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- BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR -
AIR Amazon Studios; Ben Affleck, Matt Damon & David Ellison, Producers • Yes:
Critically well-received crowdpleaser that hits the pop culture sweet spot. Affleck and Damon’s Artist Equity venture has gotten plaudits and may resonate even more after a year destined to be defined by guild strikes. • No:
It’s an early spring release. Will it be forgotten months later amid a glut of new and shinier objects? It’s box office performance has generally been hailed as solid, but Amazon acquired it for a hefty price-tag. Will it be viewed as a wasteful investment in hindsight? • Maybe So:
In a field of 10 nominees, a slighter picture like this can comfortably coast into inclusion by virtue of being broadly appealing. It doesn’t need to rack up many nominations elsewhere to still be a contender.
THE COLOR PURPLE Warner Bros.; Quincy Jones, Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey, Producers • Yes:
A musical with heft and sociopolitical resonance. The stage production already has a rich history of accolades, and this adaptation is backed by an all-star producer team. Could benefit from a reclamation narrative decades after Spielberg’s rendition was completely shut out of Oscar wins. • No:
Even if it’s reconfigured as a musical, we’ve already seen this story in cinematic form. Could the same systemic biases that muted the 1985 film’s reception resurface this time around? Musicals have a mixed record with the modern Academy, and this one is directed by someone who cut their teeth in music videos. Could it wind up too glossy for its own good? • Maybe So:
If Barbie becomes a serious contender, it’ll be tough for Warner Bros. to juggle campaigns for both films along with Dune.
DUNE: PART TWO Warner Bros.; Tanya Lapointe, Patrick McCormick & Denis Villeneuve • Yes:
The first installment was richly rewarded with Oscars while being a much tougher sell. Villeneuve was able to win over audiences with what was ostensibly just setup, and this will be all payoff. If it's rousing enough it could even be in the hunt for the win. • No:
Part One loomed large in a year with far fewer epics to compete with. It also existed in a very different box-office environment; Part Two will face much steeper financial expectations. Can it meet them? • Maybe So:
Let’s not kid ourselves. Dune: Part Two’s nomination is the closest thing we have to a lock this year. It’s Muad’Dib time.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures; Dan Friedkin, Daniel Lupi & Martin Scorsese, Producers • Yes:
This is about as good as it gets on paper. Saint Scorsese directing a western epic with his two most quintessential stars paired together for the first time in decades. And it won’t lack for sociopolitical relevance. • No:
It was last year's presumptive frontrunner and this year's as well. Those kind of expectations have sunk many a good film for the crime of not being a masterpiece. That runtime will also be a daunting barrier to entry for some. • Maybe So:
So much of the talent involved have already been so richly rewarded that the package might not be viewed as the sexiest option — even if it fully lives up to everyone’s lofty expectations.
MAESTRO Netflix; Bradley Cooper, Martin Scorsese & Steven Spielberg, Producers • Yes:
A portrait of a tortured genius and a prime opportunity for some Capital A acting. Cooper delivered the goods with a Star is Born, and having Leonard Bernstein's oeuvre as your soundtrack is a pretty great secret weapon. • No:
Will this be so transparently baity that it turns people off? Portraits of troubled geniuses aren’t as hot as they used to be. The biggest worry of all: did Lydia Tár, Bernstein's greatest pupil, steal his thunder by getting there first? • Maybe So:
A Star is Born was a hit in every sense of the word and still received a muted reception from the Academy that bordered on begrudging. Will Cooper course correct and play the campaign circuit more strategically this time?
MAY DECEMBER TBD; Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell & Grant S. Johnson, Producers • Yes:
Strong notices coming out of Cannes, and this team has an impressive pedigree. A confirmed strong acting showcase, and its provocative premise will surely drum up a lot of attention in the months to come. • No:
Haynes’ return to sardonic camp will be welcomed with open arms by his fans, but will it be too icy and disquieting to gain much traction beyond performances? • Maybe So:
For such a starry film, it’s yet to secure distributor. This was reportedly a strategic decision by the producers to up the sales price, which may pay off with a glitzy acquisition. If distributors like Focus Features or Searchlight, awards mainstays who have softer slates than usual this year, snatch this up on the Croisette, it could become their primary racehorse.
OPPENHEIMER Universal Pictures; Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven & Emma Thomas • Yes:
An historical drama with all the grandiosity and pyrotechnics of a blockbuster. The last time Nolan worked in this key (Dunkirk) was a resounding success. • No:
It’s vulnerable to accusations of glorifying the atomic bomb (even if it resolutely doesn’t). Might prove more respected than genuinely liked. What if Barbie eats its lunch at the box-office? • Maybe So:
Everything about this film’s rollout, from the marketing to cast and crew interviews, has been supremely confident.
PAST LIVES A24; David Hinojosa, Pamela Koffler & Christine Vachon • Yes:
It wasn't just the best reviewed film out of Sundance — it's gotten the sort of praise that is usually reserved for the best of the year. It could prove omnipresent in the critics awards come year’s end. • No:
It's a small-scale film releasing in the first half of the year. We've had our hearts broken before by festival darlings that did everything right but still came up short once the Academy got its hands on a slew of shinier objects. • Maybe So:
It has a savvy backer in A24, which is riding high after its record-breaking showing at the most recent Oscars.
SALTBURN Amazon Studios & MGM; Emerald Fennell, Josey McNamara & Margot Robbie, Producers • Yes:
Emerald Fennell is hot off an Oscar win and garnered a lot of fans with Promising Young Woman's caustic social commentary. This is purported to be a sardonic thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith. The BAFTA crowd might eat it up. • No:
Fennell’s debut film also had passionate detractors who will have their knives sharpened this time. Sophomore features are all the trickier when you have vocal skeptics. • Maybe So:
Amazon Studios have had a pretty anemic record in this category – Fennel’s involvement is more of a guarantor for the nomination than they are.
