This year’s Oscars Best Picture race has fallen into disarray.
Normally, after a few major awards have been handed out, a narrative has been established. A single leader becomes the movie to beat, or a fierce fight between two heavyweights reaches new heights (No Country for Old Men vs There Will Be Blood, The Hurt Locker vs Avatar).
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Now though, thanks to recent changes within the Academy’s voting membership and the acceptance of streaming movies as actual movies, the competition has become almost impossible to predict — and despite Everything Everywhere All At Once recently emerging as the bookies' favourite — the 2023 Best Picture race may be the hardest to call yet.
The 2023 Best Picture nominees
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle Of Sadness
To understand how we got here, you don’t have to look back far. When the nominations for the 2015 Oscars were announced, they were heavily criticised for their lack of diversity, leading to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending on Twitter.
A year later, every acting category was once again dominated by white actors, and statistics showed that the Academy’s voters were 94% white and 77% male. Sweeping changes came into effect with the Academy’s membership expanding heavily.
In 2017, perceived wisdom dictated that Hollywood’s most prestigious award belonged to La La Land, but, following an on-stage fiasco, Moonlight won – the first LGBTQ+ movie with an all-Black cast to win.
Two years later, Get Out was a surprise contender for Best Picture, and 2020 saw Parasite become the first non-English language movie to accept the prize. Then, last year, CODA became the first streaming movie to take home Best Picture.
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The Academy, at least when it comes to Best Picture winners, has become more open-minded, and this year there are plenty of worthy contenders. Top Gun: Maverick is the mainstream choice – a bombastic, fantastic movie that brought people flying back to cinema screens.
Likewise, Avatar: The Way of Water proved you should never bet against James Cameron. Meanwhile, Women Talking, Elvis, and Tár have a typical Oscar feeling to them, either coming from beloved filmmakers or having starry casts. Triangle of Sadness marks a wild-card pick, its ‘eat the rich’ narrative proving timely and provocative.
Best representing the Academy’s opening eyes is Everything Everywhere All at Once, the multiversal action comedy that centres on a Chinese-American family. While it lost the Golden Globe for Best Comedy to The Banshees of Inisherin, the Daniels’ movie remains a top contender for Best Picture after picking up surprise nominations across various other categories, showcasing its wide appeal among the voting membership. Not bad for a movie featuring a butt plug fight.
Speaking of Banshees, that Globes win propelled Martin McDonaugh’s film up many prediction lists. However, after being everyone’s favourite to win the BAFTA for Best Film but losing, chatter around the Colin Farrell/Brendan Gleeson double-hander has cooled down. Sure, both BAFTA’s supporting actor categories went to Banshees’ cast members (Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon), yet, considering the British voting body didn’t hand the home-favourite the victory, its chances seem slashed in the United States.
That brings us to All Quiet on the Western Front. The anti-war epic has had a miraculous rise; even Netflix – which put its weight behind Glass Onion, White Noise, The Good Nurse, Bardo, and Blonde – seemed to think All Quiet wouldn’t break through with voters.
How wrong the streamer was. All Quiet’s timely story — about a horrendous, all-powerful right-wing state using misinformation to empower young men to go to war — and strong word of mouth led BAFTA to hand over multiple awards to director Edward Berger and his crew.
But can the German-language, streaming sensation repeat the success at the Oscars? That’s not a question any awards’ analysts thought they would be asking a few weeks ago, especially when Steven Spielberg’s in the mix.
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The director’s autobiographical drama The Fablemans shows that he’s still a master of the discipline, and although British voters ignored The Fablemans, it’s hard to argue that the American filmmaker doesn’t have more pull in his native country.
Along with Everything Everywhere, The Fablemans remains one of the favourites to win Best Picture among many analysts. However, at the bookies, The Banshees of Inishirin, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Top Gun: Maverick are just below Everything Everywhere.
The biggest tell will come when the Producers Guild of America Awards take place on 25 Febraury – last year, the top prize went to CODA – and that could potentially throw another major contender into the mix. Until then, any coherent narrative about the Oscars has been thrown into chaos – and it’s made this awards season all the more exciting.
Read more: Everything we know about the 2023 Oscars
The Oscars ceremony, due to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will take place on 12 March, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Watch a trailer for the 2022 Best Picture winner CODA