My Annual (and fairly confident) Oscar predictions . . .

| March 10, 2023

Everything to Know About the 95th Oscars | A.frame

Best Picture
All Quiet on the Western Front | Avatar: The Way of Water | The Banshees of Inisherin | Elvis | The Fabelmans | Tár | Top Gun: Maverick | Triangle of Sadness | Woman Talking

While there has been some shuffling around of frontrunners during this Oscar season, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards and the Producer’s Guild Awards have cemented the chances that the multiverse adventure Everything Everywhere All At Once would be the winner.  It’s hard to disagree.

Best Director
Martin McDonagh for The Banshees of Inisherin | Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere All At Once | Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans | Todd Field for Tár | Ruben Ostlund for Triangle of Sadness

While there is sentiment for Steven Spielberg for his semiautobiographical epic The Fabelmans, it’s more likely that the voters from the DGA will go in the direction of The Daniels for Everything Everywhere All At Once.  They’ve already given the duo the Director’s Guild Award and it’s unlikely that the Oscar won’t follow

Best Actor
Austin Butler in Elvis | Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin | Brendan Fraser in The Whale | Paul Mescal in Aftersun | Bill Nighy in Living

While Colin Farrell and Austin Butler are pleasing favorites, this year’s Best Actor race tips in the direction of the comeback kid.  Brendan Fraser has fallen on hard times in the last few years and his performance in Darren Aaronofsky’s The Whale is a brilliant return to form.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett in Tár | Ana de Armas in Blonde | Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie | Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans | Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Having won twice before for Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and then Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett might be looking at her third Oscar, but it would be an upset over frontrunner Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once who won the SAG award for Best Actressthe same folks that vote in this category.

Best Supporting Actor
Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Inisherin | Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway | Judd Hirsh in The Fabelmans | Barry Keoghan in The Banshees of Inisherin | Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Former child actor Ke Huy Quan staged a comeback this year in Everything Everywhere All At Once and has been the only point of conversation this year for supporting actor.

Best Supporting Actress
Angela Bassett in Black Panther Wakanda Forever | Hong Chau in The Whale | Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin | Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once | Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Until the SAG Awards, Angela Bassett was the rather soft frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, chiefly for her great trailer line: “Have I not sacrificed everything!?”  Then Jamie Lee Curtis won the SAG award for Best Supporting Actress and, given her legacy, it is hard to think otherwise.

Best Original Screenplay
The Banshees of Inisherin Everything Everywhere All At OnceThe Fabelmans | Tár | Triangle of Sadness

The WGA awards recently gave Martin McDonagh their top prize for The Banshees of Inisherin.  Since they vote for the Oscar too, it’s hard to think that they’ll choose otherwise.

Best Adapted Screenplay
All Quiet o the Western FrontGlass Onion: A Knives Out MysteryLivingTop Gun MaverickWoman Talking

Sarah Polley is a hard-working writer\director who, this year, came up with a gem, a hard-hitting adaptation of Miriam Toew’s novel Woman Talking, all about a group of Mennonite women who realize that they’ve been raped in their sleep after the man in their community have been giving them horse tranquillizers.  The whole of the story take place in a barn as they decide what to do about it.  That’s a story that’s hard to ignore.

Best Animated Feature
Guillermo del Toro’s PinocchioMarcel the Shell With Shoes OnPuss in Boots: The Last WishThe Sea BeastTurning Red

The frontrunner for the Animated Feature is Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and it deserves to be.  The film is a tremendous achievement, but there is a possibility of an upset thanks to A24’s truly original Marcel the Shell With Shoes On.  It could go either way.

Best International Feature
All Quiet on the Western FrontArgentina, 1985CloseEoThe Quiet Girl

Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Remarque’s World War I allegory All Quiet on the Western Front is the first German-language adaption (it has been filmed twice before) and proof that even after nine decades, the story – about a German solder’s physical trauma on the front lines – still packs a punch.  The film picked up nine nominations this year and while its chances in other categories is up in their, this one is not.

Best Original Song
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | “This is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All At Once | “Naatu Naatu” from RRR | “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman | “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick

A lot of sameness come out of the BOS category this year – you can’t really tell the songs part whether they are sung by Lady Gaga, Riahanna or Sofia Carson.  The exception is the robust (and fun) “Naatu, Naatu” from the beefy actioner RRR is hard to forget.

Best Original Score
All Quiet on the Western FrontBabylon The Banshees of InisherinEverything Everywhere All At OnceThe Fabelmans

Based purely on sentimentality, one wants to see one more win for the legendary John Williams.  But based purely on the music, his score for The Fabelmans is nothing to write home about.  The more reasonable choice is the experimental score by the three-man band Son Lux for Everything Everywhere All At Once .  They’re the new kids on the block and I think the voters will move in their direction.

Best Cinematography
All Quiet on the Western Front | Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of TruthsElvisEmpire of Light | Tár

While Director’s Guild refused to break down the gender wall, the cinematographers certainly have.  The guild of cinematographers have some catching up to do.  This is the only category – besides Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, of course – in which a woman has never been so honored.  That may mean good news for Mandy Walker who paints the late-50s American landscape in pinks and blues before moving on the pastel colors of the 1960s in Elvis.