THE ZONE OF INTEREST A24; Ewa Puszczynska & James Wilson • Yes:
This was going to be La chimera before Zone of Interest’s reviews streamed in. Glazer has reportedly made a masterful and chilling treatise on the banality of evil. Easily in the hunt for the Palme d’Or, and there’s usually room for the big Cannes breakout. • No:
It also is entirely centered on the perpetrators of the Holocaust. What connects with critics on the Croisette may be too formalist and upsetting for the average Academy voter. • Maybe So:
There’s been a recurring pattern of an international film cracking the Big 10 lately. There’s an entire global marketplace of competition, but this is currently top dog. In the Mix:
Asteroid City (Focus Features) Barbie (Warner Bros.) The Bikeriders (20th Century Studios) Challengers (MGM & United Artists) The Holdovers (Focus Features) La chimera (NEON) How Do You Live? (GKIDS) Napoleon (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures) Rustin (Netflix) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING -
DUNE: PART TWO Denis Villeneuve (Warner Bros.) • Yes:
He pulled off a miracle by successfully adapting what was thought to be an unadaptable literary masterwork… and he was snubbed for his trouble. The second half of this story will be more action-oriented and conventionally satisfying, providing a good chance to make it up to him. • No:
Unless his snub for Part One was more pointed, and there's a hard ceiling on how much the Academy appreciates his vision. Science-fiction mostly goes unappreciated in this branch. • Maybe So:
If they announce an adaptation of Dune Messiah this year, maybe the Academy will punt the ball on recognizing him yet again for when he finishes the trilogy.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Martin Scorsese (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures) • Yes:
Cinema’s finally opened up to Marty, but he’s run out of time. He is arguably the most beloved living director and he’s in his twilight era. And, as early looks go, he has the goods yet again. • No:
The movie was crazy expensive, which might raise eyebrows, and maybe he's calcified into the sort of elder statesmen where people feel he doesn't need any more validation. • Maybe So:
His nomination is the closest thing this category has to a lock. The only question is whether he’s genuinely in the hunt for another win.
OPPENHEIMER Christopher Nolan (Universal Pictures) • Yes:
Household name devoting all his wizardry to a biopic with tremendous scope. He's marrying an intimate character study with state of the art pyrotechnic feats. The scale is going to be off the charts, and this is the kind of mature material that makes him harder to dismiss. • No:
He's only been nominated once before, and it took a great big war epic to manage it. He also broke up with Warner Bros in a very public and dramatic fashion -- are there any hard feelings in the industry? • Maybe So:
If Oppenheimer rakes in beaucoup bucks, Nolan could be doubly heralded for making a movie for adults a blockbuster event.
PAST LIVES Celine Song (A24) • Yes:
Rapturous praise out of Sundance -- the kind of reviews that can sustain your buzz all year. Bringing personal flourishes to a universally relatable story is a good hook, and there's solid precedent for a festival darling cracking this field. • No:
She's not just an up-and-comer -- this is her first film, period. That distinction can benefit somebody like Kevin Costner or Robert Redford, but the branch might flinch at welcoming in somebody so unknown to them. • Maybe So:
Her movie's gotten the kind of acclaim that could outlast most competitors. If she's still the critical darling by the end of the year, she'll be in a solid position.
THE ZONE OF INTEREST Jonathan Glazer (A24) • Yes:
A critically respected auteur hits a vein with an audacious portrayal of historical evil that feels relevant to modern tensions. He has the adventurous spirit and the formal rigor that this branch respects. • No:
How beloved is he, really? His previous films have fervent fans but were largely niche. His latest work is paradoxically more Academy friendly, but will it be too alienating to maintain awards traction? • Maybe So:
He could pull off a nod here even if his film proves too limited in appeal to break into the Big 10. In the Mix:
La chimera Alice Rohrwacher (NEON) The Color Purple Blitz Bazawule (Warner Bros.) How Do You Live? Hayao Miyazaki (GKIDS) Maestro Bradley Cooper (Netflix) Saltburn Emerald Fennell (Amazon Studios & MGM) - BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE -
THE ACTOR André Holland (NEON) • Yes:
This is very much a NGNG swing, but the track's laid for the little acting nod that could. This role was plum enough that Ryan Gosling originally snagged it. Paired with a smart distributor like NEON, Holland could be one of the season's biggest surprises. • No:
Duke Johnson has only ever directed stop-motion animation before. How weird is this going to be? Are we gonna get a trailer and discover that the whole thing -- surprise! -- is done with puppets or something? • Maybe So:
Holland's been terrific for a long time. Feels like an actor just waiting for the right role to break into the club.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Leonardo DiCaprio (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures) • Yes:
He’s Leo, back together again with Scorsese. Can you believe it’s already been 10 years since their last movie together? • No:
He’s been celebrated to the point where he needs to show whole new facets of his range to avoid being taken for granted. If you want to get numerical about it: his five previous collaborations with Scorsese only yielded two nominations for himself. Even if he’s arguably the biggest star in the world, his awards recognition is never a given. • Maybe So:
The initial reviews should lay to rest any quibbling about his chances. Not only has he been breathlessly praised, but several notices have called this his best work yet. He’s going to be in the hunt for his second trophy.
MAESTRO Bradley Cooper (Netflix) • Yes:
He's already proven to be his own best director and he's throwing everything but the kitchen sink at this one. Creative genius, repressed sexuality, transformative old age makeup. • No:
The Academy was fairly rude to him for A Star Is Born, which was chalked up to him 'wanting it too much.' Playing Leonard Bernstein is wanting it a helluva lot more blatantly than playing Jackson Maine. Are they just not that into him? • Maybe So:
The movie would have to be a pretty underwhelming flop for him not to be a strong contender here. He's the presumptive frontrunner; if he lands the plane, he could very well steamroll the competition.
OPPENHEIMER Cillian Murphy (Universal Pictures) • Yes:
J. Robert Oppenheimer is a hugely consequential figure swathed in complexity. The movie is emphasizing his historical importance -- "The Man Who Moved the Earth" -- and promises to be very much about him and not just his creation. Murphy's a high-profile pro who has never really had his awards shot, give or take a Breakfast on Pluto. • No:
The picture's a big pyrotechnic epic full of sturm and drang. Having to share star status with Christopher Nolan, will there be enough attention left over for the actors? • Maybe So:
Nolan and Murphy have emphasized their collaboration in the press rollout. Are they positioning themselves as a package deal?
SALTBURN Barry Keoghan (Amazon Studios & MGM) • Yes:
His career has a full head of steam after The Banshees of Inisherin got him into the awards club. He’s purportedly the lead playing a character reminiscent of Tom Ripley. He gives good unnerving freak; this could be an organic leveling up for him as a new star. • No:
Conniving and alienating characters can be a tough sell in this category. Perhaps a little bit of Keoghan goes a long way with Academy voters; do they prefer him as a garnish rather than the main course? He’s also still fairly young for this category. • Maybe So:
He’s got a lot of big projects in the pipeline. A sense of momentum helps. In the Mix:
Bob Marley: One Love Kingsley Ben-Adir (Paramount Pictures) The Holdovers Paul Giamatti (Focus Features) A Little Prayer David Strathairn (Sony Pictures Classics) Napoleon Joaquin Phoenix (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) Rustin Colman Domingo (Netflix) - BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -
THE COLOR PURPLE Fantasia Barrino (Warner Bros.) • Yes:
She originated this role on the stage and the character is a plum portrait of resilience and self-actualization. Plenty of ballads to chew on, and it bears mentioning that Barrino has already triumphed in a singing contest. • No:
She may have originated the role on stage, but Cynthia Erivo put an indelible stamp on it with the revival. Will Barrino be able to reclaim the role, or will there be grumbles that Erivo would’ve been preferable casting? Meanwhile, Barrino’s caught flack before for conservative opinions. Is she a potential gaffe machine on the campaign trail? • Maybe So
: She wouldn’t be the first contestant from America Idol’s third season to go on and win an Oscar.
