Oscar major winners? Academy Awards predictions

  • by Brian Bromberger
  • Tuesday March 7, 2023
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'Everything Everywhere All at Once' has eleven Academy Award nominations.
'Everything Everywhere All at Once' has eleven Academy Award nominations.

"America doesn't have royalty. It has the Academy Awards. What began as an industry banquet in 1929 has now exploded into a hallowed ceremony. But don't be fooled by the pomp: the Oscars are a battlefield, where the history of Hollywood — and of America itself — unfolds in dramas small and large. The road to the Oscars may be golden, but it's paved in blood, sweat, and broken hearts ... all climaxing on a glittering stage, under the glare of the cameras, and millions of viewers."

This introduction from the just released book "Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears" by gay New Yorker staff writer Michael Schulman reveals the many different facets of the Oscars, whether it be a marketing ploy for movies, a fashion show, a horse race, "an orgy of self-congratulation by rich and famous people who think too highly of themselves," to yes, the gay Super Bowl.

Jimmy Kimmel will host the 95th Academy Awards.  

And true to form, this year's 95th Academy Awards, intent on avoiding the shocking headlines of last year's show — when actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face after he made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith — is already awash in controversy as soon as the nominations were announced.

British actress Andrea Riseborough's surprise Best Actress nomination for the little-seen box office dud "To Leslie," raised questions about her grass-roots campaigning that might have violated Oscar rules. The academy announced it would review the campaign procedures of this year's nominees to assure none of its guidelines had been violated.

Riseborough's nomination was not rescinded, but the investigation discovered "social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern...which will be addressed with the responsible parties directly." Once again in its long-freighted history, the awards fulfill some people's dreams while others are dashed.

This year the academy has officially ruled that there will now be ten nominees for Best Picture, with Hollywood studio films making a slight comeback after years of being sidelined by independent and streaming platform movies. Also within the last decade, the trend is no longer for one film to dominate receiving multiple awards, but to spread wins over several films.

But the excitement now lies with three out of the four Acting categories up for grabs concerning the probable winners, despite a long line of other precursor award ceremonies that in the past ten years have usually predicted the eventual Oscar winners.

That uncertainty, along with the nominations of popular blockbusters like "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water," might lead to an upswing in television audience viewership after steep declines in the last decade. The secret hope of a scandal, mishap, verbal faux pas, history-making milestone, or hideous dresses fuels the gossipy after-show coverage.

Ke Huy Quan ('Everything Everywhere All at Once'); a sure bet for Best Supporting Actor  

Best Supporting Actor
The easiest award to predict is Best Supporting Actor. Ke Huy Quan from "Everything Everywhere, All at Once" has won almost every popular and critical award. He also has a stirring background comeback story. He started off at age 10 acting in Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," which led to a few other roles. But by age 25, tired of constant rejection (even for Asian men parts), he left acting and became a stunt coordinator.

When he saw "Crazy Rich Asians" four years ago, he thought maybe he might stand a chance to be on screen again, so he returned to acting. Vibrant, charismatic, and grateful, he has given memorable endearing speeches on the awards circuit. Not only do his fellow thespians want him to win, they want to hear his acceptance speech. Quan would also be the second Asian actor to win in this category (after Haing S. Ngor in 1984 for "The Killing Fields").

Best Supporting Actress top nominees Angela Bassett ('Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'), Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu (both in 'Everything Everywhere All at Once'), and Kerry Condon ('The Banshees of Inisherin')  

Best Supporting Actress
This is perhaps the biggest wild card category of the night. Angela Bassett in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," has won the bulk of the previous awards, but not all. She missed both the key BAFTA and SAG awards. Kerry Condon from "The Banshees of Inisherin" won the BAFTA and Jamie Lee Curtis in "Everything Everywhere" triumphed at the Screen Actor Guild awards.

Curtis is true Hollywood royalty, being the daughter of screen legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, plus she's very well liked in Tinseltown, especially for her liberal politics. The problem is that her co-star from "Everywhere," Stephanie Hsu (as Yeoh's lesbian daughter) is also nominated, so they probably split whatever votes the "Everywhere" block gets. Honestly, the optics of the sole white actor winning in an otherwise all-lead Asian cast would be awkward.

Bassett is the first to score an acting nomination in a Marvel superhero film. Her award is being seen as an 'It's time she should be recognized' moment, having been nominated once before in 1994 and a Hollywood stalwart for three decades. However, the Academy has long instituted yearly lifetime achievement awards to avoid these career wins for just one performance.

Finally, this is one of the few categories voters could show some love to the well-liked "Banshees" movie. Plus Condon gives the best performance in this category. It's very close but we think Kerry Condon will win by a nose and if not, then definitely Bassett.

Best Actor top nominees Austin Butler ('Elvis'), Brendan Fraser ('The Whale'), and Colin Farrell ('The Banshees of Inisherin')  

Best Actor
This contest has become a close one in the last few weeks. First, we have three nominees that have given the greatest performances of their careers: Brendan Fraser as the dying 600-pound gay teacher trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter in "The Whale;" Colin Farrell in "Banshees" as the friend who doesn't want to end his bromance with Brendan Gleeson determined to call it quits; and Bill Nightly in "Living" as the dying bureaucrat trying to find meaning in his final months.

And then we have two newcomers: Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in the biopic "Elvis" and Paul Mescal as the divorced father on holiday in Turkey with his 11-year-old daughter in "Aftersun." While Mescal is excellent, his slot should have gone to the remarkable intense Jeremy Pope as the Black gay soldier trying to survive Marine boot camp in "The Inspection." Interestingly, all five nominees are first-timers which hasn't occurred in decades.

