Who’s going to get the trophy? And who actually deserves it?
Nearly a century in, the Oscars continue to face regular criticisms over everything from perceived shortcomings in viewership to perceptions of the ceremony “not nominating popular films” to much more concrete criticisms over the lack of Black women recognized by the Academy. Even with all these concepts floating around the reputation of the Academy Awards, it’s doubtful many movie geeks will be passing up on the opportunity to see who comes out on top of all 23 categories at the 95th Academy Awards.
There’s an eclectic bunch of movies up for the various awards in this year’s Oscars, making predicting the potential winners of the ceremony more fun than usual. We’ve got everything from Elvis to Women Talking to Babylon, among many others, running around as potential Oscar winners this year. Exploring who’s likely to win reflects which films have really tapped into the zeitgeist of award-season voters this year. Meanwhile, delving into who should win in each category also allows one to appreciate smaller, more obscure movies competing for the biggest awards of the night.
In classic awards prognosticator fashion, let’s do some 2023 Oscars predictions, category by category, to figure out who’ll probably get it, and who we think should get it.
Who will win: All Quiet on the Western Front
Who should win: Elvis
The technical categories at this year’s Oscar have, per usual, five nominees, but most of these categories are going to come down to two Best Picture nominees: All Quiet on the Western Front and Top Gun: Maverick. Both features have dominated the craft categories in terms of nominations and have enough spectacle each to put them immediately on the radar of all potential voters. Western Front may have a bit of an edge in most of these categories, though, simply because it’s a more recent feature and, being a war drama, it aligns more with Oscar voter sensibilities compared to a Tom Cruise summer blockbuster
Expect a Best Sound win to be one of many victories for the technical side of All Quiet on the Western Front, though that doesn’t mean it’s the film that should take home this trophy. Elvis doesn’t feature roaring jets or noisy battlefields, but its sonic landscape was integral to realizing the distinctive wackadoodle vision of director Baz Luhrmann. Elvis should really be grooving its way to an easy Best Sound Oscar victory.
Who will win: The Whale
Who should win: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Most” is often a good guide to figuring out who will win the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling in a given year. For the 95th Academy Awards, there is no shortage of very extravagant uses of extensive makeup techniques. The Whale, The Batman, and Elvis, specifically, all used prosthetics and makeup effects to transform traditionally skinny performers into cartoonishly overweight figures. That’s the kind of feat the Academy gravitates towards.
Given that thought process, The Whale has a solid shot at being the winner since its makeup-adorned character (Brendan Fraser’s protagonist) is in nearly every frame of the movie rather than functioning as a supporting player like in Elvis and The Batman. If the Academy wanted to recognize something a bit subtler in this category, though, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would make for a great winner. There’s nobody wandering around in a fat suit in that movie but its use of subtle makeup and hairstyling techniques to reflect the wildly different aesthetics of two fictional kingdoms is worthy of recognition.
Best Documentary (Short Subject)
Who will win: Stranger at the Gate
Who should win: The Elephant Whisperers
Given that Oscar voters tend to gravitate towards shorts in this category that tackle modern hot-button issues, Stranger at the Gate, which grapples with Islamophobia in America, seems like an easy victor among these nominees. Doesn’t hurt that it’s also getting a sizeable push from The New Yorker, which should catch the eyeballs of Oscar voters. However, if anything else had to win, a heartfelt short like The Elephant Whisperers, which puts international and non-white voices front and center, would be a welcome victor.
Best Live Action Short Film
Who will win: Le pupille
Who should win: The Red Suitcase
Disney’s Oscar nominees this year include the usual suspects, like a new Pixar title in the Best Animated Film category and a Marvel movie showing up in Best Visual Effects. The Mouse House, however, does have an unexpected presence in the Best Live Action Short Film category thanks to the Alice Rohrwacher-directed Le pupille. At this point, Le pupille seems to have an easy path to victory, especially since it has Disney pushing it on the award circuit and Oscar darling Alfonso Cuaron producing.