MAY DECEMBER Natalie Portman (TBD) • Yes:
Portman will lay dormant for several years at a time before springing up to remind everyone of her formidability. Initial reviews have been ecstatic about her performance as an actor who takes their method to disconcerting extremes. She reportedly shows a new facet of her range. • No:
This category is shaping up to be competitive, and mannered camp might suffer in comparison to other contenders’ straightforward histrionics. • Maybe So:
Moore will also be a player this season, and co-stars both in the running tend to bolster each others’ positioning.
NYAD Annette Bening (Netflix) • Yes:
Bening's been overdue for so long that most have given up hope, but here she's playing a record-setting inspirational figure in a highly physical role. Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi have been absolutely blockbuster documentary filmmakers and deserve some benefit of the doubt in their fictional debut. • No:
There's a modicum of controversy over the real Diana Nyad's records, which would undercut the picture with messy discourse. Documentarians transitioning into fiction filmmaking might yield mixed results. And Bening's been ignored for great work before. • Maybe So:
It'd be nice to have an older actress in a star vehicle for this category.
PAST LIVES Greta Lee (Searchlight Pictures) • Yes:
Her movie's been praised to high heaven, and she's been singled out as an integral ingredient. Everyone who's seen the picture loves her performance. • No:
She's not a star; up until now she's just been a (delightful) supporting player on television. When stacked up against more famous faces, will she be drowned out? • Maybe So:
If the film endures throughout the awards race, it's hard to see it being recognized without her along for the ride.
POOR THINGS Emma Stone (Searchlight Pictures) • Yes:
For such a huge star, Stone's kept a pretty low profile since her last Lanthimos collaboration, aside from emerging to cash a Cruella paycheck. That's a five year absence from serious roles, but she's coming back with a vengeance in this gonzo role: a drowned woman who is resuscitated with the brain of an infant. The opportunities for physical and verbal comedy are endless, and The Favourite proved that Yorgos brings out the best in her. • No:
The role is absolutely bizarre on paper and might be too broad and off-putting for establishment tastes. º Maybe So:
I don't know, I think it sounds so crazy that it just might work. She'll sure as shit stand out from the crowd. In the Mix:
Barbie Margot Robbie (Warner Bros.) Challengers Zendaya (MGM & United Artists) Killers of the Flower Moon Lily Gladstone (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures) Maestro Carey Mulligan (Netflix) Anatomy of a Fall / The Zone of Interest Sandra Hüller (A24 / TBD) - BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -
THE COLOR PURPLE Colman Domingo (Warner Bros.) • Yes:
A hard-working character actor who's been giving way more than he gets (this dude is still plugging away on Fear the Walking Dead) finally gets his big moment on film. Having Rustin — however that turns out — premiere in the same season can only bolster his spotlight. • No:
Danny Glover was snubbed for the same role nearly 40 years ago; is this going to strictly be the ladies’ show? Mister is a deeply unlikable character; maybe playing someone this off-putting is a thankless task. • Maybe So:
He’ll have a solo song or two that will give him the chance to bring the house down.
THE IRON CLAW Holt McCallany (A24) • Yes:
This is a total NGNG hunch, hinging on The Iron Claw being a well-liked-but-small film where all the goodwill pools around McCallany playing the Von Erich patriarch. He's the sort of actor this category has a history of elevating. • No:
Or maybe there's no "there" there, and the role just doesn't pop. Could have strong internal competition from co-stars like Jeremy Allen White. And even if the movie connects, McCallany's primarily from TV; would they hold that against him? • Maybe So:
A24's pretty good at wringing acting nominations from their smaller awards vehicles. If McCallany's memorable in the movie, they might deem him a do-able pickup and make a concerted campaign push.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Robert De Niro (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures) • Yes
: He’s reportedly back in top form as the sociopathic patriarch who waged a stealth genocide against the Osage tribe. Reviews have praised him mightily, with several calling it his best work in decades. • No
: They were rude enough to snub him for his last reunion with Marty. Maybe the decades of paycheck roles have truly eroded his stock amongst voters? • Maybe So
: He’s Robert fuckin’ De Niro, and he’s gotten up there in years. How many more opportunities will there honestly be to recognize him? “Three-time Academy Award Winner Robert De Niro” sounds just.
OPPENHEIMER Robert Downey Jr. (Universal Pictures) • Yes:
It's been a long time since Downey played in this kind of sandbox. The Academy might be waiting for the first excuse to give him the damn trophy, let alone a win. • No:
The movie will cover a lot of ground. Is Downey even going to be in it much? With an ensemble that huge, we could be looking at a series of extended cameos instead of juicy supporting roles. • Maybe So:
If Nolan lets Downey cook a little bit, this could be a no-brainer. And if he brings some sorely needed levity to such an intense movie, watch out.
PAST LIVES John Magaro (A24) • Yes:
Reviews have singled out his warm contribution to the film, his character proving so endearing that it greatly complicates audience sympathies with the central romance. It helps to be a part of what might just be the most critically acclaimed movie of the year. • No:
As richly deserved Magaro’s awards breakout would be, he’s not exceedingly well-known. In a category usually reserved for scene stealers, is there room for a performance that is mild and sweet? • Maybe So:
He’s accumulated a nice reputation as an Indie muse. First Cow was completely ignored in an uncompetitive year, but maybe enough voters will fondly remember Magaro’s gentle starring performance in that picture to give him some residual goodwill. In the Mix:
Barbie Ryan Gosling (Warner Bros.) BlackBerry Glenn Howerton (IFC Films) Killers of the Flower Moon Jesse Plemons (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures) May December Charles Melton (TBD) Poor Things Willem Dafoe or Mark Ruffalo (Searchlight Pictures) - BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -
AIR Viola Davis (Amazon Studios) • Yes:
She was the standout in a well-liked movie, and Affleck has told anyone who will listen about how Michael Jordan himself requested her casting. • No:
The movie arrived early and there will be newer and shinier objects in the months to come. There may also emerge a sentiment that Davis could’ve done this role in her sleep. • Maybe So:
Davis is one of the most respected actors currently working and many felt she was snubbed last season for The Woman King. This nod could be an easy way for voters to make amends.
