WASHINGTON — Ahead of the 95th Academy Awards on March 12, Associated Press Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle share their predictions for a ceremony with some sure things and some major question marks.
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”; “Women Talking.”
COYLE: I can't help feeling like this best picture field reflects our strange, jumbled movie world. Big-budget blockbusters, indie hits, acclaimed arthouse contenders mostly watched on video on demand, a German Netflix film and whatever it is, exactly, that you call “Elvis.” Little in this race has gone as expected. Many of the once-presumed favorites — “Bardo,” “Empire of Light," “White Noise” — fizzled. Steven Spielberg's “The Fabelmans” had the air of a sure-thing, but audiences didn't show up — a strike against any contender but a fatal blow for a Spielberg movie. Academy members, seemingly, have developed less of a taste for Oscar bait and instead thrown their support behind a movie that never had any designs on the Academy Awards: “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” In an odd, mixed-up year, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's blissfully chaotic film has turned into an improbable Oscar runaway, cleaning up at all the predictive guild awards. This year, the road to best picture is paved with googly eyes.
BAHR: I usually wish for chaos when a best picture winner is locked – but “Everything Everywhere” is about as chaotic (and inspired) a best picture winner as you can get. This would also make two years in a row that best picture went to films that premiered outside of the Cannes/Fall Festival stranglehold (“EEAAO” debuted at SXSW, “CODA” at Sundance). If anything is going to shake up the industry and the awards industrial complex, it’s something like this ( and Andrea Riseborough ).
BAHR: So, it’s down to Lydia Tár and Evelyn Wang. This has been a race between Blanchett and Yeoh for most of the season. Both were commanding and dynamic in their roles — Blanchett as the genius conductor whose high-flying status in the classical music world begins to unravel around her and Yeoh as the Chinese American laundromat owner who has to save the multiverse, inhabiting different possible versions of herself from movie star to rock along the way. And both have been well decorated and celebrated this season. That their full character names are fully part of the cultural consciousness already speaks volumes. After the Screen Actors Guild Awards, it seems Yeoh is the likely victor, which will be a historic win with wide-ranging significance.
COYLE: This is indeed between Yeoh and Blanchett. And as much as I thought of Blanchett's performance and as much as I'm kinda scared of what Lydia Tár might do to me for saying this, this is Yeoh's year. For both her cosmic but grounded performance and for her butt-kicking career, Yeoh is more than deserved and will triumph.
Nominees: Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”; Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Austin Butler, “Elvis”; Bill Nighy, “Living”; Paul Mescal, “Aftersun.”
COYLE: The only thing I feel sure of in this category is that I've started to feel a little bad for Austin Butler. All the he's-still-talking-like-Elvis jokes were fun at first, but now I'm worried an appealing young actor is going to get permanently typecast. Butler could very well win, though. And Farrell might even be able to pull off an upset with the much-loved “The Banshees of Inisherin.” But I'm leaning toward Fraser here, after his SAG win. He has two powerful Oscar narratives going for him : a comeback story and a massive physical transformation. Wait, didn't I say Oscar bait was out this year? Oh, well. I'm still glad to see Mescal in this mix for the staggering “Aftersun.”
BAHR: Austin Butler will be just fine (I still think of him as Tex anyway) and who knows what voice he’ll break out for “Dune 2." After SAG, it seemed clearer that this year the industry is looking to honor the journeymen over the relative newcomers. And you’re right, Fraser fits the narrative — a perfect comeback story hobbled only by the divisiveness of the movie itself (another reason why it could still be Farrell’s). Then again, Nighy could also be this year’s Anthony Hopkins.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”; Hong Chau, “The Whale”; Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
BAHR: Angela Bassett seemed set to “do the thing,” with Kerry Condon in the wings as a possible sub, and probably still will. But then Jamie Lee Curtis had to go and make things more interesting when she won at the Screen Actors Guild (and gave a great speech ).
