Can First Man land 7 or more nominations at the Academy Awards and still miss the best picture nomination? When First Man debuted back at Telluride and Toronto the buzz from critics and awards prognosticators was exactly what Universal pictures had hoped for. A film about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon with an Oscar-winning director (La La Land’s Damian Chazelle) and a huge budget; how can this not work?

Then out of nowhere came the controversy over whether or not Chazelle’s artistic endeavor focused enough on the American Flag. This quickly subsided after First Man’s, when audiences saw for themselves that American patriotism was well represented. Unfortunately, October box office numbers were not what Universal had anticipated, opening with a soft $16 million at the box office. The 59 million dollar project continued to struggle in US markets despite Ryan Gosling and rising star Claire Foy on the marquee.

By December, First Man appeared to be out of the awards race, only landing nominations for supporting actress and original score at The Golden Globes and No nominations by Screen Actors Guild. Those snubs caused an online wildfire for a film that critics and people who saw it seemed to generally love. “When the dust settles on the film year that was 2018, people will look back in astonishment that this film, one of the most original and daring films of the year, was ignored,” says Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone, “It might not be the film for right now, but time will most definitely reveal it to be easily one of the best this year.”

First Man’s comeback started when the Critics Choice Awards gave it ten nominations, including best picture, restoring its place among 2018’s important films. Foy, Gosling and all the technical nominations were there as well. First Man also received numerous other guild nominations including American Cinema Editors (Ace Eddies), a sound editing nod, and then a whopping seven nominations from the BAFTA (“the British Oscar”) Awards.
All of this got me thinking, has a film destined to land 6-9 Oscar nominations in technical categories ever missed out on Best Picture? So I went through 90 years of Oscar history to find out.

Has a film gotten 8 or more nominations without a best picture mention? Yes, four times:

They Shoot Horses Don’t They (1969) – 9 nominations
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – 8 nominations
Ragtime (1981) – 8 Nominations
The Dark Knight (2008) – 8 Nominations

It was the backlash over The Dark Knight not being nominated for best picture that triggered the current expanded best picture category the Academy now has. There can now be up to ten nominees. This is key to understanding why First Man will land that best picture nomination.

No film since 2009 has gotten 7 or more nominations without one of them being best picture nomination. GoldDerby.com monitor’s predictions for each award show, combining expert predictions and analysis throughout the award season. Their current predictions for First Man are:

That’s eight nominations, not counting a likely Adapted Screenplay nomination where First Man is on the cuff. If it does get those 7 or 8, I believe based on the evidence presented here First Man will be one of the best picture nominees, especially if the number of best picture nominees is greater than 7 (it can be up to 10). To get a bit more technical, when doing the nominees, each branch selects their nominees plus they also get to vote for best picture nominees. I can’t believe that than many technical branches (Visual Effects, Sound, Cinematographers, Production Designers, Composers, and editors) all rank First Man as high as it’s being predicted and then not listing it among the best picture contenders.

It was originally thought that Mary Poppins, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Vice were going to be strong best picture contenders. The guilds, BAFTA and Globes seem to suggest that that is no longer the case. Bohemian Rhapsody appears to be more of a best picture contender than those three, which leaves us with seven best picture contenders. If there are 8 or more slots this year, First Man will be one of them. Even Oscar-nominated auteur Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk, The Dark Knight) weighed in on First Man’s power. “He [Chazelle] has dared to make an introverted film about the most extroverted moment in the history of the world,” Nolan wrote. “First Man’s true significance, not unlike the momentous events which it dares to interpret, may not come into focus for some time.”

MORE: Check out our 2019 Critics Choice Awards predictions!

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