My Way Too Early 2023 Academy Awards' Best Picture Nominee Predictions

A few years ago, I made way too early predictions for the Academy Awards' Best Picture nominees. I swear that I did it a few other times too, but I can't find the evidence (which likely means it is a now lost articles I wrote for another site). The previous article was posted shortly after the awards with the idea that Oscar buzz would still draw readers. As the 2022 Academy Awards become a distant memory, I started thinking that I'd skip out this year. But even though I won't be jumping on all that Oscar ballyhoo and excitement, the actual insight and knowledge on what has a strong chance of getting nominated is about the same now as it would have been just a few days after the awards show.

The truth is that the majority of movie that will get nominated next January have not been screened for anyone yet, and likely are not completely finished. There is a chance that some of the frontrunner will pull a Foxcatcher or The Wolf of Wall Street, and not even get finished in time to be released this year to qualify for consideration.

That is the fun in making Best Picture nomination many months before they get announced, because it is before all the buzz or even knowing if a potential movie is any good. It is one thing to make predictions after all the movies have been released and the buzz is swirling about, but the truly brave do it when the editing on half the movies aren't even finished. At this point, I am basing everything off the name involved, the premise of the movie and the Academy's voting habits. 

Last time I did this, I got three out of 10 predictions correct. To be fair to me, the Academy only nominated 9 out of a potential 10 slots, so I actually got three out of 9 right, which increases my percentage slightly. And again, the predictions were based off almost none of the movies being seen thus having no critical or audience reception. They were mostly just promises of a soon to be finished work of art.

If I don't know if any of the movies are going to be any good, then how can I make predictions for 10 nominations in January all the way here in May. Well, Bohemian Rhapsody and Don't Look Up prove the nominations never actually have to do with the movies being the actual best of the year, or at least, my opinion on the movie quality means nothing. The voters' criteria usually lines up more with what is the perception of what makes a good movie, what kind of critical buzz the movie has and if it believed to be relevant and topical. 

Though, maybe I'm just being cynical. Because I admit great movies do get nominated, and I was pleasantly surprised that amazing but unique pictures like Parasite and Shape of the Water not only got nominations but won. So, quality does factor in, but I have no idea what movies will hit that mark, so it is all a guess in which picture measure up to their potential.

So, here I go. My very ill-conceived and reckless predictions for what movies will be nominated for Best Picture in January of 2023.

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once: This is actually a movie people have already seen, and is one of the big stories of the first half of the year as it is this small, quirky, arthouse-style A24 release that is gathering enough critical acclaim and buzz that it not only increasing the number of theatre it is in week by week but it has achieved the rare feat of increasing its weekend gross each week. There is a strong chance this movie may be too oddball and far-out for many Academy voters, but then we live in a time where a sea monster romance won the statuette, and the Academy does love to celebrate small movies that become surprise hits. It also has the disadvantage of being a first half release, and voters notoriously have short memories and tend to vote mostly for fall movies. But my guess is that this lands on many critics best of the year lists and the break-out hit label will be talked about at the end-of-the-year thus earning the Michelle Yeoh starring and Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert directed movie a spot. I also must confess this is where doing this now instead of right after the Awards gives me a bit of an unfair advantage compared to past years, as I probably would not have chosen it then as I had no idea what kind of amazing box office legs this one would have (initial small release on March 25th the same weekend of the Oscars, and successful enough where it finally made it to Brantford this weekend).

2. Elvis: This is another longshot, because it is not only a summer release, thus far out for Academy voter's memories, but there is a chance it gets slotted into crowd-pleasing popcorn fare and also, it could just not be very good. Baz Luhrmann's excesses can sometimes overwhelm his movies, but it is those same excesses when harnessed that can be what makes this memorable and stand-out. He has directed a Best Picture winner before in Moulin Rouge, and Elvis looks to be leaning heavy into the musical side, which is a genre that usually garners at least one nominations most years. The big key is what kind of praise Austin Butler gets for his depiction as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, because if they can garner critical buzz then this has strong chance of getting a 'will not win but we want to acknowledge it slot'. This is the type of shoo-in vote from 20 years ago when big studio crowd-pleasers tended to get nominations, but the current habit seems to lean heavy towards thought-provoking smaller studio pictures.

3. The Woman King: Historical epics don't get the same nominations that they used to, but that is also mostly due to the fact that they aren't made as much anymore. Based on true event are still the type of movies that garner lots of Academy attention and usually take up a few slots. Plus, there is respected director Gina Prince-Blythwood, who helmed movies like Beyond the Lights, Love and Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, that Academy members would love to recognize with their push for diversity. The cast has acting powerhouse Viola Davis in a major role, and Star Wars' own John Boyega has a part as well. The Academy is much more aware of the importance of diversity that will give this movie a strong chance, especially if it ends up being as good and epic as hoped.