THE COLOR PURPLE Danielle Brooks (Warner Bros.) • Yes:
She already garnered a Tony nomination for her rendition of Sofia, the brassiest and most charismatic character in the whole ensemble. She could steal the whole show. • No:
Oprah Winfrey already put a pretty indelible stamp on this character in the popular imagination. Will Brooks’ reception suffer from comparisons? She’s also primarily known as a television actor — can she graduate to movie stardom? • Maybe So:
I think this really depends on whether The Color Purple has the juice to rack up acting nods across the board or whether its capped at one or two.
THE COLOR PURPLE Taraji P. Henson (Warner Bros.) • Yes:
Henson's the most famous of the ensemble and playing the (presumably beefed up) role of Shug. Even if the film underwhelms, she could be its standard bearer in the acting awards. • No:
Internal competition with Danielle Brooks. Henson can sing, but will her Broadway-caliber costars outshine her? • Maybe So:
Henson's popular and respected enough that she feels primed for becoming a regular at the Academy, roles willing.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Lily Gladstone (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures) • Yes:
The adaptation was refocused onto DiCaprio’s conman, and by extension Gladstone will be front and center throughout. She is the most sympathetic character in the saga and a fresh face with a great campaign narrative (she was preparing to quit acting when she was contacted by Scorsese). Reviews out of Cannes have given her rapturous praise. • No:
Will she go Leading instead? This feels like it'll draw accusations of category fraud wherever she's slotted. After Michelle Williams’ lead push last season, Gladstone and her team might feel bullish about her positioning. • Maybe So:
There was already a narrative brewing about how her cultural insight greatly informed Scorsese’s approach to the material. Her nomination — and potential victory — would be a watershed moment for Indigenous representation in Hollywood. She’s going to be competitive for the win regardless of whichever category she winds up in.
MAY DECEMBER Julianne Moore (TBD) • Yes:
Reunited with her signature director and reportedly turning out highly memorable work as a highly problematic woman blessed with a vacant conscience. Moore was a regular nominee until her eventual win; maybe it’s high time to re-up her presence at the Oscars. • No:
The character might prove too icky for some. She’s been passed over for scorcher performances before. • Maybe So:
There’s a plum narrative about Moore and Haynes’ collaborative relationship over the last 30 years that keeps her firmly in the conversation. In the Mix:
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Rachel McAdams (Lionsgate) Barbie America Ferrara (Warner Bros.) The Holdovers Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Focus Features) Napoleon Vanessa Kirby (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) Saltburn Rosamund Pike (Amazon Studios & MGM) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING, ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY -
AIR Alex Convery (Amazon Studios)
LA CHIMERA Alice Rohrwacher (NEON)
MAY DECEMBER Samy Burch & Alex Mechanik (TBD)
PAST LIVES Celine Song (A24)
SALTBURN Emerald Fennell (Amazon Studios) In the Mix:
Asteroid City Wes Anderson (Focus Features) Barbie Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach (Warner Bros.) Fair Play Chloe Domont (Netflix) The Holdovers David Hemingson (Focus Features) Maestro Bradley Cooper & Josh Singer (Netflix) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING, ADAPTED SCREENPLAY -
THE ACTOR Stephen Cooney & Duke Johnson (NEON)
DUNE: PART TWO Jon Spaihts & Denis Villeneuve (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Eric Roth & Martin Scorsese (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
OPPENHEIMER Christopher Nolan (Universal Pictures)
THE ZONE OF INTEREST Jonathan Glazer (A24) In the Mix:
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Kelly Fremon Craig (Lionsgate) The Bikeriders Jeff Nichols (20th Century Studios) BlackBerry Matt Johnson & Matthew Miller (IFC Films) The Color Purple Marcus Gardley (Warner Bros.) Poor Things Tony McNamara (Searchlight Pictures) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING -
DUNE: PART TWO Joe Walker (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Thelma Schoonmaker (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING: PART ONE Eddie Hamilton (Paramount Pictures)
OPPENHEIMER Jennifer Lame (Universal Pictures)
SALTBURN Victoria Boydell (Amazon Studios & MGM) In the Mix:
Barbie Mary Jo Markey (Warner Bros.) The Color Purple Jon Poll (Warner Bros.) The Killer TBA (Netflix) Maestro Michelle Tesoro (Netflix) Past Lives Keith Fraase (A24) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY -
THE COLOR PURPLE Dan Laustsen (Warner Bros.)
DUNE: PART TWO Greig Fraser (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Rodrigo Prieto (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
MAESTRO Matthew Libatique (Netflix)
OPPENHEIMER Hoyte van Hoytema (Universal Pictures) In the Mix:
The Killer Erik Messerschmidt (Netflix) Poor Things Robbie Ryan (Searchlight Pictures) The Zone of Interest Lukasz Zal (A24) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN -
BARBIE Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer & Ashley Swanson (Warner Bros.)
THE COLOR PURPLE Paul D. Austerberry & Larry Dias (Warner Bros.)
DUNE: PART TWO Patrice Vermette & Shane Vieau (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Jack Fisk & Adam Willis (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
POOR THINGS Shona Heath, James Price & Zsuzsa Mihalek (Searchlight Pictures) In the Mix:
Asteroid City Adam Stockhausen & Kris Moran (Focus Features) Oppenheimer Ruth De Jong, Claire Kaufman & Adam Willis (Universal Pictures) Napoleon Arthur Max & Elli Griff (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN -
BARBIE Jacqueline Durran (Warner Bros.)
DUNE: PART TWO Jacqueline West (Warner Bros.)
FIREBRAND Michael O’Connor (TBD)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Jacqueline West (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
NAPOLEON Janty Yates & David Crossman (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) In the Mix:
The Color Purple Francine Jamison-Tanchuck (Warner Bros.) Lee Michael O’Connor (Focus Features) Wonka Lindy Hemming (Warner Bros.) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING -
BARBIE Robb Crafer & Lois McIntosh (Warner Bros.)
