Friday, March 10, 2023

95th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's the 95th Annual Academy Awards, and my associate Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) are back to offer our preview and predictions.  Mike is probably gonna sweep these damn things yet again and I'll just end up getting upset, but we're gonna do this anyway.

I'm in the exact same position I was at this time last year, having seen half of the Best Picture nominees and hoping to bang out a couple more over the weekend before the show.  The five I've seen have ranged from stunningly great to "Why the fuck is this movie even nominated?" (You know which one you are Maverick....)  

This disturbing trend where the Academy is obligated to include at least one or two popcorn movies just to attract a bigger Nielsen rating feels like straight-up pandering to me, not to mention they always give the award to one of the smaller films anyway.  And they didn't even include the one popcorn movie from 2022 that actually deserves to be there (Had The Batman actually crossed the billion-dollar mark you know goddamn well they would have).  Fortunately I don't think any of the three fluff movies have a snowball's chance in Hell of winning Best Picture.  But it just feels wrong to have to refer to the Top Gun remake sequel or the reeeeeally delayed Avatar followup as a Best Picture nominee.  Hollywood's been churning out too many remakes and sequels and reboots and prequels and spinoffs and requels as it is, do they really need to win awards for it?

Ok enough old-man sky-yelling, let's pick some winners!

Best Picture

Avatar: The Way of Water
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Justin: Alright, I've seen All Quiet which was amazing, Banshees which was pretty great, Elvis which was pedestrian despite a really strong lead performance, EEAAO which was fun and original, and Top Gun which was paint-by-numbers shite despite really impressive flight sequences.  Of those five my favorite was All Quiet; just a beautifully made, harrowing, immersive war film.  But that's all moot, because Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mortal lock to take this award and probably most of the awards it's nominated for.  That movie is on fire right now, and I'm not even mad.  It wasn't my favorite of the field but it was imaginative as hell, and that should be rewarded.  Not to mention one of its directors, Daniel Kwan, is from my hometown of Westborough, MA.  REPRESENT!!!

PickEverything Everywhere All at Once

Mike: I’ll forgive the insolence in your tone,  Top Gun: Maverick is really well positioned to get the upset. The action laced with dramatic overtones and a splash of nostalgia, not to mention the outstanding performances that will literally take your breath away while in the danger zone, makes it such a considerable film. How do you go against it?

Pick: Kidding. Everything Everywhere All At Once for sure.

Best Director

Martin McDonagh – The Banshees of Inisherin
Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
Todd Field – Tár
Ruben Östlund – Triangle of Sadness

Justin:  Like I said, the Daniels are on fire right now so I don't see anyone else taking home this award.  But I also wouldn't be sad if Martin McDonagh won it; Banshees was pretty superb.

Pick: The Daniels

Mike: Todd Field really put forth a great picture with Tár and I feel bad for him for how crowded this category is so please make the effort to see Tár. But The Daniels are a runaway train this year and I don’t see them losing this award, especially to Steven Spielberg.

Pick: The Daniels

Best Actor

Austin Butler – Elvis
Colin Farrell – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser – The Whale
Paul Mescal – Aftersun
Bill Nighy – Living

Justin: This is the only major category on which Everything Everywhere doesn't have a stranglehold.  I've only seen two of these performances and both were pretty great.  I'd be okay with Butler or Farrell taking this one.  But 2022 was a year of redemption for Mr. Brendan Fraser and this will complete that journey for him.  From what I've heard The Whale isn't a particularly good film but his performance makes it worth the watch.  The kid from Encino Man takes home the gold.

Pick: Brendan Fraser

Mike: This is a tough category to call since Austin Butler has been gaining momentum. Butler won BAFTA and Golden Globes while Fraser won SAG and Critics Choice. Not to mention Colin Farrell factoring into the conversation. This is going to be up for grabs. I’d love to see Chazz grab Mr. Oscar. He’s my preferred winner, but let’s get interesting. 

Pick: Austin Butler

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett – Tár
Ana de Armas – Blonde
Andrea Riseborough – To Leslie
Michelle Williams – The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Justin: And we're back to Daniel dominance.  I've only seen one-and-a-half of these performances (I started Blonde but haven't gotten around to finishing it yet).  Michelle Yeoh was quite good, and her obvious win here feels like she's being honored for both this and her overall career.

Pick: Michelle Yeoh

Mike: For me it’s also Michelle Yeoh but there could be an upset in the making here with Cate Blanchett coming in to swoop the statue for her performance in Tár. Both are admirable performances so do you place your bet on Michelle Yeoh or on “#OscarsSoWhite”?

Pick: Michelle Yeoh

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson – The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry – Causeway
Judd Hirsch – The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan – The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy Quan – Everything Everywhere All at Once

Justin: I loved both of these Banshees performances.  Brendan Gleeson is always excellent and Barry Keoghan is one of the most naturally-offputting actors out there, in the tradition of Peter Lorre (If you haven't seen The Killing of a Sacred Deer check it out, and then shower afterwards).  I can't wait to see what he does with The Joker in The Batman 2.  But that's neither here nor there, the big story is that Short Round/Data from my childhood is about to win an Oscar.  Weird, wild stuff.  Know what else is just bizarre?  After this Sunday Ke Huy Quan will have beaten Harrison Ford to an Oscar win.  That there is a crazy factoid.

