However, Christopher Nolan’s tent-pole sci-fi thriller “Tenet” was used as a test to see if moviegoers would possibly risk their well-being when it opened in U.S. theaters on Sept. 3. It managed to gross $334 million worldwide. That might sound like a lot, but consider the director’s last effort, the 2017 war epic “Dunkirk,” took in $526 million around the globe, making it the most successful World War II film ever, it came off as a disappointment.
Suddenly, studios with pricey titles were rethinking their plans about some likely awards contenders while shelving them until after the 2021 Oscar season. Such highly anticipated big-budget crowd pleasers as Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place Part II” and Daniel Craig’s last appearance as 007, “No Time to Die,” have all been shelved until later next year. The hope is that the pandemic will subside, multiplexes will be safe, and these films will compete in the 2022 race.
That means that smaller movies now have an edge in the race. Looking at the combined odds of the more than 2,000 readers making early predictions about the Academy Awards on the Gold Derby awards site, arthouse contenders that premiered at festivals include Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” which got an early boost by winning the Golden Lion at Venice as well as the coveted People’s Choice Award in Toronto. The story about senior citizens who live in RVs after the 2008 recession while working at odd jobs is for now the one to beat. It will be released in theaters on December 4, 2020.
Similarly, Regina King—an Oscar-winning supporting actress who won for 2018’s “If Beale Street Could Talk”—was able to show her directing debut “One Night in Miami” in Venice to great acclaim. Even better, King was the first Black female director to ever have a movie selected in the fest’s history. It will stream on Prime Video on January 15, 2021.
The best news, however, in terms of diversity Oscar-wise? After last year’s snub of Greta Gerwig’s direction of her Best Picture nominee “Little Women” and Lulu Wang’s overlooked “The Farewell,” Zhao and King seem destined to become just the sixth and seventh female directors to compete in that category—and it’s about freaking time.