The Oscar season has officially begun as early as September, when the earliest of the autumn festivals—Venice, Toronto, Telluride—premiered their products. Heck, one of this year's Best Picture frontrunners, the Daniels' kinetic Everything Everywhere All at Once, premiered in March!
Bis the groggy Tuesday morning when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveils who they think is worthy of competing for their awards, we never really know who's in the race. (among others), nevertheless, it remains a remarkable departure from the usual (and seemingly repeated) controversies and oversights.
Everything Everywhere All at Once, a brilliant indie film that actually became a bona fide blockbuster, earning more than $100 million worldwide thanks to ecstatic word of mouth. However, the original genre film with a diverse cast is the clear frontrunner for Best Picture and a host of other nominations this year.
Everything Everywhere, a movie set in a time when the industry is concerned about its relevancy and longevity among younger audiences, is a sparkling future that might be attractive to voters. What is surprising though is how much Academy voters voted for It was still considered to be a long shot for a Best Picture nomination. However, it came out in the technical categories, receiving nine Oscar nominations.
This is tied to The Banshees of Inisherin, which many are inclined to believe is the other top-shelf nominee since it lacks either multiverse theory or hot dog fingers. It is also a clear winner with the Academy's acting division, which recognized the film for four thespian awards: Colin Farrell and Kerry Condon for Best Supporting Actress.
The Fabelmans of Steven Spielberg received seven nods, while Todd Field's Tár received six. Nonetheless, I feel it worthwhile to point out that the Academy of Motion Picture is more averse to arthouse and prestige fare like Everything Everywhere, Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Avatar: The Way of Water—and that almost half of them are frontrunners in the acting, directing, and writing categories.
Here are our best guesses for what we think will win the top prizes of the night... and what we think should... just to see how much more the race is already set than a month out—or to see how much egg we can get in our faces in March.
The FabelmansTárTop Gun: MaverickTriangle of SadnessWomen TalkingAvatar: The Way of WaterThe Banshees of InisherinElvisEverything Everywhere All at One
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the film to beat, despite not winning a Golden Globe for Best Picture. It is, after all, the one film on this list that has the best chance of remaining in the pop culture zeitgeist in the next 10 or 20 years, simply because it is the most original and satisfying movie to ever tackle the notion of the "multiverse."
The film is also the Cinderella story of the year, which will appeal to Academy voters who have traditionally backed box office winners for the top prize. The film connects with younger audiences, including an influx of younger Academy voters.
The Banshees of Inisherin, however, is a clear downer that comes to a much worse and less aloof conclusion on life's meaning. In almost every decade, Academy tastes always steer towards life-affirming messages (see CODA over The Power of the Dog last year). 2023 will be no exception.
Tár is my personal favorite. It may not have penetrated the culture like Everything or offered a completely new perspective, yet Field's remarkable film is a masterpiece in terms of ambiguity, aesthetic, and performance, with Cate Blanchett giving another knockout performance as the kind of complex protagonist we rarely get again. She defies narrative conventions (including among “Oscar films”), as well as the more current ones applied on art by social media trends.
The Best Director
The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin McDonaghEverything All at Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel ScheinertThe Fabelmans, Steven SpielbergTár, Todd FieldTangle of Sadness, Ruben stlund
Steven Spielberg appeared to be the favorite a month ago, but as the Best Picture race slowly morphed into Everything versus Banshees, his prominence in this category has diminished. However, while we think those factors inform Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, Spielberg still made the most traditionally satisfying film of the Best Picture frontrunners, and this is where the Academy will reward him.
The Fabelmans is a blockbuster film that is denied as his valedictorian address, but it nonetheless plays out like it. We don't think it will matter much in this regard, especially after Spielberg has demonstrated himself to be on a new creative inclination following this year's West Side Story.
Austin Butler in ElvisColin Farrell in The Banshees of InisherinBrendan Fraser in The WhalePaul Mescal in AftersunBill Nighy in Living
Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser are increasingly looking like a race to the finish. We'd admit, though, that it's too close to call. Both actors deserve a slight advantage because they made them one of the most famous rock stars in history, and the Academy gave Rami Malek an Oscar for less in the terrible Bohemian Rhapsody. Still, Fraser's comeback story is solid.
Butler gets the benefit of the doubt, as Colin Farrell, who has already been in the industry for decades, and who might want to recognize him with al little gold man. Farrell's simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking turn in Banshees is the more impressive of the two. It's also remarkable given how great a year (or five) Farrell's been.
Cate Blanchett in To LeslieMichelle Williams in The FabelmansMichelle Yeoh in Everything All at Once in TárAna de Armas in BlondeAndrea Riseborough in To LeslieMichelle Williams in The FabelmansMichelle Yeoh in Everything at Once
Cate Blanchett's performance in Tár will be recognized as the best picture in a complete reverse on our logic in the Best Picture category. She is absolutely stunning in the role. It's one of the most complex and satisfying character creations in recent memory.
Blanchett has won two Oscars to date and has been offered fascinating roles as Lydia Tár in the almost 20 years since Elizabeth (1998). Michelle Yeoh has just penned an outstanding performance in Everything Everywhere, which also demonstrates her dedication to acting in recent decades.
