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Johnny’s Awards Radar: Early 2023 Oscars Predictions

It feels like just yesterday since the last awards season went out with a bang as “Dune: Part One” took home six Oscars and Sundance darling “CODA” took home Best Picture, but now the Cannes Film Festival is far in the rear-view mirror, and the major fall festivals are bearing down on us.

A number of surefire contenders have already hit theaters this year, but many of the best are still to come, and I’m going to take a look at what the Oscar field could look like in the majority of the categories.

Rather than a general overview of all the potential contending films, instead I’d rather try to pinpoint actual nominees as far in advance as possible and see how my predictions pan out, with at least two more prediction pieces coming before next year’s ceremony. After “CODA” surged late last season to overtake perennial favorite “The Power of the Dog,” there’s no doubt I will be overestimating some pics here and severely underestimating others. Additionally, I am omitting some categories for practicality’s sake because they’re a little too difficult for me to project this far out: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Animated Short, Live Action Short and Original Song.

Before we hop into predictions, let’s address the “Flower Moon” in the room. Martin Scorsese’s latest picture was expected to be completed in time to release before the year ends, but multiple trades are reporting Apple may end up holding it until next year to avoid rushing the maestro and his post-production team. For that reason, I’m going to count it out of my predictions at this point. For the record, if the film ends up making a photo finish, I believe it would be a very strong contender in the following categories: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design and Sound.

Here we go.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“Pinocchio” (Netflix)

Disney has three horses in the race this year, but none of them so far have created space as the frontrunner. In fact, what seemed like an easy three nominations will probably dwindle to two at best due to the tepid reaction to “Lightyear,” leaving just “Turning Red” and “Strange World.” All this is to say that Best Picture may continue to elude Netflix, but Best Animated Feature may be secured with Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” looking to run away with the category. What we’ve seen of the stop-motion animation so far offers lush colors, dynamic lighting and inspired character designs for the impressive voice cast to inhabit.

Netflix is also offering up “Wendell & Wild” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline” director Henry Selick, as well as “The Sea Beast.” Universal and Dreamworks are also aiming for a nomination here between “The Bad Guys” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” Lastly, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” – one of A24’s best-reviewed films ever – is being submitted in the category, despite the large amount of live-action photography. We’ll see if the branch bites.

Nominees:

  • “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” (A24)
  • “Pinocchio” (Netflix) WINNER
  • “Strange World” (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
  • “Turning Red” (Pixar Animation Studios)
  • “Wendell & Wild” (Netflix)

BEST PICTURE

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” (A24)

Last year had a very fine group of nominees, but the options this year could leave us with one of the better Best Picture fields in recent memory. “Dune” reminded folks last year that the Academy is still eager to recognize top-tier blockbuster filmmaking, which bodes well for “Top Gun: Maverick,” currently the highest-grossing film of the year, as well as “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which will likely end up being the highest-grossing film of 2022. The latter’s predecessor was also nominated in Best Picture and a slew of other categories, not to mention Cameron’s “Titanic” sweeping the Oscars before that. The one trend these two will have to buck is the general lack of sequels nominated here over the years, an exclusive group that includes the two sequels to “The Godfather” and “The Dark Knight.”

Then we have Spielberg – whose filmography includes 11 Best Picture nominees – with his most personal film ever in “The Fabelmans.” Two other Oscar-winning filmmakers looking for back-to-back Best Picture nominees are Sam Mendes (“1917”) with “Empire of Light” and Florian Zeller with “The Son,” a spiritual successor to 2020’s “The Father.” Mendes’ latest looks like another visual delight lensed by Roger Deakins and emotionally anchored by the great Olivia Colman, while Zeller’s familial drama might deliver the acting quartet of the year with Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby and Anthony Hopkins.

There’s also a trio of filmmakers that are looking to rekindle Oscar success after spending years away. Darren Aronofsky’s first film since 2017 is “The Whale,” a chamber piece that rests on the shoulders of what will be a career-defining performance by Brendan Fraser in world-class makeup and prosthetics. Then we have director Sarah Polley’s first feature in a decade with “Women Talking,” another claustrophobic drama that will rely heavily on the precision of Polley’s screenplay and the performances of her acclaimed cast. Having the backing of producing duo Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner doesn’t hurt, either, as the two have developed five Best Picture nominees over the last decade. Finally, Alejandro González Íñarritu is looking to get reflective in “BARDO,” which aims to be his third Best Picture nominee in a row following wins in 2015 for “Birdman” and 2016 for “The Revenant.”

