After two years of existential crises over the purpose of the Academy Awards, during movie seasons wrecked by COVID and vanishing ticket sales and unstable streaming economies, the Oscars are back this month feeling relatively normal. What a miracle. The ceremony, which airs Sunday on ABC, will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (the first solo host since Kimmel himself in 2018) and will honor some of the biggest movies of the past year; blockbuster nominees include Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Avatar: The Way of Water.
The awards race is also in an unsettled state, which is rare given that precursor ceremonies such as the Golden Globes and BAFTAs usually establish a narrative before the Oscars arrive. Almost every major category is up in the air, with a few exceptions—including Best Picture, where the sci-fi action-adventure Everything Everywhere All at Once is practically guaranteed to triumph. The story of the night will be whether enthusiasm for that film spills into the technical awards and acting trophies, or if voters spread the love (as they have been wont to do as of late). Here are my predictions for the top categories:
Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Tár), Ana de Armas (Blonde), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Blanchett’s performance as the preening, brilliant, and devastatingly flawed conductor Lydia Tár is far more than awards catnip, though it is certainly the kind of big and brassy work that the Oscars love from a celebrated star. That’s why Blanchett is the nominal front-runner, having won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a haul of critics awards over the past few months. But she already has two Oscars (for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine), and it’s historically tough to win a third (only seven actors have ever done it). Plus, she has serious competition in Michelle Yeoh, whose film is the Best Picture front-runner. Yeoh has been campaigning hard, is a legend in both Hollywood and the Hong Kong action industry, and is a beloved figure for multiple generations. Her win would also be a milestone—an Asian actor has never won in this category. Yeoh won a Globe in the Comedy field and then had a surprise win at the Screen Actors Guild, where she gave a fantastic speech, so the momentum is on her side.
Who Will Win: Michelle Yeoh
Who Ought to Win: Michelle Yeoh
Nominees: Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Paul Mescal (Aftersun), Bill Nighy (Living)
Fraser has been perceived as the front-runner here for much of Oscar season. His role in The Whale required the unglamorous work of body transformation, which voters have long rewarded in acting categories. His heartwarming comeback narrative plays a role too—a well-liked movie star in the ’90s and 2000s, he practically vanished from Hollywood and has weathered physical and mental trauma, which he’s talked about openly and warmly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won, but The Whale has proved to be an incredibly polarizing movie because of its grim portrayal of morbid obesity, and the fact that it’s not up for Best Picture or Adapted Screenplay suggests a narrow band of support. Fraser’s primary challengers are Farrell, who has capped a career comeback of his own with his wonderful and understated work in The Banshees of Inisherin, and Butler, who did another thing voters love (imitating a famous musician) very, very well. Elvis was one of the biggest hits of 2022, and Butler’s breakout work was a huge part of that; I think he’ll narrowly emerge the victor of this three-way race.
Who Will Win: Austin Butler
Who Ought to Win: Colin Farrell
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: 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)
Perhaps the most uncertain field of this year’s Oscars, the Best Supporting Actress category features two contenders widely perceived by their peers as “overdue” for a win. Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Hollywood royalty (Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis), emerged as a “scream queen” in Halloween and has been an enduring star in genre film for almost 50 years—yet Everything Everywhere All at Once is only her first nomination. Bassett has long been one of the best actresses of her generation, but she was noticed by the Academy just once before, with a lead-actress nomination in 1993 for What’s Love Got to Do With It. Curtis, who won the SAG award, could triumph partly because of Everything Everywhere’s overall support; Bassett, who won the Globe, could be the first-ever acting winner from a Marvel movie, a milestone that might discourage some snobbier voters. Kerry Condon, who won the BAFTA, might surprise for her tender work in Banshees of Inisherin, but I think Bassett’s general gravitas will push her over the top.
