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Oscars 2023: Who Will Win — And Who Should Win — The 95th Academy Awards' Top Honours

From the titles and performances with the most buzz to underrated gems, Rahul Desai predicts the biggest winners from the 95th Academy Awards — and who should really be taking home that Oscar.

Oscars 2023: Who Will Win — And Who Should Win — The 95th Academy Awards' Top Honours
The 95th Academy Awards, or Oscars 2023, will be held on March 12 in Los Angeles.
  • Rahul Desai

Last Updated: 05.53 PM, Mar 09, 2023

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THE 95TH ACADEMY AWARDS — also known as the 2023 Oscars — are finally here. The ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 12. [That’s 5.30 AM Indian Standard Time (IST) on March 13]. Jimmy Kimmel will host the show for the third time. His job won’t be easy, of course, because 2023 has the tough job of following the scarcely believable drama of “Slapgate” — where, an hour before he won the lead-acting Oscar, Will Smith strode onto stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock. There is now a ‘crisis management team’ for potential incidents such as these, though Kimmel’s presence is also a reminder of the legendary La La Land/Moonlight mix-up back in 2017.

A bit of spice won’t hurt the night, but there’s no denying that this is perhaps the most wide-open nomination field in years. There are no all-out leaders in most categories, though breakout hits like Everything Everywhere All At Once and All Quiet on the Western Front have nabbed the maximum opportunities to win. The run-up to the Oscars — consisting of the Golden Globes, all the Guild awards and the BAFTAs — has been fairly split, with only a few films taking the lead after months of hardcore hype and campaigning.

Onto my favourite part of the season now — where I go through all the big categories and do some amateur crystal ball-gazing. Keep in mind that India has not one, not two, but three nominations this time. So if there’s ever a time to be hopeful and excited, this is it.

The Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

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)

Will Win: Ke Huy Quan

The Vietnamese-American actor — as the tender multiverse laundry-and-taxes husband from Everything Everywhere All At Once — has been the story of the awards season so far. A former child actor from Steven Spielberg’s 1984 classic Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ke Huy Quan’s difficult journey back to fame has been widely hailed as one of the ultimate immigration-perseverence tales. It helps that his Waymond is the soul of the Daniels’ (Kwan and Scheinert) beautifully imaginative genre-mocking family drama, propelling the central mother-daughter generational crisis into the realms of the philosophical.

Should Win: Barry Keoghan

As the island simpleton who falls prey to the tragedy of frayed male bonds, the young Irish actor — and the future Joker to Robert Pattinson’s Batman — delivers the most heartbreaking performance of 2022. His “there goes that dream” is a cultural moment of sorts, and it’s to his enduring credit that Martin McDonagh’s pitch-black comedy stages his character Dominic as a real human defying a dim-witted caricature. He could’ve easily become the village idiot, but Keoghan is the conscience that dies in a battle of bored egos. He doesn’t overdo the quirks, and the result is a sense of fiction that will stand the test of time.

The Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
The Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

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)

Will Win: Jamie Lee Curtis

This is probably the least predictable category of the year — Bassett was an early favourite before (thankfully) losing steam, and Chau is the dark horse — but the Academy has a nostalgic weakness for veterans who land a first nomination after decades in the industry. I sense that Lee Curtis’ eye-catching tax-inspector role in the movie of the year will be a sentimental choice (though not an undeserved one). She was the reason most audiences started to see the high-concept absurdist sci-fi thriller as an ‘acting’ contender too, a trend that has swept through awards season much to everyone’s surprise.

Should Win: Kerry Condon

Condon is more than the underdog after her SAG and BAFTA wins, and her performance as Siobhan — the empathetic but exasperated woman on an island of feuding men — is beautifully measured. It’s in the eyes and voice, and Condon ensures that we look at the ‘sister’ as the protagonist of her own parallel film.

The Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role
The Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Austin Butler (Elvis)
Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin)
Brendar Fraser (The Whale)
Paul Mescal (Aftersun)
Bill Nighy (Living)

Will Win: Austin Butler

As of this point, this category is a two-horse race between Butler and Brendan Fraser, both of whom have split the spoils heading into the final stretch. Academy voters have a soft spot for average troubled-rockstar biopics (Bohemian Rhapsody, anyone?), which could see the young Australian actor’s showy but committed Elvis Presley rendition gain an edge over Fraser’s career-turning comeback as an obese teacher in his dying days. Butler is relatively unknown, and his performance is more spirit and vibe than physical imitation, so it won’t be a surprise to see him extend the legacy of Oscar-baity musical triumphs.

