From its first trailer, First Man looked like a surefire Oscar front runner. Damien Chazelle, Ryan Gosling, period piece, Great Man biopic—it appeals to several Oscar fetishes. But the box office for First Man has been lackluster, stalling out just below its break-even point. And with that lack of box office momentum comes an overall loss of momentum that seems to spell the end of First Man’s Oscar hopes (see also: Widows). Right? Well, not so fast. Because First Man just pulled ten Critics Choice nominations, including a Best Actor nod for Ryan Gosling (his first of this award season). First Man needs this attention-bump, because the Golden Globes did not come through for them—only two nominations—so they’ll need to gather momentum from other awards bodies.
First Man is something of an Oscar paradox. Given the lack of conversation, it seems like their campaign is dead. But then they come through with a stack of Critics Choice nominations, and maybe they’re not dead yet. This year is something of a wild card because no one knows how the new members will impact nominations, but with that caveat, First Man still looks like a contender in eight to ten categories, mostly craft. Claire Foy has a better chance at a nomination than Gosling—he has that thing of making it look too easy and not constantly talking about what a struggle acting is—but First Man should be a competitor in most of the craft categories. And once you get a bunch of craft nominations, your odds of a Best Picture nomination go up, even if you do miss Best Director. With the expanded field, a Best Director nomination isn’t a prerequisite anymore, just load up on craft nominations and watch that attention roll into Best Picture.
For Gosling, though, this might be his only nomination, unless BAFTA comes through. It’s a competitive year, so I won’t say he’ll be snubbed, because when there are this many good movies and performances, some things just don’t make the cut. But I will take his understated work as Neil Armstrong over Viggo Mortensen in Green Book any day of the week.
See the full list of Critics Choice nominations here.