Pick: Ke Huy Quan

Mike: With all due respect to the nominees, let’s go Short Round!!

Pick: Ke Huy Quan

Best Supporting Actress

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

Justin: I've actually seen four of these.  Kerry Condon was quite good in Banshees, Angela Bassett was fine in Wakanda, but how does she beat out Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle for this category??  But it's a two-horse race, between EEAAO co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu.  Personally I'd go with Stephanie, but JLC has been dominating this category at other award ceremonies, so she's very likely the winner here.

Pick: Jamie Lee Curtis

Mike: I disagree with the impression that JLC has dominated in other awards. Condon took the BAFTA and Bassett took Critics Choice and Golden Globes with JLC nabbing the SAG. This is a tight tight race to call here and I like the BAFTA winner in this. Two co-stars from EEAAO could split votes. I don’t trust it.

Pick: Kerry Condon

Best Original Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonagh
Everything Everywhere All at Once – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Fabelmans – Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner
Tár – Todd Field
Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Östlund

Justin: This is another two-horse race and I won't be sad about either of them winning.  It's also maybe the hardest category to predict because the award shows this season have been more or less split between these two picks.  It's down to the Daniels and Martin McDonagh.  MM kinda dominated the early award shows this season but the Daniels have picked up a lot of steam recently.  It's agonizing trying to pick one over the other.  Ugh.....  Fuck it, the Daniels win.

Pick: The Daniels

Mike: Yeah, with all the hype and award wins they’ve been gaining this awards season, it’s pretty easy for me.

Pick: The Daniels

Best Adapted Screenplay

All Quiet on the Western Front – Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson & Ian Stokell
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery – Rian Johnson
Living – Kazuo Ishiguro
Top Gun: Maverick – Screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer & Christopher McQuarrie; Story by Peter Craig & Justin Marks
Women Talking – Sarah Polley

Justin: I find it odd that sequel scripts are considered adapted screenplays.  I get that they're based partly off characters created for a previous film but a sequel is still ostensibly an original script.  Except you Top Gun, screw you.  Jesus, that script took five people to write it, and in the end it was basically just the first movie all over again, with the climax of the original Star Wars tacked on.  Top Gun's nomination here is even more offensive than its Best Picture nod; there is zero about this script that deserves award consideration, unless you're obtuse enough to be profoundly moved by "Don't think, just do!"  Fuck outta here with that shit.

Fortunately TGM is not a favorite to take this one home.    The two big winners in this category this season have been Women Talking and Glass Onion.  Not gonna lie, I'd love to see Rian Johnson win this, because a) I like his work a lot and b) Holy shit would it piss off all the Fandom Menace manbabies who review-bomb everything he does ("gLaSs OnIoN iS bAd BeCaUsE iT dOeSn'T pLaY oUt ExAcTlY lIkE i ExPeCtEd!!!" - Umm, yeah, it's a murder mystery, numb nuts.).  Alas though, I think Sarah Polley's taking this one.

Pick: Women Talking

Mike: I love Rian Johnson’s work ever since he made Brick. He really has a good idea of what kind of story he wants to tell, even when it’s a sequel. One day maybe, but this category belongs to Women Talking

Pick: Women Talking

Best Cinematography

All Quiet on the Western Front – James Friend
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths – Darius Khondji
Elvis – Mandy Walker
Empire of Light – Roger Deakins
Tár – Florian Hoffmeister

Justin: I'm actually surprised Top Gun didn't get this nomination; I wouldn't have disagreed with that one so much.  I've only seen two of these nominees, but one of them absolutely rocked my socks off photographically, capturing the scope, muck, desolation, and strange beauty of World War I.  James Friend's work on All Quiet is a spectacular achievement and I hope it takes the award.

Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

Mike: If you’re going to make a war film, it has to look beautiful and All Quiet on the Western Front is gorgeous. With a little competition from Mandy Walker’s Elvis, it could be an upset in the making but I still think it won’t be enough. 

Pick: All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front – Volker Bertelmann
Babylon – Justin Hurwitz
The Banshees of Inisherin – Carter Burwell
Everything Everywhere All at Once – Son Lux
The Fabelmans – John Williams

Justin: I've seen three of these, and the score that made the biggest impression was that of All Quiet.  Carter Burwell's Banshees score was so sparse I find it odd that it was nominated, honestly.  And I just don't remember Son Lux's EEAAO score.  But it sounds like Justin Hurwitz's score is one of the standouts of Babylon so I think I'll go with him.

Pick: Justin Hurwitz

Mike: I can see all of these winning which makes this a blind dart throw for me. When in doubt, go with the war film.

Pick: Volker Bertelmann

Tiebreaker: Best Documentary Short Film

The Elephant Whisperers – Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
Haulout – Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
How Do You Measure a Year? – Jay Rosenblatt
The Martha Mitchell Effect – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
Stranger at the Gate – Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Justin: Ummmmmmmm......

Pick: Haulout

Mike: Suuuuuure....

Pick: The Elephant Whisperers

Well, those are our picks.  Here's hoping I regain some lost ground from years of being trounced in these damn predictions....

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