Entertainment

What Will Be Nominated for Best Picture at the 2022 Oscars?

It's that time of the year again.

20th Century Studios
20th Century Studios
20th Century Studios

It’s time to start talking about the 2022 Oscars. The major fall film festivals-Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York-have had their starry red carpets and introduced us to some of this year’s contenders. The discussions (and fights) among film critics have started. Some major players are on the horizon. The likes of Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson are warming up to show us what they’ve got.

After a fairly awkward ceremony last year shaped by COVID, this year the Academy Awards promise to be back in full swing, despite that pesky pandemic still lingering around. While the March 27 ceremony is still months away, the conversation has already begun. Though everybody has their own opinions on the matter, here are the films that we think will be in the running for Best Picture.

Focus Features
Focus Features
Focus Features

Belfast

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench
What’s it about? Lauded actor and director Kenneth Branagh has made a bildungsroman about his own childhood in black and white. If that sounds a little bit like Oscar nominee Roma, well, yeah.
What’s the buzz?¬†Belfast‘s reviews out of the Telluride and Toronto film festivals weren’t as unanimously euphoric as some of its counterparts, but it certainly has its supporters.
What are its chances? Right now, very good. It won the TIFF audience award which has been a bellwether of Oscar success in past years. (Watch the trailer.)

C’mon C’mon

Director: Mike Mills
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, Gaby Hoffmann
What’s it about?¬†Joaquin Phoenix plays a radio journalist-think Ira Glass, but Joaquin Phoenix-who cares for his nephew when his sister has to go help her struggling ex. It’s a sweet road movie about the future, family, and childhood.
What’s the buzz? Early reviews have praised Mills’ empathy and a softer Phoenix performance.
What are its chances? Mills’ excellent 20th Century Women only got an original screenplay nod, and a similar fate could befall this one. (Watch the trailer.)

Don’t Look Up

Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill
What’s it about? A meteor is coming to Earth and no one seems to care in this incredibly star-studded comedy from The Big Short and Step Brothers director, Adam McKay.
What’s the buzz?¬†No one has seen this one yet so… we don’t know! It looks like McKay is returning to pure comedy, but adding in a prestige sheen and a social message.
What are its chances? Even McKay’s poorly received Vice got a Best Picture nomination, so we’re going to say it’s got a pretty good shot. (Watch the trailer.)

Dune

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac
What’s it about?¬†A galactic war for control of spice.
What’s the buzz?¬†Mixed! The initial trade reviews were down on Villeneuve’s grand take on the sci-fi classic-which, by the way, only tells half the story of the first book in the series. Still, as more people have seen it, more have liked it.
What are its chances?¬†Sci-fi is a hard sell for the Academy, especially dense ones like this. It’s a long shot. (Watch the trailer.)

MGM
MGM
MGM

House of Gucci

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino
What’s it about?¬†Patrizia Reggiani, who married into the Gucci family and then had her husband murdered.
What’s the buzz?¬†No one has seen it yet, but everyone’s loving the very quotable trailer. Say it with me now: “Father, son, and House of Gucci.”
What are its chances?¬†Hard to say before anyone’s seen it, but we’re craving another Gaga campaign. Did you know she’s actually Italian? (Watch the trailer.)

King Richard

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal
What’s it about?¬†Serena and Venus Williams’ ascension to tennis stardom through the prism of their demanding father, Richard.
What’s the buzz: Much of the talk following King Richard‘s debut at Telluride was centered on Will Smith’s reportedly excellent performance.
What are its chances: Seems like a shoo-in for Best Actor. We’ll see about Picture. (Watch the trailer.)

Licorice Pizza

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie
What’s it about?¬†PTA is heading back to his beloved San Fernando Valley with the story of two teenagers falling in love as the entertainment industry swirls around them.
What’s the buzz?¬†No one has seen this one yet, but it’s a PTA, so everyone is excited.
What are its chances?¬†This looks on the more personal and less grand side of PTA’s work, which tends not to get as much Academy love as his epics like There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread. (Watch the trailer.)

