From Best Picture to Lead Actor, Here’s Where the Oscars Race Stands Now

While most of the critics and the guilds have had their say, it all comes down to this: on March 12, the 95th Academy Awards will hand out its top prizes to the best and brightest films of 2022. While anything can happen — part of the joy of watching this annual tradition — Variety takes a look at where the race seems to stand.

A Best Picture to Remember

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When “Everything Everywhere All at Once” hit theaters almost a year ago, it was an instant fave with audiences and critics. But a best picture front-runner? Surely  it was too early in the year to call that — and certainly the film was too weird and too niche to be a sure thing in the Oscar race.

What a difference a year makes. The fantasy-romance-adventure-comedy-drama-and-much-more from the Daniels led the day on the morning of Oscar noms with 11 nominations, proving that it had crossed over from a small, passionate group into the entire voting body.  But having the most nominations doesn’t always translate to a win — “The Power of the Dog” proved that just last year when it scored 12 nominations but only took home one trophy, for director Jane Campion.

But then the Daniels won DGA. And the film won PGA. And the ensemble won the SAG Award. This trifecta would make the film appear to be unstoppable, and wins from the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards don’t hurt. But if there were to be a spoiler, look no further than “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which won the top prize at BAFTA and is a serious competitor in international film and numerous below-the-line races. Or there’s “The Banshees of Inisherin,” a major contender in several big categories including original screenplay and three of the four acting races. Also, never underestimate Steven Spielberg, whose autobiographical “The Fabelmans” is a bittersweet crowd-pleaser that took home the Golden Globe best picture drama prize.

Speaking of crowd-pleasers, don’t count out populist entertainment. “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick” both smashed box office records and overcame the challenge of being sequels to be nominated in the best picture lineup. “Elvis” is another hit with audiences and boasts a front-runner performance from Austin Butler. And “Tár,” “Women Talking” and “Triangle of Sadness” all have passionate supporters who are likely to rank it first.

The Fab Five (Six)

Again, any doubts about “Everything Everywhere” being too bizarre for voters were silenced when Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinart took home the top prize at DGA, an accolade that traditionally lines up with Oscars. It also helps that BAFTA-winner Edward Berger, who directed “All Quiet on the Western Front,” wasn’t nominated here. But again, one should never bet against Spielberg, who landed his record ninth directing nom for “The Fabelmans.” Or Martin McDonagh from “Banshees,” who is likely to be rewarded in original screenplay — voters could see his auteur work as a pairing. Also nominated are two directors whose films speak to their specific vision — Todd Field for “Tár” and Ruben Östlund for “Triangle of Sadness.”

Taking the Lead

Since the start of the season, lead actress has been perceived as a two-woman race between Cate Blanchett for “Tár” and Michelle Yeoh for “Everything Everywhere.” Both took home Golden Globe Awards, while Blanchett landed Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards. But then Yeoh was awarded top honors by voters at the SAG Awards, who traditionally line up with the Academy’s. Smart money would advise not to bet against a SAG Award victory — or the love for first-time nominee Yeoh. But Blanchett is flawless in her performance and perhaps the most revered female actor working today.

Rounding out the category are five-time nominee Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”) and first-time nominees Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”). The latter famously made headlines for her surprise nomination after an impressive word-of-mouth campaign. That buzz has already led many to check out her small indie film, which is in many ways its own reward.

The lead actor race sees a line-up of first-timers — although several of them should be on multiple nominations by now. Brits Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”) and Bill Nighy (“Living”) scored noms for their critically acclaimed performances. Colin Farrell scored a Golden Globe for lead actor in a musical or comedy for his turn in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” And then Austin Butler, who began the season as the least-known of the nominees, rocketed to stardom with “Elvis.” The actor won the Golden Globe for lead actor in a drama but the real turning point was when he bested some stiff competition — including Brits with a hometown advantage — at the BAFTA Awards.  Notably though, Brendan Fraser won the SAG Award for his heartfelt turn playing a morbidly obese professor in “The Whale.” Odds are good he’ll repeat at the Oscars, but keep an eye on Butler.

Supporting Players

After leaving acting for more than 30 years, Ke Huy Quan made a triumphant return in “Everything Everywhere.” In addition to wins with several critics’ groups, Quan bested stiff competition at the Gothams, Golden Globes, Critics Choice and SAG Awards. Anyone else taking home the Academy Award for supporting actor would be a big upset. The only step Quan missed out was at BAFTA, where Berry Keoghan was awarded for his stellar turn in “Banshees.” Also nominated is Keoghan’s “Banshees” co-star Brendan Gleeson, who too is excellent. Brian Tyree Henry is the sole representation for the film “Causeway,” and his lauded turn as a man processing grief has earned raves. All four
are first-time nominees — the one returning actor is Judd Hirsch, who stole “The Fabelmans” with a single scene and finds himself nominated in the same category 42 years after his nom for “Ordinary People.”

While supporting actor looks to have been set for some time, the supporting actress race is harder to call. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” star Angela Bassett is not only the only previous nominee in the race, but also would make history as the first actor to win for a Marvel movie. She started the season strong with wins from Golden Globes and Critics Choice. But then Kerry Condon took home the prize at BAFTA. And the SAG Award went to Jamie Lee Curtis. Rounding out the category are Hong Chau for “The Whale,” who in many ways is the heart of the film, and “Everything Everywhere” breakout Stephanie Hsu. It’s looking like a tight race, though the smart money would go to the SAG Award winner, and Curtis is also a Hollywood icon.

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