It’s funny how long controversial Oscar moments live in our memory. The infamous mix-up between Best Picture winner Moonlight and La La Land, for instance, happened six years ago, yet it feels like it could have happened yesterday. The same could be said for when Crash won Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain in 2005, where many people wished that there actually was a Best Picture mixup. Then there’s 2022, when Best Actor winner Will Smith infamously walked up and slapped Chris Rock in front of 15 million viewers for an off-color joke he made about his wife. That happened a year ago, and it’s still being talked about to this day, including in Chris Rock’s recent comedy special “Selective Outrage,” where he slapped back at both Will and Jada (“I didn’t have any entanglements!” he clapped over the weekend).
With all of these flubs, flashbacks, and eff-ups still living in our memories years later, this makes me even more excited for this year’s Oscar ceremony than usual. What surprises await this year? Will Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announce the wrong winner yet again? Will Mark Wahlberg pronounce the name of Women Talking correctly? Will Will Smith and Chris Rock box it out on stage like Apollo Creed? Who knows! Your guess is as good as mine, folks.
Speaking of guesses, with the 95th Academy Awards taking place next weekend, it’s now or never when it comes to making my predictions. After all, we can’t predict everything that’ll happen on Oscar night, so let’s have fun with the things we can predict, starting with…
Best Picture: Ah, Best Picture. We meet again. This category has become noticeably dicey to predict in recent years. Out of the past 10 ceremonies, I’ve predicted the Best Picture winner correctly four times: Argo in 2012, 12 Years A Slave in 2013, Birdman in 2014, and Nomadland in 2020. Every other year has been a complete and utter crapshoot. The Shape Of Water won in 2018 despite no other science-fiction film winning out of the Academy’s 90-year history. Same goes for Parasite in 2019 in regard to International films. The Power Of The Dog seemed primed to win Best Picture last year, but CODA snuck up right behind it and snatched it from its grimy hands. Which is all fine and dandy because, as you might remember, The Power Of The Dog was vastly, vastly overrated.
Since the Producers Guild of America award seems to carry more weight than it has in previous years, it seems that Everything Everywhere All At Once is the clear frontrunner for Best Picture this year. If it is, then it is more than deserving, because film duo Daniels created one of the most immersive cinematic experiences of all time with that picture. I’ve never seen a film that has been simultaneously exciting, gripping, absorbing, emotional, weird, funny, unusual, horrifying, and heartfelt all at once. It truly is one of the most unique moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had in the theater, and it stands out amongst its fellow nominees.
Sure, there are other great movies that are in contention, from Martin McDonagh’s Banshees Of Inisherin to James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way Of Water to Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, but none of them have the momentum or the energy behind them the way Everything Everywhere All At Once has all season long. If Best Picture wasn’t going to go to Everything Everywhere All At Once, my next best guess would be All Quiet On The Western Front since it’s the next most-nominated film at nine nominations total. But since its predecessor already won Best Picture (albeit in 1930), it doesn’t seem likely that its remake would reach the same heights. Everything Everywhere All At Once is the most likely Best Picture winner. If it does end up winning, then the Academy got it right this year big time.
Best Director: Daniel Kwan and Scheinert defeated Steven Spielberg to secure the DGA, which means they’re all but assured to win Best Director for Everything Everywhere All At Once. It’s just as well, because they easily delivered one of the most creative, unique, original, mesmerizing, and breathtaking films I’ve seen in the past several years. I will be overjoyed if the Daniels end up taking home one of the night’s biggest prizes. Now if only someone would explain to me why Ruben Ostlund is nominated here for Triangle of Sadness.
Best Actor: I actually agonize quite a bit over this category and how badly two different nominees deserve to win here. On one hand, Austin Butler gave a mesmerizing and incredibly gifted performance as the King of Rock N’ Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, brilliantly resurrecting the rock icon and giving him humanity, heart, and soul. On the other hand, Brendan Fraser is at the best he’s ever been in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, and he gives a deeply intimate and tragic performance as a morbidly obese father who is slowly dying from heart failure.
