Oscar nominations arrive bright and early Tuesday morning and, judging from the conversations I’ve had with film academy members, there are going to be a lot of surprises when the slate is revealed. There’s no best picture front-runner and loyalties are splintered in a dozen different directions. Someone even put “Don’t Worry Darling” at the top of their ballot. Welcome to the Victory Project? Probably not, but points for originality!
One producer voter told me he had trouble finding 10 movies to put on his best picture ballot, a reflection either on his lack of enthusiasm for this year’s field or perhaps the fact that he has watched “Top Gun: Maverick” 13 times and didn’t bother with other contenders. Another told me she could have put any one of 20 movies on her best picture ballot — and any one of five in the top slot. “No sequels, though,” she sniffed. “The Oscars should be about original ideas.”
PICTURE “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: Maverick” “Triangle of Sadness” “The Whale”
Possible snub: “Triangle of Sadness” Possible surprise: Too many to mention
Some people are a little freaked out that “Avatar: The Way of Water” missed the cut with the Directors Guild, but that probably had more to do with its late-breaking arrival than any resistance to space whales or petty jealousies relating to filmmaker James Cameron amassing another mountain of money. It’s a (pretty) sure bet to be nominated, right alongside the other locks: “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Elvis,” “Tár” and “The Fabelmans.”
After that, you could make a case for any of 10 contenders to fill the remaining three spots. Keeping my expectations low, I’m going to go with the three movies that took the greatest pains to bludgeon audiences with their themes — “All Quiet on the Western Front” (war is hell!), “The Whale” (empathy is essential!) and “Triangle of Sadness” (vomiting is hilarious!). In this case, I’m with my producer friend. I’d rather watch “Top Gun: Maverick” another dozen times than sit through these three films again. Here’s hoping that voters prove me wrong and nominate “Aftersun,” “Women Talking” and “RRR” instead.
DIRECTOR James Cameron, “Avatar: The Way of Water” Todd Field, “Tár” Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka Daniels, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin” Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”
Possible snub: Cameron Possible surprise: Baz Luhrmann, “Elvis”
Directors branch voters have rewarded an international filmmaker four straight years, making it tempting to pick German director Edward Berger for the visceral onslaught he brought to “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Or maybe there’s a path for “RRR’s” S.S. Rajamouli, a master of exuberant spectacle. Or perhaps voters will finally honor the brand name of exuberant spectacle, Luhrmann. Women have won the past two years. Are they really going to be shut out in 2023? (Asking for Sarah Polley, Charlotte Wells and Gina Prince-Bythewood, among others.) All that said ... I’m sticking with Cameron, the director who moved the digital realm of the art form forward.
ACTRESS Cate Blanchett, “Tár” Viola Davis, “The Woman King” Danielle Deadwyler, “Till” Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans” Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Possible snub: Williams Possible surprise: Ana de Armas, “Blonde”
Four hours before nominations voting closed on Tuesday, Amy Adams led a virtual conversation with Andrea Riseborough to support her searing turn as an addict in “To Leslie,” a movie that premiered in March at South by Southwest and grossed $27,000 in its brief theatrical run. The word “amazing” was used at least a dozen times — and not without justification. Adams’ support followed a similar event moderated by Kate Winslet, who gushed: “You should be up for everything. You should be winning everything. Andrea Riseborough, I think this is the greatest female performance on screen I have ever seen in my life.” Unfortunately, not many other voters have seen it, making the grassroots campaign for Riseborough a bittersweet affair.
This is a category packed with powerhouse performances, leaving many wondering if Williams’ SAG Awards snub will be repeated at the Oscars. As much as De Armas deserves some reward for gutting her way through Andrew Dominik’s wretchedMarilyn Monroe biopic, I think Williams will earn her fifth Oscar nomination for giving “The Fabelmans” its heart and soul.
ACTOR Austin Butler, “Elvis” Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin” Brendan Fraser, “The Whale” Tom Hanks, “A Man Called Otto” Bill Nighy, “Living”
Possible snub: Hanks Possible surprise: Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”
Butler, Farrell, Fraser and Nighy will earn nominations — all coming in as first-timers. Looking at the other contenders, it’s easier laying out why they won’t be nominated than making a case for their inclusion. Mescal: Too young, plus the movie is more filmmaker-driven. Does Tom Cruise really warrant a nod for playing “Tom Cruise” in “Top Gun: Maverick”? No. He’ll get his reward as a producer of the film. Hugh Jackman in “The Son”? Dear God, not for that horrible, manipulative movie. So ... I’m going to go a little nuts and predict ... Hanks for an elevated Hallmark movie that made a theater full of academy members cry back in December. That might be just enough in this field. (Unless it’s Adam Sandler for “Hustle.” Who doesn’t love the Sandman?!?)
