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Clockwise from top left: The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Tar, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking, and Top Gun: Maverick.
Clockwise from top left: The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Tar, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking, and Top Gun: Maverick.

Pop CultureMarch 12, 2023

The Spinoff’s ultra-mega Oscars 2023 prediction special

Clockwise from top left: The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Tar, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking, and Top Gun: Maverick.
Clockwise from top left: The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Tar, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking, and Top Gun: Maverick.

Who will win? Who should win? And who was cruelly snubbed? Ahead of tomorrow’s ceremony, Chris Smol shares his picks for all the major award categories – and gets us up to speed on this year’s controversies that matter.

Another year, another Oscars. Which means another round of self-conscious think pieces about the relevance of awards ceremonies in their flop era. Yes, the cultural status of movies is perpetually diminishing. Engaging with art like team sports is reductive, agreed. Glitzy self-congratulation feels grotesque amid rising global inequality, ongoing pandemic, global ocean temperatures, etc etc etc.

Yet here I am, still excited! Not for the ceremony itself, which will inevitably be four hours long, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and devoid of public slapping (thanks, “crisis team”). Oscar ratings have, deservedly, been in freefall since 2015 because the ceremony itself generally isn’t good TV. Still, the Oscars as an institution matter a bit, as a platform to elevate movies as well as a spectacle of Hollywood introspection. Also the horse race is gossipy fun, particularly in a year this rich with angles: 16 first-time nominees in genuinely unpredictable acting races, blockbusters up for major categories, breakthroughs and backsliding on representation, and a watershed in buttplug jokes.

One piece of context at the outset. Following two years of all-white acting nominees in 2015-16 and the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, Academy leadership launched an aggressive recruitment drive to double its female and “ethnically underrepresented” membership in four years. Gradually, the more diverse and diffuse voting body is having an impact. Oscar winners in the 1990s and 2000s (an era of aggressive awards campaigning ushered in by Harvey Weinstein) tended to fit a particular mould: respectable, historical movies from England or America, with major stars, often adapted from hit books. Since 2016, Best Picture has gone to a rangier, weirder bunch: an art house queer drama, a Korean inequality thriller, a fairy tale about fucking a fishman, a regressive civil rights comedy, and a YA heartwarmer with a deaf principal cast.

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

About to join that canon is Everything Everywhere All at Once, the Michelle Yeoh-starring interdimensional action-comedy about (deep breath) a middle-aged laundromat-owner staring down simultaneous marital and business crises when she’s thrust to the centre of the battle for the fate of the multiverse. The film launched in March last year at the South by Southwest festival, from where it rode savvy marketing and enthusiastic word-of-mouth to a unicorn box office run. Heading into Monday it’s won almost every industry award on offer. The question at this point isn’t whether EEAAO wins Best Picture, but to what extent its cast and crew can ride its momentum to success in the nine other categories for which it’s nominated.

Fifty-four movies enter. Thirteen leave (with statues, excluding short films). So let’s talk through the major races.

Best Picture 

Nominees (ranked by likelihood of victory)

10. Avatar: the Way of Water

9. Women Talking

8. Triangle of Sadness

7. Tár

6. The Fabelmans

5. Elvis

4. Top Gun: Maverick

3. The Banshees of Inisherin

2. All Quiet on the Western Front

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

EEAAO is an unprecedented frontrunner. It’s a hybrid of sci-fi, comedy and action. The principal cast is largely Asian-American, and most are nominated for acting awards (a marked contrast with both Slumdog Millionaire and Parasite, the only two films to win Best Picture this century without any acting nominations). It contains multitudes: dildos, googly eyes, kung-fu, alongside swoony Wong Kar-Wai pastiche.

Yet in certain ways it’s just familiar enough for voters to meet it halfway. Between the MCU and Rick & Morty, “multiverse stuff” is big business, and plenty of Academy members will have been exposed to it directly or via their kids. Intergenerational shame and marital dysfunction were once reliable cinematic subjects. Under the silly string, EEAAO’s emotions are big, familiar, and explicit: “Please be kind. Especially when we don’t know what’s going on.” And if its whirlwind finale connects, you leave on a high. Its presumptive victory is a Cinderella story – for the idiosyncratic movie that could, for studio risk-taking, and for Asian performers in Hollywood. Hollywood loves remaking Cinderella.

Felix Kammerer in All Quiet on the Western Front

Next on my list is Netflix’s German-language miserablist epic All Quiet on the Western Front, a film aiming to leave you crushed. The sole film to defeat EEAAO at an industry ceremony (the Baftas), it’s ended up the main opposition candidate through a confluence of three circumstances:

1. Netflix’s other “awards movies” didn’t hit with audiences (White Noise was too weird, Blonde too unpleasant).

2. Putin’s war in Ukraine made a hectoring lecture about how awful the first world war was suddenly look timely, even timeless.