That said, it’d be interesting to see a tense short like The Red Suitcase grab the statue. If there’s any David that could take down the Goliath that is Le pupille in this year’s Best Live Action Short Film line-up, it’d have to be The Red Suitcase.
Best Animated Short Film
Who will win: My Year of Dicks
Who should win: My Year of Dicks
Bet on the nominee in this category that made Riz Ahmed chuckle the morning the Oscar nominations were announced. The incredibly frank title of My Year of Dicks inspired titters when its nomination was first revealed, but it’s garnered enough acclaim to seem like an assured winner in the Best Animated Short Film category. It doesn’t hurt that there isn’t another major titan (like an acclaimed Pixar short or a short that originated as a beloved viral video) that could really compete. Prepare to hear the title of My Year of Dicks heard again, folks, this time for winning an Academy Award.
Best Original Song
Who will win: “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
Who should win: “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
Can you imagine how cursed it would be if the Academy Awards decided that this, of all years, was the year that Diane Warren should get her first Oscar? Not only would she be winning for a movie (Tell It Like a Woman) no one’s heard of (does it even exist?), but her victory would come at the expense of a potential history-making win for RRR as the first Indian film to win a Best Original Song Oscar. It’s a disgrace that the country’s wildly varied cinema has never been represented in this category, but now that the threshold has been crossed with a banger like “Naatu Naatu,” it looks like a victory is all but assured.
“Naatu Naatu” has been cleaning up in the Best Original Song category at all major precursor awards and the film’s cast and crew have been all over key North American spots pushing the feature. Sorry Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and, of course, Diane Warren…this year’s Best Original Song Oscar belongs to M.M. Keeravani.
Best Original Score
Who will win: Volker Bertelmann for All Quiet on the Western Front
Who should win: Justin Hurwitz for Babylon
This will be the category where The Fabelmans has its best shot at scoring an Oscar win at the 95th Academy Awards. John Williams and his original compositions could end up securing this master maestro his sixth Oscar, but right now, Volker Bertelmann for All Quiet on the Western Front seems poised to take the win here. Having already taken home a BAFTA for Best Original Score for his work on Western Front, Bertelmann’s pronounced Hans Zimmer-esque compositions should become only the sixth score for a film largely in a foreign language to win the Best Original Score Oscar.
If the Academy really wanted to recognize the best of these nominees this year, though, Justin Hurwitz for Babylon would hands-down be the winner, just for his “Voodoo Mama” track alone. Brimming with life and power, Hurwitz’s passionate vision for what a movie set in the 1920s could sound like is more than worthy of some Oscar love.
Best Production Design
Who will win: Babylon
Who should win: Babylon
You’d have to go back to the 85th Academy Awards to find the last instance where the winner of the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Production Design and the Academy Award for Best Production Design weren’t one and the same. Granted, there is precedent for these winners not lining up, so it’s not like any film that scores big at the Critics’ Choice awards is guaranteed an Oscar win in this category.
Still, Babylon, this year’s Critics’ Choice winner for Best Production Design, seems poised to take the Best Production Design Oscar as well. All Quiet on the Western Front could be a spoiler winner, especially if it dominates all the other technical categories. But Babylon’s lavish recreation of 1920s Hollywood is the sort of eye-catching period work the Academy loves to reward in this category. Hard to complain about this likely victor.
Best Visual Effects
Who will win: Top Gun: Maverick
Who should win: Avatar: The Way of Water
Starting with Aliens, every single narrative James Cameron movie that’s been up for the Best Visual Effects Oscar (save for True Lies) has taken home that Oscar. A Cameron feature is once again up for that Oscar thanks to Avatar: The Way of Water, though this year that filmmaker will probably have to relinquish the award to Top Gun: Maverick. That Tom Cruise star vehicle has a much greater presence at the 95th Academy Awards compared to The Way of Water, while its predecessor wasn’t even up for the Best Visual Effects category decades ago. By contrast, the first Avatar easily snagged a Best Visual Effects Oscar win. The Academy may be looking to spread the love this go-around and make a rare pass at recognizing a James Cameron feature in Best Visual Effects.
