Final Predictions for the 95th Academy Award Nominations
[Note: The following article features my predictions for the 95th Academy Award nominations. Click here to see my preview of the ceremony and predictions in all 23 categories.]
On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will unveil their nominations for the 95th Annual Academy Awards. The awards season to date has been more unpredictable than usual, ensuring a number of surprises. Here, I take a deep dive into the races for the top 8 awards.
The only thing most people remember about last year’s Academy Awards was the shocking moment when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on the live telecast after a mean-spirited joke about Smith’s wife, Jada. This is unfortunate for two reasons. First, that infamous moment was wildly over-hyped and over-analyzed. Second, there was a lot notable about last year’s ceremony other than that display of violence. For example, Ariana DeBose became the 1st openly queer person to win an acting Oscar, Jane Campion became only the 3rd woman in history to win the Best Director Oscar, Smith became only the 5th black man to win Best Actor, Kenneth Branagh finally won an Oscar after gaining the distinction of being nominated in more categories than any individual in history, and CODA became the 1st film to debut on a streaming service and the least-nominated film in 90 years to win Best Picture. The ceremony, co-hosted by the unlikely trio of Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall, was pure chaos, even outside of the slap heard around the world. But it certainly wasn’t boring. (Click here to read my review of last year’s ceremony and more about my take on the winners.)
Not much is known about this year’s Oscar’s ceremony except that it will be hosted by late night host Jimmy Kimmel for the 3rd time, it will be produced by the powerhouse duo of Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner (who have 23 Emmys between them for producing televised events), and it will air on ABC on Sunday, March 12. More information will surely be coming soon after the nominations for the ceremony are announced this Tuesday, January 24. (Click here to learn how to watch the nomination announcement.)
There are plenty of hints as to who will be nominated across the 23 Oscar categories this year. Some of those hints come from industry buzz, media coverage, and box office receipts. Some of the hints come from our knowledge of Academy’s past voting behavior (although, admittedly, this is becoming increasingly complex as the Academy has significantly enlarged and diversified its membership in recent years). But most of the hints come from the many, many awards-granting bodies that precede the Oscars each year (and create what feels like an interminable awards season).
Beginning in late 2022, dozens of regional and national critics groups named their picks for the best in film over the past year. In general, critics associations are relatively poor predictors of the Oscars, highlighting the discrepancy in taste between film critics and Academy votes. Curiously, the one exception is the Critics’ Choice Awards, which usually aligns much more closely with the Academy than with other critics’ organizations. The Oscar race does not typically truly start taking shape until we see the nominations of the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, and a quartet of high profile guilds. At this point, we have heard at least something from each group.
Below, I discuss each of the awards and then I move in to a discussion about what their picks indicate about the Oscar race.
- The 80th Golden Globe Awards. A long-running institution, the Golden Globes are voted upon by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a small and somewhat mysterious group of journalists who cover Hollywood for foreign media outlets. They had always been known to host a great party and put on a fun telecast, but over the years started to be taken very seriously due to their ability to presage the Oscars. Then they experienced a spectacular controversy about the rampant corruption and lack of diversity in their organization, which led to a huge backlash that ended up with them canceling the televised ceremony last year. This year, they returned with a low-rated, poorly reviewed ceremony that aired on January 10th. In the last 25 years, the Golden Globes have converged with the Oscars on the winner of Best Picture 14 times, Best Director 15 times, Best Actor 17 times, and Best Actress 21 times. (Important note: At the Globes, separate awards for Picture, Actor, and Actress are given to dramatic and musical/comedy films at the Globes). The full list of this year’s Golden Globe nominees and winners can be found here.
- The 28th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards. This ceremony is run by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which is the largest organization of film and television critics in the United States (with a current membership of around 250). They tend to have more nominations per category than the Oscars, inevitably resulting in substantial divergence between this ceremony and the Oscars. Nevertheless, in the last 25 years they have converged with the Oscars on the winner of Best Picture 15 times, Best Director 19 times, Best Actor 17 times, and Best Actress 14 times. This year’s nominations were announced on December 14 and the ceremony was held on January 15. The full list of Critics’ Choice nominees and winners can be found here.