Ultimately, I’m settling on this coming down to a dead heat between “Babylon” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” If the Oscars were held in July, EEAAO would’ve walked away with most of the awards. On paper, however, “Babylon” is the Goliath to EEAAO’s David. The former is likely to lead in nominations and could very well win categories like Director and Actress. But the most nominations doesn’t always equal a Best Picture win. In fact, the film that leads in noms has only won twice over the last decade, and films about filmmaking and Hollywood that seemed like safe bets to win (see: “La La Land” or “Mank”) have fallen to smaller films with bigger passion. “CODA” showed us last year that a perfect storm of enthusiasm and campaigning can develop into the right combo of wins to precipitate a Best Picture. Taking home Supporting Actor and either of the Screenplay categories is what led to “Moonlight” taking down “La La Land,” “Green Book” taking down “Roma,” “CODA” taking down “The Power of the Dog,” and that’s exactly what I think can be the recipe to success for A24’s biggest-ever hit.

Nominees:

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” – James Cameron, Jon Landau, 
  • “Babylon” – Olivia Hamilton, Marc Platt, Matthew Plouffe
  • “BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” – Alejandro González Íñarritu, Stacy Perskie
  • “Empire of Light” – Pippa Harris, Sam Mendes
  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – Dan Kwan, Mike Larocca, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Daniel Scheinert, Jonathan Wang (WINNER)
  • “The Fabelmans” – Tony Kushner, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg
  • “The Son” – Iain Canning, Karl Hartman, Joanna Laurie, Emile Sherman, Christopher Spadone, Florian Zeller
  • “Top Gun: Maverick” – Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Cruise, David Ellison, Christopher McQuarrie
  • “The Whale” – Darren Aronofsky, Jeremy Dawson
  • “Women Talking” – Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Frances McDormand

BEST DIRECTOR

“Babylon” director Damien Chazelle.

Standing before us is not just the glorious opportunity to have the respective directors of “Schindler’s List” and “Swiss Army Man” nominated in the same year, but to have an overall impressively historic group of nominees. Spielberg is poised for nomination number nine in this category with his semi-autobiographical passion project – an endearing trend that has generated recent nominations here for Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) and Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”). The nomination would tie Spielberg with Scorsese for the second-most noms all time in the category.

Speaking of history, The DANIELS would become just the fourth directing duo to be nominated after Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise (“West Side Story”), Warren Beatty & Buck Henry (“Heaven Can Wait”) and Joel & Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”). Íñarritu has the opportunity to not only become the fourth director ever to win this category three or more times, but to have the distinction of being the only to win it for three consecutive films.

Meanwhile, opportunities for women to win here or even be nominated are historically limited. With only one female winner in the first 92 ceremonies, the last two years have generated three nominees and back-to-back female winners with Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”). The female-helmed pic getting the lion’s share of the buzz so far is Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” a story focused on an isolated religious community where the women come together in secret to address the sexual abuse they all endure.

Last but certainly not least, we have the long-awaited return of a legend, as well as the return of a legend in the making. James Cameron (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) is looking for his third-straight nomination in the category after “Titanic” and “Avatar,” while Damien Chazelle – the youngest winner in this category’s history – has his first film since 2018 with “Babylon,” the most expensive and ambitious project of his career. Of the two, a Hollywood love letter seems a safer bet than the sci-fi franchise epic – just ask Denis Villeneuve. In fact, “Babylon” on paper has everything to put Chazelle out front until further notice. Other contenders to keep an eye on this season include two-time nominee Sam Mendes (“Empire of Light”), Florian Zeller (“The Son”), Ruben Östlund (“Triangle of Sadness”) and Park Chan-wook (“Decision to Leave”). 

Nominees:

  • Damien Chazelle (“Babylon”) WINNER
  • Alejandro González Íñarritu (“BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”)
  • Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
  • Sara Polley (“Women Talking”)
  • Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”)

BEST ACTOR

Hugh Jackman in “The Son.” (Sony Pictures Classic)

This category will ultimately come down to a three-man race. First, Hugh Jackman starring in director Florian Zeller’s second feature, “The Son,” which earned Anthony Hopkins his second Oscar. Jackman has been well-respected for over two decades and has been nominated once before, but the Aussie will be seeking his first win playing a father who has to confront his troubled son.

