It has been less than one year since the 2022 Academy Awards gave the world two Trojan Horse-sized presents: The Slap, and best picture winner CODA, a pair of unbelievable, bordering-on-surreal moments that rocked the entertainment industry in their own respective ways.
While it is difficult to imagine this year’s Oscars ceremony offering any one moment approaching the infamy of those two spectacles, there is always some fun to be had in trying to predict just which movies will triumph come March 12 – and which films actually deserve the spotlight. (I mean, CODA? C’mon, people, that wasn’t even the best Apple TV+ movie released last year.)
To help with your Oscars betting pool, here are my best guesses, and greater hopes.
Will Win: Everything Everywhere All at Once
By this point in the increasingly lengthy Oscars campaign season (which feels like it stretches from Sundance every January straight through to the night of the Academy Awards; so about 14 solid months in total), it seems that Everything Everywhere All at Once has the big prize of the evening all but sewn up. The epic, exhausting comedy from co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert has so far won the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards, the Directors Guild Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. If it doesn’t somehow go the Oscars distance, then perhaps we’re living in the strangest of all EEAO’s many multiverses. Even more peculiar than that one with the talking rocks wearing googly eyes. (If you haven’t seen the film yet and this reference makes no sense, then you have only a few days to get up to speed.)
Should Win: Top Gun: Maverick
If the Academy Awards refuse to acknowledge the fact that Tom Cruise single-handedly saved moviegoing, then maybe the Oscars deserve whatever ratings disaster will surely befall them. While there are deficits and drawbacks to awarding Top Gun: Maverick the top prize of the evening (just think of the parties to be thrown inside Scientology HQ), I cannot recall a more engrossing, perfectly executed piece of big-big-BIG moviemaking than the Cruise-led blockbuster. A potent combination of star power and sky-high cinematic craftsmanship, Maverick is a tremendous production that is Exhibit A in the case for big-screen moviegoing.
Should’ve Been a Contender: RRR
I’m glad that the Academy tossed Indian filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli a bone by nominating RRR’s earwormy hit Naatu Naatu for Best Original Song. But the Oscars did the film dirty by otherwise ignoring the movie-est of all movies to be movie-d. Rousing, riotous and riveting, RRR is a true feast for the senses – if not the best picture of the year, then certainly the biggest. And that should count for at least a best picture nod.
Where to watch 2023 Oscar-nominated movies in Canada
Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Daniels, as the duo is known, were once considered the darkest of dark horses. After all, their last movie before EEAO was Swiss Army Man, a.k.a. the farting Daniel Radcliffe corpse movie. (It’s as intolerable as that description sounds, even though it has its passionate defenders, who seem to be growing in legion post-EEAO.) But from where the Oscars campaign stands, the Daniels seem best positioned to share the director statuette, and you know what? Good for them. They put their absolute all into making EEAO, and the Academy needs a good status-quo head-shake every few years. And in some other multiverse, Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse probably has an Oscar all its own, so it evens out.
Should Win: Todd Field, Tar
Where EEAO is ambitious, Tar is exact. There is a precision – technical, visual, narrative – to every single aspect of Todd Field’s film that speaks to the rigorous standards and imaginative clarity of a director working at the top of his game. A maestro, if you will. Hopefully Field doesn’t have as many skeletons rattling around his closet as his title character does in her Berlin flat – but even if that were the case, you might be forgiven for siding with Field over any other of the Academy’s millennial robots eager to take him down.
Should’ve Been a Contender: James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water
What does James Cameron get for making a near-universally acclaimed megahit, the third highest-grossing movie of all time, after spending the past decade being mocked that no one even wanted another Avatar in the first place? Certainly not a best director nomination, which I suppose just had to go to … Ruben Ostlund for an annoyingly on-the-nose satire? While Cameron, the once and future King of the World, is certainly not hurting for another statuette to add to his mantle, it seems short-sighted and not a little ungracious of the Academy to not at least name-check the guy.
Will Win: Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
While Brendan Fraser could yet make it to the podium, Kleenex in hand, I’m giving the edge to Colin Farrell, who seems to be just that much more respected by his fellow thespians. Apologies, too, to Austin Butler, who is going to either have to drop that hunka-hunka Elvis accent fast or learn to live being typecast as the King, now and forever.
Should Win: Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
An Oscar for Farrell would also act as a kind of triple award. Aside from acknowledging his leading-man work in The Banshees of Inisherin, the actor gave two other wonderful performances last year: as the melancholy father hoping to repair his family’s android in After Yang, and as the avaricious, butt-ugly gangster Oswald (The Penguin) Copplepot in The Batman.