- The 76th BAFTA Film Awards. The British equivalent to the Academy Awards, this organization has special importance because it has significant membership overlap with the Academy Awards. (In contrast, no Critics’ Choice or Globe voters are members of the Academy and only a small subgroup of SAG members are.) They have undergone extraordinary changes in the last couple of years to help increase the diversity of their nominees and these changes to voting make it unclear whether it remains as reliable predictor of the Oscars as it has been in the past. In the last 25 years, BAFTA has converged with the Oscars on the winner of Best Picture 11 times, Best Director 13 times, Best Actor 17 times, and Best Actress 16 times. The nominees were announced on January 19 and the ceremony is scheduled for February 19. The full list of BAFTA nominees can be found here.
- The 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. This relatively young awards show is notable in that it is voted on by the nearly 120,000 members of SAG-AFTRA (the actors’ union), a small but influential subset of whom are also members of the Oscar-voting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the last 25 years, SAG have converged with the Oscars on the winner of Best Actor 19 times and Best Actress 18 times. (Of note, the SAG Awards only award actors; the closest thing they have to a Best Picture award is Best Ensemble, which has converged with the Oscar for Best Picture 13 of the past 25 years.) The nominations were announced on January 11 and the ceremony will be held on February 26. The full list of SAG nominees can be found here.
- The Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and Writers Guild Awards. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) recently announced their nominations for Best Director. In the last 25 years, the DGA and the Academy converged on the winner an impressive 21 times. The nominees can be found here and the winners will be announced on February 18. Likewise, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) recently announced their nominations for Best Producer (the equivalent to Best Picture). In the last 25 years, the PGA and the Academy converged on the winner 17 times. The nominees can be found here and the winners will be announced on February 25. The Writers Guild of America will announce their nominees for Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay on January 25 and the winners will be held on March 5. To understand the importance of the guild awards, it is important to remember that when it comes to the Oscars, the nominees are voted for by members of the corresponding Academy branch (e.g., members of the acting branch vote for the acting categories, members of the writing branch vote for the screenplay categories) whereas the winners are voted on by the whole Academy membership regardless of branch. Even though the Directors, Producers, and Writers Guilds have far more members than their craft’s corresponding branches within the Academy, knowing what the broader group voted for in the guild-specific races provides some clues about what the subset of them who are Academy members will vote for.
So why should you listen to me when it comes to Oscar predictions? Well, I have done pretty well in the past. Last year I correctly predicted 34 of the 45 nominees in the top 8 categories (Best Picture, Best Director, the 4 acting categories, and the 2 screenplay categories). At 76%, this marked my weakest showing in the past 5 years, as the accuracy ratings of the prior years averaged in the mid-80s. I also did quite well with last year’s winners, where I correctly guessed 20 out of the 23 categories (87%).
Below I cover the main 8 races (Best Picture, Best Director, the 4 acting categories, and the 2 screenplay categories). I provide a brief analysis of the race followed by my predictions about who the likely nominees are in order of likelihood, with those in bold being my final set of predicted nominees. Because I am predicting more shocks than usual, I have been bolder in my predictions this year. I am predicting some presumed safe-bets to be snubbed and some out-of-left-field shockers. I may be wrong on a few, but what’s the fun in predicting only the safe bets?
I’ll be back on Tuesday morning with my reactions to the nominations.
