By now, on the eve of Oscars nominations, there are many prospective nominees that read as sure bets.
For example, given all the recognition they have received from awards bodies that include Academy voters, it would truly be a shock not to see “TÁR” star Cate Blanchett or “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Michelle Yeoh nominated for Best Actress. Prognosticators may not be able to predict what the second half of the Best Picture nominees will be, but all feel comfortable saying “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “The Fabelmans” will get in there.
To get a better gauge on what will be nominated and likely win every category at the 95th Oscars, read IndieWire’s predictions here. However, we thought it would also be fun to anticipate some of the biggest reaches that could still come true, as far as nominations in the above the line categories go.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Yes, the “Black Panther” sequel was neither the critical nor commercial success its predecessor was, but it still fared well under impossible odds. Not only is the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe entry the biggest November opening of all time, it is also currently nominated for the PGA Awards’ equivalent of Best Picture (an important Oscars bellwether). Add in the fact that “Wakanda Forever” tied “All Quiet on the Western Front” for most appearances on the 2023 Oscars shortlist, and how it is already favored to win two Academy Awards come March (Best Supporting Actress to Angela Bassett and Best Costume Design to Ruth E. Carter), and it is easy to see how the Disney release is a plausible candidate for a Best Picture nomination.
S.S. Rajamouli, “RRR”
Sujit Jaiswal / AFP / Getty Images
The director’s Tollywood epic “RRR” broke box office records and put Indian cinema on Academy members’ radar more than ever. Of course, the film was dealt a blow by India opting to instead make “Last Film Show” its official Best International Feature Film entry, but the packed FYC screenings never stopped, and the movie now has a few awards under its belt including the Critics Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and most of all, the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Director. The inspired choice by coastal critics may be the final push to move the needle in Rajamouli’s favor. The past few years have seen a surprise Best Director slot go to a standout international filmmaker, and this year it’s been hard to peg who that could be. Rajamouli arguably has the most momentum, having been able to give at least one memorable televised acceptance speech to win the hearts of Oscar voters.
Adam Sandler, “Hustle”
It seems like the comedian went back on his promise to make purposefully terrible films after the Oscars snubbed his lead performance in “Uncut Gems.” His latest Netflix project directed by “We the Animals” filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar is a total crowd pleaser, and the streaming service has really put their weight behind it with FYC screenings hosted by award-winning actors like Dustin Hoffman and Henry Winkler. The fifth Best Actor slot has been impossible to pin down, with superstars like Tom Cruise (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and Tom Hanks (“A Man Called Otto”) in the mix, but those two actors have been snubbed by the Academy much more often, and have done far less campaigning. SAG Awards nominations can be wildcards, but his signifies that Sandler is on an upward trajectory with awards bodies that could finally lead to his first nomination this year.
Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”
Courtesy Everett Collection
All eyes will be on the Best Actress category come Oscars nominations morning to see if the viral “To Leslie” campaign actually paid off. Though it would be a “surprise” people are still kind of anticipating, the nomination would say a lot about how one can campaign for an award without a proper budget for it. Word-of-mouth for the indie drama about an alcoholic single mother looking to rebuild her life after blowing through her lottery winnings spread right in the middle of Oscar nominations voting, so should Riseborough make it in, it would be a glass half empty or full situation. Yes, it would be recency bias of the highest order, but it would also be an indicator that enough Academy members are at least attempting to watch and consider the smaller films people flag to them.
Best Supporting Actor
Woody Harrelson, “Triangle of Sadness”
Courtesy Everett Collection
It has been difficult to gauge where the Ruben Östlund 2022 Palme D’Or winner stands with the Academy in general. It is certainly a hit with European members of the Academy given its success at the European Film Awards in December, and its several BAFTA nominations. While Dolly De Leon is the film’s main push for acting awards, it is Harrelson who has the most history with the Oscars. Not only has the actor been nominated three times, the last nomination for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” came as a total surprise, and was built off of enthusiasm for the 2017 Martin McDonagh film. Plus, although he has not done a lot of campaigning, Harrelson did give a hilarious, heartfelt speech honoring Michael J. Fox in front of a room full of the most powerful members of the Academy at the Governors Awards last fall. If “Triangle” really is the Academy’s favorite international export, then Harrelson has a chance to make it past one of the projected nominees from “The Banshees of Inisherin” or “The Fabelmans.”
Best Supporting Actress
Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”
Speaking of film maestro Steven Spielberg’s latest awards contender, many thought its campaign wrecked its own chance at a Best Supporting Actress Oscar by placing four-time nominee Williams in the packed Best Actress race. One could posit that the Screen Actors Guild was not a fan of the choice, opting to not nominate the star in its Female Actor in a Leading Role category, even though her submission into the Best Actress race was by her own request. Many are citing Kate Winslet’s move from Best Supporting Actress to Best Actress for “The Reader” in 2009 as the precedent for category manipulation on the Oscars side, but Winslet had already been moved to lead by other awards bodies like the BAFTAs. Williams was already snubbed there, and snubbed by the SAG Awards, which could be a sign that there are secretly machinations to nominate her pivotal mother role to the Supporting category whether she likes it or not.
Best Original Screenplay
If there is one recent filmmaker who embodies the “original” signifier it’s 2018 Best Original Screenplay winner Jordan Peele. His debut feature “Get Out” redefined the entire social thriller genre. Though the reactions seemed more mixed when it came out last summer, “Nope” has had a lowkey resurgence with cinephiles, making just about every major publication’s Best Films of 2022 list. It is also an AFI Film Awards honoree that did not do half bad with the Oscars shortlists either. Though it would come as a surprise if Peele were to creep on into this stacked category, stranger things have happened.
Best Adapted Screenplay
“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”
Many have considered this a weak year for the Best Adapted Screenplay race, with even frontrunner Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” not being a surefire bet for a Best Picture nomination. Enter “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”: the other A24 film exceeding all expectations, breaking into the Best Animation Feature race as soon as it was clear it qualified. Writers Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, Nick Paley, and Elisabeth Holm have been making the rounds, with Slate in particular pulling double duty as a member of the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” ensemble, and the film did relatively well at the box office, so here would be a good place for its sect of superfans to highlight it; a category where it is not so much in the shadow of “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.”