Who Will Win: Angela Bassett
Who Ought to Win: Angela Bassett
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: 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)
The one major race that has been locked up for months is Best Supporting Actor. Ke Huy Quan, the child star who barely acted for 20 years before appearing in Everything Everywhere All at Once, seems a guaranteed victor in a strong field, and deservedly so. He’s the moral and emotional center of the film, shouldering the strange challenge of playing multiple versions of his supportive husband character, Waymond. He delivers most of the movie’s complex exposition, and does so with grace and authority. Quan has been a delightful presence on every red carpet and awards stage, and although each nominee in this category is worthy of attention, he’s been my pick here for almost a year.
Who Will Win: Ke Huy Quan
Who Ought to Win: Ke Huy Quan
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: 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)
Almost all of this year’s Best Picture powerhouses were original screenplays (a rarity at the Oscars), so this category could break in a bunch of ways. If Everything Everywhere All at Once is truly dominant, then the “Daniels” team could take the trophy on the back of their complex, multiverse-centric sci-fi storytelling. Or this could be the place to reward Spielberg (who hasn’t won an Oscar since 1999) and Kushner (who, despite many great collaborations with Spielberg, has never won) for The Fabelmans. Similarly, this could be where Tár gets noticed—screenplay is often the category where “artier,” more challenging work is given its due. I’ll take a flier and predict McDonagh, though, who has never won a writing Oscar and who steered the dialogue-heavy Banshees to major Oscars success this year.
Who Will Win: The Banshees of Inisherin
Who Ought to Win: Tár
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, and Ian Stokell (All Quiet on the Western Front); Rian Johnson (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery); Kazuo Ishiguro (Living); Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, Peter Craig, and Justin Marks (Top Gun: Maverick); Sarah Polley (Women Talking)
A bit of a strange pileup, this field includes two sequels (which are automatically included in this category because of Academy rules), Glass Onion and Top Gun: Maverick, the latter of which has the long list of scribes that’s typical for a colossal blockbuster. They are both perfectly structured scripts, but I think mild snootiness toward sequels will rule them out, and although Ishiguro is a revered name, Living is probably too small a film to break through here. That leaves the Best Picture nominees Women Talking and All Quiet on the Western Front. Although I think Polley’s adaptation of a challenging and uncinematic novel is the greater achievement, All Quiet seems like the front-runner because of its broader support, even though there’s been some outcry over its major (and, in my opinion, disastrous) change to the ending of its source text, a classic German novel.
Who Will Win: All Quiet on the Western Front
Who Ought to Win: Women Talking
Nominees: 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)
Academy voters often split their choices between Best Director and Best Picture, giving the latter prize to the more mainstream work and the directing trophy to the more “artful” one (think Jane Campion winning for The Power of the Dog last year while CODA won Best Picture, or Alfonso Cuarón winning for Roma while Green Book took Best Picture). But I think the Daniels are the front-runners here, mostly because Everything Everywhere is a feat of direction and craft, loaded with visual inventiveness and flair. For a while, I figured Spielberg would win, in recognition of his long career and how personal a project The Fabelmans is for him, as well as the fact that he hasn’t won an Oscar in 24 years despite many nominations. But as Everything Everywhere hype continues to build, a split seems less likely.
Who Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Who Ought to Win: Steven Spielberg
Nominees: All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking
A triumphant night for Everything Everywhere All at Once will be cemented here, making it the second film from the insurgent indie studio A24 to win the Oscars’ top prize (the first was Moonlight). In many ways, it’ll be a shocking moment for the Academy—Everything Everywhere is a nerdy sci-fi action film stuffed with complex martial arts and wordy explanations of multiple universes. But it was also a genuine word-of-mouth box-office hit in early 2022, a time when theaters were still struggling to get people back after COVID-related closures. It’s also a more grounded and human piece of storytelling than the juggernaut blockbusters in this category (Top Gun and Avatar). My personal favorite of the year is Tár, and I can see an argument for rewarding the colossal crowd-pleasing success of Top Gun: Maverick, but Everything Everywhere All at Once would be a worthy and relevant winner for an awards body that has endeavored to navigate the shifting tides of populism in recent years.
Who Will Win: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Who Ought to Win: Tár