Last year, the Best Picture race returned to having 10 nominees after a decade in which there were a variable number of slots determined by a relatively complex algorithm. This year’s Best Picture contenders can be batched into 5 groups. First, there are the absolute locks. Based on their performance in the awards season thus far, it would be an industry-rocking shock if any of the following 4 missed — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s absurdist, genre-defying comedy-drama Everything Everywhere All At Once, Martin McDonagh’s Ireland-set black comedy The Banshees of Inisherin, Todd Field’s complex character study Tár, and Baz Luhrmann’s crowd-pleasing musical biopic Elvis. The second batch contains films that are considered “sure bets” but are in a slightly weaker position than the aforementioned 4. This group includes Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama The Fabelmans, Joseph Kosinski’s box office-shattering action sequel Top Gun: Maverick, and James Cameron’s equally box office-shattering science fiction sequel Avatar: The Way of Water. I demoted all three from “lock” status after recent poor showings at the BAFTAs, but nevertheless expect them to get in here. The third category includes a pair of films that recently received a surge of support — Edward Berger’s World War I epic All Quiet on the Western Front and Darren Aronofsky’s intimate character study The Whale. The former’s astonishing showing at the BAFTAs and the latter’s inclusion in the PGA’s nominations along with its strong box office indicate a swell of support. The fourth category includes the films gunning for the 10th spot. The top contenders include Damien Chazelle’s divisive Old Hollywood epic Babylon, Sarah Polley’s searing drama Women Talking, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical action film The Woman King, S. S. Rajamouli’s Indian action epic RRR, Ruben Östlund’s dark comedy Triangle of Sadness, Rian Johnson’s murder mystery sequel Glass Onion, and Ryan Coogler’s Marvel sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. I give the edge to Babylon because of its well-liked cast and crew, its likelihood to be nominated in numerous technical categories, and its Academy-friendly subject matter. The fifth category includes a slew of films that have a non-zero chance of making it in, but whose inclusion would be a major shock.
- Everything Everywhere All At Once
- The Banshees of Inisherin
- The Fabelmans
- Top Gun: Maverick
- Avatar: The Way of Water
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- The Whale
- Triangle of Sadness
- Women Talking
- The Woman King
- Glass Onion
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- Decision to Leave
- Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
Based on the way awards season has played out so far, it seems clear that three slots will be taken by the directors of Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh), and Tár (Todd Field). It also seems likely that Baz Lurhmann will get his first-ever Best Director nomination for Elvis given the overall love for the film. (He was shockingly omitted in 2001 for his Best Picture-nominated classic Moulin Rouge.) A week ago, Steven Spielberg destined to be in the final 5, but the shocking under-performance of The Fabelmans at the BAFTAs made several folks wonder if he could be snubbed. I think he gets in and we will have a fairly predictable final five, but it’s worth noting that a disproportionate share of Oscar nomination shockers come in this category (e.g., the omission of presumed front-runners Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for 2012’s Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, respectively and the omission of Denis Villeneuve for Dune last year). So who could be the surprise 5th nominee? Well just about anybody, but the most likely candidate is James Cameron, who seems like a lock for Avatar: The Way of Water until you realize he missed key nominations at the DGA and BAFTA Awards and that there is a key precedent for his omission (i.e. Peter Jackson missing out on a nomination for the second Lord of the Rings film despite it showing up in Best Picture). Other strong contenders for the 5th slot include Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick), Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front), Sarah Polley, (Women Talking), Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King), Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave), Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness), and S. S. Rajamouli (RRR). Unfortuantely, it seems likely that it will be an all-male lineup.
- Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
- Todd Field, Tár
- Baz Lurhmann, Elvis
- Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
- James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water
- Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick
- Edward Berger, All Quiet on the Western Front
- Sarah Polley, Women Talking
- Gina Prince-Bythewood The Woman King
- S. S. Rajamouli, RRR
- Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave
- Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness
- Darren Aronofsky, The Whale
- Damien Chazelle, Babylon
Few would disagree with the contention that this race is between never-nominated, Malaysian-born film legend Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once and 7-time Oscar nominated Australian-born film legend Cate Blanchett for Tár. Neither has missed a nomination anywhere and both have won high-profile televised awards. The rest of the category is notably harder to predict. The only other actress who has been nominated at the “Big Four” awards (the Globes, Critics’ Choice, SAG, and BAFTAs) is 4-time nominee Viola Davis for The Woman King. Some are predicting that she will be omitted citing the apparent lack of enthusiasm for her film and the fact that nearly every year someone who was nominated in the “Big Four” gets head-scratchingly snubbed. But I think she makes it in for her history-making 5th nomination. (No other black actress has ever received more than 3 nominations.) Likely to join her is Danielle Deadwyler, whose searing turn as the grieving mother of a slain teen in Till had critics raving. So who gets the 5th spot? Conventional wisdom says Ana de Armas for her turn as Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in Blonde given her nominations at the Globes, SAG, and BAFTA, not to mention the Academy’s love of a biopic. Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I suspect that the film’s immense controversy regarding its graphic, exploitative, and reckless storytelling will prevent her from getting in. Then there’s the curious case of Michelle Williams. The 4-time nominee seemed like a lock to win Best Supporting Actress for The Fabelmans early on in the season before the film’s backers curiously announced that they would push her in Best Actress. She was nominated at the Globes and Critics’ Choice, but then was snubbed by SAG and BAFTA. She could get omitted at the Oscars, she could show up here, or she could show up in Best Supporting Actress despite how the studio is pushing her. (Previous examples of surprise category switches by Oscar voters include Kate Winslet for The Reader, Keisha Castle-Hughes for Whale Rider, and LaKeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah). It seems almost assured that the final 5 will be comprised of some combination of these 6 women, but there are other contenders with a shot. These include Andrea Riseborough, who has received a groundswell of support from some very high-profile Academy members in recent weeks for her turn in the little-seen indie To Leslie.
- Cate Blanchett, Tár
- Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Danielle Deadwyler, Till
- Viola Davis, The Woman King
- Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
- Ana de Armas, Blonde
- Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
- Margot Robbie, Babylon
- Emma Thompson, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
- Olivia Colman, Empire of Light
As has often been the case in recent years, the Best Actor race is significantly more boring and less competitive than its female counterpart. We seem to have a trio of “locks” in the form of Brendan Fraser for his turn as a morbidly obese man attempting to reconnect with his daughter in the character study The Whale, Austin Butler’s turn as music icon Elvis Presley in Elvis, and Colin Farrell’s turn as a simple Irish farmer in The Banshees of Inisherin. The 4th spot seems likely to go to Bill Nighy for his turn as a man facing a fatal illness in Living. The 5th spot could go to, well, just about anyone it seems. For a while, many thought Tom Cruise would get his long-awaited 4th Oscar nomination for Top Gun: Maverick, but he has only shown up at the Critics’ Choice Awards so far, indicating a lack of support for an acting nomination for the mega-star. Other strong contenders include indie darlings Paul Mescal for Aftersun and Jeremy Pope for The Inspection. And with that last spot so wide open, we can’t count out SAG nominee Adam Sandler for The Hustle, BAFTA nominee Darryl McCormack for Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, and Golden Globe nominees Diego Calva for Babylon, Daniel Craig for Glass Onion, Raph Fiennes for The Menu, Hugh Jackman for The Son, and Adam Driver for White Noise. And then there’s Gabriel Labelle for The Fabelmans, Tom Hanks for surprise box office hit A Man Called Otto, and Felix Kammerer for All Quiet on the Western Front.
- Austin Butler, Elvis
- Brendan Fraser, The Whale
- Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
- Bill Nighy, Living
- Paul Mescal, Aftersun
- Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick
- Jeremy Pope, The Inspection
- Raph Fiennes, The Menu
- Gabrielle Labelle, The Fabelmans
- Felix Kammerer, All Quiet on the Western Front
- Tom Hanks, A Man Called Otto
- Diego Calva, Babylon
- Daniel Craig, Glass Onion
- Hugh Jackman, The Son
- Adam Driver, White Noise
- Darryl McCormack, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
This is a category that is traditionally ripe for surprises (e.g., last year when presumed front-runner Caitríona Balfe was snubbed in favor of her presumed long-shot co-star Judi Dench for Belfast). Given how wildly stacked this category is with worthy nominees, it is very likely we will see a surprise here. So far, a trio of actresses has been nominated at the “Big Four” and thus seem likely to be nominated here. They are previous nominee Angela Bassett for her turn as a grieving queen in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Kerry Condon for her turn as Colin Farrell’s compassionate and level-headed sister in The Banshees of Inisherin, and Jamie Lee Curtis for her turn as a cold-hearted IRS auditor in Everything Everywhere All At Once. I would say that the first 2 are locked in but the 3rd is vulnerable given the fact that she has to contend against her co-star Stephanie Hsu, who gave a much more substantive and critically acclaimed performance. Of course, they could both get in — which is what I’m predicting. Equally likely as Hsu are Dolly De Leon for Triangle of Sadness and Hong Chau for The Whale. Hot on their heels are Janelle Monae for Glass Onion, Carey Mulligan for She Said, and Nina Hoss for Tár. Then there’s possibility that Michelle Williams is moved to supporting by a large swath of voters for The Fabelmans (which feels increasingly likely) or one of the spectacular members of the Women Talking ensemble (e.g., Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy) makes it in.
- Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
- Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Dolly De Leon, Triangle of Sadness
- Hong Chau, The Whale
- Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
- Carey Mulligan, She Said
- Janelle Monae, Glass Onion
- Nina Hoss, Tár
- Jessie Buckley, Women Talking
- Claire Foy, Women Talking
- Keke Palmer, Nope
- Sadie Sink, The Whale
- Lashana Lynch, The Woman King
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
There is a trio of men who received nominations at the “Big Four” precursors— Ke Huy Quan for his turn as Michelle Yeoh’s kind-hearted husband in Everything Everywhere All At Once and Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan for their roles as Colin Farrell’s friends-cum-adversaries in The Banshees of Inisherin. Conventional wisdom says that Eddie Redmayne should be a lock for The Good Nurse given that he was nominated at the Globes, SAG, and BAFTA. However, I suspect that he will be snubbed here given the tepid reception for his film overall. (Although, perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part, similarly to my prediction of an Ana de Armas omission in Best Actress.) I suspect that the final two slots will go to Paul Dano for his turn as the patriarch in The Fabelmans and — in a surprise inclusion — Ben Whishaw as the sole male member of the ensemble of Women Talking. But honestly, the fifth one could go to a number of different actors ranging from the perpetually superb Brian Tyree Henry (who deserved a nomination for If Beale Street Could Talk) to Hollywood veteran Judd Hirsch (who was previously nominated over 40 years ago for Ordinary People) to Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt (who won this category 3 years ago for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood).
- Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Brenda Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
- Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
- Paul Dano, The Fabelmans
- Ben Whishaw, Women Talking
- Eddie Redmayne, The Good Nurse
- Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans
- Albrecht Schuch, All Quiet on the Western Front
- Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway
- Brad Pitt, Babylon
- Micheal Ward, Empire of Light
- Woody Harrelson, Triangle of Sadness
- Tom Hanks, Elvis
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The original screenplay category seems to have three locks in the form of Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Banshees of Inisherin, and Tár. It seems likely that they will be joined by The Fabelmans given that it got into this category at the BAFTAs even though it was snubbed in literally every other category. The 5th spot is a bit trickier though. Many are expecting that it will be Triangle of Sadness and I am putting my money there as well, but I think Elvis and Aftersun are being significantly underestimated.
- Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert, Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
- Todd Field, Tár
- Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, The Fabelmans
- Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness
- Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, Jeremy Doner, Elvis
- Charlotte Wells, Aftersun
- Damien Chazelle, Babylon
- Jeong Seo-kyeong and Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave
- Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, The Menu
- Jordan Peele, Nope
- Maria Bello and Dana Stevens, The Woman King
- Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller, Bros
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
In contrast to the Original Screenplay category, this category is a bit of a wasteland. The most likely nominees are Women Talking, The Whale, and Glass Onion. I expect that they will be joined by some combination of the following 3 films — All Quiet on the Western Front, She Said, and Living. But honestly, there is not a single lock in this category, with each contender ripe for omission. Of the main 8 categories, this one seems the most likely to have some out-of-left-field inclusions.
- Sarah Polley, Women Talking
- Samuel D. Hunter, The Whale
- Rian Johnson, Glass Onion
- Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell, All Quiet on the Western Front
- Rebecca Lenkiewecz, She Said
- Kazuo Ishiguro, Living
- Guillermo Del Toro and Patrick McHale, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinnochio
- Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie, Top Gun: Maverick
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