3. With single transferable vote in play, it looks like a consensus favourite for team “anyone-but-EEAAO”.

“Steak-eaters” is the industry slang for this hypothetical Academy demographic: male, older craftspeople for whom “great cinema” is serious, technically-complicated, and about historic subjects. They lack an obvious home this year: Tom Cruise may have saved theatres, but didn’t campaign much for Top Gun (perhaps recognising his Scientology/associated allegations as career liabilities). Plus it’s silly.

Speaking of sea organisms, Avatar: The Way of Water is goofy and a middle-child sequel so it’s out. Elvis is a complex production celebrating boomer culture, making it a real threat in the parallel universe where its back half is fun to watch. But voters can honour it elsewhere, for Austin Butler’s performance or Mandy Walker’s heroically garish cinematography (she’s the third woman ever nominated and could be the first to win). All Quiet on the Western Front is an aesthetically derivative retread of other war films, but it’s ostentatiously serious, and clearly connecting with sections of the Academy.

Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in The Banshees of Inisherin

Onto the other also-rans. The biggest casualties of the current paradigm are films that would have been right at home in the Miramax era. The Banshees of Inisherin is a respected black comedy with an interesting premise (friendship divorce on allegory island).  Tár is monumental, a dramedy about an elite conductor whose control over the universe begins slipping – dense and yet as changeable as quicksilver. Steven Spielberg’s lightly-fictionalised memoir The Fabelmans weaves his artistic beginnings into the collapse of his parents’ marriage like two strands of a DNA helix fusing together. Spielberg’s love letter to the movies” sounded like pre-digested awards-bait before anyone saw it, but the unlikelihood of it winning anything is a blessing in disguise. Future cineastes will be reclaiming it as too emotionally unresolved for Oscar, just you wait.

Best Actress


  1. Cate Blanchett – Tár
  2. Ana de Armas – Blonde
  3. Andrea Riseborough – To Leslie
  4. Michelle Williams – The Fabelmans
  5. Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All at Once

There are two stories here: an inside-baseball tempest in a teacup and a too-close-to-call battle of Hollywood legends.

Let’s start with the tea. Three weeks out from nominations being announced most people hadn’t heard of To Leslie, a barely-released indie about a former lottery-winner. Then Kate Winslet shouted Riseborough out in an acceptance speech for giving “one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in my life”.  A-listers took to social media, including several independently tweeting that To Leslie is “a small film with a giant heart” – the recurring phrasing suggesting they’d been fed a line. It turned out, Riseborough’s manager, To Leslie’s director and his wife had pulled out their rolodexes for a celeb-targeting, social media-driven campaign on Riseborough’s behalf, unsupported by the studios – grassroots, if grass was mega rich.

They met immediate scuttlebutt over possible rule-breaking (direct lobbying and specifically mentioning other competitors are both forbidden), white clubbiness, and the comparative legitimacy of spending $5-10 million on advertisements and flashy screenings. Then on nominations morning Riseborough got in while two Black actresses (Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler) unexpectedly missed out. Furore ensued, and an emergency Academy governors’ meeting was held to consider rescinding the nomination. If Riseborough was truly bold she might have ridden the controversy to a surprise victory – tapping into AMPAS voters’ frustration with the overwrought Oscars process and accusations of racial bias. Instead she’s taken the W and backed off.

Cate Blanchett in Tár

The remaining field is a study in contrasts. Blanchett is the whole show in Tár, stretching a scaly mask of charisma over messy knots of impulse and ego. She keeps viewers at arm’s length, forcing us to study every gesture for signs demarcating genius in action from doofus in freefall.  Yeoh is the reverse, the viewer’s stable point of identification as EEAAO sprints forward and riffle-shuffles universes around her. At any given point Evelyn might be confused, relieved, or suddenly a piñata. Yeoh ensures we stay locked in with her.

Both are skill pieces, full of awards-friendly acting-as-work. Blanchett learnt piano, German, and to convincingly conduct an orchestra. Yeoh does martial arts, sign-spinning and physical comedy. Yeoh’s nomination is her first, whereas Blanchett’s win would make three across three decades. In a vacuum Blanchett probably should win. But Yeoh probably should’ve won for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 22 years ago, and hasn’t gotten half Blanchett’s opportunities since.

Supporting Actor


  1. Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. Brian Tyree Henry – Causeway
  3. Judd Hirsch – The Fabelmans
  4. Barry Keoghan – The Banshees of Inisherin
  5. Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Ke Huy Quan is EEAAO’s golden ticket.  Across its different realities his Waymond is a sweet, relentlessly upbeat husband, a sci fi resistance warrior (Kyle Reese in a fanny pack) and a melancholy business-romantic.  Quan fulfils each role expertly, with a degree of open vulnerability that’s unusual from men in genre material.

