Fresh and original is the ticket for this year’s Oscars. That is if “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) wins as many categories as we predict — five out of eleven nominations. There’s a familiar feeling to the the loving family of actors and filmmakers flitting from event to event accepting prizes, that same surge of rooting interest that accompanied SAG Ensemble winners “Parasite” and “CODA” prior to their Best Picture wins. And the precursors are there (the producers, directors, editors, writers, art directors, costume designers, makeup and hair guilds, not to mention the Critics Choice Awards).
How can “Everything Everywhere” lose? Well, there are many in the Academy who didn’t get on the bandwagon; where some are moved by a beleaguered immigrant family finally pulling their act together, others find the multiverse comedy chaotic and weird. And the BAFTAs only awarded the film one prize: Editing. That’s because the international bloc is leaning toward the only viable alternative to the very American “Everything Everywhere,” German Oscar entry “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which won seven BAFTAs and nabbed nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best International Feature Film.
The alternative, for those in the Academy who can’t stomach “Everything Everywhere,” is an impeccably mounted World War I anti-war film which ticks many Oscar boxes. Despite “Parasite,” however, it is rare for a foreign-language film to win Best Picture, especially without a director or editing slot. And Netflix has yet to notch a Best Picture win. But “All Quiet” could be a stat-buster. The movie skipped the usual guild timeline, as director Edward Berger was not working the circuit, and Netflix didn’t get fully on board (after promoting “Bardo” and “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”) until after the Oscar shortlist and BAFTA nominations showed how strong a contender it could be.
Courtesy of Netflix
The BAFTAs are often predictive — with many exceptions. But anyone seeking to use prior stats to make their Oscar picks this year had better give up. Be bold and go where your gut tells you, because in many races, as William Goldman said, “nobody knows anything.”
Still, the likeliest scenario is that “Everything Everywhere” will win the big prize and “All Quiet” will take home International along with two craft wins.
What happened to critics’ fave “The Banshees of Inisherin” (Searchlight)? Martin McDonagh’s Irish tragicomedy looks to derive most of its support, as with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” from actors and writers. While it won four BAFTAs, the movie lost Best Film and Director to “All Quiet” and ceded Best Actor — expected to go to Colin Farrell — to American Austin Butler for “Elvis.”
And what happened to Steven Spielberg’s early frontrunner “The Fabelmans” (Universal), which won the often predictive People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival? Beware of getting ahead of the pack too soon. “The Fabelmans” was a quirky, personal film that never took off at the box office and finally, petered out.
As always, the question for Academy-wide voting is who has seen the movie? While more people have watched “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount) or “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney), and the Academy is grateful for the fans who will tune in as a result, it’s unlikely that either of the two blockbuster sequels will win Best Picture. As grateful as the film industry and Spielberg may be to Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer for bringing moviegoers back to the cinemas, “Top Gun: Maverick” will be lucky to take home one win for Sound. (It could whiff altogether.) And “Avatar: The Way of Water,” also hugely deserving of multiple craft wins, will likely take home only one as well, for Visual Effects. That is as close to a sure thing as you’re going to get this year.
May you win your Oscar pool! My final list of picks in 23 categories:
Best Picture: “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
Spoiler: “All Quiet on the Western Front″
Bottom Line: The much-debated preferential ballot — voters rank the nominees in order of preference — comes down to which film aligns with the (socially relevant) message that voters want to send. These factors favor SAG, PGA, WGA and Spirit winner “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Yes, “All Quiet on the Western Front” won the oft-predictive BAFTAs. But Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s diverse multiverse crowdpleaser provided an unpredictable and wildly entertaining counterpoint to Edward Berger’s more conventional European period epic. Both peaked just as final Oscar voting commenced. Tellingly, one was a theatrical hit ($107 million worldwide); the other was streamed by Netflix. We shall soon see if the Academy is ready to anoint their first Netflix Best Picture.