Walker might very well be the film’s sole award (stay tuned) but if any of the fellas have a shot here, it may be first-time nominee James Friend who does a brilliant job of painting the French countryside like a lunar landscape, uprooted by the horror of the first world war in All Quiet on the Western Front.  It all depends on the sweep.  If Quiet sweeps, Friend will win.  Otherwise it goes to Walker.

Best Production Design
All Quiet on the Western FrontAvatar: The Way of WaterBabylon ElvisThe Fablemans

All respect to the craftspeople behind Avatar: The Way of Water, but I think they may have to sit this one out.  The first film won in this category and it may be seen as a glorified rerun.

Sometimes the best creation of functional space within a movie frame is recreation.  It is an overload that dominates this year’s race for Best Production Design as four of the nominees are period recreations.  That leaves Avatar: The Way of Water as the odd man out, and also leaves out fantasy epics like Black Panther Wakanda ForeverThe Batman and Everything Everywhere All At Once.

In their place are four traditional nominees, those whose designers and craftspeople have recreated times and places that once were in a variety of creative ways.  The standout is All Quiet on the Western Front in which Production designer Christian Goldbeck recreated the wet, muddy trenches of World War I on a soundstage in Prague under conations both depressing and oppressive (to effect, of course).

Oddly juxtaposed to the trenches of The Great War is hedonistic Hollywood in the roaring twenties just a decade later in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon.  Production designer Florencia Martin and set designer Anthony Carlino created a portrait of post-WWI Los Angeles that is in a constant state of construction, destruction and renewal by a film industry that is starting to feel its power.  Like Chazelle’s La La Land, this is a film designed with the landscape in mind, of the Mission, Spanish and Tudor look of the City of Angels bejeweled and bedazzled by the opulence of a century ago.

Spielberg’s The Fabelmans with production design by two-time Oscar winner Rick Carter (Lincoln and Avatar) and set design by previous winner Karen O’Hara (Alice in Wonderland) may be the most understated of this year’s nominees, recreating the wood and plastic domesticity of 1950s America and the claustrophobic feel of a young man discovering family secrets.

That leaves the frontrunner. Elvis, in which production designer and nine-time nominee Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy and set decorator Bev Dunn stretched from the 1950s to the 1970s recreating the hayride shows where Colonel Parker discovered Elvis to the music-laden world of Beale Street to the stunning recreation of Graceland in his later years.  In addition to simply recreating these elements, Martin, Murphy and Dunn gave us the contrast of the rise of Elvis’ career to the mainlining of his post-Comeback years as the oppulence of his surrounds stand in contrast to the weariness of the man himself.

Best Costume Design
BabylonBlack Panther: Wakanda ForeverElvisEverything Everywhere All At OnceMrs. Harris Goes to Paris

The costume awards are always the most fun to predict because the work is always so varied and so colorful and this year is no exception.  The five costume designers this year are all women, four previous nominees and a new kid.

There are two veterans. old pros at this particular game.  First is four-time nominee Ruth Carter who previously won for Black Panther and now returns with another nomination for the sequel.  Not merely a glorified rerun, this time she has outdone herself, fashioning not only the regal look of Wakana’s royalty and military, but also Submariner’s ancient Mayan civilization.

The other is Carter’s chief competition, four-time nominee, two-time winner (and frontrunner) Catherine Martin whose task on Elvis was to trace The King’s journey from the pink and purple outfits of his rebellious youth in the 1950s to the technicolor pastels of his movie career in the 1960s through the glam rock comeback of the 1970s.

They both face Mary Zophres who recreated the looks of 1920s Hollywood in Babylon; 12-time nominee, 3-time winner Jenny Beaven who was responsible for the 1950s French couture style in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris; and first-time nominee Shirley Kurata who had to create all those multiverse variations for Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
All Quiet on the Western FrontThe Batman | Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverElvisThe Whale

Some very good nominees this year but the best came from prosthetic makeup designer Adrien Morot who for The Whale used all-digital prosthetic make-up to display Brenden Fraiser’s 600-pound weight gain without burying his face in rubber.  That gave the actor much more freedom of movement in his face to be able to act without fighting the makeup.  The digital effects, said Fraiser in an interview with FilmMonger, allowed Morot to have complete control over the character’s body, how it looked, how it moved, and how it breathed; everything down to the pores.

Best Sound
All Quiet on the Western FrontAvatar: The Way of WaterThe Batman ElvisTop Gun: Maverick 

Everyone who came out of the theater after seeing Top Gun: Maverick knew what an immersive experience it had been – those who saw it on television, maybe not so much.  It is to be said now that perhaps the Academy voters will recognize the work.  Thanks to the talents of production sound mixer Mark Weingartin, supervising sound editor James Mather, sound designer Al Nelson and re-recording mixers Mark Taylor and Chris Burdon they created the world inside the cockpit the includes not only the sounds of the controls but also breathing, wind against the jets and turbo engines.  So yeah, it was an immersive experience and an important one, one that got us back in the theater.

