Dust off your glad rags, the Oscars are almost upon us. On Sunday (March 12), the 95th Academy Awards will take place in Los Angeles with what is the closest race in years. Categories that seemed dead certs weeks ago are now wide open, as favourites look nervously over their shoulders. So who will be celebrating and who will be commiserating? Here are our picks…
The favourite: Everything Everywhere All At Once – surely, in every alternate reality, this multiverse of madness takes the top gong.
The dark horse: All Quiet On The Western Front – the WWI drama’s BAFTA win could yet foreshadow an Oscar shock.
The rest: Top Gun: Maverick, Women Talking, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Fabelmans, The Banshees of Inisherin, Triangle of Sadness, Elvis, Tár
And the Oscar goes to… who the hell knows? Those who saw Steven Spielberg’s auto-fiction The Fabelmans triumph at its Toronto Film Festival screening, where it won the oft-telling People’s Choice Award, felt it was his to lose. Likewise, Martin McDonagh’s tale of an Emerald Isle friendship gone awry, The Banshees of Inisherin, which took Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. And then there were those who felt Top Gun: Maverick would snag it for basically saving cinema last year, thanks to its colossal box office. But it’s the Daniels’ multiverse saga Everything Everywhere All At Once that has grown in popularity throughout awards season. After winning the PGA (Producer’s Guild of America) award for Best Film, that surely puts it now as the unassailable frontrunner. But don’t discount Netflix’s All Quiet on the Western Front; it’s much admired throughout Hollywood and comparisons to the Ukraine-Russia conflict may well prey on voters’ minds.
The favourite: Brendan Fraser – Because the ‘Brenaissance’ is impossible to ignore, especially for this once-in-a-lifetime role.
The dark horse: Austin Butler – he won the BAFTA for his astounding Elvis, so could yet be the King.
The rest: Colin Farrell, Bill Nighy, Paul Mescal
Once upon a time, when he claimed Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, this was Colin Farrell’s to lose for his poignant performance in Banshees as a simple Irish farmer losing his best friend. But Hollywood loves a comeback story, and Brendan Fraser’s transcendent turn as an overweight literature teacher in The Whale has seen the actor embraced once more. That he also took the significant SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award would indicate that his peers are right behind him. But Austin Butler may yet pull off a first win for his stupendous hip-wiggling take on Elvis Presley. And in the year that the singer’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley passed away, the sentiment may carry through to Butler. Sadly, that means Bill Nighy, for his brilliant turn as a dying bureaucrat in Living and Paul Mescal, for his sensitive father in Aftersun, are just there to enjoy the canapes.
The favourite: Cate Blanchett – the imperious actress has nearly swept the lot for her conductor in Tár.
The dark horse: Michelle Yeoh – the rising tide for Everything Everywhere could just see Yeoh sneak it.
The rest: Michelle Williams, Ana de Armas, Andrea Riseborough
Just a few weeks ago, when Blanchett took the BAFTA for Best Actress, you’d have put your house on her winning a third Oscar – to nestle on her sideboard next to those she won for The Aviator and Blue Jasmine – for her gargantuan turn as conductor Lydia Tár. But there’s a lot of love for the 60-year-old Michelle Yeoh, who has yet to win an Oscar, and her triumph at the recent SAG awards hints that she’s got a chance of overhauling Blanchett. The other three look set to be left in the rear-view mirror, despite Williams (as Spielberg’s eccentric mother-figure in The Fabelmans) and de Armas (as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde) both excelling. British actress Andrea Riseborough faces a slightly awkward night on the red carpet after her nomination for To Leslie was steeped in controversy following a celebrity-backed campaign that swept her into the Best Actress race.
Best Supporting Actor
The favourite: Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere’s ultra-loveable Quan is surely the Oscars’ one sure thing this year.
The dark horse: Barry Keoghan – Keoghan’s Banshees turn captured BAFTA hearts and could yet do the same with Academy voters.
The rest: Judd Hirsch, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Tyree Henry
Nobody has been enjoying awards season more than Ke Huy Quan. His turn as the goofy husband in Everything Everywhere brought him right back centre-stage after years in the wilderness, following pre-teen roles in The Goonies and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. His genuine humility has been infectious, and after making history as the first Asian male to win a SAG Best Supporting, it seems unthinkable that he won’t collect the Academy Award in mid-March. The only blip was the BAFTAs, where Banshees’ Barry Keoghan took the prize for his turn as a sad-sack village idiot – though many felt that was a home-win in lieu of Oscar glory. The remainder – Causeway’s excellent Brian Tyree Henry, as a troubled garage mechanic; Keoghan’s Banshees co-star Gleeson, as a fiddle-playing maniac; and The Fabelmans’ Judd Hirsch, as a beloved uncle – would all be worthy winners on another year. But this is Ke Huy Quan’s to lose.
Best Supporting Actress
The favourite: Angela Bassett – the veteran star rocks in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and has a career that deserves rewarding.
The dark horse: Jamie Lee Curtis – another hugely popular Everything Everywhere alumni, whose Oscar-less career is every bit as rich as Bassett’s.
The rest: Hong Chau, Kerry Condon, Stephanie Hsu
Another category that seemed destined to be heading in one direction until recently. Angela Bassett is still the one to beat for her regal turn in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which would make her the first ever person to take home an acting Oscar for performing in a Marvel movie. But since losing the BAFTA to Banshees’ Kerry Condon (who is marvellous as Farrell’s long-suffering sister) and missing out on the all-important SAG award to Jamie Lee Curtis (who has a ball as the grouchy tax inspector), it could be that she’s losing momentum at that all-important time. Especially as these are the litmus test awards, voted for chiefly by her fellow actors, in the run-up to the Oscars. Sadly, the best performance of the five – Hong Chau’s waspish nurse in The Whale – looks set to be overlooked, while Everything Everywhere’s Stephanie Hsu is likely to be the only one from that film’s ensemble that misses out.
The favourite: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert – those innovative Daniels boys are Everything Everywhere right now.
The dark horse: Steven Spielberg – sentiment for the world’s most successful director may yet tip the scales.
The rest: Todd Field, Martin McDonagh, Ruben Östlund
The Academy could yet reward Steven Spielberg for his most personal film, The Fabelmans – especially as movies about moviemaking always play well. But Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert already picked up the DGA (Director’s Guild of America) award, a sure-fire indicator that Everything Everywhere is the awards season’s unstoppable train. And who could begrudge them, given their film features a dildo as a weapon? Banshees’ Martin McDonagh is likely to be rewarded elsewhere, in the Best Original Screenplay category, where he will also battle it out with Triangle of Sadness’ Ruben Östlund (although you feel his reward came in Cannes last year, with a second Palme d’Or of his career). Todd Field will likely be left in the dust for his brilliant, operatic, controversial Tár – easily one of the best films of the past year, but also far too challenging for the usually conservative Academy.