October 5, 2023
WRITTEN BY: JACOB
As is the case every year, there are plenty of Oscar-worthy films in 2023 that have either come out too early in the year or are bound to get lost in the shuffle as more things release and overtake their status. Rather than doing a traditional Oscar predictions piece, I thought I would simply provide a list of films that may end up competing in significant categories: things to watch, things to keep an eye out for, and things we all might be underestimating come awards time. I’ll only be discussing the more high-profile work that has come to bear, whether out of word-of-mouth, fall festival hype, or marketing strength, but let’s get started…
THE CONTENDERS SO FAR
Greta Gerwig’s smash hit, Barbie, became more than a sensation at the global box office, it remains an outright phenomenon. The highest-grossing film of 2023 to date and Warner Bros. highest-grossing film ever, the pink-soaked pop examination of female agency, dreams, and the patriarchy as run by horses is one of the year’s best films outright, boasting the critical and audience acclaim to prove it. Warner Bros. has opted to run the film through the Original Screenplay category, which does give it a better shot at the win, but it may prove a challenge when it comes to overtaking another contender a bit further down the list.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Greta Gerwig), Best Actress (Margot Robbie), Best Supporting Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Song, Best Original Screenplay
On the other half of the “Barbenheimer” hype-wave lies one of director Christopher Nolan’s most accomplished works to date, and perhaps his most fully realized outside of Dunkirk in 2017. All-but-certain to finally net the acclaimed filmmaker the coveted Best Director Oscar he certainly deserves, Oppenheimer is more than a simple biopic of a controversial yet titanic historical figure. It is also an examination of the consequences of creation – how it slips out of the creator’s control, the devastating effects it can have, and whether mankind could ever be trusted not to destroy itself given the chance. Marvelous in nearly every way, this visionary achievement stands on the strength of its technical prowess (though that’s not all it has going for it).
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Actor (Cillian Murphy), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Downey Jr.), Best Supporting Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound
You may not have known it given all the space Barbie and Oppenheimer occupied over the summer’s box office, but there was at least one quietly devastating indie released this summer in the form of Celine Song’s beautifully rendered love story Past Lives. Debuting at Sundance and later rolled out by A24 over the last weeks of June, Song’s saga of longing and grieving, not to mention the catharsis present within both, is a delicate ballet on the thinnest tightrope of emotion. Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro are as enrapturing as any three characters have ever been in a film like this, thanks in no small part to Song’s brilliant screenplay. It may not have the cultural status of some other summer films, but don’t count this one out of the Oscar race by any measure.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Celine Song), Best Actress (Greta Lee), Best Supporting Actor (John Magaro), Best Original Screenplay
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE
While I’m not as convinced as some others that this film is going to be competing in the Best Picture category (the superhero and animation biases may be fading, but they still exist), that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a worthy inclusion, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it won’t be competing beyond Animated Feature. The sequel to one of the most revolutionary animated films ever made once again ups the ante to deliver the most visually stunning Spider-Man movie yet (as well as, much like its predecessor, one of the best ever put to screen, full stop). It’s chock full of heart, humor, terrific voice performances, ace writing, and incredible sound & music. Even at 140 minutes, it’s one of the most rewatchable animated and superhero films ever made, and in my book at least, one of the best films of the year..
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, Best Sound
STILL TO COME
ANATOMY OF A FALL
Directed by Justine Triet to great acclaim out of Cannes and Toronto International Film Festivals, this international thriller has garnered quite a bit of attention for its script and the performance of lead actress Sandra Hüller. Time will tell if that’s enough to boost Triet’s Best Director odds (especially given the lack of female directing nominations in recent years), but with France opting to submit The Taste of Things for International Feature instead, it only has the big categories to fight in.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Justine Triet), Best Actress (Sandra Hüller), Best Original Screenplay
THE COLOR PURPLE
Given that no one has seen The Color Purple yet, determining whether it will compete for awards (and for how many) can be especially tricky. That said, a Christmas Day release for a reimagining of one of movie history’s most famous stories, one that is also an adaptation of the Broadway musical based on that story, is nothing to sneeze at. Given the trailer, I’m willing to bet this one goes pretty far.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Blitz Bazawule), Best Actress (Fantasia Barrino), Best Supporting Actress (x2) (Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson), Best Supporting Actor (Colman Domingo), Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Song, Best Sound
Word-of-mouth on The Holdovers has been incredibly strong, with many claiming it’s Alexander Payne’s best film in years. At the very least, it looks like a uniquely lensed experience with the heart of a great 70s dramedy, and it’s good to see Paul Giamatti back in fighting form as a movie actor. Count me in.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Alexander Payne), Best Actor (Paul Giamatti), Best Supporting Actress (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
Director Martin Scorsese returns to the silver screen for his sixth collaboration with lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who this time is boosted by mostly former but frequent Scorsese muse Robert De Niro in the supporting chair. Add in a potential Oscar-winning turn from Lily Gladstone, plus the presences of Jesse Plemons and newly minted Best Actor winner Brendan Fraser, and that’s one hell of an ensemble. Word on this one after its Cannes premiere was extremely high. Personally, I’ve recently been reading Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, and let me tell you… even at pushing four hours, this thing is going to pack a wallop.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Actress (Lily Gladstone), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound
At long last, Bradley Cooper returns to direct himself and Carey Mulligan (whose star has never shone brighter) in a biopic about the great Leonard Bernstein. While word on this one is that Cooper’s directorial effort may not be enough to snuff out the competition, his performance is on another level, which is saying something considering his pedigree in that department. Beyond that, the film has a solid team on its production side, which could give it exactly the boost it needs come awards time.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound
Love it or hate it, Ava DuVernay’s Origin came out of nowhere and has seemed to garner quite the fanbase following its debut at Venice Film Festival. That said, it’s still too soon to tell exactly how many awards this one could compete for, so I’m keeping it to the ones that would be most likely for now, should it turn out to be stronger than expected.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Ava DuVernay), Best Actress (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor), Best Adapted Screenplay
Oh, Emerald Fennell, you poor director. The mixed reviews on Saltburn give me pause as to just how well it can actually do when the going gets rough, but it seems to be staying in the consciousness of awards voters all the same. There’s a lot that individual nominations can do when put together, and even if this one can’t crack the Best Picture field (which it has not yet given up on), it’s sure to compete in some lower categories.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Actor (Barry Keoghan), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Original Screenplay
The buzz on Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things is through the roof, to the point where it’s widely anticipated that Emma Stone could very well win her second Oscar for her performance. Pair that with its Golden Lion win in Venice, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to at least appear in the Best Picture category, and is likely to be a major contender across the board, even going so far as to perhaps overperform in nominations alone. Just how likely it is to win other categories (apart from Stone) will depend on what it ultimately competes against, but make no mistake, it’s competing.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Yorgos Lanthimos), Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Supporting Actor (x2) (Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay
THE ZONE OF INTEREST
Sight unseen, I believe The Zone of Interest will be a much larger topic of conversation in the Best Picture race once released. From what I understand about it, this Holocaust-set story is a shaking one, which could make voting for it hard to stomach but easy to believe in. The directorial skills of Jonathan Glazer are sure to carry it through to a significant number of nominations.
Best Shot(s): Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Glazer), Best International Feature, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound
OTHER POSSIBLE CONTENDERS
- AMERICAN FICTION
- THE BIKERIDERS
- THE KILLER