Best Editing
The Banshees of Inisherin ElvisEverything Everywhere All At Once | Tár | Top Gun: Maverick

It has been said that film editing is the invisible craft.  It is the least upfront of all of the technical achievements honored at the Academy Awards.  There are two bits of criteria needed to predict the winner.  First, the standard, which is the theory that whoever wins Best Picture also wins the Oscar for Film Editing.  That was once the theory – it hasn’t happened since Argo back in 2013.

The other criteria rests with the film whose editing stands out more – you can see it.  Two candidates this year define that, Paul Rogers for his work on Everything, Everywhere All At Once and Eddie Hamilton for Top Gun: Maverick.  Either could win but my money is on the latter.  Rogers had to keep up with all those shifts in multiverse reality and give the film a narrative that, in lesser hands, could have been a convoluted mess, or worse, a boring one.

Best Visual Effects
All Quiet on the Western FrontAvatar: The Way of WaterThe Batman Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Top Gun: Maverick 

The most refreshing thing about this year’s nominees for Best Visual Effects is that they all have a reason to be here.  All have earned their nomination but at least two of them (Avatar and Top Gun) have the distinction of reminding us of pre-streaming, pre-COVID, big-budget summer blockbusters – pure magnets for the multiplex.  They, more than any other films released in 2022 reminded us to the wonderment of our cinematic temple.

That celebration of renewal makes Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick the frontrunners and gives no clear indication of which one will win the Oscar.  On the level of pure work (at least given what is on the screen) one has to concede that Avatar: The Way of Water pulls out ahead.  It is a favorite, having dominated the Visual Effects Society Awards this week in every category.  

As with all of James Cameron’s films, every dollar is on the screen and nowhere is it more present than Way of Water.  The incredible visual effects here – headed by four-time Oscar-winner Joe Letteri – are a stunning array of state-of-the-art visual tricks like the underwater performance capture, global simulation tool set which gives the film a new level of photorealism, and a muscle-based facial animation system known as that Anatomically Plausible Facial System.  All of these effects are on the screen all the time, immersing us in a whole world without the distracting seams of the craft.

Best Documentary Feature
All That BreathesAll the Beauty and the BloodshedFire of Love A House Made of SplintersNavalny

The CNN documentary Navalny is super-timely, telling the story of Alexei Navalny who survived being poisoned by Putin’s thugs, escaped and recovered in Germany and then when BACK to Russia where he was arrested and jailed.  Of the five, this one is probably the most conventional, a talking-head documentary dealing with a brave individual, it looks every bit like something made for CNN.  Unfortunately, timely leads to victory in this category when there isn’t a holocaust documentary to fall back on, and that could spell victory.

Best Documentary Short
The Elephant Whisperers HauloutHow Do You Measure a Year? | The Martha Mitchell Effect Stranger at the Gate

Josh Seftel’s Stranger at the Gate tells the story of the members of a tiny Indiana mosque who nearly became the victims of U.S. Marine Richard “Mac” McKinney who planned to bomb their community center until something happened that changed his plans.  The current subject of anti-Muslimism coupled with the racial nature of McKinney’s plot may sway the vote in the film’s favor.

Best Live Action Short
An Irish GoodbyeIvaluLe PupilleNight Ride | The Red Suitcase

Les Pupille (The Pupil) is the longest among the nominees at 38 minutes and, for me, the least satisfying despite the fact that it is a Disney production and one of its producers is Gravity and Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuarón.  The result is a film mixed with one part Madeline, one part The Little Princess and just a teaspoon of Fellini, this odd little film tells the story of a group of young girls living in a boarding school in wartime Italy during the advent season (which leads up to Christmas) but their wide-eyed fidgeting and wonderment is a constant frustration to the nuns who want them to be still and quiet in service to the lord on his birthday.  Quite honestly, while this film is engaging it is not exactly compelling, for me anyway.  I think the voters may see it differently; this is such a big production and the names attached are too enticing to pass up.

Best Animated Short
The Boy, The MoleThe Fox and the HorseThe Flying SailorIce MerchantsMy Years of DicksAn Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse from AppleTV+ is certainly the year’s most beautifully-made among the nominees.  Based on a 2018 best-selling children’s book by Charlie Mackesy and produced with the help of J.J. Abrams Bad Robot Productions, it follows the adventures of a little boy lost in a snow-blanketed forest who bonds with first a very chatty mole (v. Tom Hollander) then a sneaky-eyed fox (v. Idris Elba) and then a white horse (v. Gabriel Byrne) whose third-act revelation is kind of majestic.  Mackesy’s journey to this film began when he was posting his sketched illustrations on Instagram about conversations between the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse.  The book became a massive best-seller and followed with several producers attempting to adapt it for film until it fell into the hands of Cara Speller, who collaborated with Matthew Freud in producing the film under their NoneMore Productions banner.  It became their first production

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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