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Mark your calendars for the season’s awards movies

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| November 25, 2023 1:00 AM

For the first time in a while, multiple box office juggernauts could be front and center at the next Academy Awards.

The “Barbenheimer” juggernaut is expected to be well represented during awards season, with “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” likely to rack up notices for their technical, writing, and acting performances. At this point, “Oppenheimer” is the presumed front-runner for Best Picture, while “Barbie” will also likely land a Best Picture nomination and possibly win categories like Original Screenplay, Costumes, Song and Production Design.

The rest of the pack will be filled by more recent releases, notably Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which is likely “Oppenheimer’s” closest competition at this point, at least according to those internet Oscar prognosticators.

Other newly-released titles worth in contention:

• Ridley Scott’s epic biopic “Napoleon” (like “Killers,” in theaters now and on Apple TV later).

• The excellent tragi-comedy, “The Holdovers,” featuring Paul Giamatti, reuniting with “Sideways” director Alexander Payne (in theaters now). “The Holdovers” also fits nicely into the very underrated subgenre of “Sad Indie Christmas movie.”

“Saltburn,” Writer/direct Emerald Fennell’s feature follow-up to her Oscar-winning 2020 effort, “Promising Young Woman.” It stars Barry Keoghan making reliably creepy faces. (In theaters now.)

Look for the remaining award hopefuls to expand throughout December. Contenders include:

“Poor Things,” the latest fantastical curiosity from Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”). It stars Emma Stone as a sexually liberated Frankenstein’s monster-type. You read that right, but it has amazing reviews. (Limited release on Dec. 8 followed by an expansion).

• Bradley Cooper, a multiple Oscar nominee without a trophy, goes for the gold by writing, directing, producing and starring in “Maestro,” a biopic about composer Leonard Bernstein. (On Netflix on Dec. 20.)

“American Fiction” — The incredible Jeffrey Wright finally gets another starring role in this unorthodox and superbly reviewed comedy from Cord Jefferson, a veteran of acclaimed shows like “Succession,” “The Good Place” and “Watchmen.” (In limited release Dec. 15, wider on Dec. 25.)

• Hoping to win Oscars and the prize for “Most painful subject matter,” the chilling, Holocaust-set drama, “The Zone of Interest” has already made an impression on attendees at various film festivals this past year. (Expands in theaters throughout December.)

“The Iron Claw,” a highbrow drama about professional wrestling, complete with a breakout performance by Zac Efron. (In theaters Dec. 22.)

• Finally, it can’t be a complete holiday season without a buzzy musical. This year’s entry is a new version of “The Color Purple,” based on the breakout Broadway show. Oprah is a producer, so expect a prestige run. (In theaters Dec. 25.)

Way too early Oscar predictions for Best Picture (in order of likelihood to win):

1. “Oppenheimer”

2. “Killers of the Flower Moon”

3. “The Color Purple”*

4. “Poor Things”*

5. “Barbie”

6. “Maestro”*

7. “The Holdovers”

8. “The Zone of Interest”*

9. “American Fiction”*

10. “Anatomy of a Fall”

*Stuff I haven’t seen yet.

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Tyler Wilson can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.