Should Win: Colin Farrell

Those eyebrows alone deserve an Oscar. Farrell’s performance is wonderfully muted, funny and sad at once, as a stricken man whose best friend finds him too ‘dull’ to continue their bond. It’s easy to get carried away by the Irish actor’s inimitable comic timing and his character Padraic’s ‘innocence,’ but it’s the striking transformation from comfort-zoned pubber to vengeful ex-buddy that defines the anti-bromance. It’s anything but a gimmicky turn, and in an ideal world, either Farrell or Paul Mescal’s flesh-and-blood despair of being a young dad in Aftersun would have been top contender in a category that rarely rewards the quieter films.

The Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role
The Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (Tar)
Ana De Armas (Blonde)
Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie)
Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans)
Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

Will Win: Michelle Yeoh

It’s hard to dominate a category that has multiple-Oscar winner Cate Blanchett in a career-best turn. But it’s harder to win while not being a cast member of Everything Everywhere All At Once this awards season. No film has been more divisive yet more liked than this one, and the performers have been riding a euphoric wave of goodwill generated by the sheer audacity of this film existing. Yeoh’s career is not a minor one, so her deceptively affecting performance as a mother-action-star-spy-agent-dreamer-superhero-wife feels like the icing on the genre-fluid cake that’s been decades in the making.

Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Pound for pound, Blanchett’s is the most remarkable performance of 2022, as a sociopathic music conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic. There are no two ways about that. But the Oscars aren’t always about who is better. It’s about the optics of a particular moment. Everyone wants to see Yeoh win, naturally, but it’s also because Blanchett is ‘predictably’ brilliant. Her genius has long been taken for granted, no matter how much she deserves this award.

The Oscar for Best Directing
The Oscar for Best Directing

Best Directing

Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans)
Todd Field (Tar)
Ruben Ostlund (Triangle of Sadness)

Will Win: Steven Spielberg

It’s nearly impossible to resist the temptation of honouring a legend who goes personal with grace and vulnerability. Spielberg’s most intimate film is far from his best, but the 75-year-old American icon proved that it’s never too late for art to be a medium of catharsis. It’s the idea of him winning with this film that’s more seductive than him actually winning.

Should Win: The Daniels

The Daniels are everything, everywhere and all at once this season, delivering a rare cult blockbuster that has come the closest to expanding the limits of modern storytelling. There has simply been no smarter movie — in terms of craft, concept, heart, social impact and relatability — in 2022. Who knew that the familiar narrative of a broken immigrant family finding their way back to another could look this way? Who knew that the most poignant scene of the year could involve two rocks speaking in subtitles?

The Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All At Once
The Fabelmans
Triangle of Sadness

Will Win: The Fabelmans

The ‘safe’ choice could be Spielberg’s first screenplay Oscar (he’s credited as co-writer with Tony Kushner) for a film that is both memoir and a coming-of-age ode to cinema. There are at least three better screenplays in this category, but it’s not really about ‘quality’ so much as meaning this time. A movie about the childhood of the most significant director of our times is a dent in history itself.

Should Win: Everything Everywhere All At Once/The Banshees of Inisherin

I can’t think of two movies as different as they are similar in terms of narrative themes. The treatment is poles apart, but the truth at the core of both films is the same: A conflict between fate and faith. One’s an ingenious over-the-top punk-rock anthem and the other’s a brooding and lyrical ballad.

The Oscar for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Oscar for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

Will Win: All Quiet on the Western Front

The stark and superbly staged anti-war Netflix epic — centred on fresh-faced German soldiers who have their rose-tinted glasses shattered by World War I — is one of two non-English-language movies nominated in the top tiers of the Best Picture category. That makes it a favourite to win for screenplay, no less because this third film adaptation of the 1929 novel (by Erich Maria Remarque) is an uncanny reminder of the brutalities of war at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been roundly condemned. The topicality aside, the film is destined to make a real-world statement through its clever writing — which juxtaposes the cosy politics of battle with the ugly reality of the battlefield.

Should Win: Women Talking

Sarah Polley’s powerful and nuanced adaptation of the Miriam Toews novel has a dream cast and a way with words in an age when feminism is often misinterpreted as an artistic statement. For some strange reason, the film has missed out on acting nominations. But Polley’s screenplay is ripe with both new and old rage, a testament to the film-maker’s distinct ability to mine the language of womanhood without making a spectacle out of it.

The Oscar for International Feature Film
The Oscar for International Feature Film

International Feature Film

All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany)
Argentina, 1985 (Argentina)
Close (Belgium)
EO (Poland)
The Quiet Girl (Ireland)

Will Win: All Quiet on the Western Front

All the reasons mentioned above, combined with director Edward Berger’s penchant for merging craft with confessional clarity, make the haunting anti-war film an odds-on favourite for perhaps the most distinguished category of the night. There is still no excuse for the exclusion of Decision to Leave and Joyland from the shortlist. Given what we have, though, it’s no secret that the American Academy is leaning towards the left in order to express themselves about their old enemy Russia.