Second, Brendan Fraser’s renaissance looks to take full form with “The Whale,” which features him as a guilt-ridden, 600-pound man who left his family for his now-deceased lover and is trying to reconnect with his teen daughter. It will be Darren Aronofsky’s first film since “mother!” five years ago, but the material he is working with here feels more in line with “The Wrestler,” which earned Mickey Rourke a Best Actor nomination. Natalie Portman also won an Oscar for her performance in Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.”

The breakout star looking to steal the win away from these industry vets is Austin Butler and his electric embodiment of “Elvis.” The film came out a winner with critics and general audiences to finish as the second-highest grossing biopic of all time, only behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which saw Rami Malek take home the Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury).

While I do not expect him to contend for the win, I have Daniel Giménez Cacho as a rock solid nominee as the star of Íñarritu’s “Bardo.” Cacho himself is an accomplished veteran of the Mexican film industry and reportedly plays an aging artist going through an existential crisis (Michael Keaton in “Birdman,” anyone?). It also doesn’t hurt that Íñarritu’s last five features have totaled 10 Oscar nominations for acting. The other folks in contention for the fifth and final slot include Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Song Kang-ho (“Broker”) and Adam Driver (“White Noise”).

Nominees:

  • Austin Butler (“Elvis”)
  • Daniel Giménez Cacho (“BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”)
  • Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
  • Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)
  • Hugh Jackman (“The Son”) WINNER

BEST ACTRESS

Margot Robbie in “Babylon.” (Vanity Fair)

This is the acting category that feels the most definitive at the moment. Margot Robbie is about a decade into her movie star era and has two nominations to her name, but she’s still searching for the gold. Her role in Chazelle’s “Babylon” sounds like the juiciest yet, and I’m expecting the intensity of J.K. Simmons’ Oscar-winning performance in “Whiplash” crossed with the vulnerability of Emma Stone’s Oscar-winning performance in “La La Land” will be enough to clinch her first Oscar win. Her primary competition will no doubt be the legendary Michelle Yeoh with the role of a lifetime as Evelyn in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” who made us laugh and cry and kicked everyone’s asses while doing it. Those two are followed closely by “Empire of Light” star Olivia Colman – who is on the cusp of a remarkable fourth nomination in five years – and Cate Blanchett in Todd Fields’ “TÁR.” Blanchett is a two-time winner on six nominations, and Fields’ two previous features combined for five Oscar-nominated performances, so I’ll take those odds.

Like Best Actor, the fifth slot here comes down to a few hopefuls, such as Naomi Ackie (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”), Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) and Ana de Armas (“Blonde”). The factor that tips the scale in favor of Ackie? Two-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten, aka the biopic mad scientist. The last four he’s written have generated six Oscar nominations for acting, three of which translated into wins for lead actors: Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” and Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Whitney Houston is one of the most iconic pop artists of all time. If Ackie delivers a performance that truly resonates, she just may dance all the way to victory.

Nominees:

  • Naomi Ackie (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”)
  • Cate Blanchett (“TÁR”)
  • Olivia Colman (“Empire of Light”)
  • Margot Robbie (“Babylon”) WINNER
  • Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Ke Huy Quan in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” (A24)

Best Supporting Actor 2023, aka Return of the Loving Dad. Troy Kotsur from last year’s “CODA” stunned with a SAG win in this category, as well as Ensemble, and rode that wave to win the BAFTA and Oscar. Not only was his performance as the father in “CODA” side-splitting and tear-jerking in equal measure, Kotsur had a compelling narrative of being a working actor for decades without a “big break.” Now, Ke Huy Quan – of “Indiana Jones” and “The Goonies” fame – comes back to Hollywood after 20 years as the endlessly endearing Waymond in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” His character is the beating heart of the film and provides some of the film’s top action beats, as well. The competition will be heavier than last year, though.

Brad Pitt looks to win his second in this category after “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” in 2020, similar to how Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali each won this category twice in quick succession, with Waltz in 2010/2013 and Ali in 2017/2019. Pitt’s role as a fading movie star in an evolving industry is said to be one of the more melancholic elements of “Babylon” and could strike a sentimental chord with voters. There is also potential for a double nomination for “The Fablemans” duo Paul Dano and Judd Hirsch, another trend we have seen in recent years with “Three Billboards,” “The Irishman” and “The Power of the Dog.” Other hopefuls here include newcomer Zen McGrath (“The Son”), 2020 BAFTA Rising Star Michael Ward (“Empire of Light”) and three-time nominee Woody Harrelson (“Triangle of Sadness”).