Looking over the five nominees in this category, it’s such a shame that worthwhile potential winners for this year, like Everything Everywhere All at Once and RRR, never even got shortlisted for this category while it’s equally criminal Nope was snubbed for a nomination. Those snubs make predicting who should win here extra bittersweet, though if any one of the five films actually nominated should win, it’d have to be Avatar: The Way of Water. The blending of CGI and live-action elements in that film were so remarkable that you even forget about the divide between the real and the unreal. That’s the kind of movie magic that’s made James Cameron movies a staple of this category for decades.
Best Costume Design
Who will win: Elvis
Who should win: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
When it comes to Best Costume Design winners at the Oscars, Academy Voters largely gravitate towards period pieces, which seems to throw out Everything Everywhere All at Once and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The remaining trio of films, Babylon, Elvis, and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, all have their advantages and disadvantages in this category, but it looks like Elvis will top everyone else for an Oscar win. The real-world outfits costume designer Catherine Martin was emulating here are so iconic that seeing them replicated on the screen so lovingly in Elvis is bound to strike a chord with Academy voters. But given how instrumental Jenny Beavan’s costumes were to Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, it’d be so lovely to see her secure a surprise win.
Best Animated Feature
Who will win: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Who should win: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
If there’s any category of the night that feels like it’s all sewn up before the show begins, it’s Best Animated Feature. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is well on its way to winning this category and giving Guillermo del Toro his third Oscar. The Academy loves del Toro, that fact alone will help push it to victory, and it doesn’t hurt that this title is rooted in a story that the older Academy voters will be incredibly familiar with.
It’s hard to whine about Pinocchio being the assured winner of this category, especially since it’ll be only the third Best Animated Feature Oscar winner to not be realized through computer animation (following Spirited Away and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). Still, there is another contender this year that would be even more exciting to see take the stage and accept this award. The quiet but beautiful Marcel the Shell with Shoes On was a wondrous merging of live-action and stop-motion animation that wrung so much poignancy out of a teeny-tine protagonist. There’s no misfire among this year’s Best Animated Feature nominees, but even in this strong crop, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On stands out as the best. It’d be incredible to see this underdog feature score the surprise win of the night.
Best Documentary Feature
Who will win: Navalny
Who should win: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
While this year’s Best International Feature category is largely frustratingly average, the Best Documentary Feature roster at the 95th Academy Awards is incredibly strong all around. Not all the films here are equally good, but there’s no major dud of the bunch. Of the five films, it’s looking like Navalny will be the winner. Navalny has been generating positive press ever since its Sundance 2022 premiere and that press has included several Best Documentary wins at major precursor ceremonies to the Oscars. The stage is set for Navalny to ride its wave of hype to an Oscar win.
Still, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed wasn’t just the best documentary of 2022, it was also one of the very best movies of the year. An extraordinarily expansive look at the life of photographer and activist Nan Goldin, it’s a film that will stir up righteous fury in your heart as easily as it’ll move you to tears.
Best International Feature Film
Who will win: All Quiet on the Western Front
Who should win: The Quiet Girl
Sometimes, having a shortlist of potential nominees for certain Oscar categories can be more of a curse than a blessing. This year’s Best International Feature Film lineup would’ve been frustratingly average in any year but knowing that the likes of Saint Omer and Decision to Leave got so close to a nomination but ended up snubbed is just too irritating to bear. Among the nominees, All Quiet on the Western Front is guaranteed a win given that it’s the only one of the nominees to also score a Best Picture nod.
There’s really no chance of a spoiler here, which might’ve been possible if titles with quiet but undeniably passionate fanbases (like Decision to Leave or Joyland) had secured nominations here. Seeing as I’m not nuts about any of the other four nominees, the only one I haven’t seen (The Quiet Girl) is the one I’ll pick as the “should win” contender here. Hopefully, The Quiet Girl offers something more substantive than forgettable projects like Argentina, 1985.