Offscreen he boasts the most touching career story of anyone in competition. In the 80s Quan was a child star, playing Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies. After struggling with the limited opportunities for Asian-American actors in Hollywood he transitioned to work behind the camera in the US and abroad. Most notably, he assistant-directed on Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046 – which provides one multiversal model for Quan’s Waymond. In 2018, citing envy at Crazy Rich Asians’ success, Quan signed on with an agent to return to acting. Two weeks later came the script of his lifetime. It’s an irresistible comeback story for a likeable performer, and Hollywood’s chance to publicly redeem its own history of exclusion (in microcosm – the kind of symbolic progress Hollywood prefers).

Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Supporting Actress


  1. Angela Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  2. Hong Chau – The Whale
  3. Kerry Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin
  4. Jamie Lee Curtis – Everything Everywhere All at Once
  5. Stephanie Hsu – Everything Everywhere All at Once

This race could go any which way. The frontrunners, Bassett and Curtis, are both legends. Bassett’s been nominated once before (in 1994), and done great work since, often with material beneath her talents. Curtis is Hollywood royalty nominated for the first time. Yet neither performance feels major. Wakanda Forever is patchy even by MCU standards – almost like it was rewritten on short notice around the death of a protagonist nobody wanted to recast – and Queen Ramonda doesn’t much to do. In EEAAO, Curtis brings slivers of humour and humanity to Deirdre’s various multi-versal incarnationsm but they’re thinly drawn archetypes more than dimensional characters. Either win would be more about career recognition than the specific work being honoured.

That being the case, it wouldn’t shock me if the two veterans split the legacy vote, clearing a path for Condon.  She’s comparatively new to voters, doing bracing work as the sole calm head on Idiot Island in a film people like which is poised to lose eight of nine races.

Austin Butler in Elvis

Best Actor


  1. Austin Butler – Elvis
  2. Colin Farrell – The Banshees of Inisherin
  3. Brendan Fraser – The Whale
  4. Paul Mescal – Aftersun
  5. Bill Nighy – Living

Another three-way showdown, this one between Butler, Fraser and Farrell. Farrell’s first nomination feels overdue, and there’s a pleasing symmetry that it comes for a reunion with the gang from In Bruges, which won him a Golden Globe and stabilised a rough career patch in 2008. He’s funny and touching enough as Pádraic, “one of life’s good guys”, slowly breaking over Banshees’ duration.

Brendan Fraser is another comeback story, rivalling Ke Huy Quan’s (his Encino Man co-star). Fraser used to be charming in A-list movies, and it stung when we found out that his career downturn was partly due to severe injuries from stunt work and a sexual assault. We’re all rooting for him to some degree (aided by the candid sense of vulnerability he projects in press appearances), but there are mixed feelings about him potentially winning an Oscar for an empathetic, big-eyed performance in a controversial film people don’t really like.

So I’m betting on Butler, who’s pretty good as Elvis in Elvis, and exceptional as Elvis in every public appearance he’s done since the film’s release. The Academy rarely goes for a male ingénue over veterans, but they love impressions, they love the movie Elvis, and Butler is playing Elvis. He’s been pressing the flesh relentlessly since June. It worked for Eddie Redmayne in 2015. I suspect it’ll work here.

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Best Director


  1. Martin McDonagh – The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (together “the Daniels”) – Everything Everywhere All at Once
  3. Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
  4. Todd Field – Tár
  5. Ruben Östlund – Triangle of Sadness

The last two years have tripled the number of female directing winners in Academy history, but 2023’s lineup is all-male once again. In fact, with The Woman King snubbed, of 10 Best Picture nominees only Woman Talking involved a Woman Directing.

Of those men the obvious pick is Spielberg, a titan of the medium whose work is probing, psychologically acute, and immensely entertaining. But smart money’s on the Daniels. I think there’s an argument to be made that directing isn’t actually EEAAO’s strongest suit: the film has stylistic breadth and meshes tones impressively, but at points it strains against its budget (particularly the action sequences) and its stylistic homages sometimes feel like pale imitations. Still, it’s entirely their baby, so they get some credit for everything it does well.  And in another Hollywood first they will be, to my knowledge, the first directing winners whose prior works include both Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse and a fatal bestiality incident.


Best Picture

Will win: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Should win: The Fabelmans

Should’ve been nominated: The Woman King, a fun historical epic in Gladiator’s mould, which should be right up the Academy’s alley yet missed out on nominations entirely. That seems to be the result of uncomplicated racism paired with shoddy marketing by Sony, who held the film off Netflix until after nominations closed. Speaking of great films getting shut out, did none of these people see Nope?

