When Paul Thomas Anderson writes and directs, the Academy takes notice and that won’t change with Licorice Pizza. Out in limited release November 26th before a Christmas Day expansion, the social media embargo is lapsed. Early word indicates the coming-of-age dramedy set in the Valley circa 1973 is one of the filmmaker’s most accessible and lighter works. And there are certainly categories where Oscar voters may bite.
Six out of the last seven PTA pictures have nabbed nominations. Two (There Will Be Blood, Phantom Thread) contended for Best Picture and its maker made it both times for his direction. He has been nominated five times for screenwriting with the aforementioned titles as well as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Inherent Vice. Despite the multiple ballot appearances, PTA has yet to get his hands on a gold statue.
That could change here, but it’s no guarantee. I do believe the initial buzz suggests a Best Picture nod is likely and he could certainly be recognized for directing. I don’t foresee wins in either race.
Original Screenplay is a different story. Belfast is the main competition at the moment and that’s significant considering it’s the frontrunner for Picture. However, I could see a narrative developing where Anderson could emerge victorious partly as a career achievement/overdue honor.
Down the line recognition for Editing might be its strongest opportunity in tech derbies. For the actors, PTA’s filmography has resulted in nine nominations for its performers. There’s just one win with Daniel Day-Lewis in Blood. Interestingly, we’ve seen three nominees each in Actor, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. None for Best Actress, but that’s where Pizza has perhaps the most feasible chance.
Alana Haim’s performance is already getting raves. The downside is that Best Actress looks awfully competitive in 2021 and it could be an uphill battle. She’ll need some critics awards love and precursors. Same goes for Cooper Hoffman who makes his big screen debut. He’s the son of the late Philip, who PTA featured in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, and The Master. He too is being lauded though breaking into Actor could be an even taller order for him.
Finally, that brings us to Bradley Cooper. Playing film producer and Barbra Streisand’s former hairdresser Jon Peters, this looked like the kind of juicy role that might finally get the four-time acting contender some hardware. I’ve had Cooper listed at #1 in my Supporting Actor predictions since I began doing them over the summer (even in my updated estimates from earlier in the evening). It seems that Cooper’s screen time is quite limited in this… enough so that he might miss the dance altogether. One bright side is that Supporting Actor is so wide open that even his brief appearance could make enough of an impression on the Academy. I do suspect that Cooper will, at the least, not be in the top spot when I update next week.
Bottom line: the Pizza party at the Oscars could involve Picture, Director, and absolutely Original Screenplay. The cast faces some challenges. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…