Best Director: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Spoiler: Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”)
Bottom Line: In recent years, the directing Oscar has gone to the most extraordinary technical achievement, including Ang Lee’s VFX-winner “Life of Pi,” Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” and “Roma,” and A.G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant.” Auteurs tend to have an advantage in this category: see Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”), Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”), and Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”). The Daniels won the DGA and the Critics Choice Award, while Spielberg, despite more campaigning than usual for his most personal film, hasn’t won since the Golden Globes.
Best Actor: Austin Butler (“Elvis”)
Spoiler: Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
Bottom Line: This race is between two actors who give the performances of their careers. Butler demonstrated an astonishing work ethic as he let Elvis Presley take him over in “Elvis”; Fraser used prosthetics to transform himself into an obese man seeking redemption in “The Whale.” Both Butler and Colin Farrell won Drama and Comedy Golden Globes; Butler beat Farrell on his home turf at the BAFTAs; and an always teary Fraser won the Critics Choice and SAG Awards. Butler and Farrell star in Best Picture contenders; Fraser does not. But if he wins, he will likely come with the Makeup and Hairstyling award attached, like Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”). And if Butler wins, look for “Elvis” to take that prize.
Best Actress: Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Spoiler: Cate Blanchett (“Tár”)
Bottom Line: Best Actress started out with Blanchett and Yeoh winning the Drama and Comedy Globes, respectively; Blanchett then scored the often predictive Critics Choice and BAFTA. Blanchett could mark the only win for Todd Field’s “Tár,” which scored six Oscar nominations including Picture, director, Original Screenplay, and Editing. But Yeoh took the late-breaking SAG and Spirit Awards, gaining valuable momentum as her movie rode a winning surge. The 60-year-old Yeoh’s speeches highlighted her gratitude for at long last being seen and heard, while Blanchett is up for her third win. It may be first-time nominee Yeoh’s turn to make history as the first Asian to win Best Actress.
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Spoiler: Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Bottom Line: Vietnamese Quan almost swept all the awards until Irish actor Keoghan took the BAFTA. But Quan has the winning Hollywood narrative as a child actor (“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) who grew up in an industry that did not want him; after “Crazy Rich Asians” he re-entered the acting work force and landed this role. It demanded martial arts, comedy, and pathos and he delivered it all. After the brief BAFTA setback Quan scored the SAG Award and beat out nine competitors of both sexes for Best Supporting Performer at the Independent Spirits.
Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Best Supporting Actress: Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
Spoiler: Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Bottom Line: Critics Choice and Globe winner Bassett should take home the legacy award for her first nomination since 1994’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” She’d mark the first Oscar win in an acting category for a Marvel movie — which is not nominated for Best Picture, and many awards voters may not have watched it. She could follow the trajectory of Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) who won the Supporting Actress Oscar in 2018 without a boost from BAFTA or SAG. If Jamie Lee Curtis wins, it’s for the same reason: her body of work. But popular SAG-winner Curtis could split with her “Everything Everywhere” co-star Stephanie Hsu, who won a breakout performer award at the Spirits. One possible win for McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” is BAFTA-winner Condon, who plays the most sympathetic character in the movie. In a three-way race, anything is possible.
Best Original Screenplay: Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Spoiler: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Bottom Line: This is competitive between two Best Picture nominees. British filmmaker McDonagh won the Globe, BAFTA, and was ineligible for the WGA; the Daniels won the Critics Choice, Spirits, and WGA. The wind is in the sails of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but “The Banshees of Inisherin” has eight Oscar nominations. Somebody likes it, especially writers, who also nominated McDonagh for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”)
Spoiler: Lesley Paterson & Ian Stokell and Edward Berger (“All Quiet on the Western Front”)
Bottom Line: Two Best Picture nominees also go head to head in this race. While “Women Talking” is divisive, it represents a huge degree of difficulty for the Canadian auteur, who put eight Mennonites in a barn and made them compelling for one hour and 44 minutes. Polley, who was Oscar-nominated for writing “Away from Her,” won the predictive Scripter Award as well as the WGA. “All Quiet” is building support as more people see the brutal anti-war picture. It won the BAFTA, but wasn’t eligible for the WGA.