Best Film Editing
Who will win: Top Gun: Maverick
Who should win: Tár
Top Gun: Maverick has won several Best Editing trophies at major precursor awards and, more importantly, the Academy has gravitated toward big flashy spectacle movies in this category in recent years (see: Gravity, Dune). The rare major technical category of the night where Maverick won’t have to contend with All Quiet on the Western Front, Best Film Editing seems assured to ensure that Maverick won’t walk away from the 95th Academy Awards empty-handed.
However, the worthy winner for Best Film Editing among this year’s five nominees has got to be Tár. The film’s editing is so masterful in its timing and preciseness, but it’s also so important to the underlying themes. That should be well worth an Oscar win.
Who will win: All Quiet on the Western Front
Who should win: Tár
Best Cinematography this year is an interesting mixture of movies that have no other Oscar presence (Empire of Light and Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths) plus a trio of Best Picture nominees (All Quiet on the Western Front, Elvis, and Tár). Since this technical category lacks both Top Gun: Maverick and Everything Everywhere All at Once, the race to win is a bit wide open. Right now, it looks like All Quiet on the Western Front has the advantage, with the film poised to become only the sixth foreign-language titles to win the Best Cinematography Oscar.
In terms of worthier winners, though, it’d be nifty to see Mandy Walker’s maximalist Elvis work take home a victory, though the true ideal winner would have to be Florian Hoffmeister’s efforts on Tár. There’s such a measure of control in his work here that richly deserves some Oscar love.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who will win: Sarah Polley for Women Talking
Who should win: Sarah Polley for Women Talking
The Best Adapted Screenplay category is the big high-profile place where films like Living and Glass Onion will make their stand and try not to walk away empty-handed. Top Gun: Maverick and All Quiet on the Western Front are the two biggest Best Picture contenders among the five nominees, which would ordinarily mean that this would come down to these two. Instead, it’s looking increasingly likely Sarah Polley will get her first Oscar for adapting Mirian Toews’ novel Women Talking.
This is far from a done deal, especially with all the momentum All Quiet on the Western Front is building up. But Women Talking has won the Best Adapted Screenplay category at so many major pre-Oscars precursor ceremonies (including the Writers Guild of America Awards) while the dialogue-heavy nature of the movie (compared to spectacle-heavy titles like Maverick or Western Front) makes it seem like something the Academy would gravitate towards. Right now, it seems like a safe bet Sarah Polley’s outstanding writing will get a richly deserved Oscar win.
Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere All at Once
Who should win: Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans
After Kenneth Branagh broke a 30+ year-long curse at this awards show last year to finally score an Oscar win for his Belfast screenplay, it should seem like anything is possible within the Best Original Screenplay terrain. Right now, though, it’s looking like Everything Everywhere All at Once is going to take this category without much trouble. The other four nominees have been recurring fixtures on this year’s award season circuit, but none of them have won anywhere near as many Best Original Screenplay awards as Everything Everywhere All at Once.
In the interest of spreading some love around (since Everything Everywhere All at Once is going to be everywhere when it comes to the major Oscars categories), The Fabelmans winning this category would be an upset few could get mad at. Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg’s script gracefully hearkens back to the latter figure’s childhood without being too insular. Striking the right balance between the deeply personal and beautifully universal would, in any other year, make The Fabelmans a shoo-in to win this award.
Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Who should win: Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once
This is maybe the easiest category of the night to predict and for good reason. Ke Huy Quan has been unstoppable at precursor award shows like the SAG Awards. Snagging Best Supporting Actor trophies left and right, he seems well-assured to topple long-standing industry titans like Brendan Gleeson and Judd Hirsch in this category on Oscar night, and for good reason; he’s tremendous in the role, gracefully imbuing believability into each of the wildly varying personalities he’s asked to inhabit.
Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin
Who should win: Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Out of all the four acting categories, this one seems to be the most chaotic in terms of predicting who the current frontrunner is. Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever seemed like a surefire winner for a moment, but major pre-Oscars Best Supporting Actress trophies keep getting handed out to other performers. Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin has proven to be a quietly enduring winner throughout the season while Jamie Lee Curtis, fresh off scoring her first-ever Oscar nod, has a lot of buzz behind her.
