This post is part of the news string about the film that has appeared ever since it was first announced, and there is news-based context here which is being wrapped up with this post…a bit further down this page there is a summary of a few opinions about the film, and there was a fairly major thread for it when it first came out in December.
The interest in Oscar nominations stems from the unusual public intervention by Martin Scorsese, whose advocacy of the film was widely distributed in the press after the film tanked in US theaters. I’d speculated at the time whether this was intended for the AMPAS insiders as much as for the general public: was Scorsese trying to influence award nominations even as he was urging people to see the film? One of the key award categories that would bolster the fledgling career of co-screenwriter Kim Morgan would have been Best Adapted Screenplay; receiving that nomination would have been beneficial for her in terms of having access to project decision-makers in Hollywood. So the question awaiting an answer was: how much pull was Scorsese going to have as a result of his public championing of the film? We now have an answer.
Of course you are right that film noir has long ago fallen out of consideration wrt the Oscars, which pretty much happened after the director and producer of CROSSFIRE became part of the Hollywood Ten. Noir was “tainted” by the social justice sub-genre and it was mostly shunned from that point on (with a few notable exceptions). Somewhat ironically, del Toro tried to tie NIGHTMARE ALLEY to that tradition of socially-conscious films in many of his January interviews, and Scorsese (who is a fan of Polonsky’s FORCE OF EVIL) also characterized the film in such a way in his editorial intervention.
I’m still a bit shocked that so few folks who participate here seem to have seen it, but perhaps that will soon change now that it is streaming.