It’s a close call, and I honestly wish I didn’t have to pick between these two amazing performances. But if we’re going solely off of impact, it’s no question that the Best Actor Oscar belongs to Brendan Fraser. Sure, he hasn’t done anything as significant up until now, and he was downright awful in those Godforsaken Mummy movies. Despite all of this, he gives a real tearjerker of a performance as Charlie and he makes you reflect on life, love, joy, happiness, grief, trauma, sadness, and all of the emotions in between. Austin Butler solidified himself as Elvis in our hearts forever, but Brendan Fraser shattered our hearts as Charlie.
Best Actress: As great as Michelle Williams and Ana de Armas were in The Fablemans and Blonde respectively, this year’s Best Actress race boils down to two phenomenal performances: Cate Blanchett in Tar and Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
I’m going with Michelle for three reasons. One: Cate Blanchett already has two Oscars, one for The Aviator and one for Blue Jasmine. The only other actresses to secure three Oscars are Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand, and I’m sorry, but I just don’t see Cate Blanchett being on Meryl Streep’s level, no matter how great her performance was. Two: Michelle Yeoh won the SAG Award for Best Actress, and seven times out of 10, that’s been most accurate in predicting the Oscar winner too. And three: She just plain deserves it. Between portraying a strict and overbearing mother, a dissatisfied wife, and a neglected daughter, Michelle wore many faces in Everything Everywhere All At Once, and she portrayed all of them beautifully.
She perfectly encapsulated womanhood while simultaneously demonstrating how generational trauma affects more people than just yourself. Dare I say, her performance was perfect in Everything Everywhere All At Once, and her fellow nominees will be hard-pressed to unseat her.
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan, without question. I know that Everything Everywhere All At Once demanded more dramatically from both Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu, but it could be argued that Waymond was just as central to the film as much as his on-screen wife and daughter were. Not only that, but Ke Huy Quan did a brilliant job portraying multiple versions of Waymond, not just as his shy and squeamish self from the main universe, but also as the superheroic action-hero version of himself from the Alphaverse. His monologue on doing laundry and taxes was the most powerful, pure thing out of the whole movie, and Ke Huy Quan proved he’s more than just Short Round from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.
Best Supporting Actress: First of all, what on Earth is going on with Hollywood’s sudden aversion to Stephanie Hsu? She was every bit as essential to the film as her on-screen parents were, arguably more so since the main conflict dealt directly with her character and her search for meaning and purpose in all of her different lives. Yet, since the Golden Globes took place back in January, she’s been relentlessly snubbed in place of her co-stars, and I don’t know why. She wasn’t nominated for the Golden Globe. She wasn’t nominated for the BAFTA. She was nominated at the SAG Awards, but she lost to… Jamie Lee Curtis. For what? All her role entailed was stapling a circle to her head, griping about taxes, and licking Michelle Yeoh’s hot dog fingers. She had nowhere near the depth, complexion, and variety that Stephanie Hsu brought to her performance, yet she’s consistently been recognized more on the awards circuit than Stephanie Hsu was, and I don’t know why. She should be at the top of consideration for supporting actress this year, but because of how relentlessly she’s been snubbed all season, she’s at the bottom of the pack, which is easily the most disrespectful thing to come out of awards season this year by far.
That being said, I think Best Supporting Actress this year will go to Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. She brilliantly and powerfully portrayed everyone’s collective grief over Chadwick Boseman, and there were moments in the film where it didn’t feel so much like she was acting as much as she was just expressing her genuine emotions. I can’t explain why Michael B. Jordan was stupidly snubbed years ago in the first Black Panther, but that’s neither here nor there. Angela Bassett deserves this year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar. If Jamie Lee Curtis somehow nabs it away from not one, but two deserving nominees, I’m going to drown her Oscar in dirty hot dog water.
Best Animated Feature: First of all, what an amazing year in animated film. Yes, the animated feature category is usually one of the strongest every year, but this year that’s especially the case. With this year’s five nominees including Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, The Sea Beast, Turning Red, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, any one of these nominees is more than deserving of the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Not for nothing, three of these movies made it onto my best films of the year list. It might have been four if Puss In Boots: The Last Wish wasn’t released so damn late into the year.