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”
Possible snub: Hsu Possible surprise: Jessie Buckley, “Women Talking”
“Women Talking” belongs in the conversation for the year’s best ensemble, so it feels just plain wrong that not one member of its cast could show up among the nominees. Buckley brought a caustic wit and ferocious spirit to Sarah Polley’s brilliant drama. I just wonder A) how many acting branch voters saw the movie and B) will they (can they?) focus on just one member of the cast in marking their ballots? Both questions give me pause.
SUPPORTING ACTOR Paul Dano, “The Fabelmans” Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin” Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans” Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin” Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Possible snub: Hirsch Possible surprise: Eddie Redmayne, “The Good Nurse”
I haven’t mentioned Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” yet, a hyperventilated ode to cinema undone by its director’s indulgence. It does have a cadre of passionate supporters, though, and perhaps actors branch members will buy into Brad Pitt’s charismatic turn as a movie star facing a career crossroads. You couldn’t avoid seeing him at the Globes, that’s for sure! Meanwhile, Hirsch isn’t in “The Fabelmans” much, but I can’t help remembering the audience at the premiere erupting into applause after his big scene. It’s commanding and unforgettable, much like Judi Dench’s brief Oscar-winning turn in “Shakespeare in Love.” I think that’s enough to get him in.
“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, Ian Stokell “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Rian Johnson “Living,” Kazuo Ishiguro “She Said,” Rebecca Lenkiewicz “Women Talking,” Sarah Polley
Possible snub: “All Quiet on the Western Front” Possible surprise: “The Whale,” Samuel D. Hunter
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” showed up on USC Libraries’ Scripter awards list for its wildly inventive spin on the classic folk tale and could well surprise here, though writers branch voters haven’t gone out of their way to reward animated movies in the past. (“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is another animated possibility here.) And if “All Quiet” pulls in a nod — and Berger gets in for director — then the wide-open best picture race will have a new wrinkle for people to obsess over.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY “Aftersun,” Charlotte Wells “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Martin McDonagh “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert “The Fabelmans,” Tony Kushner, Steven Spielberg “Tár,” Todd Field
Possible snub: “The Fabelmans” Possible surprise: “Triangle of Sadness,” Ruben Östlund
Kushner’s gritty adaptation of “West Side Story” didn’t make the screenplay cut last year, despite the film’s seven nominations. Could a similar fate await “The Fabelmans”? Some — and not just Joyce Carol Oates — found the story’s structure a bit wonky and didn’t groove on its episodic framework. Of course, it’d be silly if they left it out and nominated “Triangle of Sadness” instead, a movie that’s explicitly episodic, not to mention facile, flat and strident.
ANIMATED FEATURE “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” “My Father’s Dragon” “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” “Turning Red”
Possible snub: “My Father’s Dragon” Possible surprise: “Wendell & Wild”
“Pinocchio” already has the feel of the inevitable winner. The only question is whether another Netflix movie — Henry Selick and Jordan Peele’s stop-motion collaboration, “Wendell & Wild” — will join the party as a nominee. It was brimming with ideas — too many, it turns out, to fully engage with any one of them. But owing to its pedigree, it could make it in over another Netflix contender, the heartfelt “My Father’s Dragon.”
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE “All That Breathes” “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” “Descendant” “Fire of Love” “Navalny”
Possible snub: “Descendant” Possible surprise: “Retrograde”
Laura Poitras won the documentary Oscar eight years ago for “Citizenfour,” and after sweeping through critics group prizes, she seems poised to add another trophy for “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” The film is both a rich, revealing look at photographer Nan Goldin’s outsider art and a bracing glimpse at the guerrilla campaign she launched against the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, the drug company largely responsible for the opioid epidemic. It deserves to be the first documentary nominated for best picture, but who knows if that barrier will ever be broken. (It should.)
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE “All Quiet on the Western Front” “Argentina, 1985” “Close” “Decision to Leave” “EO”
Possible snub: “Argentina, 1985” Possible surprise: “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”
After being savaged at fall film festivals, Alejandro G. Iñárritu recut “Bardo,” removing around 20 minutes from the original 184-minute movie. I haven’t yet seen the new version. I’m sure it just flies! And given Iñárritu’s Oscar history — he has been nominated three times as a director, winning twice — it seems entirely plausible that “Bardo” could be nominated here. But I wonder if the early negative reviews, combined with the film’s still leisurely running time, might have scared away some voters from giving it a proper look.
