Can ‘Nomadland’ follow its Golden Lion grand prize in Venice with a Best Picture Oscar? Recent history bodes well for it

Nomadland” premiered on September 11 at the Venice Film Festival to rapturous reviews, and it won that festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion. Does that solidify it as a top Oscar contender for Best Picture? The festival doesn’t usually line up with the motion picture academy’s preferences, but the last few years have seen the Lion winner roaring through the rest of the awards season.

The last three Golden Lion champs were “The Shape of Water” (2017), “Roma” (2018) and “Joker” (2019). Of those, only “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture, but all three were Best Picture nominees, all three were the most nominated film of their respective years, and all won multiple prizes from the academy. It may be less likely for “Nomadland” to rack up double-digit nominations given the small scale of Chloe Zhao‘s intimate indie film about a working-class widow (Frances McDormand) living out of her van. But as we’ve seen in recent years, you don’t need to have the most nominations to win the top prize: just look at “Spotlight” (2015), “Moonlight” (2016), “Green Book” (2018) and “Parasite” (2019).

That said, the last three years at Venice don’t reflect the fest’s usual connection (or lack thereof) with the Oscars. Before “The Shape of Water” you have to go back to “The Wrestler” (2008) to find a Golden Lion recipient that earned any Oscar nominations, let alone Best Picture. The only other Golden Lion champs to earn Oscar noms in the 21st century were “Vera Drake” (2004) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). And the only other film besides “The Shape of Water” ever to win both Venice and Oscar was Laurence Olivier‘s “Hamlet” (1948).

That said, if you limit it to just American films that have won in Venice, the track record is considerably better. In the last 30 years, the only Golden Lion champ from the US that didn’t earn any Oscar nominations was Sofia Coppola‘s “Somewhere” (2010). So McDormand and company have a pretty good chance of settling down at the Academy Awards at the end of their journey.

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