That being said, I think this year’s animated feature Oscar should go to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. Not only is it beautifully animated with expert craftsmanship and detail with its stop-motion animation, but it also carries a maturity to it that makes it feel as relevant for adults as it does to children. It is easily one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and poignant remakes of 2022, and it deserves nothing less than the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
On another note, I am absolutely baffled that Pinocchio only secured one nomination in the animated film category. I understand it not getting a Best Picture nomination, but seriously: nothing for music? Cinematography? Production design? Good gravy, if Avatar can get nominated for production design for its animated work, surely Pinocchio deserves nothing less.
Best Documentary Feature: In most other years at the Oscars, there’s usually a clear frontrunner when it comes to Best Documentary, whether you’re talking about My Octopus Teacher in 2021 or Summer of Soul in 2022. We don’t have that privilege this year with all of the nominees being on mostly equal footing. The closest one to a frontrunner I can think of is Fire of Love, which was recently announced to being adapted into a feature-length film. But just because it’s more popular doesn’t automatically make it the winner. After all, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was simultaneously one of the highest-grossing and most well-made documentaries of all time. It wasn’t even nominated in 2019.
No, for Best Documentary, I think the Academy is going to go more topical than anything else, and there’s probably no other film more timely than Navalny, which focuses on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020. With the ongoing Ukrainian War costing hundreds of lives daily, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Academy highlighted a film that brought attention to this issue, especially since previous Oscar winners CitizenFour and Icarus had similar subjects.
Of course, this could just be me trying to justify my prediction for an otherwise unpredictable category. Take your pick. Mine is Navalny. Screw Putin.
Best International Feature: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — if a Foreign-language film is nominated for Best Picture, it’s a lock in the International Film category. With All Quiet On The Western Front being nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it’s safe to say that Edward Berger’s gripping war epic will win the International Feature Oscar as well. It’s more than deserving, with Berger creating a harrowing yet tragic portrait of war and how it does nothing but take lives and leave families devastated. While there’s much well-deserved confusion as to how on Earth Decision To Leave was snubbed in this category, there’s no questioning the emotional impact behind All Quiet On The Western Front and how much it deserves to win. I can’t wait to see Edward Berger win his first Academy Award. That’ll be a big moment to pay attention to on Oscar night.
Best Original Screenplay: Everything Everywhere All At Once, no contest. Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees Of Inisherin was equally as emotional and heartbreaking, but it lacks the complexity, the innovation, and the creativity that Everything Everywhere All At Once has. I make no exaggeration when I say it is the most original screenplay I’ve ever read. I don’t know how the Daniels’ came up with the wacky, crazy, bat-insane ideas they come up with in that film, but they did it and they turned it into something meaningful, sincere, and deeply profound. If that doesn’t deserve to win Best Original Screenplay, then none of the nominees do.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Let’s start with the obvious question here: what the heck even counts as an “adapted” work nowadays? Out of the five nominees, only three of them are based on preexisting works. The other two are sequels to original films (Top Gun: Maverick and Glass Onion). What’s worse is that one of those movies, Knives Out, was first nominated for original screenplay before its sequel flipped over to the adapted side. What gives? How can something be considered original in one second and adapted in the next? Why weren’t these movies nominated for original screenplay? What confused, outdated system is the Academy using to make these confounding nominations?
As far as the remaining nominees go, it’s pretty clear who the winner will be: Women Talking. Living hasn’t generated anywhere near enough conversation to even be considered in the running, and as great as All Quiet On The Western Front is, its greatest strengths lie elsewhere beyond the writing (such as Edward Berger’s phenomenal direction, James Friend’s breathtaking cinematography, the disquieting and eerie visual effects). That leaves Women Talking as the most likely winner for this category. If, for any reason, either Top Gun or Glass Onion wins, I will pull my hair out and question reality as I know it.
