Now that Hollywood’s guilds have weighed in, do we have a best picture Oscar front-runner?

Alana Haim and Sean Penn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza."
Alana Haim and Sean Penn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” which has scored a trifecta of nominations from the DGA, PGA and WGA and recognition from the editors guild.
(Melinda Sue Gordon / MGM)

Oscar nominations voting began Thursday morning, the same day that the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild and American Cinema Editors announced their nominees.

Judging from these groups’ slates, it would appear that reflecting the tastes of moviegoers — particularly from the PGA, a body that has recognized box office hits in the past — is pretty low on the priority list this awards season.

Two movies showed up on all four lists — the sci-fi spectacle “Dune” and the soaring, San Fernando Valley-set “Licorice Pizza” — although others, like “The Power of the Dog” and “Belfast,” might have done so as well, had they been eligible for Writers Guild consideration.


Half the Producers Guild’s 10 nominees came from streamers, including three Netflix movies — “Don’t Look Up,” “The Power of the Dog” and “Tick, Tick... Boom!” — along with the Apple TV+ coming-of-age story “CODA” and Amazon Studios’ showbiz drama “Being the Ricardos.” Two other nominees, “Dune” (the sole movie on the list that grossed $100 million at the box office) and “King Richard,” were films that launched simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.

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Only “Belfast,” “Licorice Pizza” and “West Side Story” were pure theatrical releases, an indication that, in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, voters are staying home and gravitating toward films that pop up on their subscription platforms.

Although the Producers Guild has a history of recognizing blockbusters like the James Bond movie “Skyfall,” Rian Johnson’s entertaining mystery “Knives Out,” the taut horror film “A Quiet Place” and Patty Jenkins’ dazzling “Wonder Woman,” its voters this year ignored big productions, including “House of Gucci,” “No Time to Die” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Last year, the PGA even nominated a comedy, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” a rare acknowledgment that humor can exist in the awards season bubble.

“Spider-Man” producers have been arguing for the last month that the movie belongs in the best picture conversation, with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige likening it to “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the culmination of a beloved franchise. This was pretty much the same argument he made a couple years ago for “Avengers: Endgame,” a case awards voters summarily rejected.

With the PGA leaving “Spider-Man” off its list, its prospects at the Oscars look iffy at best, although you’d think members of the motion picture academy might at least consider including the one movie that has indisputably connected with filmgoers this past year. (The domestic box office for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” currently stands at nearly $725 million.)

The Directors Guild nominees — Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”), Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”) — cement their films as the leading best picture contenders in a year in which a front-runner has yet to emerge.


The DGA’s inclusion of Spielberg came as a welcome sign for the film, which had been underperforming a bit with the crafts guilds and had been overlooked earlier in the day by the American Cinema Editors. Spielberg’s nomination marks the sixth consecutive decade he has earned love from the DGA, going back to his first nod for 1975’s “Jaws.”

The film academy’s directors branch has grown significantly in recent years, with a large percentage of its new members coming from around the world. This infusion has likely been a factor in recent Oscar nominations for international filmmakers, including Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”), Poland’s Paweł Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), none of whom found favor with the DGA.

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As the DGA and Oscar director nomination slates seldom exactly match, it’s possible that academy voters might look globally and recognize, say, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi for “Drive My Car” or perhaps past Oscar winner Pedro Almodóvar (“Parallel Mothers”).

The Writers Guild nominations arrived, as always, with an asterisk, as many of the leading contenders — original screenplays “Belfast” and “Parallel Mothers” and adapted entries “The Lost Daughter,” “The Power of the Dog” and “Drive My Car” — are ineligible, either because their writers don’t belong to the guild or the productions did not meet signatory requirements.

For original screenplay, the nominees included name-brand filmmakers Aaron Sorkin (“Being the Ricardos”), Adam McKay (“Don’t Look Up”), Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”) and Wes Anderson (“The French Dispatch”), along with newcomer Zach Baylin (“King Richard”). It’s possible that lineup remains intact for the Oscars, though Branagh’s “Belfast” script probably figures to muscle its way in.

Nominees for adapted screenplay were Siân Heder’s “CODA,” Jon Spaihts, Villeneuve and Eric Roth for their degree-of-difficulty work on “Dune,” Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan for “Nightmare Alley,” Steven Levenson for “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” and Tony Kushner’s update of “West Side Story.”


The film academy’s writers branch figures to sub in Campion’s adaptation of Thomas Savage’s “The Power of the Dog” and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s raw, suspenseful reworking of the Elena Ferrante novel “The Lost Daughter.” I’d also hope that Hamaguchi’s delicate, daring expansion of the Haruki Murakami short story “Drive My Car” would find a place.

Next up: Oscar nominations, which arrive Feb. 8, with the ceremony following several weeks later on March 27.