Oscars Watch Guide: Best Picture

Michael Springthorpe
15 min readNov 24, 2022

Every FabelTÁR of Elvisheerin All Talking At Whales on the Western Front: The Way of Maverick. Updated 1/19/23

We’ve made it! The biggest award of the night! While folks like me care deeply about who is getting nominated for Best Film Editing and how that affects their chances of winning Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture is the best guide to get an overview of the films truly in contention. Especially in recent years, as the Academy has expanded its voting body, the category is starting to take more shape as a truer representation of the best the film industry has to offer.

The frontrunner going into this year has been Speilberg’s The Fabelmans, his critically-lauded take on the recent trend of directors making a thinly-veiled autobiographical childhood story, this time with the added bonus of being about Da Movies. But as Awards Season ticks on, other — wildly different — contenders are making serious plays for Steve’s assumed throne. As it stands now, Steve is a three-way tie at the top, holding hands with a sweater-bound dark comedy and a little sci-fi indie with a dildo fight and a Racoocoonie. Rounding out the other nominees, we have a #MeToo-era drama, epic stories of flawed artists, a semi-remake of a previous Best Picture winner, a shocking TWO sequels, and one semi-breakout indie nobody thought (or wanted) could make it this far.

In this series, starting below with the aformentioned category, I will outline my Predictions, On Decks, and Dark Horses to get nominated in the eight “major” Oscar categories. Hell, I’ve even thrown in Springthorpe’s Wild Card, a movie or role with zero chance of gettin nominated, but 100% worth your time. For each, I provide my take on the film and where (or when) you can find them. Let’s get going!

Locks

All Quiet on the Western Front

Where to Find It: On Netflix now!

Power Ranking: Oh mein Gott! Who expected this?! Every ear, as the final precursors trickle out, there always seems to be a late-breaking surprise. Last year, CODA suddenly started winning things, ending with with PGAs, where it became clear Power of the Dog wasn’t so safe up top. In the last month, Netflix’s German redux of the 1930 Best Picture Winner has made it onto a shocking amount of Oscar shortlists, stuck around in technical awards in precursors, and became the most-nominated film at the BAFTAs. In a season that seemed to be lacking a Netflix film or an International film viable for Best Picture, it looks like we’re now tanking two birds with one stone.

Springthorpe’s Take: I’ll take it. It’s certainly not my least favorite potential Best Picture nominee (looking at you, Darren), but it’s not anywhere near my personal Top 10. A gut-punching depiction of the horrors of war, my personal favorite piece is the score, which is dominated by a three-note synth that is some of the most ominous music I’ve ever heard.

Other Award Chances: Director, Adapted Screenplay

Avatar: The Way of Water

Where to Find It: In theaters now!

Power Ranking: The last movie anybody — even critics — saw this year, The Way of Water had everybody wondering if James Cameron could pull it off again. As soon as the first reviews trickled in, the consensus was clear: he goddamn did (with some reservations). In just four weeks, the movie has already shot past Top Gun to be the highest-grossing film of 2022. While, like its predecessor, the movie hasn’t gotten any buzz for acting (justice for Zoe Saldaña and Stephen Lang!), it regularly picks up noms for Director, Screenplay, effects, and Picture. The Academy almost gave its Top Prize to the original Avatar, don’t be surprised when this one safely splashes down there, too.

Springthorpe’s Take: D-e-s-e-r-v-e-d. We’ve got many Big Movies this year, and this one takes the crown. Stunning visuals I can’t get over, but also — sorry — I liked the story! It’s a movie about direct action against fascism, but also a nice family!

Other Award Chances: Director, Adapted Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisheerin

Where to Find It: On HBOMax now!

Power Ranking: In 2017, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri was the only real frontrunner for a few months. Everyone preferred something else, but it felt like a sure thing. Then the backlash hit. McDonagh has never really lived in the Academy’s best graces, due to the graphic and absurd nature of his films. Banshees, however, has all of the power of Billboards with none of the baggage — and now the precursor pedigree to back it up. With a four-person star cast, a well-known writer-director, and gorgeous visuals, this movie could potentially lead the pack with nominations this year.

Springthorpe’s Take: Would it make my Ten? No, but that doesn’t mean the film is anything but great. This movie is actually near the top of my Must Rewatch list, but I don’t need to rewatch it to remember how brilliant each of the artists involved is.