COYLE: This had been Bassett's all the way before Curtis, Nepo baby supreme, had her magnificent moment at the SAGs. But I'm going to stick with Bassett. It could be that academy members just can't bring themselves to vote for a Marvel movie role. But Bassett gave such a powerhouse performance in “Wakanda Forever” and is overdue for her Oscar moment.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”; Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”; Brendan Gleeson, “Banshees of Inisherin”; Barry Keoghan, “Banshees of Inisherin”; Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
COYLE: Finally, an acting lock. Quan is assured of taking this, and it should be one of the most stirring moments of the ceremony. It's been literally decades since the former child actor of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Goonies” had a notable role in a movie. The film industry should probably be asking itself some hard questions about how that could happen for an actor as endearing as Quan. But as far as absolution goes, you could do a lot worse than hand Quan an Academy Award.
BAHR: The big question is what Hollywood will do with Quan after the win. The industry has a way of patting itself on the back for feel-good moments like this and Troy Kotsur’s last year and then moving on. Let’s hope Quan’s inbox is already flooded with scripts and offers.
Nominees: “Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”; Todd Field, “Tár”; Ruben Östlund, “Triangle of Sadness.”
BAHR: Awards history would suggest that The Daniels, Kwan and Scheinert, have this one locked after the Directors Guild win. At this point they’re the safe bet. But that’s not to deny the fact that their win would also be an exciting choice for the industry to celebrate the two 35-year-olds’ second film with their branch’s highest honor. It would be a win for original storytelling, diverse voices and just a case for just taking big, weird swings. Still, there’s a voice in my head saying that Spielberg, who has somehow only won best director twice, could be a wild card.
COYLE: This had once seemed a certainty for Spielberg who, after one of the most celebrated careers in movie history, finally phoned home with “The Fabelmans.” And unlike some previous years, he's worked the campaign trail, too. But I think the Daniels — each of whom are less than half the age of Spielberg — have emerged as the likely winners. They would be only the third directing duo to win, following Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise for “West Side Story” and Joel and Ethan Coen for “No Country for Old Men.”
Nominees: “All That Breathes’; “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”; “Fire of Love”; “A House Made of Splinters”; “Navalny.”
COYLE: I'm still smarting a little that Margaret Brown's “Descendant,” a living oral history of a documentary, didn't make it into this field. But it's a strong group, including the tenderly lyrical “All That Breathes” and the smoldering romance of “Fire of Love.” But I think the most likely to win films are Daniel Roher's “Navalny,” about the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Laura Poitras' “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” about the groundbreaking photographer Nan Goldin and her crusade against the the Sackler pharma family. I give the slight edge to “Navalny,” a film with obvious political poignance.
BAHR: Finally, some minor disagreement! I’m placing my bet on the Poitras. It won the Golden Lion over “Tár” and “The Banshees of Inisherin” at the Venice Film Festival, where the academy had a major presence. Poitras’ film, both intimate and epic in weaving together Goldin’s life, art and activism, is on another level. And she’s won before.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Nominees: “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany); “Argentina, 1985” (Argentina); “Close” (Belgium); “EO” (Poland); “The Quiet Girl” (Ireland).”
BAHR: There’s not a bad choice in the lot (and so many great ones that didn’t make the cut...looking at you “Saint Omer” ), but while there’s a lot of late-game love for Ireland’s small, heart-wrenching “The Quiet Girl,” Germany’s visceral war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” has probably had this category in the bag for some time. Edward Berger’s film, the first ever German-language adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, hit a nerve and transcended the international category.
COYLE: “All Quiet on the Western Front" is a lock. With a commanding nine nominations, it's maybe even a dark horse for best picture. But the international film award will be a bit anticlimactic. Some of the best movies of the year — Park Chan-wook's “Decision to Leave,” Alice Diop's “Saint Omer" and, above all, “ No Bears” by the recently imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi — ought to have been in this bunch.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”; “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”; “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”; “The Sea Beast”; “Turning Red.”
COYLE: This is one of the easiest categories to call. “Guillermo del Toro's “Pinocchio” — not, repeat not Robert Zemeckis' ”Pinocchio" — will take this easily. For me, the film's fascist allegory was far too forced. But it's a beautifully textured creation, and affection for del Toro among academy voters couldn't run deeper. A shame, though, for Marcel. But as the mollusk would say, “You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take."
BAHR: It’s del Toro’s for sure. And it's ok: However cliche, it really seems like the Marcel team is having a great time just being nominated.