From HE’s mid-March perspective, there’s only one 2024 film that looks, sounds and stomps around like a meat-and-potatoes Best Picture contender.

That would be Kevin Costner‘s two-part Horizon: An American Saga (Warner Bros., Chapter One on 6.28, Chapter Two on 8.16).

But of course, wokester Oscar handicappers (i.e., Clayton Davis and the gang) are already against it because it’s about “the expansion of the American west” (i.e., white settlers in covered wagons rolling through Native American territory), and because the Yellowstone-linked Costner is generally perceived as too white, too old and too conservative. One thing’s for sure, and that’s that Lily Gladstone probably won’t be approving this film any time soon! But at least it’s big and eye-filling and going for the big chomp.

I’m putting my money on Horizon and, I suppose, Steve McQueen‘s Blitz because they feel semi-urgent and seem to be occupying their own turf, and have probably figured themselves out to some extent. They may amount to something Oscar-wise because of the commanding energy of their directors.

Otherwise 2024 is clearly looking fairly weak. Last year’s strikes (SAG and WGA) all but ruined our current annum. I’m just going to plow through some of the Best Picture contenders and explain why most of them don’t seem formidable or flinty enough or otherwise unlikely to connect with Joe and Jane Popcorn.

The whizbag stuff aside, Horizon and Blitz seem like the only two 2024 films that don’t feel cloistered or woked up or seemingly guilt-trippy or generally confined and audience-punishing.

Okay, let’s add Ali Abbasa‘s The Apprentice (Sebastian Stan as Donald Trump!), Todd PhillipsJoker: Folie a Deux and Paul Schrader‘s Oh, Canada.

What am I missing? What am I overlooking?

Steve McQueen‘s Blitz (Apple Original Films)…London blitzed by German bombs in early 1940s…likely Best Actress action for Saoirse Ronan…strong contender that I was hoping would debut in Cannes two months hence, but now I’m hearing “maybe not” and that Venice/Telluride is more likely.

Edward Berger‘s Conclave (Focus Features)…based on 2016 Robert Harris novel, British-American thriller about finding a successor to a suddenly deceased Pope. Written by Peter Straughan. Costarring Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow and Isabella Rossellini. Good reviews, probably not happening.

Ridley Scott‘s Gladiator 2 (Paramount, 11.22) gets an automatic demerit (if not a disqualification) because the dreaded Paul Mescal has the principal lead role, and secondly because Pedro Pascal is costarring, These two guys can kill any film of any kind. A supporting Denzel Washington (playing a former slave-turned-wealthy arms and commodity dealer with a grudge against the emperors”) is the only reason to feel aroused.

Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune: Part Two (Warner Bros.)…likely Best Picture nomination but won’t win.

George Miller‘s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (Warner Bros., 5.24)

Robert Zemeckis‘s Here…interesting concept…”the events of a single room and its inhabitants spanning from the past to well into the future”, etc.

Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The End (Neon)…post-apocalyptic, bad whitey guilt=trip film….”a wealthy family lives in an underground bunker two decades after the end of the world, which they directly contributed to”….forget it. Tilda Swinton, George MacKay, Moses Ingram, Michael Shannon.

Chris SandersThe Wild Robot (DreamWorks animated)….forget it…a robot Cast Away…not a chance, get outta town.

Andrea Arnold‘s Bird…an automatic problem due to HE anathema Barry Keoghan (weirdo, bee-stung nose) being the star.

Yorgos Lanthimos‘s Kinds of Kindness (Searchlight)….three-part antholoogy…not this time.

Francis Coppola‘s Megalopolis…ambitious, self-funded, out there…do you honestly believe Coppola will slamdunk this? Caveat emptor.

RaMell Ross‘s The Nickel Boys (Amazon MGM Studios/Orion)…abusive Florida reform school drama…white baddies, moral condemnation, constant audience punishment.

Malcolm Washington‘s The Piano Lesson (Netflix)…reasonable expectation of good reviews, probably not happening as a Best Picture contender.

Mike Leigh‘s Hard Truths…maybe but doubtful. You know Leigh.

Pablo Larrain‘s Maria…I don’t want to watch another Larrain film about a mythic, tragic or headstrong female character ever again.

Jason Reitman‘s SNL: 1975 (Sony Pictures).

Jon Chu‘s Wicked (Universal)….forget it