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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

My Thoughts on the 2023 Oscars


It's that time of year again. The Academy Awards will be announcing their Oscar winners on March 12. For many who cover film, the ceremony is viewed as a marquee celebration - a culmination of months of hype and anticipation that builds throughout the fall and into the new year. It's a grandiose ceremony packed to the brim with Hollywood stars in luxurious outfits and its fair share of shocking surprises (the 2022 Will Smith incident and the 2017 Best Picture card mishap are a few recent examples).

For me, the ceremony is a snooze fest that I tend to avoid. I like the concept of celebrating what a year in film has to offer. In practice, it should provide a welcome time to reflect on the memorable movies released over the past year. Unfortunately, the ceremony tends to be plagued by nefarious influences. The Oscars are weirdly cynical at times, often benefiting studios that spend millions on marketing their award-hopeful films rather than acknowledging what movies possess the most merit. While art is certainly subjective, it's obvious when certain movies do not earn the acclaim they receive ("The Kings Speech" and "Green Book" winning Best Picture over "The Social Network" and "A Star is Born" remains a befuddling mystery).

Ahead of the ceremony, here is my take on this year's Academy Award crop.

Best 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"

"Women Talking"


Thoughts on the nominees:

To my surprise, this is a robust set of nominees. "The Way of Water," "Top Gun: Maverick," "Everything Everywhere All At Once," and "Elvis" are captivating spectacles that elevated their standard-issue narrative devices. "Women Talking," "Tár," "Banshees of Inisherin," and "The Fabelmans" are richly textured dramas packed with fascinating thematic concepts to toil with. I was not a fan of "Triangle of Sadness," but I can at least say that film took some intriguing risks in its satirization of class warfare. I have not seen the "All is Quiet on the Western Front" remake as I plan to catch up on it in theaters instead of being forced to watch it on Netflix.


What will win:


Since its release, "Everything Everywhere All At Once" has consistently been the one 2022 film to captivate the attention of critics and audiences alike. The film's inspired mix of genres, characters and emotional sentiments makes it a winning effort that should garner support from most Oscar votes.

What should win:


My personal battle for Best Picture would be between "The Fabelmans" and "Banshees of Inisherin." Both featured two masterful directors, Steven Spielberg and Martin McDonagh, working at the apex of their artistic powers. I am hard-pressed to pick a winner, although I would ultimately lean toward "Fabelmans" for its impact as the culmination of Spielberg's legendary filmmaking career.


Best Directing

"The Banshees of Inisherin" — Martin McDonagh

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

"The Fabelmans" — Steven Spielberg

"Tár" — Todd Field

"Triangle of Sadness" — Ruben Östlund


Thoughts on the nominees:

Again, this is a solid crop. I would personally substitute Östlund's verbose yet underwhelming efforts with "Triangle" for a director who left a more substantial mark on the film they shepherded. Jordan Peele for the magnetic horror feature "Nope" or Charlotte Wells for her searing indie drama "Aftersun" would have been more inspiring picks in my book.


Who will win:


Best Picture and Best Director tend to award to the same film, so I could practically guarantee that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert will walk away with the prize. They are worthy winners as "Everything" took a few grand creative swings. It's a vibrant feature that truly comes to life through its distinctive voice and boundless energy.

Who should win:


I have no issues with Kwan and Scheinert winning, but I would likely lean toward picking Spielberg for his immaculate craftsmanship with "The Fabelmans." I would argue it's one of his best films across his five-decade career in the industry.


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Austin Butler in "Elvis"

Colin Farrell in "The Banshees of Inisherin"

Brendan Fraser in "The Whale"

Paul Mescal in "Aftersun"

Bill Nighy in "Living"

Thoughts on the nominees:

There are some fantastic picks here, especially Mescal for his overlooked yet emotionally devastating work "Aftersun." It's an unforgettable performance that communicates so much through nuanced and piercingly authentic choices. In addition, Butler, Farrell and Fraser all delivered dynamic and deeply lived-in performances in their respective roles. Nighy is a safe and bland pick for his fine work in the mediocre "Living." I would have preferred to have seen Daniel Kaluuya for his deft performance in "Nope" or Adam Driver for his acidic wit in "White Noise" receive recognition.