Right now, the category looks like it’s a three-way race between Bassett, Condon, and Curtis. My instinct tells me that industry veterans Bassett and Curtis will split the vote and allow Kerry Condon to walk away with an Oscar win. Condon’s terrific in Banshees, so there’ll be no tears from me if she wins this. But, out of all five of this year’s Best Supporting Actress candidates, Stephanie Hsu’s work as Joy in Everything Everywhere All at Once is the one that dazzled me the most. It’d be a joy (no pun intended) to see the film’s rising tide of love at the Oscars carry her to a win.
Who will win: Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Who should win: Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once
I won’t lie, dear reader: a part of me wants to see Andrea Risborough clinch this award after her surprise nomination almost imploded the entire award season complex, just for chaos reasons.
But back in reality, Michelle Yeoh looks poised to walk away with the trophy this year. As late as a month-ish ago, it looked like Yeoh and Cate Blanchett in Tár were going to be going head-to-head for this category, with no winner seeming certain. Since then, though, Yeoh’s cleaned up at a bunch of big award shows and Tár’s presence in the award-season landscape has diminished a bit. Blanchett surprising the world and scoring her third Oscar win wouldn’t be a total shock, but it doesn’t look likely at this point. We seem to be firmly planted in the universe where Michelle Yeoh finally wins an Oscar, an exciting development that’s impossible to argue with.
Who will win: Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Who should win: Paul Mescal in Aftersun
On the one hand, the Academy loves to reward depictions of real-life icons, which makes Austin Butler’s lead turn in Elvis seem impossible to ignore. It also wouldn’t be shocking if Colin Farrell turned his first-ever Oscar nomination into a win for his Banshees of Inisherin performance. However, I’m wagering Brendan Fraser manages to squeak out a win here. After all, Academy voters also adore “transformative” turns that adhere to a nice comeback narrative, and Fraser’s narrative fits the bill there. And his Best Actor wins at key precursor events like the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards also seem to set the stage for the former Encino Man star to secure an Oscar.
In a perfect world, though, we’d all be preparing for the Best Actor Oscar to go to a performance that was incredibly subtle and thoroughly original. Paul Mescal’s work in Aftersun is as richly-detailed as it is quietly devastating. There’s no chance Mescal can win, given that Aftersun is only nominated in this category (which indicates that Academy voters aren’t as passionate about this film as they are for Elvis, for instance) and it lacks the attention-grabbing traits that many Oscar-winning performances utilize.
Who will win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere All at Once
Who should win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere All at Once
It’s so strange that the story around this category would be totally different if Edward Berger had scored a nomination for All Quiet on the Western Front. Without that film around, though, the Daniels have no perceivable competition for a win for their work on Everything Everywhere All at Once. They’ve scored countless other Best Director trophies throughout award season, while none of the other four nominees are getting enough pre-Oscars momentum to make them serious candidates. There’s always the chance a Spielberg or McDonagh win comes out of nowhere and upsets the night. But for now, the director of The Death of Dick Long should prepare to have a Best Director Oscar put on his shelf.
Who will win: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Who should win: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Is there anything that can topple Everything Everywhere All at Once for the Best Picture prize at this point? You never know, though it’s feeling increasingly likely that a movie as unabashedly offbeat and absurd can take it home. If anything could upset its chances at Oscar glory, it’s a pair of movies that didn’t crack the Best Director category. All Quiet on the Western Front has a lot of support from international voters, while Top Gun: Maverick has tons of advocates among older Oscar voters. Those two groups could turn the tide away from EEAAO and onto either of those other two movies.
Still, given that Everything Everywhere All at Once has come to dominate every major precursor award show and it’s managed to secure so much buzz for every aspect of its production, it’s going to be tough to top this one. Sometimes, it feels rote to go into the Oscars with such a shoo-in in the top award. In this case, though, it’s incredibly exciting to imagine that something as out of the ordinary as this will get the top prize. Cross your hot dog fingers and hope for the best.