by Zach Terrillion
Ladies and enbies, it’s that time of year yet again. The Awards season. The season when the hundreds of nepotism babies, old men, and sapphic icons in the Film Academy congregate to nominate and vote for the OBJECTIVELY best cinema of the year. I have watched too many awards pundit podcasts and liked too many Film Twitter hot takes to prepare for this moment. With Oscar nominations due in January, I figured our last Grape issue this semester would be the perfect opportunity to get out some predictions.
I am focusing on what 10 films will be nominated for best picture. For a mild notice, I have yet to see most of these films as they have yet to be released in theaters – or, they have yet to air at the Apollo, which has seemingly been playing Black Adam for the past four weeks. Thus, take any critique I make with a grain of salt. We are going off of Oscar pedigree and narrative.
Number One: The Fabelmans
The Fabelmans is a critically acclaimed autobiographical film centering on the love of cinema, directed by Steven Spielberg. This is our Best Picture frontrunner. Its nomination was almost guaranteed as soon as the movie’s premise was announced. It combined several of Oscar’s favorite things, drawing comparisons to major contenders like Roma and La La Land in previous years. The memoir movie also won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, a significant precursor needed to win the prize on Oscar night.
Number Two: The Banshees of Inisherin
Martin McDonagh returns with a follow-up to 2017’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which the Academy also embraced. The dark comedy about feuding Irish people has received some of the year’s best reviews, with Colin Farrell a major contender for best actor. While the off-kilter premise may dissuade a couple voters, the sheer excellence of the script and direction will be enough to take it over the line, uniting multiple Academy factions.
Number Three: Women Talking
Directed by Sarah Polley, this novel adaptation chronicles the story of women in a sheltered religious community coming to terms with the trauma of their abuse, ultimately working to overcome the patriarchal forces in their lives. It is a vibrant story for the #METOO era. With a stacked cast featuring folks like Frances McDormand and Jessie Buckley, as well as critical acclaim, it’s hard to overlook as a Picture contender.
Number Four: Everything, Everywhere All at Once
Okay, here’s one most of us have watched already. To call EEAAO a phenomenon would be an understatement. In a realm where indie cinema is increasingly fading, this batshit A24 joint went on to gross over $100 million at the box office through sheer word-of-mouth. It bridged the art-house and blockbuster formulas in a way that will have enormous implications moving forward. It makes you cry, scream, and laugh. It’s CINEMA. Many say that it might be too weird for older Academy members, who may be turned off by its potty humor and bizarre footsies. However, the film’s goodwill should be enough to take it over the line. Whether it can win is worth a whole other article.
Number Five: Babylon
After winning the directing Oscar at 32 for La La Land, Damien Chazelle returns for another ode to Hollywood cinema. The initial reactions to this 3-hour comedic epic have been more mixed, but I feel it’s just too “bait-y” in premise to not nominate. The scene in the first trailer where Margot Robbie snorts coke in the shape of the Paramount Studios logo and then fights a snake should make it a contender for a win!
Number Six: Top Gun: Maverick
If you had told me a year ago that I would put down a Top Gun sequel as a best picture nominee, I would have laughed. Still, for most people, this is THE movie of the year, making $1.5 billion at the box office with some critical praise to boot. Nominating it will lead to a massive boost in ceremony viewership. It’s the perfect succulent for audiences who demand the Academy nominate more blockbusters. Also, the Academy loves its military shiz, homoerotic or not. A nomination is likely, but please, not a win.
Number Seven: Tar
This movie is a cultural reset, at least by Film Twitter’s standard. It apparently screened for two nights at the Apollo, and I completely missed it. The acclaim and Cate Blanchett star power will take it over the line, but I can’t write about it too much without getting irrationally upset at my missed viewing opportunity.
Number Eight: The Whale
Okay. I’m feeling good about the above seven; it’s the bottom three that get more uncertain. I’m gonna put my eggs in this basket. After traumatizing America with Mother!, Darren Aronofsky returns with a more conventional drama featuring unproblematic fave Brendan Fraser in a major comeback role. He’s the current frontrunner for Best Actor, and the film’s heart-wrenching story of an obese man reconnecting with society will appeal to general audiences despite the film’s mixed reviews. The Academy loves movies that make them feel things, no matter how manipulative they could be.
Number Nine: The Woman King
This is a contender fewer and fewer pundits have on their radars within a crowded field, but I have decent faith. The pedigree is strong with Viola Davis in the lead. The premise of African female warriors in the past could be a way to unite the old and new guards of the Academy. It’s a classic historical epic in the manner of movies like Gladiator, while also encompassing a more inclusive narrative within that genre. The film has down-ballot potential, with shoo-in nominations for techs like costumes and score. The film has strong box office receipts and crowd-pleasing qualities to boot. I really wouldn’t underestimate this one!
Number Ten: Avatar: The Way of Water
When the first Avatar came out in 2009, I legitimately thought it was a weird adaptation of The Last Airbender. Still, it proved an Oscar frontrunner when nominated for nine statues in 2010. 13 years later, the sequel has a lot to prove in terms of longstanding cultural impact, and the awards conversation will be a part of it. If the film gets solid reviews, I’m keeping it in. If it’s mediocre, I’m taking it out. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, especially in how James Cameron adapts Ba Sing Se.
Well, there you have it, everyone. Will these predictions turn out all correct? Likely not. There is always a mysterious film waiting in the corners to grab the frontrunner slot as other films fade away as the precursors roll out. This time last year, I wasn’t even considering Coda as a potential nominee. Just a few months after that, it went on to win the big prize, making history in the process. We, amateur pundits, spend a lot of time fixating on factors like pedigree, acclaim, and box office receipts. However, Coda won because it occupied the right spot in the zeitgeist. Its groundbreaking deaf representation, coupled with a need for a feel-good film amidst a feel-bad period in global history, took it over the line. The most critical factor to consider for Best Picture is the passion behind the film, and that’s often the hardest to examine.