Other Award Chances: Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay

Elvis

Where to Find It: On HBOMax now!

Power Ranking: Baz Luhrmann’s sensory-overload biopic of the King came out back in July to middling (or bad) reviews. But it still made almost $300 million, and doggone it, the Academy just loves biopics about musicians! Bohemian Rhapsody almost won Best Picture! (Thankfully, a movie as excellent and deserving as Green Book won instead. Whew.) While I would have previously considered this more of a Dark Horse, the rumors of applause-break-heavy screenings and Austin Butler’s commitment to still doing that crazy Elvis voice all the time make this nomination a sure bet.

Springthorpe’s Take: Baz Luhrmann is a maximalist’s maximalist, and anyone who has ever heard me tell a story knows that I eat that overdone shit UP. If you fill a 10-gallon bucket with 20 gallons of water, I will love you. Tom Hanks doing a stupid voice in a stupid fatsuit, Austin Butler sweating so much he looks like he got out of a pool, eardrum-bursting musical sequences. I love it.

Other Award Chances: Director, Actor

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Where to Find It: On Showtime now, which is not a usual streamer, but is definitely worth it for more than just this (it’s A24’s go-to streamer home!)

Power Ranking: “This was published on November 23rd, but I think in a month or two, it will be time to have the conversation of Best Picture Winner EEAAO.” That was the sentence I began with when I first made this write-up. Now, a month and a half later, EEAAO is set to steal victory from the jaws of Steven Spielberg. Last year, The Power of the Dog was the hands-down winner starting in October. But when nominations came out and CODA cracked Best Picture (and then, importantly, Academy voters finally watched the charming family flick), the narrative shifted. The rest is history. Both CODA and Parasite won Best Picture on the backs of their charismatic ensemble that loved the movie. There’s only one film this year that is campaigning even remotely similar to those two, and it’s even got some International flare…

Springthorpe’s Take: I like to think I’ve tempered my opinions on this movie a little (lol), but Everything Everywhere All At Once is — unequivocally — one of the greatest movies ever made. As a forever optimist, I am hopeful that it dominates like Dune or Fury Road this year, because it deserves that. It’s my #5 all-time, what more can I say?

Other Award Chances: Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay

The Fabelmans

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: Just like Young Steven Spielberg, this movie is the 6-foot-8, musclebound freak every other movie this year must defeat before winning Best Picture. Now, The Power of the Dog was close to that last year, but here’s the thing: this movie is way more fun to watch. Even after it sputtered at the Box Office (and had to endure very smart people claiming Steven Spielberg was coastal elitist cinéma), it still won both Director and Best Picture — Drama at the Golden Globes. Importantly, Steven Spielberg then got to talk on stage, and a speech can be a powerful thing.

Springthorpe’s Take: Roma, Belfast, Armageddon Time. All SHIT compared to The Fabelmans (okay maybe I’m being dramatic). It’s unoriginal, but it’s still impossible to downplay the fact that Spielberg has — in one single film — stunted on every one of his wannabe “contemporaries”.

Other Award Chances: Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay

TÁR

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: Is this the first movie about an EGOT winner to be a Best Picture candidate? I hope so. Here’s a short story: the AMC Lincoln Square had, for a while, a maaaaaaaaaaaaasive ad for TÁR across all of their Broadway-facing windows. It’s the exact place where this movie lives. Did it break even $10 million at the box office? Nope, but I still see a Lydia Tár meme at least twice a week. In all honesty, this is a prime spectacle of moviemaking, with a titanic performance at its core, all about critiquing art. I don’t need the precursors (of which there are many) to know this will make the Best Picture 10.

Springthorpe’s Take: In a year that doesn’t include EEAAO, I might be gunning for this movie to win Best Picture. It’s a magnificent triumph of every single individual element of filmmaking. Sound, editing, cinematography, costumes, screenplay, acting, directing. It’s one of the most Whole Package movies in a minute.

Other Award Chances: Director, Actress, Original Screenplay

Top Gun: Maverick

Where to Find It: On Paramount+ now!