Best Cinematography: Out of all of the categories from this year’s Oscar ceremony, the worst one by far is Best Cinematography. Not only are there two nominees nobody’s even heard of before (Bardo and Empire Of Light), but Elvis is nominated under this category. ELVIS. Over Everything Everywhere All At Once? Over The Banshees of Inisherin? Over Top Gun: Maverick? The Fabelmans? The Northman? The Batman? Nope? I could pick like 10 movies that deserve to be here more than these nominees, so the fact that these were the ones we ended up with is utterly infuriating.
That being said, it does make my job of predicting the winner easier, so the Oscar for Best Cinematography this year will go to All Quiet On The Western Front. It may not be as spectacular as the other movies I mentioned, but the scope of its battles is phenomenal and it does a brilliant job showcasing how war tears apart the body and the soul. It’s not my favorite cinematography of the year, but then again, none of these nominees are. If, for some bizarre reason, All Quiet On The Western Front doesn’t win, it will be a snub on monumental levels.
Best Film Editing: Yes yes yes, I know Best Film Editing is the biggest joke of a category since that stupid “Oscars Cheer Moment” award was introduced last year. Not because film editing isn’t important, mind you, but because the Academy consistently names some of the stupidest winners more than any other category. Dunkirk won in 2018 despite being more incomprehensible and disjointed than a Michael Bay picture. Bohemian Rhapsody’s win in 2019 was straight-up laughable. And can anyone tell me with a straight face why The Power Of The Dog was even nominated last year? If Peter Sciberras’ editing was that outstanding, he would have edited The Power Of The Dog down from two hours to one hour. Or even better, barely a minute.
That being said, the category has been making something of a comeback in recent years, with The Sound of Metal and Dune being the most recent winners. The fact that Academy voters are beginning to take film editing more seriously gives me hope for the category this year, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they still gave it to Elvis or something.
Anyhow, predictions. I love Paul Rogers’ work on Everything Everywhere All At Once and thought he did a brilliant job diving into all of these different multiverses and editing them into one cohesive story. But by that same token, Eddie Hamilton also had to take over 800 hours of flight footage and edit all of that down into the lightning-quick action sequences you see in Top Gun: Maverick. For context, that’s more footage than all three films in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy — combined.
Film editing this year is really something of a coin toss, especially since there are two outstanding nominees that are more than deserving. But as far as my coin toss went, I’m going with Top Gun: Maverick. Whatever wins, it can’t be worse than Bohemian Rhapsody’s Best Film Editing win… probably.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling: First of all, why on God’s green Earth is Everything Everywhere All At Once not nominated for Best Makeup? The many different forms, shapes, and appearances of the Jobu Topaki prove that it should have at least been a contender. Or at least, more of one than Elvis, whose greatest makeup work was making Tom Hanks look fatter than he normally is. But I digress. This is one of many snubs from the night, and unfortunately, it isn’t the last one.
Despite that, there actually is a clear winner in this category, and that is Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. People who were shocked to find Brendan Fraser’s sudden weight gain for that film might be surprised to find out that he was wearing a fat suit the entire time. That’s especially stunning since there are extended sequences in that film where Charlie can be seen naked, and there is zero indication that body isn’t his own. It’s that convincing.
Of course, there’s other incredible makeup work that deserves to be praised, such as transforming Colin Ferrell into the Penguin for The Batman or covering soldiers in mud and gore in All Quiet On The Western Front. But there really is no defeating The Whale. At least, as long as Austin Butler’s bloated fat suit in Elvis doesn’t take it first.
Best Production Design: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Oscar for Best Production Design, it’s to never bet against Baz Luhrmann. The past two times his films have been nominated for Best Production Design, they’ve won it for both Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby. I expect this year to be a three-peat as Elvis wins for production design yet again. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if any other nominee wins. If there is a technical category that Elvis excels in, it’s definitely production design.
Best Costume Design: Elvis. See production design above.
Best Musical Score: As controversial as Babylon is, the one thing I think everyone can agree on is that the score is mesmerizing. That’s thanks to composer Justin Hurwitz, who has been Damien Chazelle’s primary collaborator since his 2009 debut Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench. He even won two Oscars in 2017 for La La Land. With Babylon being nominated in three categories, it isn’t expected to win much on Oscar night, but its best chances do lie in Best Musical Score.