Nominees:

  • Paul Dano (“The Fabelmans”) 
  • Judd Hirsch (“The Fabelmans”)
  • Zen McGrath (“The Son”)
  • Brad Pitt (“Babylon”)
  • Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) WINNER

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Michelle Williams (right) in “The Fabelmans.” (Amblin Entertainment)

Could it really be? Has the time finally come for Michelle Williams to get her Oscar? The four-time nominee has been picked by Spielberg to embody his mother in his childhood drama “The Fabelmans,” a role which seems ripe for the Academy to eat up. In fact, five of the last eight winners in this category have been in mother roles. Although she didn’t win, Jessie Buckley was nominated for playing a troubled mother last year and is looking for her second nomination for “Women Talking,” an ensemble that could also see noms for Claire Foy or Rooney Mara. Another heavyweight ensemble this season comes with “The Son,” where 2020’s winner Laura Dern plays the mother of the title character, and 2021 Best Actress-nominee Vanessa Kirby plays his stepmother. Rising stars Stephanie Hsu and Sadie Sink look to inject new blood into the category, the former with her scene-stealing performance as the notorious Jobu Topaki (and Joy) in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and the latter playing opposite of Brendan Fraser in “The Whale.”

Nominees:

  • Jessie Buckley (“Women Talking”)
  • Laura Dern (“The Son”)
  • Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
  • Vanessa Kirby (“The Son”)
  • Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”) WINNER 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“Women Talking” (Orion Pictures)

This is shaping up to be the more sparse of the two screenplay categories, with only a couple of my projected Best Picture nominees in play. Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”) has been nominated once before here, and Florian Zeller actually took home the Oscar in 2021 for his work on “The Father,” a sort of spiritual precursor to this year’s “The Son.”

Outside of these two, there are just a few others I feel could make the cut. First, we have two-time Oscar-nominated writer Noah Baumbach attempting the notoriously difficult adaptation of “White Noise.” Baumbach is also directing, and his last directorial effort, “Marriage Story,” was a Best Picture nominee, but it’s possible his latest is a little too heady and off-kilter to make much noise.  Another writer recently nominated is Rian Johnson for “Knives Out” in 2020, and his follow-up “Glass Onion” aims to up the scale and colorful personalities of this murder mystery. While I don’t feel these latter two have much of a chance to slip into Best Picture, “The Whale” could end up with the most momentum. Director Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” was a nominee in 2011, and “The Whale” stands to have nominations in multiple other categories, including Actor. It is also an adaptation of a play set in a single apartment, which will require some ingenuity from playwright and screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter to translate onto screen. Some other films that could be nominated here include “true-life” dramas like “Blonde” or “She Said” and sequels like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Nominees:

  • “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” – Rian Johnson
  • “The Son” – Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller
  • “The Whale” – Samuel D. Hunter
  • “White Noise” – Noah Baumbach
  • “Women Talking” – Sarah Polley (WINNER)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)

Here, we have a wider variety of high-profile films and no shortage of screenwriters who have previously won or been nominated. Two-time nominee Damien Chazelle is weaving an expansive epic set during the transition into the Golden Age of Hollywood and any chance for “Babylon” to win Best Picture will rely on his ability to take home the Oscar here or in Best Director. The same can be said for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which has been one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the last few years, particularly for its inventive and heartfelt screenplay by directors Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert. A film that rejects nihilism and embraces the beauty in everyday life winning here could be the feel-good vote that represents a cultural statement, similar to recent wins in the category for “Get Out,” “Parasite” and “Promising Young Woman.” Speaking of parallels, Kenneth Branagh won last year for his semi-autobiographical “Belfast,” and two-time nominee Tony Kushner is teaming with Spielberg to capture the magic of the iconic director’s own childhood tale in “The Fabelmans.” Kushner himself is revered in the industry and felt to be overdue for a win.