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Ke Huy Quan

Should win: Ke Huy Quan

Should have been nominated: I’d slide in Paul Dano for The Fabelmans, (he and Keoghan could commiserate on doing career-worst work in The Batman together).

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Jamie Lee Curtis

Should win: Kerry Condon

Should have been nominated: Lashana Lynch in The Woman King feels like a syringe full of anabolic steroids, boosting the whole film’s energy levels every second she’s onscreen.

Best Actress

Will win: too close to call

Should win: too close to call

Should have been nominated: Tang Wei’s beguiling and beguiled murder suspect in Decision to Leave.

Best Actor

Will win: Austin Butler

Should win: Paul Mescal

Should have been nominated: Jack Lowden ruined my life as Siegried Sassoon in Benediction (and is too good to waste 15 years of his career playing James Bond, thankyouverymuch).

Best Director

Will win: The Daniels

Should win: Spielberg

Should have been nominated: Steven Soderbergh for Kimi – a delightful little techno-thriller.

Best Adapted Screenplay


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  3. Living
  4. Top Gun: Maverick
  5. Women Talking

Will win: Women Talking

Should win: Top Gun: Maverick (can’t believe I’m writing this, but it’s a shockingly weak category this year).

Should’ve been nominated: After Yang (the best Colin Farrell movie of 2022)

Best Original Screenplay


  1. The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  3. The Fabelmans
  4. Tár
  5. Triangle of Sadness

Will win: The Banshees of Inisherin

Should win: Tár

Best International Feature Film


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany)
  2. Argentina, 1985 (Argentina)
  3. Close (Belgium)
  4. EO (Poland)
  5. The Quiet Girl (Ireland)

Will win: AQOWF

Should win: EO

Should’ve been nominated: Hit the Road (on Amazon now!)

Best Cinematography


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
  3. Elvis
  4. Empire of Light
  5. Tár

Will win: All Quiet on the Western Front

Should win: Tár

Surprise omission: Top Gun: Maverick (for putting cameras on the planes)

Should’ve been nominated: EO and Ambulance, for joint achievement in finally making drone cinematography worthwhile.

Best Original Score


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. Babylon
  3. The Banshees of Inisherin
  4. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  5. The Fabelmans

Will win: Babylon

Should win: Babylon

Should get nominated for best album at the Grammys, maybe?: Babylon

Best Original Song


  1. ‘Applause’ from Tell It Like a Woman
  2. ‘Hold My Hand’ from Top Gun: Maverick
  3. ‘Lift Me Up’ from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  4. ‘Naatu Naatu’ from RRR
  5. ‘This Is a Life’ from Everything Everywhere All at Once

Will win: Naatu Naatu

Best dance craze: Naatu Naatu

Should’ve been nominated: ‘Nobody Like U’, Billie and Finneas Eilish’s fake boy-band hit from Turning Red.

Best Animated Feature Film


  1. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
  2. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
  3. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
  4. The Sea Beast
  5. Turning Red

Will win: Guillermo Del Toro’s Little Wooden Boy

Should win: Turning Red

Best Feature Documentary


  1. All That Breathes
  2. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
  3. Fire of Love
  4. A House Made of Splinters
  5. Navalny

Will win: Navalny

Should win: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Best screen romance of 2022: Fire of Love – they’re in lava!

Best Sound


  1.  All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water
  3. The Batman
  4. Elvis
  5. Top Gun: Maverick

Will win: Top Gun: Maverick

Should win: I’m not a sound editor and I know my place.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. The Batman
  3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  4. Elvis
  5. The Whale

Will win: The Whale

Should win: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Should end, or at least slow down: our cultural obsession with the spectacle of transforming conventionally attractive performers into less attractive people.

Best Costume Design


  1. Babylon
  2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  3. Elvis
  4. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  5. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Will win: Elvis

Should win: Elvis or Black Panther

Best Film Editing


  1. The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. Elvis
  3. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  4. Tár
  5. Top Gun: Maverick

Will win: EEAAO, no contest.

Should win: EEAAO

Best Production Design


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water
  3. Babylon
  4. Elvis
  5. The Fabelmans

Will win: Babylon

Should win: Babylon

Best Visual Effects


  1. All Quiet on the Western Front
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water
  3. The Batman
  4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  5. Top Gun: Maverick

Will win: Did you see that whale in Avatar??

Should win: See above

Best Live Action Short Film

Best Documentary Short Subject

Best Animated Short Film

I’m not predicting these ones, but I hope the production team thought long and hard about which announcer gets to read out the title “My Year of Dicks” for animated short. That’s a potentially iconic gif in the making.

Keep going!