With the 95th Academy Awards taking place this Sunday, the usual heated debates about the shortlists are again underway. Who should win? Who was unfairly snubbed? Which actors and filmmakers were lucky to secure nominations? Does Cate Blanchett really deserve another Oscar? What about Brendan Fraser in his fat suit? Might the Academy give the major awards to a dour and downbeat German-language antiwar movie like All Quiet On The Western Front?
Below are the directors and actors likely to be smiling on Sunday evening – and those whose smiles will be more like rictus grins.
Will win: Everything Everywhere All At Once
In the weeks before the Oscars, momentum invariably builds behind a single film. This year, the wind is in the sails of Everything Everywhere All At Once. The bookies have it as favourite amid a slight backlash against the BAFTA winner, the Netflix-financed, German-language war movie All Quiet On The Western Front. Academy members are yet to give a Netflix movie a Best Picture award and it’s unlikely they’ll do so on Sunday.
Should win: The Banshees of Inisherin
Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s dark,1920s-set drama about a fraying friendship will be acknowledged in future years as a classic. It boasts superb performances from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson while combining absurdist comedy with some very perceptive insights into why men fight – and why civil wars break out. It didn’t do great box office, though, and some voters may have been put off by its Guinness-dark Irish humour.
Should have been nominated: Decision to Leave
South Korean director Park Chan-wook is the closest world cinema currently has to a filmmaker of the stature of Alfred Hitchcock. Twisted romance Decision To Leave is his equivalent to Vertigo. It’s bravura filmmaking but isn’t on the Best Picture list and doesn’t even have the consolation of a nomination for Best International Feature.
Will win: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert -Everything Everywhere All At Once
The Best Picture winners often also nab the Best Director award. That looks likely to happen for the two Daniels behind Everything Everywhere All At Once. Their showy and outlandish movie combines soap opera and sci-fi, and its scattergun energy seems to have caught voters’ imaginations at just the right time.
Should win: Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans
In his 70s, Spielberg is still making movies with an ingenuity and resourcefulness that far younger filmmakers must envy. This autobiographical drama stands as one of the best coming of age movies of recent years and it’s an excellent primer on what makes Spielberg tick.
Shouldn’t have been nominated: James Cameron – Avatar: The Way Of Water
It was only polite to acknowledge Cameron’s Herculean feat in rescuing the global cinema business from the post-Covid doldrums and to give a nod to Tom Cruise’s Top Gun too, but do popcorn movies like these really deserve a place on the Best Picture lists? Isn’t it time for the Academy to consider an audience choice award?
Will win: Austin Butler – Elvis
Former child actor Butler immersed himself in the role of Elvis in best method fashion, mastering everything from the King’s pelvic thrusts to his raw southern hound dog charm. He’s vying with another shape shifter, Brendan Fraser, who wore a fat suit and piled on the pounds to transform himself into the obese hero in The Whale, for the Best Actor Oscar. Butler, though, is the clear favourite.
Should win: Bill Nighy – Living
Nighy is not as showy as Butler or Fraser but his magnificent performance as the office worker facing his own terminal illness has a gentleness, pathos and profundity that they simply don’t reach.
Should have been nominated: Will Smith – Emancipation
It’s no surprise that Smith has been snubbed. Following his bad boy antics last year, he isn’t allowed to to attend the Oscars anyway but he gives a ferociously intense performance in slavery drama Emancipation, a film that certainly warranted greater recognition.
Will win: Cate Blanchett – Tar
Blanchett is the front-runner for the Oscar although some are now tipping Michelle Yeoh (star of Everything Everywhere All At Once) to pip her to the prize. The Australian brings hauteur and vulnerability to her role as the world famous orchestra conductor losing her grip.
Should win: Andrea Riseborough – To Leslie
Riseborough is a hugely controversial nominee after the unusual social media campaign waged on her behalf but she is frighteningly believable as the alcoholic former lottery winner whose life is unravelling in indie drama To Leslie.
Should have been nominated: Danielle Deadwyler – Till
The shameful fact remains that Halle Berry in 2001 is still the only Black woman to have won Best Actress in Oscar history. Earlier in the year, Deadwyler was seen as having a very strong chance of emulating Berry – but then, once the Riseborough campaign picked up steam, she (like Viola Davis) didn’t even make it onto the nominations list.
Will win: Navalny
Many will be hoping that young Canadian director Daniel Roher’s documentary about the Russian opposition leader wins the documentary Oscar. If it does so, it will draw yet more attention to the desperate plight of Navalny, currently still locked up in one of Putin’s jails.
Should win: All The Beauty And The Bloodshed
Laura Poitras’s masterful film tells the story of the brilliant American photographer Nan Goldin in moving and insightful fashion. The film is also a furious polemic against the Sackler family and their role in the opioid crisis that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
Should have been nominated: Three Minutes A Lengthening
Produced by Steve McQueen (of 12 Years A Slave fame) and directed by his Dutch partner Bianca Stigter, this is one of the best and most unusual Holocaust films of recent years. It focuses entirely on three minutes of 16mm home movie footage shot in a small town in Poland in 1938. This footage was shot just a few months before the town’s Jewish citizens were to be wiped off the face of the earth.
Will win: All Quiet On The Western Front
Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel has a strong chance of winning this award as a consolation for missing out on Best Picture.
Should win: Close
Virtuoso young Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s delicately observed story about adolescent friendship and betrayal might be too small in scope to catch voters’ attention.
Should have been nominated: Aurora’s Sunrise
It’s shocking that more attention hasn’t been paid to Inna Sahakyan’s animated feature telling the astonishing true story of a young female survivor of the Turkish genocide against the Armenians.