Up the Academy: Oscar Predictions 2023

This year: A battle royal between the youth wing of Oscar's voting membership and the AMPAS old guard.

Up the Academy: Oscar Predictions 2023

The Academy Awards are 95! When people get that old, they’re generally in assisted living or on oxygen, both of which could be said to be true about the Oscars. If they’re lucky, though, they’re also regularly visited by younger family members, and that sounds about right given the Academy’s push in recent years to bring in a more youthful and diverse membership. (Side anecdote: About a decade ago, while walking the dog, I ran into a friend who said, “Hey, I’m voting for the Oscars tonight.” How’s that? I asked. It seems she had a friend whose mother was a voting member of the Academy – I don’t remember which branch – but who suffered from dementia, so the daughter filled out her mom’s ballot every year with help from whoever wanted to come over with a bottle of wine. I imagine this scenario was and is a lot more common than the Academy board wants to admit. End of anecdote.)

This year, in fact, represents a generational fork in the road that’s been a long time coming. Will the Best Picture Oscar go to “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a sci-fi/martial arts/mother-daughter comedy-action-melodrama that has swept the guilds and other awards, is incredibly popular with younger audiences, and is a splitting headache, I’m guessing, for the majority of the Academy’s old guard? Or will the traditionalists prevail and choose something that is more recognizable to them as a movie; i.e., Steven Spielberg’s memory play “The Fabelmans” or – even more likely, odd as it seems – Netflix’s German-made war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front”?

Could “All Quiet” really prevail? It did so at the BAFTAs, England’s answer to the Oscars, and it shares with Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” the second most nominations (nine) behind “EEAAO”’s eleven. “Fabelmans” has seven, including two in the acting categories (Michelle Williams and Judd Hirsch), while “All Quiet” has no performance nominations – an important distinction. And whereas “All Quiet” is hardly comfort food (which “Fabelmans,” for all its artful mishegoss, is), it’s a stalwart, professionally turned effort in a recognizable genre, whereas “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the merriest of mashups. Besides, wouldn’t it be kind of cool for a property that won Best Picture in 1930 to repeat the trick ninety-three years later?

Or not. There’s a lot of good vibes pushing the “Everything Everywhere” bandwagon forward: The crowning of Michelle Yeoh’s career with a role worthy of her acting talent as well as her flying feet; that all-timer of a speech given at the SAG Awards by movie legend James Hong, who at 94 is one year younger than the Oscars; the film’s journey from oddball indie released in the dead of March to end-of-year juggernaut; the ascension of the Daniels (Scheinert and Kwan) from fringe filmmakers (and Emerson grads – a little local pride here) to industry machers; and, above all, the immensely satisfying comeback story of supporting actor Ke Huy Quan, whose childhood run as Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) and Data in “The Goonies” (1985) led to a nonexistent grown-up acting career until he was gifted the role of Waymond Wang – milquetoast husband, action hero, and suave romantic idol, depending upon which universe you’re in at the time. My favorite story of this awards season: Quan running into Harrison Ford backstage at a Disney promotional event in September and wondering if, after 38 years, the older actor would recognize him. “Are you Short Round?” Ford asked before pulling him in for a hug and a photo that broke the Internet and a lot of people’s hearts.

Elsewhere, the Oscar predictions reflect the way momentum rises, crests, and recedes over the long march from September to now. Brendan Fraser in “The Whale” came out of the fall festivals as the one to beat for Best Actor, but by the time the critics’ groups started handing out awards in December, Colin Farrell was collecting bouquets for “Banshees” and for a busy 2022 of good work all around. Now? Austin Butler of “Elvis” is the anointed front-runner. Who will win is anybody’s guess, but I will remind you of a simple calculus: What prevails in any Oscar category is that film or person who makes an Academy voter feel best about what they do at the exact moment they’re filling out their ballot.

As for the ceremony itself, Sunday night appears to be aiming for the safety of dullness. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting for the first time since 2018, security is in lockdown mode, and Will Smith will not be in the building. On the plus side, all the awards will be presented live on stage, since last year’s shunning of the “boring” categories into earlier taped proceedings was received as the insult it was. The larger question remains: Do the Oscars still matter? And the painful truth is that, no, they do not – not the way they did during a century in which movies were the centerpiece on the table of popular culture rather than the side dish we now sample as we’re bingeing Netflix series and staring at our phones. You can mourn that or you can call it progress, but there’s not much you can do to stop the form’s journey from mass entertainment to specialty item and perhaps, eventually, to a boutique taste. Will there still be movies as we know them? Of course. Will they command attention at a time when, to coin a phrase, we can access everything everywhere all at once? If you believe that, I’ve got a bankrupt theater chain to sell you.