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 Mo Meinhart & Linda Traxler (Walt Disney Studio Pictures)
DUNE: PART TWO Allan Cooke & Megan Norris (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Beate Petruccelli & Jameson Eaton (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
MAESTRO Kazu Hiro, Jackie Risotto & Jameson Eaton (Netflix) In the Mix:
The Color Purple (Warner Bros.) Oppenheimer (Universal Pictures) Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC, ORIGINAL SCORE -
DUNE: PART TWO Hans Zimmer (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Robbie Robertson (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
OPPENHEIMER Ludwig Göransson (Universal Pictures)
PAST LIVES Christopher Bear & Daniel Rossen (A24)
THE ZONE OF INTEREST Mica Levi (A24) In the Mix:
Barbie Alexandre Desplat (Searchlight Pictures) Elemental Thomas Newman (Walt Disney Studio Pictures) How Do You Live? Joe Hisaishi (GKIDS) Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Walt Disney Studio Pictures) Napoleon Martin Phipps (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC, ORIGINAL SONG -
THE COLOR PURPLE “TBA” by H.E.R.
THE LITTLE MERMAID “TBA” by Lin-Manuel Miranda
MOVIE THAT DOESN’T EXIST “TBA” by Diane Warren
WISH “TBA” by Julia Michaels
WONKA “TBA” by Neil Hannon - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND -
THE COLOR PURPLE Ken McGill & Renee Tondelli (Warner Bros.)
DUNE: PART TWO Dave Whitehead & Gareth John (Warner Bros.)
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON Mark Ulano & Philip Stockton (Apple Studios & Paramount Pictures)
OPPENHEIMER Richard King & Michael W. Mitchell (Universal Pictures)
NAPOLEON Stéphane Bucher & Kevin Penney (Apple Studios & Sony Pictures Entertainment) In the Mix:
The Creator (20th Century Studios) The Killer (Netflix) Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning: Part One (Paramount Pictures) - BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS -
THE CREATOR 20th Century Studios
DUNE: PART TWO Warner Bros.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 Walt Disney Studio Pictures
INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY Walt Disney Studio Pictures
OPPENHEIMER Universal Pictures In the Mix:
Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom (Warner Bros,) Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount Pictures) Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning: Part One (Paramount Pictures) - BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM -
HOW DO YOU LIVE? GKIDS; Hayao Miyazaki
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE Columbia Pictures; Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson
THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE Universal Pictures; Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM Paramount Pictures; Jeff Rowe & Kyler Spears
WISH Walt Disney Studio Pictures; Chris Buck & Fawn Veerasunthorn In the Mix:
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (Netflix) Elemental (Walt Disney Studio Pictures) Migration (Universal Pictures) - BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM -
ANATOMY OF A FALL France; Justine Triet (TBD)
LA CHIMERA Italy; Alice Rohrwacher (NEON)
EL CONDE Chile; Pablo Larraín (Netflix)
GODLAND Iceland; Hlyner Pálmason (Janus Films)
THE ZONE OF INTEREST Poland; Jonathan Frazer (A24) Best Picture Nomination Tally
|TITLE ||NOMINATION TALLY |
|Killers of the Flower Moon ||13 nominations |
|Dune: Part Two ||11 nominations |
|Oppenheimer ||10 nominations |
|The Color Purple ||9 nominations |
|Past Lives ||6 nominations |
|The Zone of Interest ||5 nominations |
|Maestro, May December, Saltburn ||4 nominations |
|Air ||3 nominations |
i’ve been listening to the demos recently and i 1000000% stand by the fact that Mama Would should have stayed in the show. just SUCH a beautiful song and informs us so much about who Emily Deetz was. i can at least appreciate that they included a snippet of its instrumental during the scene in act i when Lydia finds out about Charles and Delia. i also really fell in love with Goodbye Emily Deetz, which is a song that didn’t even make it to any rehearsals i believe. its purpose ended up being achieved through Home and Jump in the Line / Dead Mom reprise, but if it somehow still ended up making it the final cut I wouldn’t have been mad about it tbh.
(Edit - Updated because of last nights dream....and now i'm going back to Sauna Club)
All I wanted to do was lose a little weight.
I’m not, and never have been skinny. The problem is I’m short. If you’re taller you can hide those extra pounds all over the place before people start to notice, but for me it seems to take no time at all to start piling it. A few moments of indiscretion…a few pints after work, a few snacks on the commute, a few takeaways here and there, and suddenly nothing fits as well.I don’t want you to think I’m making excuses…but it’s my wife’s fault. We’ve recently found out she’s pregnant (yay.) and it turns out that makes a man body start releasing sympathy hormones so that you gain weight as well! I always knew that at some point I’d be settling into a bit of a dad bod but for now I’m not going down without a fight. Hell, I’ve got a gym membership. The least I could do is give it a go.
But here is where my weight loss journey gets a little…strange.I set an alarm for 7am. I thought ‘better to get it done before the day gets in the way’. And honestly the experience was FINE. I didn’t hate it anyway near as much as I was expecting. The pool was much busier than I thought it would be. Turns out 7.30am – 8.30am is absolutely peak time for the work hard play hard gym freaks who like to get in a pre- business swim in! I managed about 30 minutes of breaststroke before calling it a day. Even in the slow lane I couldn’t help but feel I was holding up traffic. 3 old dears behind me that I could feel rolling their eyes at the end of every lap. It wasn’t great but it was a start and I thought I’d earned myself a little treat. The real reason I’d come…the sauna. I’ve always loved a sauna. It’s one of the few things that made this extortionate membership worthwhile. Those Scandi’s get it. I don’t know about the whole male female segregation thing, but is there anything more relaxing that slowly boiling yourself with a group of sweaty strangers? Unfortunately after some googling one night my wife told me that sauna’s are so hot that they stop your balls functioning properly. So for as long as we were trying - that was that. Now the deed is done and though and I can finally get back to business. My wife laughs at me, but when we first bought our house it had a little shed at the back and for a while I was determined to turn it into a sauna…another one of my ‘half baked projects that I never see through the completion’. I hung up my towel and entered the sauna. It took my eyes a moment to adjust in the dim, steam filled room to realise that there were a few others in there already. It isn’t a big room. Maybe 3 square meters at a push. With three levels to sit on, ascending like big wooden steps. This’ll sound stupid but I forgot how hot they were. It was like entering an oven (I assume). Like I was immediately uncomfortably hot. I climbed up a level and felt the heat intensify again and knew that I wasn’t ready for the highest step. I’d