Johnny’s Awards Radar: “Tenet” and “Da 5 Bloods”
Last week felt like the first real dose of relief for film fans since movie theaters across the globe shuttered in mid-March. Monday brought us our first look at Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” which will be available to stream on Netflix beginning June 12. But the Twitter-breaking trailer drop came on Thursday when the second trailer for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” debuted on the most unlikely of platforms: Fortnite.
So, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to kick off a new series that I’ve been workshopping for a while. With theaters hopefully reopening in the coming months and more new films being released, exciting trailers are on the horizon. So, allow me to give you an in-depth guide on the Academy Award chances for some of the year’s most high-profile projects.
To start things off, I’ll be breaking things down category by category with “Da 5 Bloods” and “Tenet,” assessing each film’s chances in the category, based on the cast/crew involved, the footage we’ve seen, and the rest of the year’s contenders. I’ll skip over any categories where I don’t anticipate either film to contend or be eligible for, such as Best Actress or Adapted Screenplay.
My tiers of assessment are as follows:
DEFINITE: All signs point to yes. I would bet everything in my bank account that the film will be nominated in that category.
PROBABLE: The chances of it being nominated are more likely than not, but I wouldn’t be willing to bet my life on it.
POSSIBLE: The chances of it being nominated are there, but not solid. The category has strong competition or the cast/crew members don’t have a strong awards history.
UNLIKELY: There is the slimmest of chances that it will be nominated, but it can’t be entirely ruled out.
Let’s get started.
“Da 5 Bloods” – In the last decade, the number of nominees has vacillated between eight and nine. The fields of eight came in 2015, 2016 and 2019. In a year where movie theaters are shut down for months at a time and studios are delaying some of their contenders to 2021, it would make sense for the field to be trimmed down once again, despite the Academy altering its qualifications. Lee’s last project was nominated for Best Picture, and Netflix has had more success in recent years with “Roma,” “Marriage Story” and “The Irishman.” I am betting on David Fincher’s “Mank” being the streaming service’s big awards player, but don’t count out “Da 5 Bloods.”
“Tenet” – Two of Nolan’s last four films have gotten nominated for the big prize. Rumor has it that “Tenet” will be just as impressive as “Inception,” which was nominated for eight Oscars and won four. Against all odds – global pandemic included – this looks like Nolan’s time to shine.
“Da 5 Bloods” – The Academy took almost 20 years to finally nominate Spike Lee in this category. In a year full of Academy favorites like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard – plus big names like David Fincher, Denis Villeneuve, and Wes Anderson – it is easy to see how Lee could get squeezed out once again. But “Da 5 Bloods” is the big, war-epic drama that could appeal to the Academy’s sensibilities.
“Tenet” – Similarly, Nolan went almost two decades before he got his first director nomination. In retrospect, it’s unfathomable that his work on “The Dark Knight” lost out on a nom to Stephen Daldry and Gus Van Sant or that his directing of “Inception” was overlooked in favor of the Coens remaking “True Grit.” Nolan has gained more respect and traction over the last decade, though, and his position as the foremost protector of the theatrical experience surely appeals to his peers. If nothing else, his push to get “Tenet” into theaters to revive the theatrical experience could be a big enough gesture to earn him a nom, even if the film isn’t up to the same standards of “Dunkirk.”
“Da 5 Bloods” – Delroy Lindo has been an actor for over 40 years and his accolades include nominations for Tony and Screen Actors Guild awards. His role in “Da 5 Bloods” appears to be his most nuanced and interesting yet, but I’m afraid the competition this year won’t allow him to break through. When Tom Hanks, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkin are all leading more typical Oscar films, it’s easy to see Lindo getting lost in the shuffle. The June release date doesn’t do him any favors, either.