The Lost Daughter

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Cast: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal
What’s it about?¬†A woman (Olivia Colman) is flooded with memories of her own children while watching a young mother (Dakota Johnson) during a beach vacation.
What’s the buzz?¬†Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is the surprise of the fall season with nearly unanimously good reviews.
What are its chances?¬†I’d say very good for at least a nomination. The Lost Daughter is an intense, stressful experience, though, which may turn some voters off.

Nightmare Alley

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette
What’s it about?¬†It’s a noir based on the 1946 novel (later turned into the 1947 film) about a carny up to some tricks.
What’s the buzz?¬†Del Toro has wrangled a starry cast for his follow up to The Shape of Water which has no supernatural elements but still looks pretty damn creepy.
What are its chances? Well, The Shape of Water won Best Picture. (Watch the trailer.)

Passing

Director: Rebecca Hall
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp
What’s it about?¬†An adaptation of a 1929 novel about two childhood friends who reunite as adults when one of them is passing as a white woman.
What’s the buzz?¬†The film received positive reviews at Sundance, but when the trailer debuted online there were some whisperings of concern with Hall’s choices.
What are its chances?¬†We’ll see. It depends on how much attention Netflix gives it and how people respond upon release. (Watch the trailer.)

Netflix
Netflix
Netflix

The Power of the Dog

Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons
What’s it about?¬†Toxic masculinity in 1920s Montana, perpetuated by a cowboy with secrets of his own.
What’s the buzz?¬†Euphoric. This has been the number one hit of the fall festival season.
What are its chances? Very good. (Watch the trailer.)

Red Rocket

Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod
What’s it about?¬†A washed up porn star returns to his tiny Texas town to cause havoc.
What’s the buzz?¬†Like Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Red Rocket has been hailed as another excellent look into America’s underbelly.
What are its chances?¬†It depends. Red Rocket doesn’t have the sweetness of The Florida Project, which propelled it to multiple nominations. Audiences are going to have to get on board with this story about an egomaniac who tries to groom a 17-year-old girl to go into porn. (Watch the trailer.)

Spencer

Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Sean Harris, Timothy Spall
What’s it about?¬†Princess Diana’s nightmare of a Christmas at Sandringham.
What’s the buzz?¬†Kristen Stewart is the new queen of the awards season thanks to raves for her performance here. Meanwhile, Larra√≠n is once again being hailed for finding ways to innovate the biopic.
What are its chances? Great for Stewart; very good for the movie at large. (Watch the trailer.)

Titane

Director: Julia Ducournau
Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon
What’s it about?¬†A serial killer with a metal plate in her head has sex with a car and it only gets wilder from there.
What’s the buzz?¬†Titane won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and has critics awestruck.
What are its chances?¬†Look, we’re keeping it in the conversation because of the Palme, but Academy members might just think it’s too weird. (Watch the trailer.)

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Director: Joel Coen
Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson
What’s it about?¬†It’s The Scottish Play. Power hungry Thane goes on a killing spree, encouraged by his wife.
What’s the buzz?¬†This opening night selection of the New York Film Festival won itself a lot of fans with its bold take on a classic.
What are its chances? Solid. (Watch the trailer.)

West Side Story

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Rita Moreno, Ariana de Bose
What’s it about?¬†Uh, it’s West Side Story,¬†but with a new book from Tony Kushner and new choreography from Justin Peck.
What’s the buzz?¬†It’s one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, but also one with the biggest hurdle to overcome since fans will inevitably be comparing it to the original. (Also, star Ansel Elgort has had sexual assault allegations lodged against him.)
What are its chances?¬†It’s a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s got a good shot. (Watch the trailer.)

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

With One Orgy, 'Queer as Folk' Sets a New TV Standard

Peacock's reboot of the gay drama is finally giving queer disabled people some of the representation they've been seeking on television.

