With the Oscars 2023 almost here, I spoke to Michal Wasilewski, an Oscar-expert and The Mancunion’s former Managing Editor (Culture), to get some final predictions and an analysis of the race so far. Here’s what he had to say about the upcoming 95th Academy Awards:
Joe McFadden (JM): What’s the race been like so far? How does it differ from last year’s Oscar season?
Michal Wasilewski (MW): The 2022 Oscars were, to say the least, a disappointment. Not only did the Academy decide to crown an unambitious, anti-auteur feel-good movie [CODA] as the Best Picture of the year, the entire ceremony was painfully predictable. Apart from the one moment we all remember it for, of course.
At the home stretch of the 2023 season things are looking entirely different. With three acting categories up in the air and tight races in screenplay and many technical categories, we are coming to an end of the most exciting season in years. There’s even hope for a good show, with the promises of “educating the people at home on what some of these crafts are” and “making the nominees interesting”.
Will we finally get a respectful ceremony or just another feast of distasteful jokes that misses the point of the Oscars? We’ll find out soon!
JM: We’ll start with the big one, Best Picture. Who’s the favourite to take home the top prize?
MW: Back in the spring of 2022, when Everything Everywhere All at Once was released, few recognised it as a potential Oscar player. The unconventional action film quickly took over people’s hearts, becoming the best-rated film ever on Letterboxd, but awards pundits were sceptical. I have my personal success in believing in EEAAO’s Oscar chances from the beginning; I have been predicting it for a Best Picture win all the way since May, and have never doubted it since.
Although my opinion on the film is nowhere near as positive as the consensus, I have to admit that EEAAO has everything a film needs to win Best Picture. It’s vastly different from previous winners, it succeeds at making audiences passionate about it, and, in its own way, it reflects the current social environment and the younger generation’s worldview.
Throughout the season there were a couple of films widely considered frontrunners. The three worth noting were The Banshees of Inisherin, predicted to sweep the BAFTAs, Toronto-winning The Fabelmans, and box-office hit Top Gun: Maverick. Yet, the actual awards did not follow those expectations. The Banshees of Inisherin did not win the main prize at the BAFTAs, The Fabelmans managed to grab the Golden Globe but fell shortly after, and Top Gun: Maverick never took off in terms of awards.
When predicting the Oscars, the most important thing to look at are the precursors, that is the various awards handed out in the months preceding the Academy Awards. The less relevant ones include the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice, the more relevant ones are the BAFTAs and the Guild Awards – Producers’ Guild (PGA); Directors’ Guild (DGA); Actors’ Guild (SAG); Writers Guild (WGA) etc.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is one of only five films to have ever won the main prizes at all four main guilds. The other four films went on to win Best Picture, with 2012’s Argo being the most recent example. Despite a terrible turnout at the BAFTAs (EEAAO won only one award – Best Editing), its chances at the Oscars are unchallenged. We might even be looking at the biggest sweep in over 10 years!
When searching for a possible upset, the biggest danger comes from All Quiet on the Western Front. After spending the majority of the season under the radar, this German adaptation of the cult anti-war novel shockingly swept the BAFTAs, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and four more. Yet, in terms of the Academy Awards, its chances are slim.
Not only was it snubbed by all the major guilds, it also lacks crucial Oscar nominations for directing, acting, and editing. It would be a complete statistics breaker in a much bigger way than Parasite or CODA were, and there doesn’t seem to be that much passion behind it. EEAAO is safe.
JM: Let’s move onto Best Director then, who’s going to take home the coveted statuette?
MW: Along with Best Picture, the Best Director award will go to Daniels, the directorial duo behind Everything Everywhere All at Once. The BAFTA winner in the category, Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front) is not nominated here, so it would be difficult to even pinpoint a potential upset, let alone justify it. Combined with the fact that the DGA winner went on to win the Oscar nine out of ten times in the last decade, we are looking at another locked-in category.
JM: Now, there’s been a lot of buzz around the Best Actress race, what’s it looking like as we approach the finish line?
MW: This is a true two-horse race. On one hand, there’s Cate Blanchett (Tár), crafting a larger-than-life performance in the season’s most critically acclaimed film. On the other, there’s Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once), whose martial-arts-packed scenes only strengthen the career narrative of an overlooked actress associated primarily with action films. In terms of the precursors, Cate Blanchett won the BAFTA, the Critics’ Choice Award, and the Golden Globe (Drama), while Michelle Yeoh won the SAG and the Golden Globe (Comedy).
An important argument in Yeoh’s support is the overall strength of her film. She’s in the Best Picture winner, after all. However, the past years showed that in tight races the BAFTAs are more reliable at predicting the Oscar winner, with Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), and Olivia Colman (The Favourite), to name a few. Moreover, Tár is also a strong film. It overperformed at the nominations, and this is the only category it can be realistically awarded in. Based on these two arguments, I’m predicting the Oscar will go to Cate Blanchett, although it can really go both ways.
JM: How about Best Actor then?
MW: Another two-horse race, although this one seems easier to call. Since the Oscars expanded their Best Picture slate to more than five nominees back in 2009, there has been only one instance in which the Best Actor winner came from a film not nominated for Best Picture (2009, Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart). This year’s race is between Austin Butler (Best-Picture-nominated Elvis) and Brendan Fraser (not-Best-Picture-nominated The Whale).