CINEMATOGRAPHY “All Quiet on the Western Front,” James Friend “The Batman,” Greig Fraser “Elvis,” Mandy Walker “Empire of Light,” Roger Deakins “Top Gun: Maverick,” Claudio Miranda
Possible snub: “The Batman” Possible surprise: “The Fabelmans,” Janusz Kaminski
The American Society of Cinematographers nominated Deakins, Walker, Miranda and Fraser, along with Darius Khondji for all that beautiful deep-focus photography (among many other things) on “Bardo.” It’s a great group. Oscar voters should rubber-stamp it. And they might. But two-time winner Kaminski lurks, as does Friend, who took us through World War I trenches three years after Deakins did it in “1917.”
COSTUME DESIGN “Babylon,” Mary Zophres “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Ruth E. Carter “Elvis,” Catherine Martin “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” Jenny Beavan “The Woman King,” Gersha Phillips
Possible snub: “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” Possible surprise: “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Shirley Kurata
This category will be one test toward measuring the strength of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” across various voting branches. Its costumes are plentiful and terrific, spanning many, many universes. But it’s hard to imagine costume branch voters being able to resist a movie about a woman obsessed with haute couture Dior, particularly one designed by Beavan, an 11-time nominee and three-time winner.
FILM EDITING “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Sven Budelmann “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen “Elvis,” Jonathan Redmond, Matt Villa “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Paul Rogers “Top Gun: Maverick,” Eddie Hamilton
Possible snub: “All Quiet on the Western Front” Possible surprise: “The Fabelmans,” Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn
If you’ve been with me on this entire journey, have you noticed the number of nominations “All Quiet on the Western Front” might potentially earn? Just writing this, I’ve gone from being cool toward the movie to thinking it might just be the greatest film ever made. (Not really. But ... whew! What is going on here???)
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING “All Quiet on the Western Front” “The Batman” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” “Elvis” “The Whale”
Possible snub: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” Possible surprise: “Blonde”
“All Quiet” ... again? I mean ... Have you ever seen more artfully caked mud, soot and blood? OK then. Next ...
PRODUCTION DESIGN “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Dylan Cole, Ben Procter (production designer), Vanessa Cole (set decorator) “Babylon,” Florencia Martin (production designer), Anthony Carlino (set decorator) “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Hannah Beachler (production designer), Lisa K. Sessions (set decorator) “Elvis,” Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy (production designer), Bev Dunn (set decorator) “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Jason Kisvarday (production designer), Kelsi Ephraim (set decorator)
Possible snub: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” Possible surprise: “The Fabelmans,” Rick Carter (production designer), Karen O’Hara (set decorator)
The first “Avatar” won this Oscar. So did the first “Black Panther.” That sets up a nice showdown, though Oscar favorite Catherine Martin’s phenomenal work re-creating Memphis in Australia should be the winner here.
SCORE “Babylon,” Justin Hurwitz “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Carter Burwell “The Fabelmans,” John Williams “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” Alexandre Desplat “Women Talking,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
Possible snub: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” Possible surprise: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Ludwig Göransson
Is there any surer bet than John Williams getting an Oscar nomination?
SONG “Lift Me Up,” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” “Ciao Papa,” from “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” “Naatu Naatu,” from “RRR” “Applause,” from “Tell It Like a Woman” “Hold My Hand,” from “Top Gun: Maverick”
Possible snub: “Applause” Possible surprise: “Carolina,” from “Where the Crawdads Sing”
OK, maybe there’s one equally sure Oscar nomination bet: Diane Warren getting a nod for a movie you’ve barely heard of. Unless ... the honorary Oscar she won this year breaks the spell and the music branch invites (OMG OMG OMG) Taylor Swift to the party for her mud-soaked (she must have loved “All Quiet on the Western Front”), pine-scented folk number from “Where the Crawdads Sing.” Can you imagine Swift, Gaga, Rihanna and “Naatu Naatu” on one show? If that doesn’t spike the ratings, then R.I.P. Oscars.
SOUND “All Quiet on the Western Front” “Avatar: The Way of Water” “Elvis” “Everything Everywhere All at Once” “Top Gun: Maverick”
Possible snub: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” Possible surprise: “Babylon”
Musicals and action movies always attract the most attention. Films with an elephant defecating straight into the camera? I guess we’ll find out!
VISUAL EFFECTS “Avatar: The Way of Water” “The Batman” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” “Top Gun: Maverick”
Possible snub: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” Possible surprise: “All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is winning at least one Oscar. That — and the billions of dollars it has made at the box office — should cushion any disappointments the evening might bring.
ANIMATED SHORT “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” “The Flying Sailor” “Ice Merchants” “My Year of Dicks” “New Moon”
DOCUMENTARY SHORT “38 at the Garden” “The Elephant Whisperers” “The Flagmakers” “Holding Moses” “The Martha Mitchell Effect”
LIVE-ACTION SHORT “An Irish Goodbye” “Ivalu” “Le Pupille” “The Red Suitcase” “Warsha”