95th Academy Awards: Predictions and Insight

For whatever reason, I thought all of this would be over by the end of February. I was wrong, and it really does feel exhausting to still be going over these 2022 films, but here we are. Well, it's finally time to see the 95th Academy Awards. The show will air live on Sunday, March 12th, with a ceremony that will be ripe with tired jokes and a strike team waiting in the wings for a once-in-a-lifetime thing to never happen again. Regardless, what does help is how exciting this awards race is. Several categories feel pretty up in the air, which always makes for a more exciting ceremony. With that in mind, I have put together all of my predictions, complete with the logic I've come up with behind each choice. Regardless of whatever issues I may have with the nominations (they're actually pretty decent), I’ve laid out each of the categories, highlighting my thoughts on who will win throughout.

BEST PICTURE
(Ranked in order of preference - only for this category)
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
The Banshees of Inisherin
Avatar: The Way of Water
Top Gun: Maverick
Tár
Triangle of Sadness
All Quiet on the Western Front
Elvis
Women Talking

At this point, I don't see a good reason to bet against Everything Everywhere All at Once for the top prize. I couldn't even tell you what would be the runner-up pick (Banshees?). Having won PGA, DGA, and SAG ensemble, let alone the enormous goodwill that turned an ambitious but small film from A24 into a $100 million-grossing blockbuster (relative to size), there just seems to be no stopping the EEAAO train from taking away the big prize. Also being a major fan of the film (in a year where every nominated entry is at least good), I'll be happy to see this crowd go home winners.

BEST DIRECTOR
Todd Field, Tár
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Ruben Ostlund, Triangle of Sadness
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

Sometimes these split with Best Picture, other times, they don't. Perhaps it's more common these days, but with every nominee also in the Picture category, the chance for an outlier upset is unlikely. The Daniels won DGA, which is a big sign of where things are headed. Sometimes that could be offset by the momentum of another feature, except the Daniels are responsible for the film that currently has all of that momentum. What once seemed like Spielberg's chance to threepeat has turned into a coronation for an unlikely duo. Plus, as we all know, even with all its nominations, All Quiet on the Western Front somehow directed itself.

BEST ACTRESS
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Cate Blanchett, Tár
Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Despite all the hoopla surrounding Riseborough's surprise nomination (and the nonsense investigation that followed), she joins Williams and de Armas as merely being happy to be there. This is a race between Blanchett and Yeoh. Both have earned various awards that could signal a win. Both are the favorites here. One would earn their third Oscar and further cement their status as one of the greatest of all. The other would make history as far as being the first Asian-identifying lead actress to win. It's a tough call, but I think the love out there for EEAAO allows it to get the edge, along with being a warmer performance, bizarre as the film may be.

BEST ACTOR
Austin Butler, Elvis
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Bill Nighy, Living
Paul Mescal, Aftersun

It's nice to see that both acting categories are very tight races. With that in mind, despite the comeback story that has helped carve a nice path for Brendan Fraser, The Whale isn't a Best Picture nominee. Going off of just facts, winners in this category very rarely pull it off without their film being up for the big prize (the last time was in 2009 with Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart). Meanwhile, Austin Butler has been collecting his share of prizes to go with his collection of comments regarding his permanently altered voice. Still, Fraser won SAG, making it a close call. My preference is Farrell, who is not entirely out of the running either. Truly a tough call, but I think the King of Rock & Roll may be crowned with an Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau, The Whale
Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

This is the most complicated category among the acting awards, as things are truly all over the place. Bassett was a favorite early on (from the trailer, in fact), but despite some wins, no Best Picture nom for Wakanda Forever and the fact that it is a Marvel movie don't help the odds. The Asian representation has certainly been a part of the story for this year's Oscars, but Hsu and Chau are still likely sitting this out. So, even with Bassett still in the mix, Condon and Curtis are right at the top. Curtis just won SAG, while Condon took home a BAFTA. So it's veterans vs. the international favorite, and I'm going to lean toward the heart of Inisherin.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway
Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once

The closest thing to a surefire bet for an acting Oscar is Ke Huy Quan. For one thing - everybody loves this guy! A child star who quickly went away from acting, only to return, and deliver one of the most endearing performances of the year, let alone show just how grateful he is for every accolade, isn't exactly making anyone look down on this man. Oh, and the giant sweep of awards he's taken in so far doesn't hurt in the least. Barry Keoghan won a BAFTA for Banshees, making him the closest competitor, but I'm pretty confident Short Round has this.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Living
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

