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What movies are in the mix to receive an Oscar nomination?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Oscar nominations are announced today. There's a variety of movies that could win, from big-budget blockbusters to the more indie arthouse fare. And NPR Culture Desk reporter Andrew Limbong has been following it all. Good morning.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so who might get nominated for best picture?

LIMBONG: OK, so you know there are 10 slots in this category, right? And in this year's crop of movies, like you said, it's like the mega blockbusters up against the usual Oscar baity-type stuff. So some of the titles being tossed around include two sequels, right? One, we've got "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way Of Water." "Top Gun" dominated the box office last year, and "Avatar" just spent this past weekend breaking 2 billion at the box office.

INSKEEP: Wow.

LIMBONG: And then on the relatively smaller scale, other titles include the mind-bending, universe-hopping movie "Everything Everywhere All At Once." There's "Tar." That's the Cate Blanchett movie about the controlling orchestra conductor. And for my money, the frontrunner is "The Fabelmans." That's the semi-autobiographical movie directed by Steven Spielberg about a young boy who's coming of age and learns a love of movies. Here's a clip of the boy's mom, Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, helping him film his train set crashing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FABELMANS")

MICHELLE WILLIAMS: (As Mitzi Fabelman) We're going to use Daddy's camera to film it. Only crash the train once, OK? Then after we get the film developed, you can watch it crash over and over till it's not so scary anymore.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) That's great. I missed a chance at the theater the other day to see "The Fabelmans," watched something else. Would I regret that then?

LIMBONG: Well, according to the Golden Globes, you know, you did because the "The Fabelmans" won for best drama movie. And speaking of the Globes, it's helpful to look at them to get a sense of who's in the running for the actor awards. You know, Michelle Williams is probably in the mix, as is Cate Blanchett. Michelle Yeoh won a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy for "Everything Everywhere." In it, she plays Evelyn, a frustrated mother who has a hard time connecting with her gay daughter. Here's a clip of the two of them talking while they're cooking.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE")

MICHELLE YEOH: (As Evelyn Wang) You know, he doesn't have to stay.

STEPHANIE HSU: (As Joy Wang) Who's he?

YEOH: (As Evelyn Wang) Becky.

HSU: (As Joy Wang) Becky's a she.

YEOH: (As Evelyn Wang) You know me, I always mix up he, she. In Chinese, just one word, ta. So easy. And the way you two are dressed, I'm sure I'm not the only one calling him he. I mean her him. Anyways....

LIMBONG: Anyone who's seen the movie knows I'm, like, slightly underplaying the plot a bit because the movie gets a little out there. But if Yeoh does get nominated, this'll actually be her first Oscars nod in her decades-long career.

INSKEEP: What did Brendan Fraser do to get into the mix here?

LIMBONG: Yeah, a lot of people are talking about him and his role in Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale." In it, he plays an obese writing teacher who also has a hard time connecting with his daughter.

INSKEEP: It's a theme here, but go on.

LIMBONG: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. The movie itself has gotten kind of mixed reviews for its portrayal of fat people. But, like, even in the most brutal takedowns of the movie that I've read, critics have made sure to mention that Fraser's performance is as tender and humane as the script allows him to be.

HSU: What about another big award, best director?

LIMBONG: Yeah. A lot of the movies we've talked about have their directors in the running. You know, you've got Spielberg, Todd Field for "Tar," the Daniels, Kwan and Scheinert, for "Everything Everywhere." There's also Baz Luhrmann for the "Elvis" movie. But I'm actually interested in seeing if women get boxed out of this category at the Oscars like they did at the Golden Globes. And, you know, it isn't as if there wasn't a solid bench of movies directed by women this year, right? Both Sarah Polley's "Women Talking" and Gina Prince-Bythewood's "The Woman King" got good reviews this year, but they don't seem to be in, like, the discourse as much as, say, Jane Campion was when she was nominated and won for "Power Of The Dog" last year.

INSKEEP: Well, we'll see what the nominations bring. Andrew, thanks so much.

LIMBONG: Thanks, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF YIN YIN'S "THE RABBIT THAT HUNTS TIGERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.