actually have preferred to have remained on the lowest step but for some stupid reason I didn’t want these strangers to knew that I could handle the sauna like a pro. I sat down and started to bake, trying to work out what number was showing on the thermometer. Did that say 80? Too cold for Fahrenheit but surely waaaay too hot for centigrade? I made a mental promise that I would wait for at least one of these strangers to leave before me. Unfortunately they all seemed deeply settled in conversation and in no rush to go anywhere. “It’s all about the Wim Hof method” “Here we go again.” “Well it’s worth repeating. Wim. Is. The man!” “Who?” giggled a new voice. “Wim…the ice man!” “Ice man?” “Well there’s more to him than that, but that’s how he’s known. His thing is all mind over matter. Get your breathing right and the body is capable of all kinds of things. Cold plunges into a lakes in the middle of winter in Russia, fucking…100 mile runs…withstanding extreme heat…you just need to get your mind right and the rest follows” “Here here” echoed every voice in the sauna. This sudden group chorus took me by surprise. What had I walked into? “No work today then my friend?” There was an awkward pause and when I looked up I realised that the question was directed at me. “Oh me?” “Yes mate. No work?” “er no. Well…yeah but…I’m self employed so…whenever really” The man who seemed to be holding court smiled a knowing smile “Good for you mate. Nothing beats being your own boss.” I took him in for the first time. An older guy, probably pushing into his late sixties. Body like a barrel and the veiny legs of a triathlete. The kind of retiree who looked like they’d decided to take their health seriously. “So…have you sought us out?” He asked slowly, seeming to test the water with his question. “Pardon?” I laughed, certain I’d misheard him. “The Sauna Club…are you here to join us today?” “The Sauna Club?” “Ah” A cheeky grin flickered across the face of the four strangers. “A happy accident then I guess” chimed in the old lady sat nearest the coals. “My names Jen darling. What’s yours?” Jen had kind eyes and no hair and a complexion that spoke to a rough couple of years that I hoped were now behind her. “Mike” I replied. I tried to sound friendly but also final. I really hate conversations with strangers at the best of times and I certainly hadn’t come here to join ‘sauna club’. “Nice to meet you Mike. I’m Andy, opposite we’ve got Lydia and Sak.” The retiree directs my attention to the bench opposite where I can just about make out two others in the swirling mists.Sak is probably a few years younger than me and in the absolute physical prime of his life. He has a body that I’m sure has had some chemical assistance and his body is riddled with tattoo’s. He looked like the kind of man who knew a thing or two about mixed martial arts. Lydia…well if I’m being honest I’d already noticed Lydia and I was trying hard not to stare. Lydia was a 10 and she knew it. The amount of skin on display was verging on pornographic. Just looking at her felt like I was cheating on my wife. “and we are Sauna Club” smiled Jen again. Like that explained anything. “It’s nothing official.” “There’s no joining fee” Andy let out a laugh that was more like a bark. “We meet when we all feel we need…a visit” Everyone nodded at this. I’m not naturally gifted at conversation but this felt more obtuse than usual. “Now’s ideal” Jen continued. “The sweet spot of the day. 8.45am…most people are off to work, but too early for mums and babies so it’s just us…” “Retiree’s” chimed in Andy. “Students” added Lydia. “I’m a personal trainer” Sak added awkwardly “I just haven’t clocked in yet” “Less likely to get disturbed”. A quick glance outside told me she was right. There seemed to have been a mass pool exodus and now all that was left were a few stragglers. Even the life guards seemed to have clocked off for a bit. “We’ve sort of unofficially become the Sauna Club. What about you dear?” “Oh…I’m just here to…” I stopped. Jen’s face was still smiling sweetly, willing me to go on, but I realised I didn’t quite understand what she was asking…and once I’d opened my mouth I realised I didn’t really know how much I wanted to tell these strangers…but it was too late. I’d started so I had to finish. Whatever came out my mouth next was either going to be over sharing or just sounded stupid.“Go on mate” said Andy coachingly.“I’m just here to er…lose a bit of weight” I looked at Lydia when I said it. I don’t know why and I wished I hadn’t. She gave me this shit-eating sympathy grin and I hated myself and my body all over again. “Well you’ve come to the right place” Andy rallied. “People underestimate the Sauna as just a ‘end of work out treat’ but this is where the magic happens” Another weird cultish nod and murmur of approval from Andy’s gathered congregation.“This is where jockeys come before a big race, where boxers come to shed those few final pounds before a fight. It’s crazy what we carry around in water weight” “Yeah but-” “No man. It’s no small thing. You come and sit here a few times a week, I promise you’ll notice a difference. But if you come and join us…join Sauna club…”Another grin…a grin that if I wasn’t mistaken was erring on the side of… “It’ll change your life” Lydia drooled in a voice that was no way near as hot as her body. “It’ll save your life” nodded Jen sadly. “It’s…fucking something” Mumbled Sak. From the corner. “We forget but…Sauna’s are ancient magic Mike. Ancient magic. From Nordic mages, creating smoke houses to commune with the gods, to Native American’s using fire pits to see into other times and places.” “Okay” I nodded, thinking this would be a good time to make my exit. It had all become a little more intense than I’d planned on and besides, I was proper sweating by now. “They are thin places Mike. Know what I mean?” “No” I stood up, aware that I was leaving behind a sweat print of my butt cheeks and trying not to feel too embarrassed about that. “Places where…in the right conditions…we can do something extraordinary. Ask for…the things we really want…really need.” There was no murmuring now. Andy, Jen, Sak and Lydia were looking at me as if they believed in this spiritual shit with all their hearts. Their eyes pleading with me to understand it. “So what do you want Mike?” “I just wanted to lose a little weight…I should get going.” Andy stands and pushes me back to sitting. It’s friendly but firm. It’s an invitation and a challenge. “We’re gonna get started now Mike. That’s why we’re here. And if you don’t want to stay I won’t force you…but if you give us 30 minutes of your time and it’ll change your life. I promise.” I looked around exasperated, limping searching for a easy way out but the truth was that Andy had peaked my interest. “Fine” “Good” Andy smiled and the rest of the room smiled with him. Lydia shuffled closer to me on the benches and reached over to take my hand. “You won’t regret it” she sounded like ever yoga teacher on every home yoga video I’ve ever seen my wife do…but beneath the words there was something else. Something sincere and…scared.Also her breasts are unreal and leaning over like this I couldn’t help but drink in an eyeful. Despite my better judgement, this was when I decided I was in it for whatever the so called ‘sauna club’ had planned. I decided to stay.