Here are my predictions for Oscar night 2023. My batting average is traditionally in the 75% range or so, although last year I had a personal best of 19 correct predictions out of 23, or 83%. That said, proceed with a few extra-large flakes of Maldon salt.

Best Picture

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“The Fabelmans”
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”
“Women Talking”

Will Win: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Should Win: “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Shouldn't Be Here: “Avatar: The Way of Water”

Was Robbed: “The Woman King”

If the year’s earlier awards ceremonies are any indication, Best Picture will go to “Everything,” and it’s possible that “Fabelmans” and “All Quiet” will split the older vote, allowing Daniels and Co. to cross the finish line first. Still, Best Pictures of the past few years have veered from challenging (“Moonlight,” “Parasite”) back to familiar (“Green Book,” “CODA”), making this year an especially tough call. My personal choice? “Banshees” by a whisker. The “Avatar” nomination? Maybe for later in the series.

Best Director

Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”
Todd Field, “TÁR”
Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (above)

Should Win: Todd Field

Shouldn't Be Here: Ruben Östlund

Was Robbed: Charlotte Wells, “Aftersun”

Even audiences who don’t warm to the manic overdrive of “Everything Everywhere” have to acknowledge the audacious creativity of the Daniels duo. Chilly as it is, “TÁR” is a master class in filmmaking, but it’s hard to argue that all three parts of “Triangle of Sadness” operate at the same level. Wells is a newcomer, but “Aftersun” is an assured and deeply affecting debut.

Best Actor

Austin Butler, “Elvis”
Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”
Bill Nighy, “Living”

Will Win: Austin Butler

Should Win: Colin Farrell

Shouldn't Be Here: Austin Butler

Was Robbed: Park Hae-Il, “Decision to Leave”

A strong line-up, and if I had to lose one it’d (grudgingly) be Butler, who evoked Elvis Presley for me without ever convincing me he was Elvis Presley. Farrell’s lovable, doomed dimwit in “Banshees” will stick with me for a much longer time. Park gave a subtle and deceptive performance as an impassioned obsessive hiding beneath the skin of a rigidly professional detective.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, “TÁR”
Ana de Armas, “Blonde”
Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”
Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Will Win: Michelle Yeoh

Should Win: Michelle Yeoh

Shouldn't Be Here: Ana de Armas

Was Robbed: Danielle Deadwyler, “Till”

Blanchett is the only real competition to Yeoh in this category – just about everyone agrees that the fearsome Lydia Tár is one of her greatest performances – but she’s won twice already, the movie is admired rather than loved, and Yeoh’s win has all the feels. De Armas was good in a dreadful film and the hugely talented Riseborough has and will deserve a trophy, just not for this movie. Deadwyler and Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) should coulda woulda.

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”
Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”
Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Will Win: Ke Huy Quan

Should Win: Ke Huy Quan

Shouldn't Be Here: Brendan Gleeson

Was Robbed: Paul Dano, “The Fabelmans”

Five fantastic performances, and Gleeson’s the odd one out only because the part’s a co-lead with Colin Farrell. Judd Hirsch owns his ten minutes of “Fabelmans,” but Dano had the much harder job of being the patriarchal ghost in Steven Spielberg’s house of mirrors.

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Hong Chau, “The Whale”
Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Will Win: Angela Bassett

Should Win: Kerry Condon

Shouldn't Be Here: Jamie Lee Curtis

Was Robbed: Dolly De Leon, “Triangle of Sadness”

Again, five stellar nominees, and I’d boot Curtis only to make way for De Leon as the gleeful turned worm of “Triangle.” Condon is the steady soul of “Banshees” and Chau provides sanity and warmth to “The Whale,” but Basset’s Queen Mother of Wakanda is a display of awesome regal might and will not be denied.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, and Ian Stokell, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Rian Johnson, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
Kazuo Ishiguro, “Living”
Screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie, story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks, “Top Gun: Maverick”
Sarah Polley, “Women Talking”

