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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

2023 Oscar Update: Babylon, Documentary Race, Gothams, and Specialty Box Office


Welcome to an ongoing series where I cover the 2022/2023 Oscar season. On a biweekly basis on Tuesdays, I will update my Oscar predictions, taking into account the new information received since the last update.

This time of year is always strange, as we’re out of the fall festivals phase, but not quite into the precursor awards phase. Of course, there were a few nominating bodies that released their annual lists, such as the Gothams, Critics Choice Documentary, and International Documentary Association. But these bodies don’t really have the status of major precursors, so we’ll have to wait until late November / early December until we can make solid judgments.

By being the awards body that is always the first to announce their nominees/winners, the Gotham Awards are good for helping a movie get the right foot out the door. Studios always want their films to seem like winners, and any nomination/win helps to secure that image. So, while the Gothams won’t have the impact of other bodies such as Critics Choice or SAG, or even regional groups like LAFCA or NYCC, they did help maintain the positive status of films like TÁR, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Women Talking. I expect each of these three to be mainstays throughout the season.

The documentary race has also started to take shape with the Gothams, Critics Choice Documentary Awards (CCDA), and International Documentary Association all announcing their nominees/shortlists for the year. A surprising occurrence is that no film received a nomination from all three bodies, including Venice Golden Lion winner All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which was snubbed by CCDA. Another predicted major player in Descendent was notably absent from both the Gothams and IDAs, which does make it one of the only films to not make at least two lists. It’s a tight race at the moment, one that will remain shrouded in mystery thanks to this category's lack of major precursors.

With the gap between now and when the rest of the awards bodies make their announcements, the thing we’ll have to use to judge a movie’s Oscar potential is its box office success (or lack thereof). This week saw the limited release or nationwide expansion of several contenders, with many becoming a part of a growing trend of specialty box office disappointments.

After three weeks remaining in limited theaters, Focus Features’ TÁR could only muster $1 million after jumping to more than 1,000 screens. The film is still secure in Best Lead Actress for Cate Blanchett and possibly Best Director for Todd Field, but it needs to right the ship quickly if it wants to be a top-tier contender. The same can be said for Till, which grossed only $2 million in twice as many theaters as TÁR. The reviews have been solid (98% critics and 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes), but the general moviegoing public just doesn’t seem to be interested. Danielle Deadwyler in Best Lead Actress looks likely to be the film’s sole nomination.

The film that suffered the biggest defeat this past weekend was Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winning Triangle of Sadness, which actually declined 8% despite doubling its theater count to 330 screens. This seems to be a case of peaking too early, with critical reviews and audience interest sliding considerably since the film’s buzzy festival run. A slight chance in Best Original Screenplay seems to be the only card left on the table.

Another Best Original Screenplay contender that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival was James Gray’s Armageddon Time, which debuted to middling numbers from six theaters. Whether it be small personal films like this one or major studio works like The Lost City of Z or Ad Astra, it seems that audiences just aren’t interested in James Gray. The same can be said for the Oscars, with a Best Sound Mixing nomination for Ad Astra being the sole nomination across Gray’s career. He’s still in the race for Best Original Screenplay for Armageddon Time, but this tepid start doesn’t bode well for his chances to stay for the long haul.

While those two contenders are fading, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin continues to rake in the dough. With Empire of Light not until December, Searchlight Pictures has all its eggs in this basket. The film will aggressively expand in November and will likely play well thanks to the overwhelmingly positive reviews and word of mouth.

We do have one more festival left this season with the AFI Fest Film Festival taking place in Los Angeles from November 2-6. Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans will be screening for the first time since winning the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, and so will the new shortened version of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Bardo. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, She Said, and The Son are other Oscar titles.

One other notable piece of news we received this week was studio confirmation of Margot Robbie and Diego Calva in the lead acting categories for Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. Brad Pitt and Jean Smart will be contending in supporting roles. The film will be screened for the press on November 14, a great sign of confidence on the part of Paramount Pictures.

For the next edition, we’ll take a deep dive into the Oscar chances of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which just had its world premiere this past week. Social media reactions have been good, but not great, which may hurt its chances to repeat the success of the first film.

Here are my 2023 Oscar predictions in every category (except for the shorts and Best Original Song) for November 01, 2022. The next update will come on November 15.