Should’ve Been a Contender: Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick
It was always going to be a long shot that the Maverick star would get a best actor nod. If the Academy wasn’t going to award him a statuette for his wrenching turn in Magnolia back in 2000, then it was never going to flip for his death-defying antics. But I’ll still stump for Cruise however long it takes – even if that means waiting for Xenu to come back and reclaim the Earth.
Will Win: Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
The EEAO star has the entire Oscars campaign package wrapped up in a bow. Consider the narrative: The widely respected, talented and prolific actress has never been up for an Oscar before. She is headlining a movie that has broken through in a way that might have been unimaginable just a few years ago. And she has been giving epic, meme-sparking acceptance speeches at various industry awards ceremonies for the past few months. If Yeoh doesn’t win, then there isn’t a multiverse out there that could sustain that reality. (This is also the last multiverse joke that I’ll be making this year, promise.)
Should Win: Cate Blanchett, Tar
I suppose that Cate Blanchett is, by this point in her career, as decorated as her title character, Lydia/Linda Tar (minus, you know, all the problematic abuse stuff). But there isn’t another performance this year that required such commitment and ferocity. The actress studied classical musical technique from the ground up. She learned German. She cloaked herself in a life not her own. All of this hard work backgrounds a performance that grips and lingers, seduces and destroys. And just imagine her acceptance speech, which I can only presume would be delivered in-character. Encore!
Should’ve Been a Contender: Taylor Russell, Bones and All
While the young-cannibals-in-love drama Bones and All is not an easy sell (it wears its heart, and other internal organs, on its sleeve), the movie is a vibrant, fully alive thing to witness thanks to the young Canadian actress Taylor Russell. She pulls off the same trick that she managed in 2019′s similarly tough-sit Waves: Asked to play damaged and withdrawn, she delivers a character of depth and warmth. She makes the unapproachable understandable, even if that requires moments of evisceration more typically associated with George A. Romero films.
Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
No doubt, Angela Bassett’s performance was one of the strongest elements in the Black Panther sequel. To play the mother of a fallen superhero – lightly mirroring her own off-screen relationship with the late star Chadwick Boseman – Bassett had to balance a sense of regality with incomparable heartache. Her two standout scenes – one in which she is basically addressing the audience as much as the film’s characters, giving everyone permission to mourn – should push her to the top of the Academy’s list. Even if, by doing so, the Oscars have to award a Marvel film with its first ever top-tier category Oscar.
Should Win: Hong Chau, The Whale
I’m rooting for Hong Chau not only because she was the second-best thing about The Whale – an otherwise extraordinarily tough sit that Brendan Fraser elevated from outright cinematic endurance test – but because I’m still thinking about her fantastically cold performance in The Menu, another film that succeeds thanks to its exceedingly game cast. The mid-budget adult movie world needs more Hong Chau – why not let her know how much she is appreciated?
Should’ve Been a Contender: Nina Hoss, Tar
The simmering pot to Cate Blanchett’s five-alarm kitchen fire, Nina Hoss delivered the goods, and then some, in Tar. And awarding Hoss this time around would be somewhat adequate compensation for the Academy ignoring her in 2014′s Phoenix, in which the German actress offered an all-time performance that still stings.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once
The most energetic man on the awards circuit – this or any other year – Ke Huy Quan seems destined to give a heartfelt, tear-jerking speech come awards night. It is just going to happen, best to realize this now.
Should Win: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once
And come to think of it, that’s a heartwarming, applause-worthy realization to come to. The actor once best known as Indiana Jones sidekick Short Round has been on the outside of the industry looking in for decades now. Given his genuinely wonderful work in EEAO – where he had to balance physical comedy with melodramatic heartache, action theatrics with raw drama – it is finally time to let him in.
Should’ve Been a Contender: Anthony Hopkins, Armageddon Time
Is everyone over at the Academy still upset that Anthony Hopkins won best actor two years ago instead of Chadwick Boseman? That’s the only reason I can imagine for why the Oscars ignored Hopkins’s performance in the better of 2022′s duelling semi-autobiographical films about Jewish families (the other being, naturally, The Fabelmans, which I’ll boldly predict walks away with almost nothing aside from best original screenplay). In James Gray’s drama, Hopkins offers a grandfather for the ages – so perfectly upstanding and inspiring that he’ll compel you to make a long delayed phone call to your own zaidie.