2023 Oscars Preview

Oscars – The Academy Awards – Greg Hernandez via Wikimedia Commons.jpg

The 2023 Oscars are right around the corner, and Hollywood looks to celebrate a year of cinematic excellence. Although viewership of the annual awards show has declined considerably over the years (down nearly seventy percent from 2014), this year’s nominees hope to see their work recognized before millions of viewers, particularly in the most prominent award: Best Picture.

This year’s nominees are: All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, and Women Talking. All ten films have plenty to offer, but a few have separated themselves from the pack as realistic contenders.

Highlighting the war genre in 2022 was the brutal World War I epic All Quiet on the Western Front, directed by Edward Berger and adapted from the 1929 novel from German veteran Erich Maria Remarque. The film’s quality is undeniable, but it suffers from the typical war movie curse: it has nothing to separate itself from the classics. For an anti-war message exposing the dehumanizing absurdity of war, turn to Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now; for a grim, realistic depiction of warfare and its violence, look no further than Saving Private Ryan or The Deer Hunter. The modern-day war film must have a defining quality—see Dunkirk’s manipulation of time and perspective, or 1917’s “one take” effect. All Quiet on the Western Front deserves an audience and a great deal of praise, but it lacks the creative firepower to cement itself as an anti-war classic.

Poster for Tár – via Universal Pictures

Within the final months of 2022 emerged two dark-horse candidates for Best Picture: Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and Todd Field’s Tár. Spielberg’s bildungsroman is a love-letter to cinema itself, following adolescent Sammy Fabelman in his introduction to cinema. The Academy has a propensity for awarding films about films, so do not be shocked if they give one of their golden boys the nod for his most personal film to date. 

Across from the sweet, nostalgic tale in Fabelmans is the ruthless and deeply disturbing psychological drama in Tár. Cate Blanchett delivers a powerhouse performance as classical music composer Lydia Tár in Todd Field’s return to the big screen after sixteen years. The film was initially met with mixed reactions, with some praising it as a masterful exploration of corruptive power, and others criticizing its meandering nature and confusing emotional center. As time wears on, history is likely to look kindly on this film, which boasts some of the most riveting storytelling of 2022. Its chances for Best Picture, though, remain slim.

In the blockbuster category, Top Gun: Maverick surprised audiences by producing a perfect balance between paying homage to the original while still telling a fresh story with compelling characters. Surviving the label of a lazy legacy sequel, the spectacle was heavily praised upon its initial release, with some even hailing it as the savior of the action genre, much because of its dedication to practical effects. While Tom Cruise soared to new heights as the returning Maverick, and Miles Teller achieved stardom as the lovable Rooster, this is ultimately no more than a solid action movie. It deserves recognition for producing something of value in a deteriorating genre, but it holds nothing special to lift itself above the other nominees.

Behind the inventive effects, comedic beats, and precise choreography, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mother-daughter story.

The cinematic world was blindsided in March 2022 when Everything Everywhere All at Once hit theaters. The clear favorite for Best Picture, the film is a trippy, dazzling, and, most importantly, heartfelt journey. 

Poster for Everything Everywhere All at Once – via A24

Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn, an ordinary woman who owns a laundromat and struggles to pay her taxes. Everything changes for Eveyln when she is inexplicably swept up into an adventure through the multiverse. It is nearly impossible to describe this film, and perhaps that is what makes it special; at times viewers are simply left staring at the screen utterly dumbfounded at what they are watching, wondering to themselves, “How on earth did they film this?” Behind the inventive effects, comedic beats, and precise choreography, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mother-daughter story. That is when this film is at its best—when it pulls back from the (admittedly entertaining) chaos of the multiverse and instead focuses on the difficulties of a healing parental relationship. Kwan and Scheinert’s sci-fi hit out of left field has little-to-no flaws, and it would not be disappointing to see it land the Academy’s most prestigious award, but there is one film with a slightly stronger case.

Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin is the greatest film on the nomination list. 

Colin Farell delivers arguably the best performance of his career, and his chemistry with Brendan Gleeson is once again perfect.

Banshees includes some of the most stunning cinematography, captivating acting, and brilliant storytelling of the year. Every frame is carefully constructed and every second carefully measured, but McDonagh is not afraid to sit back and let the characters tell the story. Colin Farell delivers arguably the best performance of his career, and his chemistry with Brendan Gleeson is once again perfect. The moment when The Banshees of Inisherin lets its audience know how great it will be is when Gleeson’s character (Colm) plainly says to his ex-best friend, “I just don’t like you no more.” 

Poster for The Banshees of Inisherin – via Searchlight Pictures

McDonagh masterfully balances comedy and tragedy, and he allows his actors to show off their talents in an endless stream of superbly-written dialogue. The characters grapple with purpose, humanity, and history in this downright depressing portrayal of an ended friendship. What separates “Banshees” from the other nominees is its ability to meditate on complex and potentially overwhelming topics while never losing sight of its deeply human characters. It does not need a ten-minute CGI sequence with wormholes and flashing lights to show the audience that a character is feeling lost. It is quiet, lonely, and deeply moving. Everything Everywhere All at Once will likely win Best Picture due to its magnificent spectacle, but make no mistake—The Banshees of Inisherin was the best picture of 2022.

Author: Adiyan Nayak '24

Adiyan Nayak serves as Editor-in-Chief for the 2023-2024 school year. He previously served as a Managing Editor, where he won a Gold Key from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and an Honorable Mention in the PA Press Club’s 2023 Contest for his news piece, “Students and faculty debate Musk’s Twitter acquisition.”