Power Ranking: As the year has gone on — and the movie has (slowly) left theaters — the once joking “Best Picture nominee Top Gun: Maverick” sentiment has calcified into “It’s a mistake if it doesn’t make the lineup”. While it’s not lost on the Academy that this movie made the box office matter again, it’s also important to remember that every 50-something grip, sound engineer, and set designer probably loved this movie as much as your dad did, and they all vote for the Oscars, too. It’s rare for a movie that is set to earn 3–6 technical nominations (and maybe even Actor and Director?!) to lose out on Best Picture.

Springthorpe’s Take: I am on record as someone who doesn’t like the original Top Gun all that much. I saw TG:M opening weekend on the largest IMAX screen on the eastern seaboard. It rocked my socks off. I think the Academy is being a baby if they don’t nominate it.

Other Award Chances: Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay

The Whale

Where to Find It: In theaters now!

Power Ranking: I first started this series in November. Since then, I’ve edited them a few times, moving films up or down as they gain or lose steam in the slogging Race to Oscar. The Whale never appeared as even a Dark Horse for Best Picture. It was only ever gonna get a nod for Brendan Fraser! But then, of course, the Makeup might even win. And Adapted Screenplay is a weak year. And Hong Chau is so good in two movies this year, let’s give her some cheddar. Suddenly, you look up and The Whale — a movie almost universally reviled by critics — is potentially earning 4 nominations and has a Producers’ Guild nom for Best Picture. Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of shit the Academy loves to pull.

Springthorpe’s Take: Bad movie. Bad message, bad look, bad story. Brendan and Hong still come out unscathed.

Other Award Chances: Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay

Women Talking

Where to Find It: In theaters now!

Power Ranking: The reviews coming out of the Fall Festivals for this movie were ecstatic. A post-#MeToo film about a group of Mennonite women who secretly figure out what to do after they realize that the men of their community are drugging and raping the women on a regular basis, starring a knockout cast of female actors, and directed and written by a well-liked female director. After its release was pushed back again and again, the prognosis isn’t great. The all-star cast of mostly supporting actresses have cannibalized each other’s precursors, and Sarah Polley has missed out on key Directing noms. Overall, I think the film will still have support in The Academy.

Springthorpe’s Take: It’s not in my 10, but it’s certainly in my 20! Sometimes it’s fun to go watch Elvis or Avatar and think about all the work that had to have gone into every single frame. Sometimes it’s fun to just watch a bunch of really good actors act their asses off. The secret to Women Talking is it’s got great acting, but it’s also TECHNICALLY very good!

Other Award Chances: Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay

On Deck

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story

Where to Find It: On Netflix now!

Power Ranking: As the original Knives Out didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination (a mistake), the odds would say that the sequel has even smaller chances. This year, however, Netflix — floundering after Apple beat them to a streamer Best Picture win — has an ever-dwindling slate of movies to credibly push for the Big Prize, and Glass Onion their only real ticket for this award. With its Christmastime Netflix release, hundreds of thousands of people have now seen it — and liked it (except for Ben Shapiro). It’s struggled to garner meaningful precursor nominations outside of Screenplay, but the Producers’ Guild gave it a Best Picture nom, and that could be key.

Springthorpe’s Take: As with any sane human with a heart and a funny bone, I could watch 300 Benoit Blanc mysteries. Give me a new up-and-coming actress, another coterie of A-Listers, a picturesque single location, and I’m there. Hell’s bells, I’ll watch these movies forevuh!

Other Award Chances: Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay

Triangle of Sadness

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: I once thought the biggest hurdle standing in front of this movie is the fact that it’s in English. Ruben Östlund is an acclaimed Swedish director whose previosu two films, Force Majeure and The Square have, like Triangle, received mass acclaim. But when you’re a two-time Palme d’Or-winning European director few Americans can name, your best hope of making it into the Oscars is in International Film. Since Triangle is almost entirely in English, and is co-produced by multiple countries, it’s ineligible for that award. But the more-and-more International Academy cares less about what “counts” as “International” and more about sensibility. Especially if Dolyl and the screenplay make it in, Triangle could be a spoiler for Best Picture.

Springthorpe’s Take: Perfection. A hilariously biting and cruel sendup of the super-rich, modeling, influencers, and our relationship with service workers, the movie will make you scream and guffaw with equal intensity. Give Dolly De Leon a damn Oscar.

Other Award Chances: Director, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay

The Woman King

Where to Find It: On VOD now!

