As published on Correio do Estado
I’m sure you’ve heard from a lot of people “I can’t stand the Oscars”, but everyone watches and follows the ceremony that Cate Blanchett, the favorite of the year, called the “televised horse race”. Another certainty is that even speaking badly about the party, no one fails to enter the betting pools or watch and comment. It’s an assumed cheesy addiction.
The “race” officially began on January 24th when we confirmed the nominees for the select group of the “best” of the Industry of the year. Note that I talk about confirming because those who follow the ‘awards season’ realize that we quickly discover the ones that will always be on the list, but we wait until the end of the month to be sure. From this list come others: that of the snubbed, that of the novelties, that of the underdogs. And if there’s one thing the latest ceremonies have shown, it’s that literally, anything can happen…
So let’s talk favorites and underdogs from the top five categories? There are so many that until March, when the party takes place, I promise I’ll come back to the theme. Today I’m going to talk about Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Picture only. Deal?
Ladies first. Among the actresses, there is less “drama” because there are many “newcomers” and favoritism for Cate Blanchett to take home her third Oscar, the second as Best Actress for her performance in Tár. She is stupendous in an unsympathetic and even controversial role, something no one can deny. Her main opponent is Michele Yeoh, whose performance in the acclaimed Everything Everywhere All At Once is sensitive, funny, and empowering in equal measure.
It was undeniable that Ana de Armas‘ impressive performance as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde received recognition, not least because it is the one thing that it would be unfair to ignore from a horrible and critically slain film. The nomination is already her victory, the chances are smaller.
Who could cause the surprise of the night is Andrea Riseborough, for the dramatic To Leslie, which proves that the SAG list is the one that mirrors the Oscar almost 100%. To Leslie is inspired by a true story and Andrea is in the typical no-makeup, no-suffering fashion that is an Oscar favorite style. Moreover, it has the declared support of influential names in the vote such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett herself. Keep an eye on her.
Finally comes Michelle Williams for The Fabelmans, which I think is the injustice of the night. She works well, and since the film’s story is Steven Spielberg‘s biopic, it seems impossible to avoid her. I know I’m unpopular and different in disagreeing with those who see her versatility, but Michelle took the vacancy of other actresses with more relevant delivery in the year, like Danielle Deadwyler in Till. Michelle’s chances are remote in 2023.
Among the actors, there is an outright favorite that is almost certain: Brendan Fraser, but there is more typical Oscar interest due to the impactful personal narratives.
Brendan Fraser‘s “return” with The Whale in such a devastating performance is also a story of recovery. Brendan emerged in the 1990s starring in commercial successes that exploited his physique as well as his flexibility to excel in both drama and comedy. Having starred in George, King of the Forest, and Gods & Monsters in less than a year proves the fact. Incidentally, it was for Gods and Monsters in 1998 that many were shocked that he was snubbed for a supporting role, voiced by the respected Sir Ian McKellen (nominated for acting that year). The 2000s had everything to see him among the most in-demand actors, but Brendan put the brakes on filmmaking after a messy divorce, knee surgery, vocal cord surgery, and sexual harassment (he revealed a few years ago that in 2003 he was sexually abused by Philip Berk, president of the Association of Foreign Correspondents in Hollywood during the Golden Globes). All of this added up was the trigger for a deep depression and practically moving away from the spotlight. Now, barely recognizable as an obese professor trying to reconnect with his daughter, he completes a narrative that the Academy simply cannot resist. The Oscar looks like it already belongs to him (and will be deserved).
Another Best Actor nominee also has a story of redemption: Colin Farrell. “Imported” from Ireland when he was barely 20 years old, he was considered at the time as one of the greatest promises in the world in cinema, but chemical dependency and alcoholism interfered with this trajectory. As an ultra-requested actor, he shouldered the failure of Alexander, by Oliver Stone on his shoulders alone and is only now reaching where he was expected to be in the 1990s. His performance in The Banshees of Inisherins is one of the best of his career, but as a fan, I never felt that Colin missed an opportunity to always look good, whether in comedies, dramas, or action films. His personal story has an impact like Brendan’s, but the dispute is really with a rookie, Austin Butler.
Austin so embodied Elvis Presley in Elvis that he still speaks like him to this day. His performance was really stupendous. The recent passing of Lisa Presley has reignited the possibility that it will turn out to be a beautiful tribute to the Presley family at the ceremony, even if it is morbid to mention it. On the other hand, since Elvis hit theaters it was certain that Austin would be among the favorites. (I still bet on Brendan Fraser, though)
To close, we have the always beloved Bill Nighy in the remake of Living, which consolidates its prestige of the last 25 years but is like Ana de Armas: the nomination is already the victory. The same experience places newcomer Paul Mescal, the baby of the nominees, as the winner of being among the five. Paul is the “new prodigy of the year”, on the rise, and only reaps praise, whether on stage, platforms, or screens. Unsurprisingly, it is named among the favorites to be “the new James Bond” and Aftersun is a praised drama that if it won an Oscar, it would be “The” underdog of the year.
And among the films, among the 10 nominees, the dispute seems to be between two favorites. The sometimes confusing Everything Everywhere All At Once can make history if it beats the traditional The Fabelmans, but I still believe in the strength of Steven Spielberg who would complete a beautiful cycle in his career if in 2023 he won the Oscar for Best Film honoring cinema and his parents. It is “the face of the Oscars” if in recent years the Oscars were anything but “surprises”. By the way, I recommend once again that you look for the beautiful Spielberg documentary (shown on HBO a few years ago) because it is the counterpoint to The Fabelmans. Exciting, perfect and bestows the director’s popularity that should make the 2023 Oscars a possibly nostalgic night.
Before I wrap up, I didn’t freak out about not mentioning Top Gun – Maverick‘s chances as Best Picture of the year. It is already the best movie of the year, setting box office records, being adored across the globe, and a personal effort by Tom Cruise to keep movies at the cinemas. It would be a great prestige for him to win his first Oscar as a producer in view of everything he has been doing for the Industry. But Top Gun may no longer be so fresh in voters’ minds or Tom so popular with his peers (many who don’t like his religion). All of this counts when voting! And once again, if it’s Tom’s night, it will be a historic night.
So, the 2023 Oscars have everything to be a night of beautiful tributes. Shall we say it will be tedious? To see!