When Scott Feinberg assesses the strength of Best Picture Oscar contenders, he starts by breaking them down into three categories — frontrunners, major threats and possibilities.
There are always two or three generous inclusions in the frontrunner group, but it’s always a good thing to be in this fraternity. Your film’s standing or status is regarded as healthy and at least semi-hopeful. But if your film is listed among the other two categories, it means you’re in some kind of trouble. Especially if you’re among the possibilities, which pretty much means “no way, Jose” or “you might as well throw in the towel.”
In a 10.17 article titled “First Post-New York Film Festival Read of the Race,” Feinberg has chosen ten frontrunners, seven major threats and eight possibilities.
Herewith are my own assessments of the top ten, title by title, blow by blow. HE favorites are signified by boldface BINGO.
In HE’s estimation there are currently four keepers among the ten — Barbie, Oppenheimer, Poor Things and The Holdovers.
1 American Fiction / HE sez: Haven’t seen it yet.
2. Oppenheimer / HE sez: Hauntingly brilliant but at the same time increasingly dense and airless and almost oppressively talky, and Cillian Murphy‘s zombie-from-Betelguese performance drains the sand out of your soul. BINGO.
3. Barbie / HE sez: The buoyant energy, dynamic visual scheme, tongue-in-cheek social satire plus the massive commercial success factor obviously locks it in tight, but imagine the howls of derision if a male Greta Gerwig had created a reverse-engineered satire that replaced Barbie‘s misandry with misogyny. A mixed BINGO.
4. Killers of the Flower Moon / HE sez: Sprawling mixed-bag, Satanic-paleface, poor-Osage period saga with no strong point of view. Excellent tech elements. Woke sentimentalists aside, nobody is going to feel all that excited about this. It’s certainly no BINGO.
5. Poor Things / HE sez: Roughly the same kind of feminist fantasy as Barbie, only sexier, crazier and more imaginatively out there. Seriously stand-outish. BINGO.
6. Past Lives / HE sez: Forget it…too delicate, too hesitant, too prolonged, no romantic payoff.
7. Maestro / HE sez: Haven’t seen it. Word on the street is that it’s no BINGO.
8. The Holdovers / HE sez: Sublime craftsmanship pays off like a slot machine…an emotionally fulfilling, character-driven Christmas holiday flick…back-to-the-’70s and then some…perfectly acted, wonderfully written, easily the most audience friendly of the finalists. BINGO.
9. The Zone of Interest / HE sez: Brilliant, austere, chilly…an exercise in minimalism that doesn’t leave you with much at the end.
10. All of Us Strangers / HE sez: The gay beard-stubble factor is off the charts. If Paul Mescal bothers you half as much as he does me, this movie will certainly present problems.