony, it is hard to turn off the line of thinking “What nominations could this possibly get at the Oscars?” when it is so ingrained in our brains for the other eleven months out of the year. When considering Oscar contenders a year in advance, it’s important to be both realistic and open-minded. When most of the perceived contenders have not yet been seen by most people, being open to what could possibly be nominated if all circumstances go correctly is important as to not shut out too many contenders. Balancing that and being realistic about what movies are not Oscar contenders (i.e. Knock at the Cabin or M3gan, as cool as that would be) is important to keep an open mind as to what could be nominated whilst keeping the balancing act of being realistic with prospects.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantuMania & Shazam: Fury of the Gods

The first quarter of the year has seen the release of both an MCU and DC film, both of which have had varying shades of success when it comes to the Oscars. In recent years, with the increase of MCU films coming out to at least several a year compared to the one or two a year that it used to be, there is usually at least one Marvel film nominated in visual effects every year. Exceptions are: 2020 (when none were released), 2015 (both Ant-Man and Age of Ultron got shortlisted but did not get nominated), 2011 (when the first Captain America and Thor movies were shortlisted but not nominated), and 2009 (when no MCU films were released). Even 2021 itself had four total MCU movies shortlisted and two ultimately nominated.

The DCEU is a more mixed bag overall, with multiple movies of theirs getting shortlisted but not getting nominated or even missing altogether (Wonder Woman 1984, Shazam, and The Suicide Squad are all examples of movies that failed to get shortlisted at all). However, if anything has shown, it’s the visual effects branch favours more visual effects that seem more in your face rather than subtle visual effects (in 2021, all the visual effects nominees were all large blockbusters, omitting movies such as The Green Knight with its amazing visual effects on its small budget), leading that to favour both of these movies. 

All this leads to saying that Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Shazam: Fury of the Gods certainly have shots at getting shortlisted; the two previous Ant-Man movies were shortlisted, though never were nominated. Shazam has possibly a larger hurdle in getting shortlisted considering that first film missed the shortlist altogether, with the DCEU having a more rocky track record in terms of nominations in visual effects at all (The Batman, just recently, was the very first nomination). Also going against these films is their less than stellar reception and box office, with both of them failing to perform well in either aspect. Justice League received a shortlist despite the negative reception but performed very well at the box office, and on the other side, Eternals got shortlisted despite doing okay (at best) at the box office and getting negative reviews from critics. However, Thor: Love and Thunder and The Incredible Hulk, so far, are the only Marvel movie to not get shortlisted in the visual effects category when the first three Thor movies all got shortlisted. Ant-Man could certainly get a shortlist mention (though a nomination is probably reserved for a future 2023 MCU release) and even Shazam, if all the cards fall correctly, though the odds certainly are not as great. 

John Wick: Chapter 4

As a franchise, the John Wick franchise has failed to ever garner a nomination over its three movies so far. With the release of John Wick: Chapter 4, the second-highest grossing (so far, behind the third installment) and the best-reviewed, one can only ask, will this be the entry to finally break into the Oscars? With the film even failing to garner a SAG Stunt Ensemble nomination, it is certainly going to be a long road for the movie. Luckily, its good box office opening and excellent reception help it in sustaining momentum until the Oscar season arrives (which has helped other early season Oscar contenders such as Top Gun: Maverick and The Batman).

John Wick’s most likely category is easily Best Sound. As an action blockbuster with car crashes, fight scenes, and guns galore, there is a lot about the sound work to appreciate that could be picked up by the Academy. Being an action movie certainly benefits it, when trying to get a sound nomination, with other movies such as previously mentioned Top Gun: Maverick and The Batman both picking up nominations, but also films such as No Time to Die and Mad Max: Fury Road. Obviously, the comparison is not one to one; Top Gun and Mad Max were both picture players and No Time to Die and The Batman are from franchises with histories at the academy awards. However, it does show that in Sound, the Academy is not afraid to at least nominate action blockbusters from time to time.

One of the other aspects of John Wick that is getting lots of commendation is the cinematography, a much-praised aspect of the franchise as a whole. There is certainly much attention to detail when it comes to the choreography of the action sequences, the way the camera showcases the environment around it, and the way color is used throughout the series. However, cinematography will be a hard uphill battle for the fourth installment of the series, with blockbusters not being favoured in the category (we just recently saw likes of The Batman and even best picture nominee Top Gun: Maverick get snubbed in this category). In recent years, only action movies such as Skyfall (a movie that received five nominations) and Mad Max: Fury Road (a movie that received ten total nominations, including Best Picture) have received Cinematography nominations. However, despite these setbacks (and the fact the cinematographer, two-time nominee Dan Lausten, is a DP on The Color Purple, coming out later this year), if all the cards fell right a nomination for cinematography could be in sight. Even if its battle would be tough and long, it would be a worthy nomination to honor a beloved franchise’s beautiful work. 

80 for Brady

Last but not least, the Academy Awards would be nothing without a nomination for Diane Warren. Miss Diane Warren has become something of a staple of the Oscars now, with fourteen total nominations, including eight times in nine years (from 2014 to 2022) with no wins. Known for being nominated for the movie that makes everyone’s parents go, “What is that?!”, Diane Warren clearly is very respected in the music branch, and her total number of nominations is a good indicator of this. So much so that they nominated her for a movie that everyone is convinced they did not see (Tell It Like a Woman). It is only inevitable that 80 for Brady becomes Academy Award Nominee 80 for Brady.

Even though, unlike last year, it seems we have not watched our future Best Picture winner yet, that does not mean we lack potential Academy Award nominees. Even though the season has not yet begun, and there are plenty of movies yet to come out, there are millions of ways in which the season could fall. All of the pieces falling in the right place could certainly result in one of the nominations mentioned earlier. This is why it is important to keep an open mind when debating potential Oscar players for next year; after all, how many people would’ve believed in March of 2022 that Everything Everywhere All at Once was winning Best Picture? 

Jasmine Graham
she/her @queerfilmnerd
Lives in Canada and enjoys watching TV and movies with lesbians in them
Favourite directors: Celine Sciamma, Greta Gerwig, Yorgos Lanthimos
Sign: Capricorn

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