Power Ranking: The theme of this movie’s entire campaign has been “it depends, maybe they’ll love it!” and maybe they will! They, of course, being the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. All the power and grandeur of an Old Hollywood sword-and-sandals epic, with the fresh modernity of a story told almost entirely by Black women (and Maria Bello), The Woman King could still conceivably garner nominations for Picture, acting, costumes, and everything in between. Or it could be snubbed, as it was by the PGAs.

Springthorpe’s Take: The Woman King is a movie that makes you want to stand up yelling “YEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!!” pumping your fists in the theater. It’s impeccably made, from the giant battle scenes to the smallest moments between Viola and Thuso. It deserves an Adele-armload of awards.

Other Award Chances: Director, Actress, Original Screenplay

Dark Horses

Babylon

Where to Find It: In theaters now!

Power Ranking: Babylon was one of the last mysteries of this Awards season, having not premiered anywhere…until it had its first press screenings last week. The general feel is that this movie — a purposefully-exaggerated explosion that goes 110% at all times — is a lot of fun, but may not be the most likely fare for typically-stuffy Oscar voters. Damien Chazelle has a fantastic record with the Academy, especially given his young age, so his hopes aren’t completely dashed. But it’s a lot to ask of voters when your movie begins with explosive elephant diarrhea, and then continues on for 3 more hours.

Springthorpe’s Take: I dragged my boyfriend to an empty theater on Christmas Eve to see this one, and I’m so happy I did. Crash! Bang! Boom! Damien Chazelle loves the movies! But also they’re bad and probably cause more harm than good, but doggone it, when you watch ’em it’s like magic. And he’s right.

Other Award Chances: Actress, Original Screenplay

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Where to Find It: On Netflix now!

Power Ranking: Only three animated films have ever been nominated for Best Picture: Beauty & the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3. All Disney movies, the first one is an anomaly, but the other two are notable for when they came out. 2009 and 2010 were the only years, until last year, where there were exactly ten Best Picture nominees. With the Academy returning to that system last year, Pinocchio — far more Oscarbaity than even Encanto at the height of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” — has the best chance of planting a flag for Animation. While not as buzzy a streaming premier as Glass Onion, though, the film may be relegated to, let me check my notes, ah yes, WINNING BEST ANIMATED FEATURE.

Springthorpe’s Take: So much better, funnier, sadder, and more beautiful than it has any right to be. But of course, why would you expect anything less from del Toro? If there is any righteousness in the world, it will get a Production Design nomination as well, but it should be getting buzz for nearly everything (including the secret star: David Bradley as Gepetto).

Other Award Chances: Director, Adapted Screenplay

RRR

Where to Find It: On Netflix now!

Power Ranking: When this movie had its limited run in American theaters before coming onto Netflix, it was the best-kept secret in cinema. Did you know that, at one point in 2022, the most fun movie in the country was a Tamil-language historical epic with musical elements? An explosion of filmmaking, the movie had good performances and was stuffed to the brim with technical power. Unfortunately, it was snubbed by India, who didn’t choose it as their official International Film selection, apparently shooting its Oscar chances down. But then it won Best Director from the new York Film Critics’ Circle. And a runner-up from LAFCC. And it won Best Song at the Globes. Its chances are slim, but the Academy will be kicking itself after seeing the live “Naatu Naatu” at the show.

Springthorpe’s Take: The movie is certainly in My Top 10. Equal parts explosive, funny, gripping, and campy, I most regret that I never saw RRR in theaters.

Other Award Chances: Director

Springthorpe’s Wild Card

Jackass Forever

Where to Find It: On Paramount+ now!

Why It Has No Chance: Because it’s a Jackass movie.

Springthorpe’s Take: It’s actually not that surprising that the funniest movie of the year is Jackass Forever. What is surprising is that Jackass Forever directly confronts the mortality sitting directly on this movie’s shoulders and headbutts it in the nuts, then tases it while it writhes on the ground. A hilarious victory lap for the Jackass Guys (sans two notable members), mixed with a perfect introduction to the new generation (LET’S GO POOPIES!), the movie never undercuts its morals for any grander purpose, only making the grander purpose that much grander.

Other Movies Worth Your Time: Turning Red, Prey, RRR, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Fire Island, Barbarian, Bones and All

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Michael Springthorpe

Camp Director, Teacher, Performer, and Writer who moved to New York City, then realized there's no woods here. @springthorpeman on Twitter and Instagram.