It's a pretty safe bet that Sarah Polley's script Women Talking will walk home with a screenplay award. Being a Best Picture nominee and tackling its subject matter just has the feel of what's right when it comes to the Oscars. Having won the WGA as well is certainly putting things in its favor. All Quiet on the Western Front would be the runner-up contender, given how dominant it is in its number of nominations, but not nearly as sure a bet.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Triangle of Sadness

Everyone in this category is also nominated for Best Director, which is kind of insane. It also makes this one a tough category to easily predict. However, the edge has to go with EEAAO, given all that momentum and the previous awards it has already claimed. That would also mean a directing duo would be the rare set to win the Oscars' trifecta (Picture, Director, Screenplay), assuming all this comes to fruition. Of course, Banshees is right behind, likely taking in plenty of international votes and also serving as the only possible award it wins that night, give or take one of the actors.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
All Quiet on the Western Front
Argentina, 1985
Close
EO
The Quiet Girl

As usual, not much analysis is needed here. All Quiet on the Western Front is the most nominated film. It's the only film in this category to also be up for Best Picture. It swept the BAFTAs. It's a lock here. Decision to Leave being left out is still pretty offputting, while RRR wasn't submitted by India to begin with. Argentina, 1985 is the closest competition, but again, "Best Picture nominee" speaks greatly.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
The Sea Beast
Turning Red

It was quite a strong year for animation, and this is a really solid set of films (even if I'm still irritated that the Oscars won't be playing a clip of Mad God at the ceremony). With that being said, we're long past the days of Disney dominance, and Marcel the Shell with a Tuxedo On will likely only be seen as a presenter. The Academy really likes Guillermo del Toro (who doesn't, he's great!). Pinocchio has won tons of animation awards already. All signs point to seeing this little wooden boy become a real trophy winner.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
All That Breathes
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Fire of Love
A House Made of Splinters
Navalny

The documentary branch is rarely predictable, and this has become a tough year to narrow down. Fire of Love won the DGA, while Navalny took home the BAFTA and PGA. That, coupled with current events involving Russia/Ukraine, could help its chances. Though the same can be said for A House Made of Splinters, which doubles up feelings toward Ukraine with hitting at the feelings of parents. All that said, Navalny is a more "entertaining" doc that's certainly been on the radar of voters. Or am I thinking to little of critical favorite All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which also has its own important agenda in mind?

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"Applause" by Diane Warren for Tell It Like a Woman
"Hold My Hand" by Lady Gaga and Bloodpop for Top Gun: Maverick
"Lift Me Up" by Tems, Ludwig Göransson, Rihanna, and Ryan Coogler for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Naatu Naatu” by Kala Bhairava, M. M. Keeravani, Rahul Sipligunj for RRR
"This Is a Life" by Ryan Lott, David Byrne, and Mitski for Everything Everywhere All at Once

Listen, who doesn't want to see the RRR crew get this song going, only to have the cast of EEAAO, Fabelmans, Banshees, Top Gun, Elvis, and whoever else all get up and perform the Naatu dance? The only thing greater would be seeing S.S. Rajamouli's Indian blockbuster spectacular claim an Oscar for a defining cinematic moment of 2022.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
All Quiet on the Western Front, Volker Bertelmann
Babylon, Justin Hurwitz
The Banshees of Inisherin, Carter Burwell
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Son Lux
The Fabelmans, John Williams

If the frequently mentioned Pinocchio and Women Talking had landed noms in this category, perhaps there would have been more of a competition here. As it stands, unless EEAAO's momentum is that strong, we're likely looking at a battle between All Quiet and Babylon. All Quiet is a Best Picture nominee with a unique sound to accompany its intensity. Meanwhile, the divisive Babylon has a score that's just really likable. Both have won various awards leading up to this, so it may come down to which film left the bigger impact on voters. Being long, draining films (not a bad thing, necessarily), I'd still side with the catchier Babylon bringing home the prize.

BEST FILM EDITING
The Banshees of Inisherin, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
Elvis, Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond
Everything Everywhere All at Once, Paul Rogers
Tár, Monika Willi
Top Gun: Maverick, Eddie Hamilton

I may be sticking my head out, but I look at the action film when it comes to editing. Sure, EEAAO does have a lot of action and hinges on shuffling through various universes; however, Top Gun: Maverick is such a well-constructed film that relies on breakneck pacing to really amp up the fighter jet action. Not hurting is that the pure action film is also a Best Picture nominee. Yes, EEAAO has all the nominations, but it's hard to think the movie that "saved cinemas" is going home empty-handed, given how it presents its spectacle. Coupled with Sound, I believe this is where Top Gun will accomplish its mission.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Darius Khondji
Elvis, Mandy Walker
Empire of Light, Roger Deakins
Tár, Florian Hoffmeister