Who Will Win:

It's a toss-up between Fraser and Butler. I could see it going either way, but I lean toward Fraser getting the trophy to symbolize his incredible comeback in the industry. Even though I detested "The Whale," Fraser's performance is one of the film's few bright sparks.


Who Should Win:


Mescal's performance in "Aftersun" still lingers with me today. I am happy he was at least nominated, as it should draw more eyeballs on one of 2022's best films.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett in "Tár"

Ana de Armas in "Blonde"

Andrea Riseborough in "To Leslie"

Michelle Williams in "The Fabelmans"

Michelle Yeoh in "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Thoughts on the nominees:


Ok, this is where the Oscars really butchered its selections. Blanchett is a fierce force with commanding gravitas in Tár and Yeoh is the heart and soul of "Everything Everywhere." The other three are perplexing choices. Williams is more of a supporting player in "The Fabelmans," de Armas gave a sincere effort in the critically maligned "Blonde," and Riseborough's film, "To Leslie," did not receive any genuine attention until a mere few weeks before nominations were announced.


My biggest frustration with this group is its continuation of a familiar Oscar trend - overlooking people of color. Danielle Deadwyler offered my pick for best performance of the year in the heartbreaking "Till." It's a powerhouse effort from the emerging actress that never features a false emotional note. Viola Davis was also exceptional in the historical epic "The Women King." While both movies enjoyed more critical and financial success compared to other nominees, they were still arbitrarily cast aside. I hope this is a problem the Academy more mindfully addresses in future years.

Who will and should win:

It's a close call between Blanchett and Yeoh. I lean toward Yeoh winning as a much-deserved memento of her exceptional career in the industry. Both actors are also the most worthy nominees in the field.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Brendan Gleeson in "The Banshees of Inisherin"

Brian Tyree Henry in "Causeway"

Judd Hirsch in "The Fabelmans"

Barry Keoghan in "The Banshees of Inisherin"

Ke Huy Quan in "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Thoughts on the nominees:

This is a talented group of actors. The surprise selection of Tyree Henry was one of the few nominations that filled me with genuine happiness. He is one of the best emerging actors in the business, and his sensitive work in "Causeway" elevates a fairly mundane indie drama. My only change would be nominating Paul Dano for his work in "The Fabelmans" over Hirsch. I feel Dano left a more indelible mark on the film in his performance as a pragmatic father burdened by innate nature.

Who should and will win:

Ke Huy Quan was my favorite aspect of "Everything Everywhere." His performance is warm yet emotionally complex, showing the endless talents of an actor who was wrongfully ignored by the industry over the past few decades (Quan was a great child actor in works like "Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom" and "The Goonies"). His comeback is a remarkable tale of perseverance that the Academy Awards will likely award.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Angela Bassett in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

Hong Chau in "The Whale"

Kerry Condon in "The Banshees of Inisherin"

Jamie Lee Curtis in "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Stephanie Hsu in "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Thoughts on the nominees:

I have minimal complaints about these selections. Chau, Bassett, Condon and Hsu are integral components of their respective films, delivering emphatic performances that linger long after the credits role. While I am a fan of Jamie Lee Curtis as an artist and person, her one-note role in "Everything Everywhere" does not inspire much interest. I would have rather seen Margot Robbie in "Babylon" or Keke Palmer in "Nope" receive recognition for their electrifying performances.

Who will and should Win:

This category presents the most variance, as Bassett, Condon and Curtis have won different precursor awards before the Oscars. My head and heart lean toward Condon, who steals the show throughout "Banshees" as an honest influence on her struggling brother.

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