Butler won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA, while Fraser won the Critics’ Choice and the SAG, supported not only by his monumental performance but also by a compelling career narrative. Yet, the ultimate argument has to be Elvis’s Best Picture nomination. The Oscars love their music biopics, and this award is Butler’s to lose.
JM: The supporting categories are similarly tight, what are your predictions here? Let’s start with Supporting Actress.
MW: After the Golden Globes, it seemed like Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) would make history and become the first actress to win an Oscar for a performance in a Marvel film. However, a nomination turned out to be enough, and the industry awards turned their attention elsewhere. The BAFTA went to Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin), and the SAG to Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once).
It’s easy to argue that JLC’s win at SAG was rather a vote for her career narrative and the role she played in promoting the film. SAG, dominated by younger voters and people from the television industry, is more likely to give in to career narratives than the Oscars (just like in the cases of Glenn Close and Chadwick Boseman winning the SAG and ultimately losing at the Academy Awards). Therefore, I’m predicting Kerry Condon, who has been the critics’ favourite all season long and who would be the film’s only win at the ceremony.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s popularity might be a major factor in the race, but I believe that the Oscars will actually choose the best performance in the category rather than a comedic cameo.
JM: And Supporting Actor?
MW: The only easy acting category. Despite a shocking win for Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) at the BAFTAs, there is no reason to believe that it would repeat at the Oscars. Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once) won every other award, and he’s easily going to win the Oscar as well, fitting with the trend of Best Picture winners grabbing a Supporting Actor win along the way (Troy Kotsur for CODA, Mahershala Ali for Green Book).
JM: Let’s look at some of the awards less popular with the public. Who’s the favourite to nab the Original Screenplay award?
MW: Some may believe this is The Banshees of Inisherin’s territory. I disagree, supported by the case of Parasite’s Oscar triumph. Parasite and EEAAO are two films that generate similar passion, and whose greatness lies not only in their directorial style, but also in sharp and unconventional writing.
On its winning night, Parasite received both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, and I’m predicting EEAAO to do the same. Some proof for it can be found in the Critics’ Choice Awards, where EEAAO won those three main categories. It also won WGA, but Banshees was not eligible there, making this category somewhat uncertain.
JM: Is this reflected in Adapted Screenplay?
MW: Another two-horse race, but this time between arguably the weakest Best Picture nominee, Women Talking (only two nominations), and the number two in contention for the Best Picture win, All Quiet on the Western Front. At its core, Women Talking is a film more reliant on screenplay and dialogues, contrary to All Quiet, which relies on its technicalities. To me, this tips the scales in Women Talking’s favour.
Both films grabbed screenplay awards this season, but they never faced each other off. Wherever Women Talking was nominated, All Quiet wasn’t, and vice versa, making this category tough to predict. Regardless, if All Quiet manages to win here early in the night, keep an eye out for a potential Best Picture shocker!
JM: I’m going to shift focus to some of the technical categories which are often overlooked by the general public. Is there anything exciting you think we should watch out for on the night?
As I mentioned before, many of the below-the-line categories include fascinating races that will be nail-biters until the end. The one I would pay particular attention to is Best Editing, where the unconventional, BAFTA-winning editing of EEAAO is going up against a more Oscar-friendly choice that would be Top Gun: Maverick, possibly breaking an over decade-long correlation between Best Editing and Best Sound.
In terms of diversity and recognition of international cinema, a big win should happen in Best Original Song, where RRR’s ‘Naatu Naatu’ looks likely to defeat the likes of Rihanna and Lady Gaga, having won Best Song at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice.
In Animated Feature, Guillermo Del Toro will receive his third Oscar for the ambitious stop-motion reinterpretation of Pinocchio. In Documentary Feature, which has the strongest lineup in years, a riveting political thriller Navalny should emerge as the winner, shining a light on the treatment of the opposition in Putin’s regime.
Big names could appear on stage in the short film categories. In Documentary Short, watch out for Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who’s an executive producer of Stranger at the Gate. In Live Action Short, four-time Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón could receive another honour, this time for producing Alice Rohrwacher’s Le Pupille.
So, what are your final predictions then?
Overall, my predicted winners in all 23 categories at the 2023 Oscars are:
Best Picture: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Director: Daniels (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Tár)
Best Actor: Austin Butler (Elvis)
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Best Supporting Actress: Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin)
Original Screenplay: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Adapted Screenplay: Women Talking
Animated Film: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
International Film: All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany)
Documentary Film: Navalny
Cinematography: All Quiet on the Western Front
Production Design: Babylon
Costume Design: Elvis
Makeup and Hairstyling: Elvis
Editing: Top Gun: Maverick
Sound: Top Gun: Maverick
Visual Effects: Avatar: The Way of Water
Original Score: All Quiet on the Western Front
Original Song: ‘Naatu Naatu’ (RRR)
Animated Short: Ice Merchants
Documentary Short: Stranger at the Gate
Live Action Short: An Irish Goodbye
The 95th Academy Awards air on Sky from 12.00am to 04.00am on Monday March 13 2023.
You can check out the rest of The Mancunion‘s Oscars 2023 coverage here.