You might not remember much about last year’s Academy Awards other than that infamous slap. Oy, the slap. This year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel’s main job will be to guide the ceremony to a slap-free conclusion in under four hours.
Meanwhile, for the first time in my personal Oscar-movie-watching-history, I was unable to get through the award front-runner… twice. I saw a total of 44 minutes of Everything Everywhere All at Once which is nominated for 11 Oscars, more than any other film. According to the website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of viewers liked it, which means I’m in the 17% who did not. So, the following predictions, opinions, etc. are based on this caveat.
Best Supporting Actor - Ke Huy Quan is the closest thing to a lock this year. He has already scored a slew of statues for playing the husband in EEAAO, and from what I did see, he was very good. Quan is this year’s comeback kid, he literally played the kid in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, then appeared in The Goonies, before disappearing for almost four decades. Unfortunately, that means my choice, Brendan Gleeson, who was just about perfect in The Banshees of Insherin, will go home empty-handed.
Best Supporting Actress - After a couple of surprise wins in one of the other 320 awards shows, Jamie Lee Curtis might now be the favorite for EEAAO. Curtis rivals Angela Bassett, nominated for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as the emotional choice for this award. And I will be pleased if either of these veterans goes home a winner. I just might be a tad more pleased if Kerry Condon wins for her subdued and scene-stealing role as the voice of reason in Banshees.
Best Actress - This is a two-woman race between Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh. Two-time Oscar winner Blanchett is magnificent as a conductor whose past catches up with her in Tár. Yeoh has the advantage of being more overdue, and by voting for Yeoh, the Academy has the opportunity to name its first Asian Best Actress winner. Michelle Williams, a.k.a. “The other Michelle,” made a strategic blunder by putting herself in this category instead of supporting actress for The Fabelmans, where her showy role might have carried her to gold.
Best Actor - For the first time since 1936, all five actors in this category are first-time nominees, and there is no clear front-runner making this the most interesting category of the night. My guess says Brendan Fraser who is also on the comeback trail, will win for his transformative (literally) role in The Whale. However, don’t rule out Austin Butler who eclipsed some weak writing in Elvis and maybe Colin Farrell who delivered the performance of his career in Banshees. Bill Nighy (Living) and Paul Mescal (Aftersun) are the other newbies who round out this category.
Best Original Screenplay - Belfast was nominated for seven awards last year and only won for original screenplay which it absolutely deserves to win. Ironically, it’s another Irish film that should and will win this award this year. If Martin McDonagh doesn’t win Best Original screenplay for Banshees, you will hear Amanda scream like, well you know.
Best Adapted Screenplay - I read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque when I was 19 and have never forgotten it. Edward Berger, the writer/director of the latest screen adaptation of the novel about a German soldier’s brutal experience in World War I, deserves his award over his closest competitor Sarah Pauley for the smart but stagey screenplay for Women Talking.
Best Director - It took two guys named Daniel to direct EEAAO and with all the time jumps, fight scenes and general chaos, they had all four hands full. As I’m not big on rooting for people whose work gives me headaches, I would prefer to see Stephen Spielberg win his third Oscar for The Fabelmans, a shining example of a directing masterclass and higher praise, a movie that did not feel like 2 hours and 31 minutes. Equally deserving is Berger for the majestic All Quiet.
Best Picture - This is the biggest award of the night, but it is often also the most compromised and controversial. If you asked your average moviegoer, Top Gun: Maverick would win, considering many credit it, and Tom Cruise as basically saving Hollywood. Avatar: The Way of Water also made an insane amount of money, but like the original Avatar, can only hope for technical Oscars. I’m pretty sure EEAAO will win this and the more deserving candidate, All Quiet will have to be content with Best International Feature, which it most definitely will win.
Many of the above movies are available on streaming services or are in limited re-release on the big screen. My top three recommendations are Banshees of Inisherin (HBO/MAX), All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix) and Tár (Peacock). The Academy Awards will be televised on ABC on March 12 at 8 pm.