For the past 28 years, I, like every other critic and movie fan, have made predictions about who and what will win on Oscar night. My slugging percentage is around 80 percent, which is good, but it’s not due to my being smarter than anyone else; rather, it’s having a better understanding that these awards are rarely bestowed for merit. They are bestowed instead for industry politics, and for rewarding studio-fueled, blitzkrieg marketing campaigns.
Once the most-viewed nonsports TV show of any year, the ratings for the Oscars—presented by the Academy (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)—have steadily declined. This is due in part to the oversaturation of award shows in general, but it’s mostly because of the political soapboxing of frequent host Jimmy Kimmel (returning for the third time in five years) and the winners using their 30-second acceptance speeches to insult half of the viewing audience.
Other reasons for bad ratings: boredom and predictability. With few exceptions, the winners of the six major awards have already done so at other guild events leading up to the Oscars. The chances are that if a performer, director, or a title wins at the British Awards (British Academy Film Awards), Directors Guild (Directors Guild of America), Producers Guild (Producers Guild of America), or SAG (Screen Actors Guild), they’ll win Oscars.
That is probably not going to happen this year, which is a great thing for viewers and anyone who appreciates heated competition. For the first time since 1998, the four acting winners at British Awards and SAG were totally different, which makes correctly handicapping the performer Oscar races nearly impossible.
In the 27 years that the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and SAG have all presented their top honors, only one film has ever won all three but then lost the Best Picture Oscar: “Apollo 13” (1995). Over the last two weeks, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and the SAG Best Ensemble (the SAG equivalent of Best Picture).
Here are this year’s nominees and my guesses for the probable winners.
Best Actor in a Lead Role
The Nominees: Austin Butler in “Elvis,” Colin Farrell in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Brendan Fraser in “The Whale,” Paul Mescal in “Aftersun,” and Bill Nighy in “Living.”
MIA: Micheal Ward in “Empire of Light.”
The Skinny: This is easily the strongest and most competitive category of the night. If anyone other than Mescal wins, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Butler totally owned “Elvis,” Farrell shone as the dim everyman in “Banshees,” Fraser is a sentimental favorite (albeit, for all the wrong reasons), and the septuagenarian Nighy will likely never be nominated again.
The Bottom Line: Butler won the British Award, Fraser the SAG. If the Academy goes for merit, it will be Butler. If they choose to award prosthetics, Fraser.
Best Actress in a Lead Role
The Nominees: Ana de Armas in “Blonde,” Cate Blanchett in “TÁR,” Andrea Riseborough in “To Leslie,” Michelle Williams in “The Fabelmans,” and Michelle Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
MIA: Olivia Colman in “Empire of Light.”
The Skinny: Prior to the SAG, Blanchett won practically every industry and critic group’s accolade (and the British Award), yet lost the SAG to Yeoh.
The Bottom Line: Blanchett has now been nominated eight times and has won twice. This is Yeoh’s first ever nomination; she is clearly being considered the underdog, and one many voters and audience members will be pulling for. Since the voting blocks for SAG and the Academy are virtually identical, the smart money has to be on Yeoh.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The Nominees: Brian Tyree Henry in “Causeway,” Judd Hirsch in “The Fabelmans,” Ke Huy Quan in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
MIA: Paul Dano in “The Fabelmans.”
The Skinny: This year, this category is as close to a sure thing as you can get.
The Bottom Line: Although Keoghan pulled out an upset at the British Awards Quan, a former child actor who retired in 2002 due to lack of work, has won “everything, everywhere” (pun intended). Everyone loves a comeback story and Quan’s SAG win essentially freezes out all other nominees.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
The Nominees: Angela Bassett in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Hong Chau in “The Whale,” Kerry Condon in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” and Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
MIA: Hong Chau in “The Menu.”
The Skinny: Up until two weeks ago, Bassett was the hands-down favorite, but after losing the British Awards and SAG her chances are bleak.
The Bottom Line: Yes, Condon won the British Awards, but the momentum for her film has stalled. The child of two past nominees, SAG winner Curtis has the slightest edge. This category is, year in and year out, always the most volatile and unpredictable; every nominee has a legitimate chance to win.
The Nominees: Todd Field for “TÁR,” Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Martin McDonagh for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Ruben Östlund for “Triangle of Sadness,” and Steven Spielberg for “The Fabelmans.”
MIA: Sam Mendes for “Empire of Light,” Isaiah Washington for “Corsicana,” Rian Johnson for “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
The Skinny: British Awards winner Edward Berger (“All Quiet on the Western Front”) wasn’t even nominated. Kwan and Scheinert won the Directors Guild and Producers Guild. Since 1968, only five Directors Guild winners (who were also nominated by the Academy) didn’t take home Oscars.
The Bottom Line: Early sentimental favorite Spielberg’s film is the second-worst box office performer of his career. (Only his debut, “Sugarland Express,” fared worse.) Kwan and Scheinert have all of the momentum right now. It’s theirs to lose.
The Nominees: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Avatar: the Way of Water,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Elvis,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans,” “TÁR,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Triangle of Sadness,” and “Women Talking.”
MIA: “Empire of Light,” “Corsicana.”
The Skinny: For the first time since 2009 when the Academy increased the number of nominees from five to 10, more than two titles have a realistic shot.
The Bottom Line: Current industry darling “Everything Everywhere” is the front-runner, but don’t count out the seven British Awards winning entries: “All Quiet,” “TÁR,” “The Fabelmans,” fan favorite “Top Gun,” or box office behemoth “Avatar.”
Probable Winners in Other Categories
Best Adapted Screenplay: “Women Talking”
Best Animated Feature: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
Best Cinematography: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Costume Design: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Best Documentary Feature: “Navalny”
Best Editing: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Best International Feature: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Whale”
Best Original Screenplay: “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Best Original Song: “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR”
Best Production Design: “Elvis”
Best Original Score: “Babylon”
Best Sound: “Top Gun: Maverick”
Best Visual Effects: “Avatar: the Way of Water”
The 95th Academy Awards will air on Sunday, March 12 at 8:00 PM EST on ABC.