Who Should Win At The 2023 Oscars?

Ahead of the Academy Awards on March 13, Gayle Sequeira picks her favourites from the major categories
Who Should Win At The 2023 Oscars?

Look, if I had it my way, Nope would be nominated across the board and Decision to Leave would’ve picked up at least Best Cinematography and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Tang Wei) noms. But it is what it is and while I'm not wholly unhappy with the Oscar nominees, I can feel my naive optimisim waning in anticipation of the eventual winners. Even so, ahead of the Oscars on March 13, here’s my wishlist of who I'd like to see awarded:

Best Picture

Nominees: All Quiet On The Western Front (Malte Grunert, Producer), Avatar: The Way of Water (James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers), The Banshees of Inisherin (Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers), Elvis (Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss, Producers), Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert and Jonathan Wang, Producers), The Fabelmans (Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, Producers) Tár (Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert, Producers), Top Gun: Maverick (Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison and Jerry Bruckheimer, Producers), Triangle of Sadness (Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober, Producers), Women Talking (Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Frances McDormand, Producers)

There’s no multiverse in which the Daniels don't take the top award, but I'm rooting for Tár, Todd Field’s first film in 16 years and a stunning medication on power, prestige and their poisonous aftermath. The movie operates as a fascinating Rorschach Test, specific enough to take on some of the most fraught topics of our current cultural moment, including cancel culture and the #MeToo movement, but it’s also just ambiguous enough that opposing readings of it could hold enough weight to be true simultaneously. Is Tár a ghost story? Is the second half of the film one long dream sequence? Who knows? The only thing I can say for sure is that for a movie very much of this time, it’s also timeless. It’s my emphatic Best Picture pick.

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Actor In A Leading Role

 Nominees: Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Paul Mescal (Aftersun), Bill Nighy (Living)

History favours Austin Butler. After all, seven of the past 10 Best Actor winners — Will Smith, Rami Malek, Gary Oldman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Eddie Redmayne, Matthew McConaughey and Daniel Day-Lewis — have accepted the award for their portrayals of real people. Still, I must hope for a Colin Farrell win. From the moment his Padraic enters the frame, feet light, smile sunny, head empty, you know exactly the kind of man this is. Padraic’s niceness may make him uninteresting, but as a performer, Farrell is anything but, playing on that wholesomeness to render the hurt inherent in his turn from friendly to flinty even more acute. In devastating increments, Farrell (and his eyebrows) capture the confusion and loneliness of a man who’s lost his only friend, and his eventual despair at discovering he has nothing more left to lose.

Actor In A Supporting Role

Nominees: 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)

Barry Keoghan is on a quest to play every grotty little freak there is and with good reason — he’s great at it! — but The Banshees Of Inisherin has displayed just how much of a talent the actor has for comedy. The scene in which his character, Dominic, delivers the news about his father’s bedtime proclivities to a friend offhand is so perversely funny, it almost masks the extent of just how dysfunctional their relationship is. Keoghan’s steady guilelessness only deepens the ache of what eventually happens to his character. This is someone who, for all his kindness and companionship, can’t seem to inspire reciprocal feelings in anyone else on the isle. Always a little too slow to get the joke, he’s become the butt of it. He’s resigned himself to a house that isn’t a home, watching his dreams go by. His is one of the many unfolding tragedies in Inisherin, but it’s no less heart-breaking.

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Actress In A Leading Role

Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Tár), Ana de Armas (Blonde), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), Michelle Williams (The Fablemans), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

Cate Blanchett pulls off something of an acting sleight of hand in Tár, a Matryoshka doll of performative ingenuity. This is Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár as Lydia Tár. For what is Tár after all but a construct of her own imagination, a figure invented in as much detail as one of the composer’s many fictions? Blanchett makes every line sound simultaneously rehearsed and off-the-cuff, a woman who outwardly projects complete control and yet spirals dangerously within the confines of her own mind. The scenes in which she conducts are a highlight — a concoction of wild abandon and timed precision. Tár might be fixated on building up her own legacy, but with one of her all-time greatest performances, Blanchett cements hers.

Actress In A Supporting Role

Nominees: 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)

For a movie about men preoccupied with lofty thoughts of loneliness and legacy, it’s Kerry Condon’s fiercely rational Siobhan who anchors The Banshees of Inisherin. She radiates warmth and devotion to her brother, concealing a quiet devastation at the prospect of never being able to leave the isle because she can’t bring herself to leave him. Her incredulousness at the dinner table when she discovers he’s a lot more intellectually lacking than she thought, her sharp anger at the petty squabbles between the men on the island, her gentle dissuasion of Dominic when he asks her to marry him — each of these emotions is filtered through the body language of someone who’s seen all that small-town life has to offer and yearns for something more. In a cast of talented performers, she’s a standout.

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Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh), Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), The Fablemans (Steven Spielberg), Tár (Todd Field), Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund)

Is it fair to love Tár and The Banshees of Inisherin equally for wildly disparate reasons? The Banshees of Inisherin begins with a slight premise — a man decides to stop talking to his best friend — from which the film mines the depths of loneliness, vulnerability and the suffocation of small-town living. Tár, on the other hand, dares to wade into a thorny and complicated cultural morass from the get go, emerging with an assured ambiguity that might be off-putting to some, but is the whole point — there are no easy answers. Beginning with a long interview conducted by New York Times reporter Adam Gopnik who lays out fictional conductor Lydia Tár’s credentials, the film establishes itself as meticulous, well-researched and scalpel-sharp. It’s in contrast to The Banshees of Inisherin, in which every scene seems to segue, sometimes gently, sometimes violently, yet always organically into the next, replicating the gradual rhythms of life itself. If Tár’s screenplay leaves viewers considering the mammoth effort it must take to construct such a narrative, The Banshees of Inisherin makes it seem effortless. Both deserve praise.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

Nominees: All Quiet On The Western Front (Screenplay - Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson & Ian Stokell), Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Written by Rian Johnson), Living (Written by Kazuo Ishiguro), Top Gun: Maverick (Screenplay by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie; Story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks), Women Talking (Screenplay – Sarah Polley)

In the era of nostalgia-bait (looking at you, Marvel), where callbacks are currency and old footage is just new marketing techniques, Top Gun: Maverick is the rare blockbuster sequel that does more than invoke the past; it also manages to build on it in meaningful ways, turning the cruel passage of time itself into one of the film’s biggest villains. It’s easy enough to dismiss the narrative nuts and bolts of action movies in favour of focussing on the frenetic stunts, but Maverick’s screenplay is a taut, ticking time bomb that spells out, over several iterations, exactly how hard the central mission is going to be before thrilling you with what transpires anyway. I’d also be happy with a win for Women Talking, a powerful chamber drama that shattered me bit by bit.

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Best Director

Nominees: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh), Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), The Fablemans (Steven Spielberg), Tár (Todd Field), Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund)

Tár sweep! Tár sweep! Todd Field is my number one pick, though I’m also partial to Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans, an account of one his life’s most harrowing experiences (his parents’ divorce) told with the kind of grace and empathy only made possible with time and healing. There are any number of wondrous shots in the film (and many instances of ‘Spielberg face’, with the objects of reverence being the movies themselves), but the film’s counterpoint to their beauty is to lay bare the ugliness of how art is often intertwined with an obsessive need for control. A scene in which Spielberg’s stand-in envisions himself filming his parents’ argument in a mirror underlines this idea, and like it, most impeccably framed shots have undercurrents that skew towards tragedy. The last shot is a cheeky visual joke from a filmmaker who acknowledges that he’s still learning, still finding new ways of seeing. What a joy it’s been to look at the world through his eyes.

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