95th Academy Award Predictions: Where Do We Stand Before The Festivals?

We are now at the dawn of festival season, and with Oscar winners being born and dying over and over for the next few weeks, I thought I’d take a moment to freshen up my predictions. After all, the last time I wrote about the Best Picture race, Next Goal Wins and Killers of the Flower Moon were 2022 films, Three Thousand Years of Longing and Thirteen Lives weren’t getting sabotaged by MGM, and Armageddon Time hadn’t been bombed at the Cannes Film Festival. That not only eliminates half of my Best Picture race; it significantly impacts my acting races. So, let’s take one more look at the top categories before the festivals change everything.

Starting with the acting races, there have been some massive shake-ups across the board. With Thirteen Lives buried and Flower Moon pushed, I have about six slots to fill across the board. This doesn’t really affect the Actress races, although I should note that I’ve finally been convinced to move Margot Robbie to Best Actress and Michelle Williams to Supporting Actress, where they are still frontrunners. I also moved Griselda Siciliani into Supporting Actress for Bardo – I’m expecting big things from this one, and that’s going to start in the acting races.

The men, however, have a much larger overhaul coming their way. The only Supporting contenders still in the mix are Seth Rogen and Tobey Maguire, while Best Actor only has Austin Butler and Colin Farrell. Why the changes? Well, there’s a litany of reasons. For starters, Paul Dano is dropping down to Supporting Actor, where he has become the new frontrunner for The Fabelmans. And despite industry-wide goodwill for Brad Pitt, category confusion and a litany of recent bad press could see him missing for Babylon.

So who’s moving into Best Actor? Well, I’m caving to Film Twitter pressure and looking at their current “frontrunners.” This means Brendan Fraser in The Whale, a play I hate but should see Fraser – who is on a comeback tour and should be good in the role – earn his first Oscar nomination. It also means Hugh Jackman for The Son. I recently read this play, and let me tell you – this could be a major contender this season. I’m still playing things conservatively, but expect nominations for Jackman and his costar Zen McGrath in Supporting Actor. Speaking of which, expect Colin Farrell’s costar Brendan Gleeson to earn a nomination in The Banshees of Inisherin. And as the film’s directorial stand-in, expect Daniel Giménez Cacho to earn a nomination for Bardo.

Which leads us to Best Picture. The recent purge has left five nominees standing, all of which have seen a boost in stature. I expect the TIFF-premiering Fabelmans is likely your new frontrunner, with the tech-sweeping Babylon not far behind. She Said and Women Talking likely won’t have as many tech nominations, but their acting, writing, and directing domination should keep them afloat. And while Elvis was a divisive favorite a few months ago, it has industry love and made $100 million – I’d be shocked if it misses out.

So which new kids have the best chance? Well, the most obvious has to be Empire of Light and Bardo (Or, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths), two films by previous winners with tantalizing stories. I’ve heard great things about Empire and expect it to be a major contender across the board. Meanwhile, Bardo has its Venice premiere later tonight, but all accounts indicate Iñárritu should earn a Directing nod and a Best Picture nod beyond its acting and International Feature slots – not to mention all of Netflix’s weight is behind it. I would also say The Banshees of Inisherin has a real shot at a nomination here – Martin McDonagh is fresh off a nomination, and its acting should help put it over the edge.

Which brings us to our billion-dollar elephants in the room. While not as important anymore, huge box office hits still fare well with the Academy. And few films have fared as well as Top Gun: Maverick and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Now, normally, I would poo poo any big blockbusters or avant garde projects as “not the Academy’s wheelhouse.” But here’s the thing: the Academy may not love action films or millennial sci-fi. But it does love films that technically dazzle while telling heartfelt stories. And both of these films do just that. I may not be ready to pull the trigger on, say, Tom Cruise or Michelle Yeoh nominations. But in a field of ten for Best Picture? You bet your ass I’m predicting Top Gun and Everything Everywhere make the cut.

So that’s where we’re at in the Oscar race to date. Obviously, there are a few names that have entered the race at the last minute that need addressing. While White Noise underperformed last night (just as I expected), there are still several films making quiet moves behind the scenes. The Son is sneaking its way to being on the border, as are the Emmett Till biopic Till and the Cate Blanchett epic Tár. The Inspection is making waves at TIFF and New York, while Decision to Leave and Triangle of Sadness from Cannes lurk in the shadows. And one would be remiss to rule out Avatar: The Way of Water or Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. As I said, the Academy doesn’t mind blockbusters as long as they’re human. We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, you can see the updated races right here, as well as the most recent Best Picture predictions below.

  1. The Fabelmans
  2. Empire of Light
  3. Babylon
  4. She Said
  5. Women Talking
  6. Bardo (Or, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)
  7. Elvis
  8. Top Gun: Maverick
  9. The Banshees of Inisherin
  10. Everything Everywhere All At Once

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