“You’re going to think we’re nuts Mike because what I’m gonna say next…it goes waaaaay beyond hippy-dippy gym-lad pseudo-science shit. What I’m going to say next makes no sense at all!” I had already stayed way longer than I’d intended and I was now really starting to struggle with the heat. I was starting to pant without even speaking and I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I hoped Andy’s little demonstration wasn’t going to last much longer.“The only way for you to understand is to be part of it…if that’s cool?” “I’m actually…I’m pretty cooked…” “Just breath mate. In and out. 5 minutes from now you’ll never be the same again.” Lydia squeezed my hand again and nodded…like it would be awful if I left now and carried on just being the same chubby loser I am. “We think there’s rules to this, but I won’t lie Mike. We’re working this out as we go along.” “What…rules?” I gasped, trying to wipe sweat out of my hand but just moving it around. “First off. No matter you do, never stay longer than the timer.” And with that he dramatically rotated the 15 minute egg timer on the wall. “Next…More heat, more smoke.” “No…” It came out as a whimper “I really can’t” Lydia shuffled closer and moved her hand to my knee and I completely lost track of what I was doing and what the fuck I’d stumbled into. “Sorry mate, the heat is key. One more scoop for each person in the Sauna at the time. And then something all together for luck.” Andy picked up the large wooden ladle from the bucket by the coals and poured over the first scoop of water. The room was immediately filled with a loud hissing sound and a brand new cloud of thick white smoke. I lost sight of all of Andy’s torso and head, but watched his arm reach out and pass the ladle to Jen.Quick on her feet for such an old lady, Jen swapped places with Andy and added her scoop to the coals. The hissing intensified and before I knew it all I could see was white.Lydia’s hand on my knee had started a gentle circling action. I could hear motion in the room and then another hiss. I assumed Sak had added his ladle to the coals. Lydia’s hand disappeared and I felt the steam by my side shift to fill the void where she had just been. Another hiss. The wall of white steam was so thick now that it almost felt solid. I was losing all sense of where I was, even though I hadn’t moved. I knew in my head that 4 short steps would take me to the glass door and back to pool side, but that seemed a million miles away. Even looking down I couldn’t see my nipples any more. The heat was unbearable. My eyes felt like sand paper and whenever I breathed in there was a sensation of burning that travelled straight up my nose. “One more Mike…just walk towards my voice.” Don’t ask me why…Maybe it was because I couldn’t see my lumpy body and I was actually enjoying that…maybe it was because I must have sweat out nearly half my body weight by now…MAYBE it was because of the semi I was sporting in my swimming trunks that I couldn’t just up and leave…but I walked towards Andy’s voice. Through the smoke I saw his hand clasped around the wooden ladle. He’d already filled it for me. I took hold and felt him guide me towards the coals. Something about the moment felt…pure…ceremonial even…which feels stupid to say about anything at a local leisure centre but Andy had been right. There was something primal about this moment…the world did feel thin here. I poured. One final hiss. Smoke on smoke on smoke until nothing existed any more. Nothing but an insufferable heat that was smothering me…and I loved it. I knew I needed to leave soon or I might actually collapse but suddenly I didn’t feel like leaving. The heat soothed me. Hands appeared on my shoulders. Both sides. Impossible to say whose. “Good. Now…face forwards and spit. With whatever moisture you have left. Spit on the coals.” It was too hot for questions. The only thing for it was to spit. I gathered whatever spittle I could in my arid mouth and spat forwards. 5 pathetic pops as we all found our mark and then silence. All of us gathered around the coals waiting for something to happen in a perfect white veil of steam. I wondered why the life guard wasn’t coming over to open the door when this was clearly not safe behaviour in the steam room. I wondered what it would look like now to open the door and let this flood of steam pour out across the pool. “What now?” I rasped. My voice was so starved for moisture that it came out like no noise I’d ever made before. There was no reply and I realised there was no longer any hands on my shoulders. “Andy?” a sudden fear settled into my thumping heart. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t hear them. I was certain that none of them were with me anymore. But that wasn’t possible. The only way out was the door to the pool and if they’d left I’d have felt the temperature change in a heart beat. It was too hot. Too hot to be here alone. Too hot to be playing whatever stupid game we’d started. This was how people died. I didn’t want my pregnant wife to read that her stupid fat husband had died at the local leisure centre because he’d sat in a sauna too long and left her kid without a dad! I reached out towards the door and felt…nothing. I took another step forwards. Slowly for fear of touching the coals, but still nothing. I circled my arms either side of me, moving forwards and backwards, quicker now, desperate to feel anything. But it was as if the four wooden walls of the sauna had vanished. “Andy!” I tried again, louder “Jen? Lydia? Argh fuck” I screamed as I felt a sharp sudden crack in my big toe. In rotating I’d stubbed it on a wooden beam. It was a shock of agony, but on the plus side I’d at least found a bench again. In pain, exhaustion and dismay I collapsed to sitting and lent over to try to catch my breath. This wasn’t happening. This was a heat induced delusion. You can’t get lost in a sauna. This is the fantasy of a man who has lost too much bodily fluid. I looked up. Some of the steam had began to dissipate and now the room was visible again. Only it wasn’t the same room. It was still a sauna, of sorts, but now it was significantly larger than the one I’d entered. The floor spanned nearly twenty metres by twenty metres. If it was just the scale that had changed I could have put this down to my continued heat delirium…but it was everything.The floor tiles that had previously been a glossy porcelain were now obsidian black, the grouting a deep red. The wood was no longer varnished oak but something much older…much much older…’ship like’ was the only word that came to mind.But the thing that made my stomach…The thing that made me want to scream for this crazy fever to end was the levels. The seats…which had previously been three tiers tall, now went up and up and up, ascending like steps for a species much larger than a human. Steps for a…I counted at least 10 levels rising up before they were enveloped by the gloom of the room. Something in my stomach told me they went on though. On and on and on. But to what? I also noticed that on the left and right of the room, at tiered intervals, there were exits. Dark wooden tunnels set into the steps that lead off in long corridors away from the sauna. Their darkness an invitation to explore. I blinked myself back into my body, fighting the urge to go any deeper into this odd chamber in which I’d found myself.It was then that I spotted them again. The rest of the Sauna Club. Perhaps the steam had just cleared enough let me see them but I was sure they hadn’t been there a moment ago. “Where…where were you!” I tried to yell but a wheeze was the best I could manage. “We all had to pass through the steam. Some times it’s quick…I told you Mike…we’re all feeling our way through this. I don’t know much more than you do.” Andy stood, 7 tiers up, stark naked and staring down at me, as unabashed by his nudity as only a 60 yr old male can be. Jen was to his right, down a few levels and stood beside one of the exit tunnels. She was also slowly disrobing. As she peeled away her swimming costume I noticed that both her breasts were missing, the scaring beneath a tell-tale sign of a recent mastectomy. On the opposite side of the room was Lydia. Only one step up from me and with a single ping, the top piece of her bikini sprung off. I was so busy trying not to stare at her perfect breasts that it was only then that I noticed the scaring on her arms and inner thighs. Sak was the only one who didn’t want to hang about for any of my shit. All I saw of him was a taught ass disappearing down one of the tunnels before he was gone. “Why are you all taking your clothes off?” I gasped. “It helps.” Andy shrugged. “I told you Mike. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Remember, just breath.” “Where the fuck have you brought me?” “Don’t get mad…You can leave any time. Just spit on the coals and this’ll all be over. You’ll be…back. BUT if you want to stay…and I’d highly recommend staying…then this world is ours to explore. I can’t tell you were to go. That’s not how this works. Just remember, don’t outstay the timer.” I clocked the timer on the wall. Different again. Longer, the grains of sand more ashen. “Wherever you go, remember your way back and if you get too hot, leave! This isn’t a dream Mike. Whatever happens here, happens. I learnt that the hard way.” I had so many questions but Andy was already turning to leave. “Oh” Andy paused “and never, NEVER go out there” He pointed to the wall behind me. I looked around to see a glass door leading out to the poolside. This I was certain hadn’t been there before. Through the darkened glass I could see the pool beyond but again…changed. The dark black tiles continued to the pools edge where the water looked stagnant.“No matter what you see, you can’t help them. That’s not our world.” I looked back to see Andy climbing, step after step, up and away into the blackness. A man with a mission. I looked to Jen for some semblance of reason “What’s happening? Where’s he going?” “Andy always goes up” Jen smiled like that was the most perfectly reasonable thing in the world. “Why? What’s up there?” “We’re all here looking for something.” “What?” “It’s personal. You need to go and find yours?” “I don’t understand” Jen smiled patiently “you’ll find it or you won’t. Just be careful who you trust.” And then she was gone. Off down a tunnel. Lydia took a step towards me and I noticed that she was gently crying. Crying whilst still trying to preserve that odd fake smile of hers. “Take it slowly. You’ll get the hang of it.” I turned my head away, back to the world beyond. For some reason the poolside filled me with a terror I couldn’t express. It was all the same and yet…broken. There were still swimmers in the water but…but when was the last time they had taken a stroke? Or come up to breath? For that matter they weren’t swimmers at all. They were just…bodies, floating idly in the lanes. All around the pool sat lifeguards in their high metal watching chairs…9 of them…dark watchers in thick waders and anoraks…and they were old. Impossibly old…Keeping a careful eye on the bodies as they drowned before them. Behind them I could see the glass windows leading to the outside world…Or what should have been our world. Instead all I could see was barren land and scorched earth. Orange clouds in a blood red sky hurtling by as if they were in fast forward…so fast it looked like the whole world was rushing through time and the only stationary thing was the sun, but that was…
“You can’t go out their Mike. Really!” Lydia's hand seized my wrist. Nothing cutesy this time. A vice like grip and she meant it. “Tell me you won’t?” “I won’t” “Good. I need to go…I need to…search. Will you pray with me a moment Mike? I might really find him this time.” I watched her close her eyes and start to mutter words of prayer. Before her eyelids closed, for the first time I’d noticed just how dilated Lydia’s pupils were and wondered if that was an effect of the heat or whether she hadn’t taken something before this little adventure began. Then her eyes flicked open and she backed away from me, retreating towards one of the tunnels. Her eyes and body an invitation to follow… “Is it safe?” I asked dumbly. She giggled “Every maze has its minotaurs” and with a wink she was gone, leaving me standing there. Alone in the chamber. Not knowing whether to go up, left, right, back or…My heart was slowing. Pounding.I wanted to…I needed to…I spat on the coals and in a blink I was back the sauna. Not that ghastly eternal sauna or whatever the fuck it was, just a normal leisure centre sauna. A moderate temperate. Outside a normal pool side of normal people, doing normal lengths. And I was alone. No Andy, no Jen, no Sak….just me. The only one not brave enough to explore further than the chamber. I felt embarrassed then. I’d bottled it…like I always do. The feeling of shame was sudden but fleeting. A second later it was replaced by intense nausea and I threw up all over the floor. Before there was anyone to notice or blame me I up and left. Left the sauna, left the gym and got home as quickly as my fat little feet could carry me.
In the days that followed my broken toe ballooned...my only tangible take away from that strange place in the mists. On the second day, I was so sick of the swelling that I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed it until hot red pus began to ooze from the side of the nail and is it did I saw a dark wooden slither of wood slide out as well. An ancient looking splinter that belonged to...a world that shouldn't exist.
It’s taken me a few days to type this up…a few days to find the right words. But in those day’s I’ve felt…great. There’s no way to say it other than - I have a fire in me. And honest to god I think I’ve even shifted a pound or 2! Something in my body keeps telling me to go back…to go back and sit with the sauna club again and…to be a little braver this time…to maybe explore a little further into that chamber that haunts my dreams and see what I missed out on in the Sauna game.
Because…I do want to change. I want my life to change. I want…I want something that maybe I can only find in that baptism of steam?
True to form I spent a while dithering before deciding whether I’d show my face at the sauna club again. Until I had the dream.It was one of those ‘didn’t even realise I was dreaming until I woke up dreams’. I was back at the pool, swimming lanes with the morning crowd. Not for nothing but I was good. I was no longer holding up old biddies but really tearing up and down the fast lane. Then I remembered the sauna and between strokes began looking in through its glass doors. It drew me in and someone else was in there. A single figure stood in the centre of the room shrouded in white mists. In his hands he held some kind of old marble basin. The figure was deep in ritual, bowing their head over the bowl and drawing a deep breath, so deep that they drew tendrils of steam from the basin to their nostrils. The wisps seemed to seek out a way into the man’s body. With each long drag from the bowl his body seemed to change. I’d take a stroke and when I looked again his biceps were larger. Another stroke and his thighs had bulged. Another stroke and his neck flared. Stroke. Abs. Stroke. Jawline. Stroke. Pectorals. I finished my length and on the about turn saw that the man still wasn’t done but now the changes were taking their toll. Unpleasant white veins began to work across his body. Each deep inhale caused the man to grit his teeth in agony. The white of his eyes turning red.I knew this man. It was Sak. Another breath and his muscles were beyond ‘well defined’. The bulges looked stretched to burst while the crevices looked like trenches, like Sak was both tearing apart and collapsing in on himself. Another breath and I watched his skin change between strokes. First tan, then sun kissed then burnt and then charred. His tribe work tattooed seemed to glow a fiery red. Sak screamed but he couldn’t help himself. A final deep breath. Deeper than the others. The steam filling his lungs to bursting. I watched as his clenched teeth broke in his mouth as his eyes began to melt from their sockets. Saks skin flaked away from his perfect muscles. Steam poured from his eye sockets.The basin fell from his hands and just before it shattered on the floor of the sauna I finished my lap and woke up. It was 7am and I knew today would be the day I returned to sauna club. I'll update you later today on how I get on.