For the first time since 2002, it would be nice to have the award presented to a non-white woman.
Best Supporting Actor
Brendan Gleeson in "The Banshees of Inisherin"Judd Hirsch in "The Fabelmans"Barry Keoghan in "The Banshees of Inisherin"Ke Huy Quan in "Everything All at Once"
Ke Huy Quan, the bright child talent in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and The Goonies (1985), had given up on an industry that mostly abandoned him in adulthood. Then came the wonderful role of Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once, a heartbreaking showcase that is sweet, funny, and kick-ass, depending on which universe we're in.
It's a beautiful acting turn with a beautiful narrative behind it.
Best Supporting Actress
Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverHong Chau in The WhaleKerry Condon in The Banshees of InisherinJamie Lee Curtis in Everything All at OnceStephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Angela Bassett gave a stunning speech about her loss as a mother and a queen, and it will be the first performance in any of these films to win an Oscar. However, I prefer Kerry Condon's completely unexpected but brutal wit in The Banshees of Inisherin.
Best Original Screenplay
The FabelmansTár Written by Todd FieldTár Written by Todd FieldTangle of Sadness: The Banshees of InisherinEverything at Once
The Academy can recognize The Banshees of Inisherin and Martin McDonagh's meticulous research into human behavior in the original screenplay category. Nonetheless, only one of these films made hot dog fingers appear plausible.
Best Adapted Screenplay
A Knives Out MysteryLivingTop Gun: MaverickWomen Talking is All Quiet on the Western FrontGlass Onion: A Knives Out MysteryLivingTop Gun: MaverickWomen Talking
Despite nominating Women Talking for Best Picture, the Academy is rightly chastised for failing to nominate any women in the Best Director category this year. Although it's still possible for them to use this as the one above-the-line category to honor All Quiet on the Western Front.
Editing and film of the highest quality
InisherinElvisEverythingEverywhereAll at OnceTárTop Gun: Maverick The Banshees of InisherinElvisEverythingEverywhereTárTop Gun: Maverick
Did you notice how many Evelyn Wangs that Everything Everywhere had to splice together in fractions of seconds while keeping the viewer completely engaged and completely sure of what's going on? Yes, the Academy.
Best Animated Film
Pinocchio by Guillermo del ToroMarcel the Shell with Shoes On: The Last WishThe Sea Beast Turning Red
Guillermo del Toro did both with his beautifully rendered animated film for all ages. In this melancholic reimagining of a tiny wooden boy's adventures, he appeals to the adult mind as much as the child's.
Best International Feature Film
1985CloseEOThe Quiet Girl on the Western Front Argentina
After failing to nominate the arguably superior Park Chan-wook decision for no discernible reason, the Academy will clearly award All Quiet on the Western Front. This year, the category is entirely flawed since RRR, another extremely worthy contender to win Best International Film, was made ineligible before ballots were even submitted.
All Quiet on the Western FrontBardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of TruthsElvisEmpire of LightTár
What a strangely miffed category. Top Gun: Maverick should win this award, but it isn't even nominated. Likewise, Greg Fraser's moody and evocative lighting in The Batman is ignored. Not even Janusz Kamiski for The Fabelmans or Linus Sandgren for Babylon?
The category is a disaster, and it feels perfectly forced to choose one. I suppose the Academy's sudden love for All Quiet on the Western Front will award it, although we might be inclined to give it to Roger Deakins, who made what was a somewhat dry affair beautiful to look at in Empire of Light.
The Best Original Score
All Quiet on the Western FrontBabylonThe Banshees of InisherinEverything Everywhere All at onceThe Fabelmans
When Justin Hurwitz's melancholy and devastating score for Babylon was so widely overlooked in other categories like Best Picture, Best Actress, and even (ahem) Best Cinematography, there really isn't a single score this year that stands out from the rest.
Best Original Song
From Top Gun: Maverick“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever“Naatu Naatu” from RRR“This Is A Life” from Everything All At Once
When 'Naatu, Naatu' wins Best Original Song for RRR, it will be thrilling, since the film itself should have received far more nominations. Even better, however, will see it performed live on the Dolby Theatre Stage.
Best Production Design
All Quiet on the Western FrontAvatar: The Water WayBabylonElvis The Fabelmans
All Quiet on the Western Front is the easiest game to beat in the technical categories, but the splendor and decadence on display in Babylon will be overlooked in this one.
Costume Design at its Finest
Wakanda ForeverEverything At Once: BabylonBlack PantherMrs. Harris Visits Paris
Ruth Carter is set to reprise her role in Black Panther in the sequel, Wakanda Forever, but she also includes a fascinating look at what Mayan culture and aesthetics might have looked like if it had remained unbroken for another 500 years.
Visual Effects at their Finest
All Quiet on the Western FrontAvatar: The Way of WaterThe BatmanBlack Panther: Wakanda ForeverTop Gun: Maverick
I didn't really like Avatar: The Way of Water, but it made you think you were seeing a space whale glow bioluminescence under translucent waves. That's certainly worthy of a prize.