“Tenet” – John David Washington finally got everyone’s attention with his performance in “BlacKkKlansman,” but he was snubbed in favor of veterans like Christian Bale and Willem Dafoe. A Nolan blockbuster feels like an even less suitable vehicle for the rising star.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
“Da 5 Bloods” – Acting categories are always the most difficult to figure out, especially before the films are even released. No matter the amount of screentime or the significance a character has in a story, it is ultimately up to the studios to campaign the actors as they see fit. For “Da 5 Bloods,” the four lead actors portrayed the Vietnam veterans could potentially all go lead. Chadwick Boseman plays their deceased squad leader and will only appear through flashbacks. Meanwhile, Jonathan Majors will portray the son of Delroy Lindo’s Paul in the present-day timeline. Majors is coming hot off of last year’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and could pull extra attention in a category that, at this point, looks wide open.
“Tenet” – The most obvious candidate here is Robert Pattinson’s nameless aide to John David Washington’s protagonist. He appears in a number of key sequences in the film’s trailers, and the second trailer in particular leans heavily on his charisma and quirky demeanor. Pattinson is well overdue for a nomination, but I don’t think it will come here. The material just seems too light.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
“Da 5 Bloods” – Mélanie Thierry is the seventh cast member listed on “Da 5 Bloods” after the main six actors. The French performer’s resume is light, and the film itself seems like it won’t give her much to do.
“Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki is the third-billed actor for “Tenet” and features prominently in both trailers, although she appears to mostly be a damsel-in-distress type character who Washington and Pattinson’s characters are trying to protect. Debicki should’ve gotten a nom for her work in “Widows,” and I sadly don’t think “Tenet” will be her redemption.
“Da 5 Bloods” – This is the technical category where I think “Da 5 Bloods” has the best chance of sneaking a nomination. Director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel has never been nominated, but was snubbed in 2012 for his masterful work on “Drive.” The real factor I’m betting on here is the flashiness of the cinematography. This branch appreciates quirky aspect ratios (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), film photography (“La La Land”) and sometimes all of that and more (“The Lighthouse”). “Da 5 Bloods” trailer looks gorgeous, with the Vietnam War scenes being shot on 16mm film and presented in 1.33:1, and the present-day scenes shot on 35mm film and presented in 2.39:1.
“Tenet” – Three of Nolan’s last five films were nominated for cinematography, including Hoyte Van Hoytema’s work from “Dunkirk.” Their latest collaboration was shot on IMAX and 70mm film, and the footage has been nothing short of glorious so far. My only reservation is that IMAX film footage and glorious visuals have not proven to be a surefire way of getting nominated – see “Interstellar” missing out in favor of “Ida” and “Mr. Turner,” and “First Man” missing out in favor of “A Star Is Born” and “Never Look Away.”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“Da 5 Bloods” – The original spec script was drafted by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo in 2013, but the shooting script was a rewrite by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott – the duo who won Oscars for their “BlacKkKlansman” adapted screenplay in 2019. Lee’s other previous writing nomination came for “Do the Right Thing” in 1990. This year also brings original screenplays from the likes of Wes Anderson, Aaron Sorkin and Christopher Nolan, but having a pair of veterans teaming on a project of this scale could tip the scales in their favor.
“Tenet” – Nolan has two previous screenplay noms under his belt: “Memento” and “Inception.” His latest film definitely falls closer to the latter. It’s a wholly original concept that spans across the world and involves trippy sci-fi logic, but looks to up the stakes by having its heroes prevent World War III. It’s an incredibly tall order, but I expect Nolan to stick the landing like he usually does.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Da 5 Bloods” – VFX supervisor Randall Balsmeyer’s resume is pretty light, with his most notable credit being “BlacKkKlansman.” Similarly, this is special effects supervisor Herbert Blank’s first project in the role.
“Tenet” – The film looks highly reliant on massive, practical effects-based action sequences, which is always appealing to voters who are overwhelmed by the heavy CGI used in most of the other contenders – see nominations for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “First Man” and “1917.” Add in the VFX supervisor from “Fury Road” and the SFX supervisor from “Interstellar,” and the outcome is obvious.
BEST FILM EDITING
“Da 5 Bloods” – Bad news: editor Adam Gough has one major film under his belt. Good news: that film is “Roma.” His work on that film earned him a BAFTA nomination, but no Oscar nod. “Da 5 Bloods” clocks in at over two-and-a-half-hours long and will have to balance its narrative between past and present. Gough’s work could make or break the film, and I’m feeling more optimistic.