Next, Íñarritu and co-writer Nicolás Giacobone re-team for the first time since winning their Oscars for “Birdman.” The story should primarily focus on a renowned journalist and filmmaker but will include more sweeping elements during the character’s existential crisis and familial issues. Others gunning for the fifth slot include Ruben Östlund’s searing satire “Triangle of Sadness,” Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sam Mendes’ ode to cinema “Empire of Light” and two-time screenwriting nominees Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) and Todd Field (“TÁR”)

Nominees:

  • “Babylon”  – Damien Chazelle
  • “BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” – Nicolás Giacobone & Alejandro González Íñarritu
  • “The Fabelmans” – Tony Kushner & Steven Spielberg
  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert (WINNER)
  • “Triangle of Sadness” – Ruben Östlund

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

“BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” (Netflix)

A strong case could be made for any of my nominees here to win. Starting with Russell Carpenter (“Avatar: The Way of Water), the Oscar-winner is partnering with James Cameron once again after taking the gold for “Titanic.” Despite being an almost 100% CG film, the sweeping vistas and massive action sequences may once again win folks over after the original “Avatar” also won here under DP Mauro Fiore. Conversely, Linus Sandgren will be going old school for “Babylon” and shooting on film, with different stock and aspect ratios intertwined, including black-and-white photography.

Standing between those two and a win include cinematography legends Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”) and Janusz Kaminski (“The Fabelmans”). The former is a 15-time nominee and two-time winner, including a win for his last film “1917,” while the latter is a seven-time nominee and two-time winner who was nominated just last year for his indelible reinvention of  “West Side Story.” But the choice hiding in plain sight just might be Oscar-nominee Darius Khondji, collaborating for the first time with Íñarritu for “BARDO.” Íñarritu’s last two films won this category, so despite this being a new working relationship for the two, the filmmaker’s penchant for epic long takes and sweeping camera movements make this too good to pass up. The Academy is wont to recognize the most visually-stunning blockbusters here, as well, so don’t overlook Oscar-winner Greig Fraser’s “The Batman,” Oscar-winner Claudio Miranda’s “Top Gun: Maverick” or Oscar-nominee Hoyte van Hoytema’s “NOPE.”

Nominees:

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” – Russell Carpenter
  • “Babylon” – Linus Sandgren
  • “BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” – Darius Khondji (WINNER)
  • “Empire of Light” – Roger Deakins
  • “The Fabelmans” – Janusz Kaminski

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

“The Fabelmans” composer John Williams.

Despite putting up some of the best film scores of the last decade, two-time nominee Michael Giacchino has not been back to the Oscars since he won for “Up” in 2010. Luckily for him, his score for “The Batman” is instantly iconic and still the most memorable – and the best, for my money – score of the year. His biggest competition is still to come, though, starting in the form of Oscar-winners Justin Hurwitz (“Babylon”) and Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Women Talking,” “TÁR”). The former is looking to follow up on the runaway success he had with Chazelle on “La La Land,” and the latter is working on her first films since winning for “Joker” in 2020. 

Next, two-time winners Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross are collaborating with Oscar-winner Sam Mendes for the first time on “Empire of Light.” If the trailer is anything to go by, they are not going to miss a beat with their new director. Last, but certainly not least, the GOAT himself: 52-time Oscar nominee and five-time winner John Williams is tasked with coming up with the music for his long-time collaborator Spielberg’s childhood in “The Fabelmans.” Williams won his last two Oscars for Spielberg films, with the most recent being in 1994 for “Schindler’s List.” It might sound ridiculous, but I would argue the immortal maestro is actually overdue for No. 6.

Nominees:

  • “The Batman” – Michael Giacchino
  • “Babylon” – Justin Hurwitz
  • “Women Talking” – Hildur Guðnadóttir
  • “The Fabelmans” – John Williams (WINNER)
  • “Empire of Light” – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Babylon” (Vanity Fair)

There’s nothing folks in Hollywood love more than movies about Hollywood, which is why I have “Babylon” winning multiple categories, including this one. Chazelle’s own “La La Land,” plus “Mank” and “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” are just a few that have taken home the gold in recent years.

Films looking to buck the trend include “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Bardo.” The former’s predecessor won in 2010 and fits the mold of recent sci-fi world-building winners like “Dune” and “Black Panther,” while the latter’s look at Mexican culture and history through Íñarritu’s lens of magical realism has Oscar-winner Eugenio Cabellero (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Roma”) at the head. Another couple former winners I have in the mix are two-time winner Nick Carter (”Avatar,” ”Lincoln”) for the more intimate period piece “The Fabelmans” and two-time winner Catherine Martin (“Moulin Rouge!”, “The Great Gatsby”) for the decades-spanning “Elvis.” Hannah Beachler is also returning to Wakanda for “Black Panther,” which is where she won her first Oscar, so don’t count her out.

