A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once from The Daniels premiered at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival on March 11, 16 days before the 94th Academy Awards, and almost a year to the day from the 95th, to rave reviews that many called Michelle Yeoh’s best performance to date in a long and storied career. Was there much Best Picture talk for the sci-fi spring release at the time? Some, yes (I had it in my top 5 from back in May, where it never left all year), but for some it was seen as “too out there” especially for “older voters,” as while its Oscar chances were always simmering, most pundits looked forward to what the future of the year would bring us in terms of “real” contenders.
Summer came and with it the Cannes Film Festival, which has given us many Best Picture nominees and winners in recent years and is usually where the seeds of the Oscars’ International Feature Film contenders are planted. Cold War, Another Round, Parasite, and NEON’s Palme d’Or winner and Best Picture nominee this year, Triangle of Sadness, began here as did the splashy premieres of U.S. films this year like Warner Bros’ Elvis and Paramount Pictures’ Top Gun: Maverick.
Venice and Telluride overlap almost entirely in late August and early September both in timing and content, where Searchlight Pictures’ The Banshees of Inisherin and A24’s The Whale debuted at the former, and where Focus Features’ TÁR and Netflix’s Bardo hit the Lido first before climbing the mountains of Colorado alongside UAR’s Women Talking, Searchlight’s Empire of Light, Sony Classics’ Living and A24’s Close.
With barely a moment to breathe from there, TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, kicked off just days after Telluride with the world premiere of Universal Pictures’ The Fabelmans, plus Glass Onion and All Quiet on the Western Front from Netflix with the Spielberg film taking the People’s Choice Award, a prize that for over a decade has spelled Oscar-winning success for its winner.
As we got to the fall, so did several films that we thought might come out in 2022 and stake a claim in some very competitive races like Apple’s Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon, and Netflix’s Rustin and Shirley. But as the clock ticked near the end of festival season, those films (and others) found themselves out of this season’s race and moved to the next.
Through this crucial period, films rose and sank, sometimes just as quickly. Anticipation for Paramount Pictures’ Babylon from Academy Award winner Damien Chazelle hit a fever pitch with its first look and ‘Best Picture is locked’ talk happened. Netflix’s White Noise, the latest from Noah Baumbach, was a quiet murmur. Amazon’s Thirteen Lives from Academy Award winner Ron Howard couldn’t dig itself out of a tunnel of obscurity. Florian Zeller went from Oscar darling with The Father to awards pariah with Sony Classics’ The Son.
Nothing was clicking like it usually does. Several people, myself included, defaulted to The Fabelmans (and after an inoffensively traditional consensus winner like CODA last year, why not), stuck with Bardo too long (me) and saw a place for Women Talking or The Banshees of Inisherin to possibly go all the way.
But, as the end of year critics’ awards started rolling out, the power and resiliency of Everything Everywhere All At Once took hold. The film just kept winning and winning. The Daniels, Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan kept winning and winning. But still, people were hesitant (“Butt plugs! Dildoes!”). The Golden Globes went for The Fabelmans and The Banshees of Inisherin. BAFTA went their own way and went all in for All Quiet on the Western Front. Guilds chimed in and the tide turned, quickly. First DGA. Then PGA and SAG back to back. Suddenly the film that was deemed “inaccessible” (the favorite word of the insecure pundit) became the Oscar favorite, with momentum and timing that is all but unstoppable. There hasn’t been a single instance beginning in 2000 (when BAFTA moved to before the Oscars) where the BAFTA winner prevailed over the PGA winner. In every matchup (and not a third pick by the Oscars), PGA showed the way. After a six-year run of PGA-BAFTA-Oscar alignment, the agreement among the three awards bodies has all but been severed for the last eight, save 2020’s Nomadland.
We’re going to have the first Best Picture winner from the first quarter of the year since 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs (CODA premiered at Sundance but wasn’t released until August) and the first winner from SXSW. For all of the superlatives and exceptions that EEAAO will bring as a Best Picture winner, one aspect remains intact and that is the festival release. Take a look at the 10 Best Picture nominees. Nine of them began at festivals before their theatrical run (only Avatar: The Way of Water eschewed that, but you don’t need a festival run when you can make $2B in the blink of an eye) and represent the cross-section of those fests, of the year as a whole and why ten provides such a varied lineup.
Are people still trying to make a case for the Academy preferential ballot to somehow favor All Quiet or Top Gun? Sure, and I get it, it’s all a part of the game and you know those anonymous ballots are working overtime to sew the seeds of dissent. I had a hard time even landing on what is in “2nd” place but someone’s gotta be runner-up, right? I’m going with All Quiet even though TÁR is the stronger film, as is Banshees when you break down the nomination building blocks, even Elvis is.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it; trying that hard to find the alternative just sometimes means that there isn’t one. Sometimes a frontrunner is just a frontrunner. Everything Everywhere All At Once has persevered and been able to kick and fight its way through dozens of contenders, for an entire year, to have one foot in the underdog universe and one in the frontrunner universe. It’s in the position that every studio dreams their awards film to be in and at exactly the right time.
Here are my final 2023 Oscar winner predictions for Best Picture.
|1. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) – BAFTA, CCA, GG, PGA, SAG|
Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert and Jonathan Wang, producers
|2. All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix) – BAFTA|
Malte Grunert, producer
|3. TÁR (Focus Features) – BAFTA, CCA, GG, PGA|
Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert, producers
|4. The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight Pictures) – BAFTA, CCA, GG, PGA, SAG|
Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, producers
|5. Elvis (Warner Bros) – BAFTA, CCA, GG, PGA|
Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss, producers
|6. The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures) – CCA, GG, PGA, SAG|
Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, producers
|7. Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures) – CCA, GG, PGA|
Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison and Jerry Bruckheimer, producers
|8. Triangle of Sadness (NEON) – GG|
Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober, producers
|9. Women Talking (United Artists Releasing/Orion Pictures) – SAG|
Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Frances McDormand, producers
|10. Avatar: The Way of Water (20th Century Studios) – CCA, GG, PGA|
James Cameron and Jon Landau, producers