Lee: A one-stop Oscar cheat sheet


Prayitno, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The 95th annual Oscar’s ceremony will be held March 12.

Noah Curtis Lee, Staff Writer

Oscar season is upon us! Or, perhaps more accurately, Oscar predictions season is upon us!

While it would be hilariously tongue-in-cheek to overanalyze an underappreciated category such as Best Makeup and Hairstyling, everybody knows the public only cares for a handful of the categories up for grabs on March 12.

Those are the Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture awards.

The acting races stand particularly interesting this year, each boasting an eclectic, unprecedented mix of Academy veterans and career newcomers.

In the Best Actor category, all five competitors are first-time Oscar-nominees. Currently leading odds polls is favorite Brendan Fraser, nominated for his leading performance in “The Whale.” Fraser is no stranger to stardom. He basked in the A-list fame of the 1990s and early 2000s, but his career hit a terrible slump in the mid-2000s. For the last two decades, his film presence has been virtually nonexistent, but his landmark performance in “The Whale” let him break out of his occupational rut and jump back into the limelight. Many fans are hoping — and very strongly predicting — Fraser’s newfound cinematic momentum will carry him all the way to an Academy Award. Though it’s possible Austin Butler, who played Elvis in — you guessed it — “Elvis,” will win, the award currently seems like a lock for Fraser.

This year’s Best Actress lineup remains a bit more of a tossup, though it is essentially a two-way headlock between powerhouses Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett. Yeoh, a first-time nominee who starred in fan favorite “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” has already made history by being the first Asian-identifying woman to be nominated for an acting Academy Award, and it’s looking very likely she’ll become the first to win one, too. However, Cate Blanchett, who recently won the Best Actress BAFTA for her performance in “Tár,” has marginally lower, if not dead equal, chances against Yeoh.

The race for Best Picture also remains incredibly unclear.

Currently, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads betting odds, but it leads by a slim margin. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” continuing a recent trend of multiverse-based cinema, has become a sort of instant cult classic. Something about the film — its boisterous and raunchy humor, whimsical concepts or genuine generational heart — has resonated particularly with nearly every target audience, making its frontrunner status unsurprising.

However, there are other films strongly competing for the top award, including, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Fabelmans” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is the most prominent competitor to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as of now. The Ireland-staged dramedy, though capturing the delight of critics (96% on Rotten Tomatoes), has been a tad more divisive with audiences (75% audience score). However, a strong screenplay and incredible performances from Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan and Brendan Gleeson all support the film’s potential run for Best Picture.

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” a German anti-war film based on Erich Maria Remarque’s literary classic, also has big chances this year. The film has a decent amount of momentum after winning a staggering seven BAFTA Awards in February. Funny enough, “All Quiet on the Western Front” winning Best Picture this year wouldn’t even be the first time an adaptation of the novel has taken the award. In 1930, a Lewis Milestone-directed version of “All Quiet on the Western Front” won the coveted Best Picture Award in the third-ever Oscars ceremony. In a way, the comparable acclaim of these two adaptations hints toward a convergent universality of old and new cinema.

“The Fabelmans,” directed by New Hollywood patriarch Stephen Spielberg, also has tremendous chances at the Oscars. The film details a semi-autobiographical — though obviously exaggerated — account of Spielberg’s early years as a young movie-making hobbyist. The film is sentimental and rosy and sweet; it’s an archetypical family drama with individual aspects seen many times over, but it implements each familiarity with the utmost amount of nostalgic care and respect. At times, the film walks a line feeling dangerously close to Oscar bait, but it’s impossible not to have a soft spot for Spielberg’s works, which have informed the creative endeavors of thousands of aspiring filmmakers.

“Top Gun: Maverick,” though being far more adrenaline-junkie than the typical Best Picture nominee, was arguably one of last year’s most impactful cinematic events. The film is seen by many as having revived a pre-COVID-19 movie theater industry, earning the most domestically of any 2022 release. “Top Gun: Maverick” also represents the action genre at its best, inventing and utilizing many pioneering aircraft cinematography techniques. While “Top Gun: Maverick” may be less thought-provoking than some of its competitors, the film, at the very least, is a masterpiece of technical filmmaking (that also inspired thousands of men to grow out ‘80s mustaches).

While there are five other unmentioned Best Picture nominees (“Tár,” “Elvis,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Triangle of Sadness” and “Women Talking”), the simple fact is these films have virtually no chance of winning the award. For one reason or another, whether it be overt blockbuster tone, polarizing artistry or audience obscurity, these films have only a sliver of a chance to win big.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to definitively declare who will win any of Sunday’s awards. If the Oscars has taught us anything over the last couple years, it’s that the Academy is impossible to predict. There will always be moments when Chadwick Boseman will lose a posthumous 10:1 odds, when underdog Apple TV films take the highest prize and when “La La Land”’s Best Picture status is ripped away and given to “Moonlight.” 

When all is said and done, the actual awards may not even matter; society’s memory of the event may be marred by a certain “slap heard round the world.” Yes, at the end of the day, it’s futile, perhaps even foolish, to try to predict the Oscars.

But, boy, is it fun.