Nominees:

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” – Dylan Cole, Ben Procter, Vanessa Cole
  • “BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” – Eugenio Caballero, Daniela Rojas
  • “Babylon” – Florencia Martin, Anthony Carlino (WINNER)
  • “The Fabelmans” – Rick Carter, Karen O’Hara
  • “Elvis” – Catherine Martin, Shaun Barry, Beverley Dunn, Daniel Reader

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Austin Butler in “Elvis.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

One of my more confident group of predictions comes in this category, with a few high-profile prosthetics transformations leading the way, plus some large-scale period and sci-fi/fantasy work. Colin Farrell’s transformation into the Penguin for “The Batman,” which shocked fans over two years ago with our first glimpse, is still one of the most talked about and impressive we’ve seen in recent times. It could be enough to go all the way, but we know this category trends towards makeup used in Oscar-nominated performances, especially those in biopics.

Falling in that category are “Elvis” and “The Whale.” Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser are both eyeing Best Actor for their respective films, but “Elvis” also has the added benefit of drawing real-life comparisons to Presley and his manager Tom Parker. Eight of the last 10 winners here were for a film with an Oscar-nominated performance, including four of the last five.

This means  “Babylon” – with its acting noms – also has its odds lifted by the work of two-time Oscar-nominee Arjen Tuiten (“Wonder,” “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”), who is providing prosthetics expertise. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” looks to have beautiful makeup and hair designs throughout, although the first film was not nominated here. Some more under-the-radar noms here could be “The Fabelmans” or “Glass Onion,” both of which feature Oscar-nominated crew, or even “X,” which transformed Mia Goth into an unrecognizable elderly woman. 

Nominees:

  • “The Batman”
  • “Babylon”
  • “Elvis” (WINNER)
  • “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
  • “The Whale” 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Brad Pitt in “Babylon.” (Vanity Fair)

Some heavyweights with multiple Oscars on their shelves are facing off here, including two-time winners Catherine Martin, providing hundreds of different looks for “Elvis,” and Mark Bridges, who is outfitting Spielberg’s 1950s drama “The Fablemans.” Ruth E. Carter also won for “Black Panther” and will try to outdo herself with “Wakanda Forever.”

I believe we’ll get a first-time winner, though, with three-time nominee Mary Zophres (“La La Land”), who is looking to deliver more movie magic with Chazelle’s “Babylon.” This category is liable to produce one or two outlier nominations, so look out for films like “Chevalier,” “The Woman King” or “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” – especially since that last one is yet another film about the art of dressmaking from three-time winner Jenny Beavan (“Cruella”).

Nominees:

  • “Babylon” – Mary Zophres (WINNER)
  • “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” – Ruth E. Carter
  • “Elvis” – Catherine Martin
  • “The Fabelmans” – Mark Bridges
  • “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” – Jenny Beavan

BEST SOUND

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” (Paramount Pictures)

This year’s batch of films stands to be a fun group of Best Picture noms, some top-tier blockbusters and some that are both. Top of the heap comes “Top Gun: Maverick,” which blew audience’s ears out in IMAX to the tune of $1.4 billion worldwide. “Avatar: The Way of Water” could sweep in late and try to crash the party, especially given its epic length and focus on water settings. The third of my potential Best Picture nominees I see fitting here is “Babylon.” Two-time nominee Mildred Iatrou (“La La Land, “First Man”) and three-time nominee Steven Morrow (“A Star is Born,” ”Ford v Ferrari”) look to bring to life Golden Age Hollywood, from its extravagant parties to its elaborate film sets. Finally, WB smash-hits “The Batman” and “Elvis” each made the most of their respective set pieces. Twenty-two-time nominee and two-time winner Andy Nelson and Stuart Wilson – who has been nominated in six of the last 10 years and won for “1917”) are just two of the maestros behind Gotham City’s soundscape. Nelson also worked with 11-time nominee and three-time winner Michael Minkler to put audiences front row for the King of Rock and Roll’s greatest performance in Baz Luhrmann’s latest quasi-musical. Other pics to keep an eye on include “Bardo” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

Nominees:

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” – full nominees TBD
  • “Babylon” –  full nominees TBD
  • “The Batman” – full nominees TBD
  • “Elvis” – full nominees TBD
  • “Top Gun: Maverick” – full nominees TBD (WINNER)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Avatar: The Way of Water” (20th Century Studios)

Water is wet, and “Avatar” is winning this award with every critics group and industry awards body from December to March. Who gets to play runner-up? My safest bet there is for “The Batman,” which is the most-acclaimed DC Comics film in years and sported a clean blend of digital and practical effects under Oscar-winning VFX Supervisor Dan Lemmon (“The Jungle Book”) and Oscar-winning SFX Supervisor Dominic Tuohy (”1917”).

