This Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will name its winners for the 95th Academy Awards. And boy, is it set to be a barnburner. On the one hand, Best Picture looks to be sewn up, with one film, in particular, staring down the barrel of an unprecedented awards season sweep (more on that in a minute). Yet on the other hand, we’re looking at the most complicated set of predictions in history. For the first time since I began covering the Oscars professionally in 2016, I can count the number of “locks” on one finger. This is the most wide-open race in over a decade, and I think we should stop beating around the bush and just jump right into it.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Everything Everywhere All At Once has swept the preseason. It has won more awards than any precursor in recent history. The only other films in history to do what the Daniels’ fantasy extravaganza has accomplished are Argo and Slumdog Millionaire. Seriously, that’s it. Therefore, while it certainly isn’t set in stone, it is an incredibly likely bet that the film is about to have a historic night. The question isn’t “Will it win Best Picture?” The question is “How many Oscars can it conceivably win?” Well, the safest number is four; yet I also believe it can win up to seven.
Let’s start with the locks though. The Daniels will win Best Director, hands down. Ditto Ke Huy Quan – his acting race is the only one that’s over and done with. As for the tougher races, expect Everything Everywhere All At Once to win a very close race against Top Gun: Maverick in Best Film Editing (it is one of two categories where a tie wouldn’t surprise me). And despite being the hardest category of the night, I’m giving Jamie Lee Curtis the edge over Kerry Condon in Best Supporting Actress (I’ll break down these races tomorrow). Also on the table are Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing, but we’ll talk about those in a minute.
Of course, Everything Everywhere is far from the only lock of the night. There are several other films that should manage to take home some gold in relatively easy fashion – even if said locks are few and far between. For example, All Quiet on the Western Front seems pretty much set to take home Best International Feature, while Guillermo del Toro will continue a season-long sweep in Animated Feature for his Pinocchio retelling. “Naatu Naatu” should manage to edge out Rihanna to take home Best Original Song (although if any of the “locks” are likely to crumble…).
Babylon has swept Best Production Design, while Elvis has swept Costumes – they are each other’s only competition. Elvis should also best The Whale in Best Makeup and Hairstyling – whoever wins here will win Best Actor. And in the two easiest categories of the night, Avatar will win Best Visual Effects while Top Gun: Maverick will win Sound.
Of course, that’s where the easy list ends, I’m afraid. Everything from here on out is a knife fight between two stellar contenders with equal claim to the award. Perhaps the closest category is Best Actress, which sees Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh in a battle that could, quite honestly, end in a tie (one could also theoretically watch out for Andrea Riseborough, but let’s not overcomplicate things). Yeoh is a worthy winner, and could sneak it out in the end – especially if Everything Everywhere sweeps.
But I just can’t imagine the film tying the acting record held by A Streetcar Named Desire and Network – that’s just unprecedented. And considering Tár can’t win anywhere else, this seems like the perfect place to reward it, and name Blanchett one of the best of all time. As for Best Actor, it’s as I said: whoever wins Best Makeup is winning Best Actor. And I think Austin Butler should win that one over Brendan Fraser in another close race.
Moving into the screenplay categories, we see two very close races between perceived frontrunners. In Best Original Screenplay, Everything Everywhere goes up against what was once its closest competition, The Banshees of Inisherin. Now, Inisherin is beloved by the Academy. And while several Best Picture nominees are likely to go home empty-handed Sunday night (The Fabelmans, Triangle of Sadness, etc.), I just can’t see Banshees doing so. It’s either winning Supporting Actress or Original Screenplay, and personally? I’m leaning Screenplay. As for Adapted Screenplay, All Quiet will finally go head-to-head with Women Talking. One won BAFTA, one won the WGA. It’ll be a close race, but in situations like this, always look for which script is “showier” – and the writing in Women is infinitely stronger/showier than Quiet.
Outside of the aforementioned Makeup and Film Editing categories, the toughest technical race to call is Cinematography. On the one hand, Elvis has been the frontrunner all year, and there’s the benefit of Mandy Walker becoming the first woman to win the award. She goes up against the BAFTA winner All Quiet on the Western Front, which many perceive to be the frontrunner. After all, the nominees’ names aren’t listed on the ballot, so no way of knowing history can be made. But I believe Walker doesn’t need the benefit of “history.” Her work stands on its own, so I’m going against the grain and predicting Elvis as the second-biggest winner of the night.
Meanwhile, no category has resulted in back-and-forth handwringing on my part like Best Documentary. Theoretically, four of these titles can win (just kick A House Made of Splinters from the bunch). Realistically, two have a real chance: Navalny and Fire of Love. I have gone back and forth over the last few weeks. Navalny won BAFTA and the PGA Award, while a dwindling interest in the war with Russia and a DGA Award made Fire of Love a promising alternative. Fire of Love has been my favorite documentary all year since I saw it at last Sundance, and I desperately want it to sneak out a win. But stats-wise, you can’t beat a BAFTA+PGA duo, especially with a solo DGA win. At the last minute, I’ve switched back to Navalny (which is my #2 doc, so no major loss for me).
And finally, the crapshoot that is the Shorts categories. I’m notoriously all-or-nothing in these categories – last year I went 0/3; oftentimes I’m 3/3. This year, I’m playing things mostly safe – an easy task because my favorites align with the frontrunners. Best Live Action Short often goes to the most “complete” film, usually with a sense of sentimentality (unless there’s an unmatched Big Name, which none of these have this year). Look for An Irish Goodbye to edge out Disney’s Le Pupille.
Best Animated Short is a bit tougher, as the big-budget British film The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and the Horse is up against the buzzier title My Year of Dicks. Dicks could pull off the win, but I just don’t see the men in the Academy relating to the film’s female gaze. And in Documentary Short, expect the simpler (yet more complex, I would argue) and Malala-backed Stranger At The Gate to beat Netflix’s story of Indian animal rescue The Elephant Whisperers.
We’ll know soon enough what these races hold. Who knows? Maybe we’re in for the craziest race in Oscar history. We’ll probably know what’s about to happen after Best Original Screenplay or Best Film Editing. The 95th Academy Awards will be presented Sunday, March 12th at 8:00 pm. They will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (take a drink when he makes a Will Smith reference). You can see my full predictions below. And go ahead and leave your own predictions in the comments. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, people – get excited!
Best Picture: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Actor: Austin Butler – Elvis
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Tár
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Supporting Actress: Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Director: Daniels – Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Original Screenplay: The Banshees of Inisherin
Best Adapted Screenplay: Women Talking
Best Animated Feature: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
Best International Feature: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Documentary Feature: Navalny
Best Documentary Short: Stranger At The Gate
Best Live Action Short: An Irish Goodbye
Best Animated Short: The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse
Best Original Score: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Original Song: “Naatu Naatu” – RRR
Best Sound: Top Gun: Maverick
Best Production Design: Babylon
Best Cinematography: Elvis
Best Costume Design: Elvis
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Elvis
Best Film Editing: Everything Everywhere All At Once
Best Visual Effects: Avatar: The Way of Water