Will Win: “Women Talking”

Should Win: “Women Talking”

“All Quiet” winning in this category would be a clear sign the evening was heading for an upset. More likely, Polley will deservedly take the prize for her artful translation of a talky novel into a blueprint for compassionate performances and devastating drama.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, “The Fabelmans”
Todd Field, “TÁR”
Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness”

Will Win: “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Should Win: “The Banshees of Inisherin”

This is a very tight race between McDanagh’s beautiful blarney and the fiendishly creative multiverse constructed by Daniels. “Banshees” won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, and while “Everything” took the Writers Guild Award, “Banshees” might have won if it hadn’t been deemed ineligible for technical reasons. I’m betting on “Banshees.”

Best Animated Feature Film

“Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio”
“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”
“Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”
“The Sea Beast”
“Turning Red”

Will Win: “Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio”

Should Win: “Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio”

“Marcel the Shell” has its adoring fans and “Turning Red” is one of Pixar’s stronger recent efforts, but del Toro’s stop-motion retelling of the Carlo Collodi classic is a wild and willful act of de-Disneyfication. Besides, it’s already won the Annie Award and a slew of other prizes.

Best International Feature Film

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Argentina, 1985”
“The Quiet Girl”

Will Win: “All Quiet on the Western Front

Should Win: “EO”

A good year for films from abroad and one could imagine a valid slate of five completely different nominees. (For starters: “Athena,” “Broker,” “Decision to Leave,” “Return to Seoul,” “RRR”). All signs point to a win for Netflix’s war epic.

Best Documentary Feature

“All That Breathes”
“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
“Fire of Love”
“A House Made of Splinters”

Will Win: “Navalny”

Should Win: “Navalny”

“Navalny,” a portrait of the dissident Russian politician and activist, is a film with a its thumb on the pulse of the times, and there’s that incredible scene where Victor Navalny crank-calls one of his would-be assassins and gets him to confess. It would be nice if a win for this film would get its subject out of prison, but don’t count on it.

Best Film Editing

Mikkel E.G. Nielsen, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond, “Elvis”
Paul Rogers, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Monika Willi, “TÁR”
Eddie Hamilton, “Top Gun: Maverick”

Will Win: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Should Win: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

This category should really be called Most Editing, since that’s what usually takes the prize. As such, it’s a three-way race between “Everything,” “Elvis,” and “Top Gun: Maverick” for the Ritalin Award. Expect the “Everything” train to stop here on its way to the major Oscars.

Best Cinematography

James Friend, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Darius Khondji, “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”
Mandy Walker, “Elvis”
Roger Deakins, “Empire of Light”
Florian Hoffmeister, “TÁR”

Will Win: ““All Quiet on the Western Front”

Should Win: “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”

The epic no-man’s-land vistas of “All Quiet” may find a challenge in Mandy Walker’s candy-colored “Elvis” fever dreams. Darius Khondji’s cinematography is the only reason to see “Bardo” – trust me on this – but it’s still a hell of a reason.

Best Costume Design

Mary Zophres, “Babylon”
Ruth E. Carter, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Catherine Martin, “Elvis”
Shirley Kurata, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Jenny Beavan, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”

Will Win: “Elvis”

Should Win: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Carter won this award for the first “Black Panther,” so she won’t win for the second, even if she should. Martin (a.k.a. Mrs. Baz Luhrman) has won four previous Academy Awards – making her Oscar’s most -awarded Australian, trivia fans – and she’ll likely collect a fifth here. Dark Horse: “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” – it’s about fashion, remember?

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Naomi Donne, Mike Marino, and Mike Fontaine, “The Batman”
Camille Friend and Joel Harlow, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Mark Coulier, Jason Baird, and Aldo Signoretti, “Elvis”
Adrien Morot, Judy Chin, and Anne Marie Bradley, “The Whale”

Will Win: “Elvis”

Should Win: “The Batman”

The Pompadour from Memphis will win the night – that and whatever they did to Tom Hanks’ face – but “The Batman” deserves equal praise for making Colin Farrell as the Penguin look like anybody but Colin Farrell.