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

Everything is ready for the orgy. The snacks and drinks are prepared, the disco ball is hanging, and there are mechanical lifts to help people in and out of their wheelchairs. As a few guests mingle and a go-go dancer gyrates, Marvin (played by Eric Graise) rolls onto the stage in his wheelchair to act as emcee. With the help of a sign-language interpreter, he kicks things off by announcing, “I know you’re all dying to tear each other’s clothes off, or to have your attendants take them off for you.” This is no ordinary orgy; it’s “#F*CK Disabled People,” the titular orgy from Episode 4 of Queer as Folk.

The Queer as Folk reboot, released this month on Peacock, is already far more diverse than the versions of the show that came before it: more racially diverse, more body types, more genders, and multiple disabled actors in key roles. Episode 4 pushes the envelope beyond almost anything seen on network TV. It’s the kind of representation that disabled viewers-and actors-have been dreaming about, centring on a queer disabled orgy and one stunningly beautiful sex scene.

Ryan O’Connell, who both co-writes and acts in the series, recognized the reboot’s potential when it came to better representing the lives of queer disabled people like himself. Key to this was sharing the screen with multiple disabled actors, including recurring appearances by Graise. Marvin’s presence had already sold O’Connell on the show when he began meeting with series developer Stephen Dunn, who had previously directed the coming-of-age movie Closet Monster. “He was like, ‘I also want you to star in it too,’ and I was like, ‘Wait, you want two disabled people?'” says O’Connell.

O’Connell grew up enjoying the sexy, soapy escapades of the American Queer as Folk, Showtime’s five-season adaptation of the British series of the same name. Amid widespread bigotry and the AIDS epidemic, the two popular shows offered a rare picture of happy gay life. But O’Connell longed for a reflection of himself on the screen. That impulse eventually led him to create Special, the Netflix sitcom about a gay man with cerebral palsy seeking love, sex, and friendship. Queer as Folk gives him another special opportunity: to tell sexy, soapy, positive LGBTQIA+ stories with an ensemble cast wherein he wouldn’t be the only disabled character. “I was so shocked in a way that was truly depressing, but it’s so rare as disabled people that we get any kind of inclusion whatsoever, let alone that there’s two of us,” O’Connell says. “Immediately, writing for the reboot, I felt a sense of ease.”For Graise, working on a show written by O’Connell was a “dream come true.” He continues, “I’d always said there needs to be a disabled person in the writers’ room, but I had no idea how significant it would be and how much it meant to me. And even Stephen Dunn has a disabled friend who Marvin is very much inspired by.”

Marvin is outgoing, even wild in his energy. When we meet him at a bar in the first episode of the series, he acts like he owns the place, flirting and serving up wicked verbal jabs with equal ease. Before we get to know him better, O’Connell’s shy, sheltered Julian Beaumont seems to fade into the background by comparison. Initially, he serves mostly as a foil to his more outgoing older brother, Brodie (Devin Way), who, in many ways, is the chaotic core around which the rest of the ensemble orbits. During the first three episodes, the brothers, along with Brodie’s on-again, off-again lover Noah (Johnny Sibilly), convert their shared New Orleans home into the epic party house known as “Ghost Fag.” It’s Ghost Fag that attracts Marvin, in the fourth episode, with the idea of hosting a queer disabled orgy. We don’t learn as much about Marvin’s background, but it’s clear he’s made himself a cornerstone of the LGBTQIA+ community despite the everyday ableism he faces.

Beyond the surface differences, Julian and Marvin couldn’t be more divergent. In addition to their differing disabilities (Marvin, like Graise, is a double amputee), they come from disparate economic classes and have radically contrasting outlooks on life. Julian protects his vulnerability with an introverted lifestyle and a carefully cultivated routine, while Marvin hides his behind a boisterous exterior. Just like real life, not all members of a marginalized group get along, or even have very much in common.