“Tenet” – Editor Lee Smith had worked on every Nolan film since “Batman Begins,” but Nolan opted to add Jennifer Lame to his crew for “Tenet.” While Lame has never been nominated, her resume includes “Manchester by the Sea,” “Hereditary” and “Marriage Story,” all of which I believe should have been nominated. She is one of the industry’s rising talents, and her first collaboration with Nolan would be a fitting moment for her to finally be recognized.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
“Da 5 Bloods” – Terence Blanchard’s score for “BlacKkKlansman” earned him his first Oscar nomination, but his resume is otherwise light. Director Spike Lee said the film will be heavily reliant on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album, which could potentially pull attention away from Blanchard’s original compositions. It also doesn’t help that heavyweight composers Hans Zimmer, Alexandre Despat and Atticus Ross & Trent Reznor will all be in the mix.
“Tenet” – Nolan fans were shocked when the news came out that frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer wasn’t going to be scoring his new film, but some of the blow was softened by the fact that Ludwig Göransson was signing on fresh off his Oscar win for “Black Panther.” The 35-year-old had enormous shoes to fill, but based on what we heard in that epic IMAX prologue back in December, he is more than up to the challenge.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“Da 5 Bloods” – The crew doesn’t have anyone of note, and the shooting took place in a lot of real locations in Thailand and Vietnam. In fact, there isn’t even a production designer listed for the film on IMDB, Letterboxd or Wikipedia. I think it is safe to rule out this one.
“Tenet” – Nathan Crowley has been Nolan’s production designer on every film since 2002, earning four Oscar nominations out of their partnership. However, it’s difficult to fully gauge at this point how much work Crowley had to do on a film where so much filming happened on location. It also doesn’t have the benefit of being a period piece or full-blown genre film, like some previous films nominated under similar circumstances. But with five nominations under his belt and “Tenet” bound to get a slew of nominations, voters may just send him right through, anyway.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“Da 5 Bloods” – This is an interesting category because while period pieces dominate, war film period pieces are almost always left out in favor of the dresses and suits of strict dramas. The last two such films nominated are “Allied” and “Lincoln,” both costumed by Joanna Johnston. Donna Berwick, on the other hand, is doing the costumes for her first feature film since 2012 and has never been nominated.
“Tenet” – Jeffrey Kurland’s sole nomination came in 1995 for “Bullets Over Broadway,” a film set in 1928. Kurland’s designs for “Tenet” are very similar in aesthetic to those of “Inception,” which he also costumed and didn’t earn a nomination.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“Da 5 Bloods” and “Tenet” – Similar to costume design, makeup and hair is typically reserved for period pieces, biopics and big genre films. This remained the case even when the category expanded from three nominees to five last year. With neither film boasting notable crew members, this is an easy one to write off – no matter how good Robert Pattinson’s hair looks.
“Da 5 Bloods” – Supervising sound editor Philip Stockton has a strong track record that includes two Oscar nominations, one of which was a win for Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” in 2012. Sound mixer José Antonio García also boasts two nominations. However, the sound categories generally lean into bigger, more bombastic films. While “Da 5 Bloods” will feature some action sequences, the level of potential blockbuster competition has me doubtful. Its chances are also hurt by the combination of the two previously separate sound categories being combined into one.
“Tenet” – This is the easiest prediction I’ll make all year. Re-recording mixer Kevin O’Connell has 21 (!!!) career Academy Award nominations. Supervising sound editor Richard King has a whopping four wins in just six nominations, including wins for Nolan’s own “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “Dunkirk.”
“Da 5 Bloods”
PROJECTED NOMINATION RANGE: Zero to six nominations
JOHNNY’S CURRENT PREDICTION: Four (Picture, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Cinematography)
PROJECTED NOMINATION RANGE: Two to nine
JOHNNY’S CURRENT PREDICTION: Eight (Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound)
Johnny Sobczak View All
Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."
Great read. Looking forward to the actual awards to see how you stack up based upon your assessment/predictions.