Two other comic book movies that stand to make the cut are Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” whose stunning trailer leads me to believe it’ll make up for the first film missing here in 2019, and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” whose predecessor was nominated in 2017. The last few films worth mentioning here are a little more uncertain for their own unique reasons. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” went outside the big VFX studio system and had a team of less than 10 artists create every effect seen in the film. Industry artists could pour love on this narrative or feel put off by their unorthodox approach, but the optimist in me says it will be the former. On the other hand, we have “Top Gun: Maverick,” which I am less inclined to say will get in because… it doesn’t really have much in the way of obvious effects? The subtlety may work against it. In the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Jordan Peele’s “Nope” to sneak in here for the way they terrifyingly brought an inventive alien design to life.

Nominees:

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” – full nominees TBD (WINNER)
  • “The Batman” – full nominees TBD
  • “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” – full nominees TBD
  • “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” – full nominees TBD
  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – full nominees TBD

BEST FILM EDITING

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” (Paramount Pictures)

This category is where most Best Picture hopefuls need to appear in order to solidify their claim. While “CODA” bucked the trend last year, we’re snapping right back to form with a showdown between the likes of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Babylon” and “The Fabelmans.”

“EEAAO” and its multiversal madness makes it the most obvious choice here, but “Babylon” is being cut by Tom Cross, who won the Oscar for Chazelle’s “Whiplash” and was nominated for “La La Land.” Spielberg’s legendary editor Michael Kahn is an eight-time nominee and three-time winner now teamed up with Sarah Broshar, although their snub last year for “West Side Story” could be reason to worry.

Ultimately, I’m sticking with the horse I’ve been riding for years now: when in doubt about Film Editing, look at who is winning Sound. “Top Gun: Maverick” editor Eddie Hamilton has been one of the best filmmakers in the action space for years now, between his work on “Mission: Impossible” and “Kingsman.” His crew had to sift through hundreds of hours of flight footage to devise the razor-sharp sequences we get in this film. Worth noting that “Maverick” is the most critically-acclaimed action flick since “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a film with a similarly daunting editing process that went on to win the Oscars for Film Editing and Sound, among others.

“Avatar” was nominated here in 2010, so look for “The Way of Water” to make a splash, and Íñarritu is reportedly editing “Bardo,” his first time editing a feature in 22 years. We’ve seen directors edit their own films to the tune of awards success before, with Alfonso Cuarón winning for “Roma” as the most-recent example.

Nominees:

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” – David Brenner, James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivkin & Ian Silverstein
  • “Babylon” – Tom Cross
  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – Paul Rogers
  • “The Fabelmans” – Sarah Broshar & Michael Kahn
  • “Top Gun: Maverick” – Eddie Hamilton (WINNER)

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

Daniel Gimènez Cacho in “BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” (Netflix)

This category continues to be one of the most exciting in recent years as the Academy continues to expand its membership and more recognition is being paid to non-English language films, such as “Cold War,” “Parasite” and “Drive My Car.”

Hell, outside of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the darling of members of the industry, film critics and cinephiles this year has been “RRR” out of India’s Tollywood. It remains to be seen if India will select it as its Oscar hopeful, but the passion around the film points to it as a potential winner. It would have to overcome the sky-high expectations for “BARDO,” which many expect to be in the Best Picture field, as well as a contender for Director, Original Screenplay and more. South Korean legend Park Chan-wook is returning with his first feature in six years, “Decision to Leave,” which was a Cannes Film Festival standout and could be the first of the filmmaker’s works to be recognized at the Oscars. I’m thinking we might see a good old-fashioned European scrum for the last couple slots between Belgium (Palme d’Or-nominee “Close”), Germany (a new adaptation of war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front”) and France (Venice official selection “Athena”).

Nominees:

  • “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany)
  • “BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” (Mexico) WINNER
  • “Close” (Belgium)
  • “Decision to Leave” (South Korea)
  • “RRR” (India)

Stay tuned for Johnny’s next round of 2023 Oscars predictions.

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Johnny Sobczak View All

Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."

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