Just a reminder that Empire of Light is the worst film nominated for an Oscar this year. With that out of the way, three Best Picture nominees are in this category, so sorry to Khondji and Deakins. With Top Gun surprisingly sitting this one out, it comes down to All Quiet and Elvis (Tár is also just happy to be here). Elvis has the benefit of winning notice from the American Society of Cinematographers and once again brings up the prospect of having the first woman to win an Oscar for cinematography. However, All Quiet is a beast with all its nominations, and even if it doesn't clean up in the technical categories, its visualization of the horrors of WWI is a thing of beauty.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Elvis
The Fabelmans

Given the various guild wins, along with BAFTA, Babylon has already faced off against tough competition (Elivs and All Quiet) and has come out as a winner. While it's not a Best Picture nominee, that's still a pretty good sign that the display of rampant excess in a film about Hollywood will be rewarded by Hollywood. Avatar is the wild sci-fi flick that tends to be the other option. Still, compared to last year's winner, Dune, Avatar's reliance on visual effects has made for a less convincing case when it came to the reality that also went into that film's creation. Regardless, Elvis is the real runner-up, but I think Babylon dances away with this one.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Babylon
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

When this movie was first announced, I felt it was a safe bet to say the legendary Elvis would be honored for his elaborate costumes by the Oscars. So far, everything has occurred to make that prediction become a reality. Elvis has already won the BAFTA for costumes and the CCA. However, it may still be a three-way race, as EEAAO has that momentum factor, while Black Panther has won its share of awards. Given how Ruth E. Carter already won an Oscar for the first film, I'd be curious if awards would still be in store for a sequel (probably a stat I should look up).

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Batman
Elvis
The Whale
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

If this was an award for "Best Mud," All Quiet would have this award locked up. Seriously, there's a great amount of work in creating an iconic look for that film, but the reward for Makeup and Hairstyling very much aligns with "best" as opposed to "best," which is why I see voters looking more at Elvis and The Whale. From there, it's still tricky, as both films have their lead actors in competition, though if I'm leaning on Butler, it would make sense to also lean on Elvis winning for the use of makeup (having both Butler and Hanks in various forms of makeup doesn't hurt, nor the fact that The Whale isn't up for Best Picture). 

BEST SOUND
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Elvis
Top Gun: Maverick

I'm staying on the highway to the danger zone with this one. Along with Best Editing, Top Gun: Maverick is lined up to be the blockbuster with the greatest chance at claiming a prize for all its work to capture the intensity of fighter jet action and more on its soundtrack. Plus, the film has already won several accolades from various guilds and BAFTA. All Quiet is likely in the mix here as well, but Top Gun is, frankly, more popular. Were the category still split in two, I could see a case being made for Elvis, but it's not, so it doesn't matter. Cruise is covered here.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Top Gun: Maverick

The funny thing is that Top Gun: Maverick winning here, presuming it also takes Editing and Sound, could set it up as a surprise Best Picture winner. But let's not go crazy. Avatar had James Cameron and his team working for over a decade to make every inch of this 3+ hour epic look stunningly real, and the results are very clearly on the screen. The film has already cleaned up from all the visual effects guilds and BAFTA. This is one of, if not the surest bet of the night.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Halout
The Martha Mitchell Effect
The Elephant Whisperers
How Do You Measure a Year?
Stranger at the Gate

The shorts are unpredictable, so I'm going with some straight-from-the-heart picks. Stranger at the Gate has Malala in its corner, and that's one way to sell a film. However, The Elephant Whisperers is one of Netflix's big pushes, and it's all about loving elephants and taking care of them. What's not to like? Side note: the footage of all the walruses in Halout is incredible.


BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
An Irish Goodbye
Ivalu
Le Pupille
Night Ride
The Red Suitcase

While Alfonso Cuarón is another Oscar favorite, I think this comes down to the intensity of The Red Suitcase or the sweetly humored tragi-comic An Irish Goodbye. Being the only English-language entry with a BAFTA doesn't hurt, either. Plus, the Academy often balances the darker fare with something light.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Flying Sailor
Ice Merchants
My Year of Dicks
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It

Sure, Apple pushed hard for The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, but I find it so cloying. Plus, star power has yet to be the key to winning in these categories. I'd love to see Ice Merchants win here simply because it's excellent and interesting, but I think the prize may lean toward My Year of Dicks. It's topical to a point, and the Academy tends to lean toward at least one "weird" film when it comes to this section of the program.

***

That will do it for my predictions. The Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 12, 2023, with *sigh* Jimmy Kimmel returning as host. There will be predictions and results podcasts to come!

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