Best Production Design

Christian M. Goldbeck and Ernestine Hipper, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Dylan Cole, Ben Procter, and Vanessa Cole, “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Florencia Martin and Anthony Carlino, “Babylon”
Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy, and Bev Dunn, “Elvis”
Rick Carter and Karen O'Hara, “The Fabelmans”

Will Win: “Babylon”

Should Win: “Babylon”

Catherine Martin (see above) could potentially collect her sixth Oscar in this category, but its evocation of early Hollywood by way of Hieronymus Bosch is the most impressive thing about “Babylon,” and don’t forget – Academy voters love a twisted look at their own profession.

Best Music (Original Song)

Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman,” music and lyrics by Dianne Warren
Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick,” music and lyrics by Lady Gaga and BloodPop
Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” music and lyrics by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler, and Ludwig Goransson
“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR,” music by M.M. Keeravaani, lyrics by Chandrabose
This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne, and Mitski, lyrics by Ryan Lott

Will Win: “Naatu Naatu”

Should Win: “Naatu Naatu”

With musical appearances by awards warhorse Dianne Warren, pop diva Rihanna, and lonesome David Byrne, it’s going to be a musically eclectic night. That said, one listen to “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” and it’s stuck in your head for days.

Best Music (Original Score)

Volker Bertelmann, “All Quiet on the Western Front
Justin Hurwitz, “Babylon
Carter Burwell, “The Banshees of Inisherin
Son Lux, “Everything Everywhere All at Once
John Williams, “The Fabelmans

Will Win: “Babylon”

Should Win: “Babylon”

It’s nose and nose between “Babylon” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” for this award. Both take period sounds (from around the same period, interestingly) and put them through a mixmaster of creative composition. Justin Hurwitz became an awards magnet with “La La Land,” and his “Babylon” score feels thrillingly original.

Best Sound

Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, and Stefan Korte, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, and Michael Hedges, “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray, and Andy Nelson, “The Batman”
David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson, and Michael Keller, “Elvis”
Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon, and Mark Taylor, “Top Gun: Maverick”

Will Win: “Top Gun: Maverick”

Should Win: “Elvis”

This category generally goes to the movie with the most vroom-vroom and the most boom-boom, and Academy voters may want to throw at least one bone to the movie that saved the box office in 2022. Caveat: If “All Quiet” dominates the technical categories, it may prevail here.

Best Visual Effects

Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, Markus Frank, and Kamil Jafar, “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon, and Daniel Barrett, “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Dan Lemmon, Russell Earl, Anders Langlands, and Dominic Tuohy, “The Batman”
Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, R. Christopher White, and Dan Sudick, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson, and Scott R. Fisher, “Top Gun: Maverick”

Will Win: “Avatar: The Way of Water”

Should Win: “Avatar: The Way of Water”

James Cameron’s redefining of what CGI can do will receive its due. Will a win further legitimize high-frame-rate cinema? Let’s hope not.

Best Animated Short Film

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse”
“The Flying Sailor”
“Ice Merchants”
“My Year of Dicks”
“An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake, and I Think I Believe It”

Will Win: “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse”

Should Win: “Ice Merchants”

As annoyingly precious as it is, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse” is visually lovely and has won a number of run-up awards, including an Annie for “special production.” If its sentimentality doesn’t sway voters, expect the stunning “Ice Merchants,” which also won an Annie, to win out.

Best Live Action Short Film

“An Irish Goodbye”
“Le Pupille”
“Night Ride”
“The Red Suitcase”

Will Win: “An Irish Goodbye”

Should Win: “Le Pupille”

Either win would be fine with me – “An Irish Goodbye” is laugh-out-loud funny in places – but Alice Rohrwacher’s “Le Pupille” has a deadpan subversive playfulness that makes it unique.

Best Documentary Short

“The Elephant Whisperers”
“How Do You Measure a Year?”
“The Martha Mitchell Effect”
“Stranger at the Gate”

Will Win: “Stranger at the Gate”

Should Win: “Haulout”

The dramatic conversion tale at the heart of “Stranger” provides a ray of hope in a divided country that voters may respond to – if they’re not falling for the adorable animal stars of “The Elephant Whisperers.” “Haulout,” about the effects of climate change on the walrus population of the Arctic, is a simpler, more striking, and more troubling piece of work.

Thoughts? Contrary opinions? Don’t hesitate to weigh in.

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