Best Picture

  1. The Fabelmans

  2. Women Talking

  3. The Banshees of Inisherin

  4. Babylon

  5. Everything Everywhere All at Once

  6. The Banshees of Inisherin

  7. Top Gun: Maverick

  8. TÁR

  9. She Said

  10. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

  11. The Whale


11. All Quiet on the Western Front

12. Avatar: The Way of Water

Best Director

  1. Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans)

  2. Damien Chazelle (Babylon)

  3. Todd Field (TÁR)

  4. Sarah Polley (Women Talking)

  5. Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin)


6. Daniels (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

7. James Cameron (Avatar: The Way of Water)

Best Original Screenplay

  1. The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh)

  2. The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg & Tony Kushner)

  3. Everything Everywhere All at Once (Daniels)

  4. Babylon (Damien Chazelle)

  5. TÁR (Todd Field)


6. Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund)

7. Armageddon Time (James Gray)

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Women Talking (Sarah Polley)

  2. She Said (Rebecca Lenkiewicz)

  3. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Rian Johnson)

  4. The Whale (Samuel D. Hunter)

  5. White Noise (Noah Baumbach)


6. Living (Kazuo Ishiguro)

7. All Quiet on the Western Front (Ian Stokell, Lesley Paterson, Edward Berger)

Best Lead Actor

  1. Brendan Fraser (The Whale)

  2. Austin Butler (Elvis)

  3. Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin)

  4. Bill Nighy (Living)

  5. Hugh Jackman (The Son)


6. Diego Calva (Babylon)

7. Jeremy Pope (The Inspection)

Best Lead Actress

  1. Cate Blanchett (TÁR)

  2. Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

  3. Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans)

  4. Danielle Deadwyler (Till)

  5. Margot Robbie (Babylon)


6. Naomi Ackie (I Wanna Dance with Somebody)

7. Olivia Colman (Empire of Light)

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Brendan Gleeson (The Banshees of Inisherin)

  2. Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

  3. Ben Whishaw (Women Talking)

  4. Paul Dano (The Fabelmans)

  5. Judd Hirsch (The Fabelmans)


6. Brad Pitt (Babylon)

7. Anthony Hopkins (Armageddon Time)

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Jessie Buckley (Women Talking)

  2. Claire Foy (Women Talking)

  3. Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin)

  4. Hong Chau (The Whale)

  5. Carey Mulligan (She Said)


6. Janelle Monáe (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery)

7. Jean Smart (Babylon)

Best Cinematography

  1. Babylon

  2. The Fabelmans

  3. Empire of Light

  4. All Quiet on the Western Front

  5. Top Gun: Maverick


6. Bardo

7. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Best Film Editing

  1. Babylon

  2. Top Gun: Maverick

  3. The Fabelmans

  4. Everything Everywhere All at Once

  5. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery


6. All Quiet on the Western Front

7. Women Talking

Best Original Score

  1. Babylon

  2. The Fabelmans

  3. The Banshees of Inisherin

  4. Women Talking

  5. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio


6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

7. The Batman

Best Sound

  1. Top Gun: Maverick

  2. Avatar: The Way of Water

  3. All Quiet on the Western Front

  4. Babylon

  5. The Batman


6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

7. Elvis

Best Production Design

  1. Babylon

  2. Avatar: The Way of Water

  3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

  4. The Fabelmans

  5. Elvis


6. The Woman King

7. All Quiet on the Western Front

Best Costume Design

  1. Babylon

  2. Elvis

  3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

  4. The Woman King

  5. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris


6. The Fabelmans

7. Corsage

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

  1. The Whale

  2. Babylon

  3. Elvis

  4. The Woman King

  5. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever


6. All Quiet on the Western Front

7. The Batman

Best Visual Effects

  1. Avatar: The Way of Water

  2. Top Gun Maverick

  3. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

  4. The Batman

  5. Everything Everywhere All at Once


6. RRR

7. Nope

Best Animated Feature

  1. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

  2. My Father's Dragon

  3. Turning Red

  4. The Bad Guys

  5. Strange World


6. Wendell & Wild

7. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Best International Feature

  1. All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany)

  2. Decision to Leave (South Korea)

  3. Close (Belgium)

  4. Saint Omer (France)

  5. Bardo (Mexico)


6. Alcarràs (Spain)

7. Holy Spider (Denmark)

Best Documentary Feature

  1. Descendant

  2. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

  3. Navalny

  4. Fire of Love

  5. The Territory


6. Moonage Daydream

7. All That Breathes

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