But it doesn't make too much difference, because from the start this has been a two-man race between Butler and Fraser splitting most of the other awards. Butler won the BAFTA while Fraser clinched SAG.

My preference is for Fraser who was magnificent. In 200 pounds of protheses, he conveyed emotional vulnerability in an unsympathetic, unlikable character. However, "The Whale" was not nominated for Best Picture (always a disadvantage) and has been unduly harshly excoriated as fat-phobic and voyeuristic. Black lesbian writer Roxanne Gay penned a scorching op-ed "New York Times" article on why she hated this film. On the plus side, Fraser's career peaked about 20 years ago and his Whale performance is widely seen as a resurgence, which normally would work to his favor.

Quan has an even more dramatic comeback story, particularly as a lack of opportunities for Asians has struck a chord in Hollywood. Also, in the last decade, Daniel Day Lewis, Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Redmayne, Gary Oldman, Rami Malek, and last year's Will Smith have all won playing real life people.

As Elvis, Butler also has the sympathy factor in his favor, since Presley's daughter Lisa Marie just died a month ago. While we see it as a lesser performance, it appears probable the well-liked Austin Butler, who, similar to Quan has charmed voters with his precursor awards "Aw, shucks" acceptance speeches (often auditions for Oscar winners) will win for "Elvis," though we would joyfully be proven wrong with a Brendan Fraser coup.

Best Actress top nominees Cate Blanchett ('Tar') and Michelle Yeoh ('Everything Everywhere All at Once')  

Best Actress
As the big nail-biter of this Oscar season, the Riseborough controversy added drama to it. Could Riseborough pull off a shocking upset and win? That seems doubtful because so few people have seen her movie. The nomination is her prize. Almost from the beginning, this has been a dogged contest between Cate Blanchett's "Tar" and Michelle Yeoh's "Everything, Everywhere All at Once."

If she wins, Yeoh would have the distinction of becoming the first Asian woman to win Best Actress. Ana de Armas's nod for Marilyn Monroe in the awful "Blonde" should've gone to Danielle Deadwyler's magnificent mother of Emmett Till in "Iill."

Does Yeoh's performance enhance the movie or does the movie enhance Yeoh's performance? Critics have argued the latter. My preference by far is Cate Blanchett. Her Tar is one of the greatest female performances in cinema history, as it's a total transformation that required Blanchett to learn German and how to conduct an orchestra. Most actors would have to acknowledge they couldn't achieve what Blanchett did.

Secondly, Tar is a well-liked prestige film similar to last year's "Power of the Dog." Academy voters will want to acknowledge it, with a Best Actress win the most likely path, so despite the fact Blanchett has already won two Oscars, I think voters will reward her with a third statuette. But they could also decide in a sweep for "Everything" to give the gold to Yeoh as well as make Oscar history. Regardless, this is the most competitive race for Best Actress this century.

Best Picture longshot nominees 'Top Gun: Maverick' and 'The Fablemans'  

Best Picture
Both BAFTA and SAG picked "Everything, Everywhere All at Once" as their top film. It now seems likely so will Oscar voters. The Academy uses a preferential voting system for Best Picture with voters from the entire membership ranking their top three films. Even if "Everything" wasn't a voter's top choice, it will likely be second or third, which will put it over the top.

There's a small possibility that "Top Gun: Maverick," very popular and well liked, could cause an upset and take the prize. An action-oriented movie hasn't won an Oscar in many years. "The French Connection" in 1971 might be the closest parallel. Also, only one sequel has ever won Best Picture, "Godfather, Part II" in 1974 and of course, the original won in 1972 as well. "Top Gun" wasn't even nominated in 1986.

When it first premiered in early December, "The Fabelmans" appeared to be the favorite but it garnered no critics or precursor awards, quickly losing steam. It doesn't seem likely it will get any Oscar awards. It's also worth noting that the Oscars love family-oriented films like last year's winner "CODA" about a struggling deaf clan whose hearing daughter is trying to become independent.

For all its hype about multiverses and martial arts, and even though many viewers are perplexed by what they see onscreen, "Everything" at its core is a family drama where the Yeoh character is reconciled with her husband and lesbian daughter.

Finally, the academy gets the opportunity to atone for its near-century disregard of Asian films by picking "Everything," showcasing its increasingly younger, more diverse membership. Thus," Everything" is now as almost a surefire winner as Ke Huy Quan's Best Supporting Actor.

Aside from "Tar," "The Whale," and "Everything, Everywhere All at Once," having LGBTQ characters or plot lines, the only other queer film nominated is one for Best Live Action short film, Eirik Tveiten's "Night Ride" about a tram ride home featuring a fed-up passenger stealing the train involving a harassed trans passenger. But prognosticators don't have it winning in its category.

In other categories, these are my best bets.

Best Animated Feature: "Guillermo del Torro's Pinocchio"
Best International Feature: "All Quiet On the Western Front"
Best Documentary: "Navalny"
Best Visual Effects: "Avatar, the Way of Water"
Best Production Design: "Babylon"
Best Song: Naatu, Naatu, "RRR"
Best Score: "Babylon"
Best Cinematography: "All Quiet On the Western Front"
Film Editing: "Everything Everywhere All at Once"
Best Sound: "Top Gun Maverick"
Best Costume Design: "Elvis"
Best Makeup and Hair Styling: "Elvis"
Best Original Screenplay: "Everything Everywhere All at Once"
Best Adapted Screenplay: "Women Talking"
Best Director: Dan Kwan and Daniel Schneinert, "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

The Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs Sunday, March 12, 5pm on ABC; also streaming on Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, AT&T TV and Fubo TV.


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