Should Win: Close

Lukas Dhont’s profoundly moving drama about two 12-year-old best friends whose bond is ruptured by the grief of social identity is perhaps the most memorable film about children in decades. It’s simple, quiet, soft and beautifully observed, making it an underdog in a category that often sacrifices the universal in pursuit of the specific.

The Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film
The Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film

Best Documentary Feature Film

All That Breathes
All The Beauty and the Bloodshed
Fire of Love
A House Made of Splinters

Will Win:

The thrilling investigative feature that follows Putin’s most formidable rival is peaking towards the very end of this hotly contested race. One could say it’s a case of right-place-right-time storytelling again, as it is with All Quiet on the Western Front, but credit to the makers for staying the course and trusting the material to win over voters in this anti-Putin era. This category is perhaps the most difficult to predict today, given the belated rise of Fire of Love and All The Beauty and the Bloodshed in the second half of the awards season. Because the first half completely belonged to…

Should Win: All That Breathes

Shaunak Sen’s masterful socio-ecological drama won it all — Sundance, Cannes, IDA, amongst others — in the first half of the festival season, cementing it as the singular favourite to be India’s first non-fiction feature winner. The stunningly filmed and subtext-ridden documentary is so good that it almost looks staged. Yet, its momentum seems to have tapered off towards the business end of awards season, with Fire of Love and Navalny taking a clutch of prizes before the big day. It says a lot about how far Indian non-fiction has advanced, though, that anything less than an Oscar for Sen’s film will be considered an upset.

The Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film
The Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film

Best Documentary Short Film

The Elephant Whisperers
How Do You Measure A Year?
The Martha Mitchell Effect
Stranger At The Gate

Will Win: The Elephant Whisperers

Kartiki Gonsalves’ lovely little film about an indigenous couple caring for an orphaned baby elephant in rural Tamil Nadu is, as of now, a sure bet to win at least one of India’s three potential Oscars this year. A perfect marriage of nature film-making and cultural portraiture, The Elephant Whisperers transcends its crowd-pleasing theme to reveal a sort of emotional fabric that we rarely see in short non-fiction.

Should Win: The Elephant Whisperers

As potent as Stranger At The Gate — a disarming documentary short about an ex-Marine whose Islamophobic plans go for a humane toss — is, it’s The Elephant Whisperers all the way.

The Oscar for Best Music (Original Song)
The Oscar for Best Music (Original Song)

Best Music (Original Song)

‘Applause’ (Tell It like a Woman)
‘Hold My Hand’ (Top Gun: Maverick)
‘Lift Me Up’ (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)
‘Naatu Naatu’ (RRR)
‘This Is A Life’ (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

Will Win: ‘Naatu Naatu’

SS Rajamouli would be lying if he said that the one Oscar nomination for RRR — for MM Keeravani’s lung-busting ‘Naatu Naatu’ — is all he was expecting. Given the acclaim the mythological action drama has earned in the West, there were murmurs of a Best Picture and Best Director nomination as well. But there were already too many ‘international’ contenders for the main categories, which is why the electrifyingly choreographed ‘Naatu Naatu’ feels like a minor consolation prize after all the deafening hype. Which is also why it will win, quite easily at that. It’s not the greatest song in an Indian film last year, forget globally, but the sight of two men burning the pre-independence dance floor is the perfect hybrid of Western exoticism and South Asian legacy.

Should Win: ‘This Is A Life’

Mirski and David Bryne’s song for Everything Everywhere All At Once (if there were ever an Oscar for movie titles) is the best example of music evoking the essence of an impossible-to-slot plot. Of all the soundtracks, this one had the toughest job in terms of narrative expression — and for that alone, for even daring to be associated with the hypercreativity of such a film, ‘This Is A Life’ deserves all the credit at once.

The Oscar for Best Picture
The Oscar for Best Picture

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All At Once
The Fabelmans
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Will Win: Everything Everywhere All At Once

A watershed moment, if there were ever one, if this left-of-field social experiment turns into the most awarded film of the year. After winning the main SAG award for best ensemble, I see no other contender left. The marathon has been run, and absolutely nobody can begrudge the final film standing. I genuinely believe that The Fabelmans and this movie will share the acting-directing categories — and this is the saner combination on the night.

Should Win: Everything Everywhere All At Once

No questions asked. If Aftersun were nominated, it would have been a close second. But as it stands, overrated spectacles like Avatar, Elvis and Triangle of Sadness have rounded up a frankly weak list that has sacrificed merit at the altar of artistic diversity.