The veil has lifted for a major awards hopeful with Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. This version of the Shakespearian tragedy casts Denzel Washington as Lord Macbeth and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth and it is kicking off the New York Film Festival. Between the two leads, they have five Oscars between them. Do they need to find more room on their shelves?
With Denzel, news from the Big Apple indicates yes. Some early reviews are calling it among his career best work. In the Best Actor derby, it’s likely that Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Will Smith (King Richard) have already punched their tickets to the dance. I believe we can add a third today with Mr. Washington.
With McDormand, it’s a bit more complicated. The answer may come down to whether distributor A24 elects for a campaign in lead or supporting. Based on the buzz, it sounds like a case could be made for either. My hunch is that Supporting Actress (which appears fairly wide open at the moment) will be the play. If so, McDormand probably stands a better chance for inclusion. I question whether her recent Best Actress victories (in 2017 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and last year’s Nomadland) make her vulnerable to newcomers. Yet in Supporting Actress, I could easily see the Academy making room for her.
As for the rest of the cast, both Corey Hawkins and Kathryn Hunter are generating solid notices. However, their screen time could be a hindrance to make the cut (for Hunter, this definitely holds true if McDormand goes supporting).
Beyond Denzel, the cinematography is being heralded and it’s a safe bet Macbeth gets recognized there. Other techs like Production Design and Sound are feasible. Adapted Screenplay from Mr. Coen (making his first pic without brother Ethan) is in the cards. On the other hand, it’s said to deviate very little from the Shakespeare text and that may leave it off some ballots in that particular category.
Moving to the largest race of all, I’ve included Macbeth in my top ten for Best Picture all along. I don’t think it’s guaranteed a slot, but I don’t see myself moving it out based on the current buzz. Coen’s placement in Best Director is questionable but possible.
Bottom line: The Tragedy of Macbeth has elevated its lead actor and put itself in position for numerous other races. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…