Courtesy of Netflix
Best Animated Feature: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
Spoiler: “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on”
Bottom Line: It seems like a done deal that magical stop-motion remake “Pinocchio” will win this category, which will mark another win for Netflix, despite competition from another inventive and innovative stop-motion movie, not necessarily aimed at kids, super-charming “Marcel the Shell” (A24).
Best Animated Short: “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”
Spoiler: “Ice Merchants”
Bottom Line: The advantage goes to the most-accessible and/or moving entry, which this year is “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse,” the handsomely mounted hand-drawn children’s fable by British illustrator Charlie Mackesy, adapted from his bestselling picture book. For those who don’t respond to sentimental children’s fare, there’s João Gonzalez’s Cannes winner “Ice Merchants,” which qualified for the Oscars with a record-breaking run at nine festivals. The graphically stunning and vertiginous 2D short follows lonely father and son ice sellers who swoop down to earth from their perilous icy perch via parachute.
Best Cinematography: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Bottom Line: Australian Mandy Walker’s historic ASC win for “Elvis” just as final voting was underway could give her the edge — she was the first woman to win the ASC prize — but after its BAFTA win, “All Quiet” has momentum. As the third woman nominated for the Oscar in this category after Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) and Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”), it would also be historic for Walker to win the Oscar. But it’s hard to say how widely the Academy is aware of these niceties. The BAFTA win for British D.P. James Friend’s extraordinary work on the World War I epic could be more indicative of where the overall Academy is leaning.
Best Costume Design: “Elvis”
Spoiler: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Bottom Line: Two-time Costume Oscar-winner Catherine Martin (“Moulin Rouge,” “The Great Gatsby”) took the Costume Designers Guild award for her elaborate period costumes from the start of Elvis Presley’s career in the ’50s through his dissipated Vegas period. Respected designer Ruth Carter’s 2018 win for “Black Panther” could hurt her chances of winning again, even though her white funeral costumes and invention of a new underwater world were stunning.
Best Documentary Feature: “Navalny”
Spoiler: “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
Bottom Line: It’s been a close three-way race all awards season, with Daniel Roher’s politically timely Sundance launch “Navalny” (CNN/HBO Max) picking up wins from the PGA and BAFTA at the height of anti-Putin sentiment, while Laura Poitras’ Venice Golden Lion-winner and critics’ favorite “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (Neon), a portrait of political activist and artist Nan Goldin, took home the Spirit Award. And winning the DGA was “Fire of Love” (NatGeo/Neon), Sara Dosa’s lyrical portrait of a dauntless volcano-chasing couple, which scored $1.8 million at the global box office. Finally, “Navalny” has support from the international bloc and plays like a riveting thriller.
Best Documentary Short: “The Elephant Whisperers”
Bottom Line: Again, will voters respond to Kartiki Gonsalves’ heart-tugging story of a selfless couple in India who care for a baby elephant that no one else knows how to raise? The alternative is brother and sister duo Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva’s “Haulout,” about an isolated Russian scientist in Siberia who tracks the annual movements of walruses. This year, due to ice melting, they descend on the area around his cabin en masse. And Malala lent her considerable celebrity charm on the awards circuit to Joshua Seftel’s “Stranger at the Gate,” about a small-town U.S. Marine who was ready to bomb a mosque until he visited the site and was won over by kindness.
Best Editing: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Spoiler: “Top Gun: Maverick”
Bottom Line: Even though it’s been a decade since Editing and Picture lined up, this category will likely go to “Everything Everywhere,” whose single BAFTA win was Editing. Both “Everything” and “Maverick” won for Theatrical Drama and Comedy at the ACE Eddie Awards, defeating the other three Oscar nominees: “Elvis” and “TÁR” for Drama and “The Banshees of Inisherin” for Comedy.
Best International Feature Film: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Spoiler: “Argentina, 1985”
Bottom Line: Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic 1928 World War I novel is a strong contender because it scored a total nine nominations including Picture and Adapted Screenplay. Sergio Mitre’s popular evocation of a remarkable courtroom victory against Argentina’s military junta may have to settle for its nomination. The other popular entry, which launched at Cannes, is Lukas Dhont’s “Close,” a touching portrayal of friendship and loss.
