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Avatar: The Way of Water is already swimming toward the Oscars

Everything Everywhere All at Once also broke through, while Black Panther 2 didn’t

Lo’ak the Na’vi touches a tulkun, a whalelike creature, in the sea of Pandora in Avatar: The Way of Water Image: 20th Century Studios
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Avatar: The Way of Water hasn’t even come out yet, but it’s made a splash in this year’s awards-season conversation. James Cameron’s massive action-movie sequel to 2009’s Avatar was handed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture — Drama when the nominees for the show were announced on Monday, on top of a bunch of other accolades that are seen as milestones for next year’s Academy Awards.

Avatar: The Way of Water manage to secure two nominations for this year’s Golden Globes, one for drama’s big price and the other for Cameron in the Best Director category. And last week, the movie was named one of the AFI and National Board of Review’s top picks of the year. While the snowballing of award-season success doesn’t always translate directly to the Oscars, more recognition and attention is never a bad thing when it comes to the Academy — not that The Way of Water is likely to need any help keeping people’s attention once it hits theaters.

Avatar’s competition in the Drama category at the Globes is a mix of blockbusters and smaller movies, including Elvis, The Fabelmans, Tár, and Top Gun: Maverick. Meanwhile, popping in the ceremony’s other big category, Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, Babylon, The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and Triangle of Sadness.

While this also serves to announced Everything Everywhere All at Once as a possible dark horse for the Oscars, it’s a bad sign for Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which earned two nominations, one for Angela Basset’s performance in the Supporting Actress category and one for Rihanna’s song “Lift Me Up,” neither of which are great signs for future awards-season success.

While the 13 years separating Avatar 2’s release from its original have mostly served to strengthen the series’ meme potential, it’s really no surprise that The Way of Water is impressing industry audiences and selling itself as a Best Picture contender. The original movie was the prohibitive favorite for the prize that 2009 Academy Awards before being upset by The Hurt Locker. On top of that, Cameron also won best picture for his last pre-Avatar movie, Titanic.

With all this swirling, and its release coming later this week, it seems that everyone is already bracing for a memorable trip back to Pandora. The movie finally hits theaters on Dec. 16.

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