A few years ago, one of the big political pundits decided he would try predicting that year’s Oscar winners, too.
That’s because scientific polls don’t work with the Academy’s roughly 10,000 members. Even if you had a reliable membership list, you can’t simply call Brad Pitt or text Jennifer Lawrence and ask, “Who are you voting for?” Or be sure they’d even tell you the truth.
Nor is looking at primaries the same thing as collating the results of earlier-in-the-season awards ceremonies. Most of those prizes are given out by critics — people who, to their annoyance, have no say in Oscar voting at all. Their picks give you an idea of who’s “in the conversation,” but that’s about it.
Then Oscar prognosticators face the challenge of trying to factor in other unknowns — politically correct motivations, sentimental urges, personal grudges.
Is the nominee a hard-working veteran who’s never had a bad word to say about the industry? She may have an edge. Or an inveterate New York intellectual who shuns Hollywood parties? Their road to a win may be a little steeper.
That said, here is my annual set of predictions — factoring in earlier important awards, popular favorites, Oscar history plus a whole lot of hunches — for, as they say, entertainment purposes only.
THE FIELD: Austin Butler, “Elvis”; Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”; Paul Mescal, “After Sun”; Bill Nighy, “Living.”
THE RACE: Butler had a surprise win at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards and picked up the Golden Globe prize for best performance in a drama; Colin Farrell won at the New York Film Critics Circle (for this and another film, “After Yang”) and got the Globe for best performance in a comedy. Nighy picked up Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s prize while Fraser was honored by Screen Actors Guild. Farrell’s buzz seems to have faded a bit over time, though, while Butler’s has improved (plus Hollywood loves musical biopics). Still, it would be foolish to count out early-favorite Fraser; he’s got a personal comeback story, it’s a makeup-heavy role (which always impresses voters) and he’s a genuinely decent guy.
WHO WILL WIN: Fraser
WHO SHOULD WIN: Fraser
THE FIELD: Cate Blanchett, “Tár”; Ana de Armas, “Blonde”; Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”; Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”; Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
THE RACE: Blanchett practically ran the table on this one, with accolades from NYFCC, LAFCA, BAFTA and the Golden Globe for drama; Yeoh got the prize from SAG and the Globe for comedy. Yet despite Blanchett’s numbers, this race may be closer than it appears. Blanchett has already won two Oscars; Yeoh, despite decades in the business, has never even been nominated. (And if she wins, she’ll be the first actress of Southeast Asian descent to do so.) Also, as in the Fraser race, pay attention not only to what win would be the most dramatic, but who scored before with SAG; actors comprise the largest voting bloc in the Academy, and they are particularly fond of colleagues who have been quietly working hard for years.
WHO WILL WIN: Yeoh
WHO SHOULD WIN: Blanchett
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
THE FIELD: Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Bryan Tyree Henry, “Causeway”; Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”; Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
THE RACE: Keoghan won at the BAFTA; Quan has won basically everything else, including the SAG, NYFCC and LAFCA awards, and a Golden Globe. No one else in this list has really registered (did you even hear about “Causeway”?). Also in Quan’s favor: He has been charming on the awards circuit, and has a compelling comeback story. Honestly, it would be an upset if he didn’t win — because, in the end, for many voters, the deciding factor becomes “Who do I really want to see standing up there, holding that statue, giving a tearful acceptance speech?”
WHO WILL WIN: Quan
WHO SHOULD WIN: Keoghan
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
THE FIELD: Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”; Hong Chau, “The Whale”; Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
THE RACE: Condon won at the BAFTA; Bassett won at the Golden Globes; Curtis won at SAG. New York critics gave their prize to Keke Palmer, who is not in the running here, for “Nope”; L.A. critics praised Dolly De Leon (for “Triangle of Sadness”), another Oscar no-show. That should work out to a three-way tie, but Condon remains an outsider next to veterans Bassett and Curtis. Will voters be swayed by an urge to award at least one Black performer in a year when they have been underrepresented? Or will they be won over by Curtis’ enormous likability (and willingness to go frumpy onscreen)? Flip a coin.
WHO WILL WIN: Curtis
WHO SHOULD WIN: Curtis
THE FIELD: Todd Field, “Tár”; Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Ruben Ostland, “Triangle of Sadness”; Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans.”
THE RACE: All over the place. BAFTA gave its prize to Edward Berger (for “All Quiet on the Western Front”), not nominated by the Academy; the NYFCC gave its to the director of “RRR,” S.S. Rajamouli, another no-show here. Field has won recognition from LAFCA; Spielberg from the Golden Globes: and Kwan and Scheinert (“The Daniels,” to most) from the Directors Guild. Yet traditionally voters are most impressed by A., a movie they can’t imagine having made themselves and B., a movie that leaves them feeling better at the end than at the beginning. Only the Daniels’ picture checks both boxes.
WHO WILL WIN: Kwan and Scheinert
WHO SHOULD WIN: Field.
THE FIELD: “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”; “Triangle of Sadness”; “Women Talking.”
THE RACE: Another one full of contenders. “All Quiet on the Western Front” picked up best film at BAFTA, which gave its Best British Film award to “The Banshees of Inisherin”; “Inisherin” also won the Best Comedy prize at the Globes, which gave its Best Drama one to “The Fabelmans.” LAFCA shared the wealth as well, announcing a tie between “Tár” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” while NYFCC saved all its love for “Tár.” But “Everything Everywhere All at Once” picked up two other big endorsements: Best Production from the Producers Guild and Best Ensemble from SAG. And it is bolstered by a strong showing in lots of other categories.
WHAT WILL WIN: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “Tár”
The 95th annual Academy Awards show will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, March 12, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting. The show will air on ABC television, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Visit oscars.org.
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