Best Live-Action Short: “Le Pupille”
Spoiler: “An Irish Goodbye”
Bottom Line: Cannes vet, Italian director Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”), backed by Mexican producer Alfonso Cuarón, tells a delightful, elegant, and searing Christmas tale set in a school run by strict ruler-wielding nuns. Tom Berkeley and Ross White’s “An Irish Goodbye” pulls at the tear ducts as a grieving pair of brothers prepare to leave their mother’s farm behind: the older brother succumbs to the pleas of his learning-impaired younger sibling to enact some of their mother’s last wishes.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “Elvis”
Spoiler: “The Whale”
Bottom Line: The fate of Best Actor contenders Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser could dictate this race. Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) are prior examples of linked acting and hair and makeup categories. “Elvis” takes its iconic subject from hip-swinger to dissipated Vegas star, while Fraser submitted to heavy prosthetics to achieve his obese man. “Elvis” has eight Oscar nominations to “The Whale”‘s three, which does not include Best Picture.
Best Production Design: “Babylon”
Bottom Line: Unless “All Quiet” has mighty coattails and dominates the crafts on Oscar night, this win could go to Damien Chazelle’s BAFTA-winner “Babylon” for its creation of the Golden Age of Hollywood in all its decadence and splendor. Yes, the extravagant movie bombed at the box office, and many recognize its flaws. But the production design is epic and impeccable and the movie beat out “All Quiet” and “Elvis” in the period category at the Art Directors Guild. Academy voters could lean into more popular Best Picture contenders like “Elvis,” and vote for Oscar-winner Catherine Martin (“Moulin Rouge”) for both Costume and Production Design. Or voters could vote down the ticket for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which did win Contemporary at the ADG.
Best Original Score: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Spoiler: “Everything Everywhere All At Once” ”
Bottom Line: “All Quiet on the Western Front” composer Volker Bertelmann tracks the hapless soldiers through their relentless barrage in the trenches, as well as quieter more playful moments. Nominated once before, for “Lion,” he won the BAFTA, showing continuing international support for the film. But never discount 90-year-old John Williams, who received his 53rd nomination for Steven Spielberg’s auto-fiction “The Fabelmans” and could take home his fifth Oscar. At the start of the season, Damien Chazelle collaborator Justin Hurwitz won the Golden Globe for his jazzy and percussive “Babylon,” but finally, he has already won before, for “La La Land.” Long overdue is three-time nominee Carter Burwell for his haunting, melancholy score for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but riding the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” surge are newcomers Son Lux, whose unconventional score captures the Daniels’ wild multiverse.
Best Original Song: “Naatu Naatu” (“RRR”)
Spoiler: “Lift Me Up” (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
Bottom Line: There’s a long pop music advantage at the Oscars, from Elton John to Lady Gaga, which would ordinarily give the edge to Gaga for “Hold My Hand” (“Top Gun: Maverick”) or Super Bowl star Rihanna, who is at the peak of her popularity, with “Lift Me Up.” But the campaign for Indian global blockbuster “RRR” has been relentless: many Academy voters, if they haven’t watched all three hours of the propulsive action musical have sampled the popular dance video for the infectious “Naatu Naatu.”
Best Sound: “Top Gun: Maverick”
Spoiler: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Bottom Line: Most Oscar-watchers give the edge to the innovative dynamic sound design for the multiple air stunts in “Top Gun: Maverick” but the technical aspects of the trench warfare in “All Quiet on the Western Front” are strong. Truth is, Sound could be the only win for “Maverick.”
Best Visual Effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Spoiler: “Top Gun: Maverick”
Bottom Line: James Cameron’s “The Way of Water” is the big-budget behemoth, and its immersive underwater vistas and inventive creature designs should handily take this year’s Oscar. But this is a category that few Academy members sampled in its entirety; for those who did, “Top Gun: Maverick” could be a popular alternative for its twisty high-speed F-18 dogfights. On the other hand, while there were plenty of VFX involved, Tom Cruise’s overall message was all about shooting the movie for real.