Compare that alongside the likes of its fellow nominees. Hauschka’s score for All Quiet On The Western Front is so bloated and droning that it’s offensive that it’s even nominated. Carter Burwell’s score for The Banshees Of Inisherin is so mopey it’s pathetic. Son Lux’s composition for Everything Everywhere All At Once is the most beautiful and transcendent score of the year, but this is their first nomination, so their chances are pretty much zilch. And John Williams for The Fabelmans? How many Oscars does that guy have again?
Nah, Babylon has the best chances here. I’m still personally rooting for Everything Everywhere All At Once to win, but I’m not betting on it. Meanwhile, let’s all share our collective frustration that The Batman wasn’t even nominated. That snub alone makes this category that much less legitimate.
Best Original Song: Yet another great category for the Oscars this year. This year has five outstanding nominees from five outstanding artists: “Applause” from Diane Warren, “Hold My Hand” from Lady Gaga, “Lift Me Up” from Rihanna, “Naatu Naatu” by M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose, and “This Is A Life” by Son Lux. In any other year, any one of these nominees could have been the clear-cut winner, but 2022 just happened to be the year they all collided. They’re all simply outstanding nominees, and any one of them deserves to take home the Academy Award on Oscar night.
As great of a problem as it is to have such a competitive category, it unfortunately makes predicting this year’s winner an absolute nightmare. “Hold My Hand” is an absolute banger from Lady Gaga, while “This Is A Life” is an intimate and personal little lullaby-like tune that’s a personal favorite of mine. But if we’re going with the populist’s vote, there’s no denying that RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” has a real shot at winning this year. Not only was RRR ridiculously skipped over in the International Film category, but “Naatu Naatu” is just EPIC in all caps. The most impressive part? You don’t even need to understand the lyrics. The song is just that infectious to listen to on its own.
I honestly don’t know who the Best Original Song Oscar is going to on Oscar night, but my bet is on “Naatu Naatu.” Either way, I can’t wait for the live performance.
Note: Yet another snub among many is the Weeknd’s “Nothing Is Lost” from Avatar: The Way Of Water. Abel’s vocals and the heart-wrenching lyrics hit harder and harder after you’ve seen the movie.
Best Sound: As competitive as this year’s sound category is, I don’t think anyone seriously expects any of the nominees to unseat Top Gun: Maverick, do they? I mean sure, The Batman’s sound work stands up just as much as its Oscar-winning predecessor The Dark Knight, All Quiet On The Western Front uses the presence and absence of sound to brilliant yet horrifying effect, and Avatar: The Way Of Water got incredibly creative with the sounds of the Na’Vi, the human invaders, and the Tulkun alike.
That being said, nothing beats Tom Cruise breaking the sound barrier in the first 10 minutes of the film, and the rest of the movie doesn’t let up. The entire film feels like you’re in the cockpit while 1,000 feet in the air, with the G-forces constantly pushing against your body. The out-of-this-world sound design is to thank for that. Another film could steal this Oscar in an upset win, but it isn’t likely.
Best Visual Effects: If any other film wins Best Visual Effects over Avatar: The Way Of Water, I’m going to burn the Dolby Theatre to the ground. As amazing as Top Gun: Maverick, All Quiet On The Western Front, and The Batman are, the visual effects are just one part of those films’ brilliance — especially when so much of it is practical effects. Avatar: The Way Of Water, on the other hand, utilizes both practical and computer-generated effects to brilliant effect, beautifully blending both styles into a mesmerizing display of Pandora. Avatar: The Way Of Water is the clear-cut winner. If anything else wins, it will be straight-up thievery.
And now, those pesky short categories that I never see every year but still have to predict nonetheless. How about we go with An Irish Goodbye for live-action short, The Elephant Whisperers for documentary short, and My Year Of Dicks for animated short since the title is funny. That’s about as good a metric as any when predicting the short categories.
Well, that’s all until next weekend, folks. Good luck with your Oscar ballots, and whatever you do, stay away from Chris Rock, or he’ll make his next comedy special about you.
– David Dunn