4. Don't Worry Darling: Olivia Wilde proved her filmmaking magic with the amazing Booksmart. Her latest directing effort looks to have a Stepford Wives vibe, which means it is a thriller with possible supernatural or maybe even sci-fi vibes along with horror elements. All of those genres don't do great with voters, but in the past few years there have been nominees like Dune, Get Out, and Mad Max: Fury Road, so it isn't impossible, especially if it garners tons of critical acclaim and ends up on most critics' best of lists. Based off the trailer and Wilde's past movie, there is a strong chance this will get oodles of praise. Plus, it is backed by the terrific Florence Pugh in the lead role and Chris Pine seems leaning into his villain role, and from an audience buzz standpoint, Harry Styles could help gain it some attention as well.

5. Amsterdam: It has been many years since Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, but for a short stint, David O Russell was an Academy nominations magnet. Joy did not get the same kind of buzz and he hasn't helmed a feature in a few years, but it feels foolish to discount Russell, especially with it being a Disney backed movie (through their 20th Century label). It is a period piece, which is another style of movie that often gets nominated, and may blend fiction with significant historical moments in the 1930s, which if it has anything to do with early World War 2 will make it another element that typically draws in voters (though as voters age out and younger ones replace them, this may be less of a sure-thing). The cast is really going to up the chances for critical acclaim and buzz as it is loaded with such greats as Anya Taylor-Joy, John David Washington, Zoe Saldana, Margot Robbie, Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Michael Myers (welcome back!), Timothy Olyphant, Michael Shannon, Andrea Riseborough and Chris Rock. I know almost nothing about this movie, but I can't wait to see it. 

6. She Said: The Academy loves important feeling movies, and this picture about the reporter who wrote the New York Times story that launched the #MeToo movement is topical and significant. There is also a good chance this will be a divisive movie and get significant discussion on social media, which will only help with its reach and exposure. Director Maria Schrader hasn't helmed that big critical and award-wining hit yet, but she has impressive talent in the leads with Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. It also has the backing of a major studio in Universal, who seem quite high on it, so I'd consider this a heavy favourite if it turns out to be as good as its potential and avoids being too didactic or preachy. 

7. The Fabelmans: The Academy loves Steven Spielberg. There is a strong chance they will adore a movie not only directed by him, but a movie that is a fictional version based on his childhood. My guess is it will also be a movie about filmmaking and what inspired him to want to create movies for his entire life. Hollywood just adores movies that are about them and celebrate them. On top of that you have Michelle Williams in a major role, and she always adds prestige. Seth Rogen has really become a great actor, which I feel like he is shooting for an Oscar nod with this performance. Paul Dano is another great performer that should help elevate this movie. This has been a passion project for Spielberg, which usually either means a giant mess or an absolute masterpiece. I am really excited about this one, and if it even is halfway decent, it is a strong nominee contender.

8. Killers of the Flower Moon: You never ever discount Martin Scorsese. This is another one if it actually gets released this year (doesn't seem to have a set release date yet) that must be considered a lock for a nomination. It is another 'based on true events' period piece that adds to it chances, but it also is topical and relevant as it looks at the 1920 FBI investigation into the mysterious murders of members of the Osage tribe. The historical abuse, oppression and mistreatment of Indigenous people has been a justified major issue in the past few years, so this movie will have a crucial message that will trigger tons of discussion and debate. Plus, you have Scorsese's muse Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role that will garner attention and as well, elevate the prestige of the picture. If you want to up the movie's chances, Eric Roth is one of the screenwriters and crafted the screenplays of several past Best Picture nominees including Dune, A Star is Born, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Munich and Forrest Gump. If it makes a 2022 release, this feels like a sure thing, and I just hope for a theatrical release (currently set for Apple Plus_.

9. Babylon: Very little is known about the Damien Chazelle directed picture. But as the man who helmed La La Land and Whiplash, his name is enough to make the movie a strong contender. It is also a period piece that is set in Hollywood, which are two magic ingredients to attract the Academy and make it a strong pick. On top of that, it is another movie with a ridiculously stacked cast including Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Samara Weaving, and Olivia Wilde.

10. Women Talking: Confession time. My final pick was chosen by a coin toss, which may be how the Academy makes their last picks too. I was thinking George Miller's latest outing in Three Thousand Years of Longing but instead decided to go with another director that takes long breaks in-between pictures in Canadian Sarah Polley. She is a critically acclaimed director, and she is taking on critically acclaimed source material with her adaptation of Miriam Toews's novel. If Toews name isn't familiar with you then I want to make it clear she is a Canadian treasure who has written several insightful yet humorous novels that explore Mennonite community in Manitoba. Complicate Kindness is one of the best novels that I've read in the past 20 years, and while I haven't read this one, it is on the reading list. Polley has proven great skill in blending dramatic moments with comedic, and knows how to really dig into the heart of her characters. She has some incredible talents to help embody those characters in Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara and Jessie Buckley. In the last decade, the Academy has moved towards nominating many independent and smaller pictures with something important to say, and this seems like something they will love.

Those are my ill-informed and way-too-early picks. What do you think has a good chance to snag a Best Picture nomination next January?