“I don’t ever try to feel the burden of representation because there’s no point-you have to write from a place of truth,” says O’Connell, who wrote Episode 4 with Alyssa Taylor. “It was really fun creatively to have these two disabled characters who are so wildly different from each other in how they conduct themselves in their relationship to disability and to sex and all those things, but also I think in Episode 4 it was really interesting to show their commonalities.”

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

Both Marvin and Julian get laid over the course of the episode, but even before their clothes come off, the orgy scene fills the screen with something seldom seen on TV: disabled people in all their sexual glory. The scenario was inspired by a 2015 disabled sex party co-hosted in Toronto by Andrew Gurza, the show’s disability awareness consultant. After Gurza joined QaF, he mentioned the party in the writers’ room. “Mine was a lot more tame than this should be,” Gurza recalls telling them. “I’d like this to be a lot racier.”

Gurza even appears in a sex scene during the episode. “Being together on the show was an amazing moment,” says O’Connell, who cites Gurza as one of his inspirations. “He’s so honest and demands that his voice be heard and makes no apologies for that, and I try to do the same.”

As the orgy continues, both characters hook up with sex workers. It’s clear the actors and creators wanted to affirm that sex work is work. “It’s incredibly difficult work, not only the physical labour but the emotional space you have to hold for somebody to make them feel seen and heard and not judged. It makes me happy to showcase their work in a more positive light,” O’Connell notes.

Sachin Bhatt, who plays Ali, the sex worker hired by Marvin, agrees. He adds that his role is an all-too-rare example of a Southeast Asian man being sexual on-screen. “Anyone who’s not a cisgender, white male has many more mountains to climb,” Bhatt says. “So for me it was really exciting to play this sex worker because they wouldn’t typically cast an Indian for this role.”

Peacock
Peacock
Peacock

While their relationship is transactional to begin with, Ali is respectful, playful, and caring throughout his interactions with Marvin. However, his feelings for his client intensify during Episode 4 as the pair connect alone in a room at Ghost Fag. “We bonded instantly,” Bhatt recalls of Graise. “It was very important to both of us that we get the intimacy and the vulnerability right.”

For Graise, who also appeared on Netflix’s Locke & Key, that actorly connection made the sequence what it is. “We spent a lot of time kiki’ing off-set and discussing what we wanted out of this scene for both of us. The scene wasn’t just about me. It’s also Ali exploring Marvin’s body in a way that he’s never explored with anyone before, and his insecurities and trepidations about interacting with a disabled body.”

Unlike previous interactions shown between them, Ali asks to top Marvin this time-and to interact with his body in new ways. “Can I touch your legs?” Ali asks. This was influenced by Graise’s own life, as someone he dated for three years realized he’d never touched Graise’s legs. After some tender caressing, Marvin wraps his thighs around Ali and they make love. Graise’s background as a dancer is evident in his elegant movement throughout the scene, which contrasts with some of the polished, more “Hollywood”-style sequences that appear elsewhere in the series.

“Sachin and Eric really fucking landed that plane,” O’Connell says. “It was everything I want in a sex scene, which is that it was vulnerable, it was tender, it was awkward, and it was sexy.”Beyond the new Queer As Folk, it’s rare for media to let disabled people be either queer or sexy. O’Connell cited a few other examples, such as Jillian Mercado’s role in The L Word: Generation Q or the work of playwright and actor Ryan J. Haddad, but it’s sparse overall. With one episode, Queer as Folk has set a high bar for other shows to follow, and the series as a whole demonstrates how disabled actors can portray real, complex, and flawed human beings.

“A cognitive dissonance happens when we watch things on our TV screens, where, all of a sudden, we want things to be simplified,” O’Connell says. “Isn’t it art’s job to reflect humanity accurately?

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Kit O’Connell is the Digital Editor at the Texas Observer, and lives in Austin, Texas with their spouse and two cats. Follow them @KitOConnell.

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