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Make the Case for Best Picture [2023]

By: Hopster and Isaac P. Ale
March 12, 2023

It's Oscars Week '23! Here is our case for each of the Best Picture nominees!

Isaac P. Ale: A couple weeks ago, Hopster and I were both in Seattle and took it upon ourselves to complete the Ballard Brewed Passport. A journey not for the faint of heart, this expedition involves sampling the concoctions of 11 breweries in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, getting a stamp at each one, with a prize waiting for you at that 11th brewery. We decided that it was imperative we take on this task, and while traveling to these breweries to talk about one of the Best Picture nominees, what we liked, loathed, and think of each film's chances are of winning at the Oscars! So in true Make the Case fashion, we present to you the first ever Film & Froth Podcast episode that is the culmination of an 11 brewery day!

Dolly de Leon in Triangle of Sadness Triangle of Sadness [2022]

Can Triangle of Sadness Win Best Picture?

Isaac P. Ale: First and foremost, I have now seen this movie so I can finally talk coherently about its chances! The most compelling line on Triangle of Sadness' resume is its glowing win of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival. While this award hasn't been too important as a predictor overall, recent years have seen a growing trend in crossover between Palme d'Or winner and Best Picture nominee. Parasite won the esteemed award and is one of two films to actually win Best Picture, the other being Marty from 1955. Outside of the Cannes prize, its also buoyed with nominations in Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. In terms of film quality, it definitely sets a tone for the aesthetic it's trying to achieve early on and sticks to it for its two hour plus runtime. Ruben Östlund certainly has the directorial craftiness to back up his nomination and his screenplay is witty, obvious at times, but strong with an Academy favorite obscure ending that is thematically consistent. The film paints a satirical cultural image of rich people being absolute morons while having a point of emphasis on not only the emotional and moral traps of the model industry but also the vapid and mysogynistic nature of it with Harris Dickinson's Carl. While being an intense underdog, the real reason Triangle of Sadness can win Best Picture is its combination of Östlund's writing, direction, and the huge win of the Palme d'Or swinging voters.

top gun maverick Top Gun: Maverick [2022]

Can Top Gun: Maverick Win Best Picture?

Hopster: The 95th Academy Awards is being publicized as a return to the populist blockbuster with nominations going to movies like Avatar: The Way of Water, Elvis, and Everything Everywhere All at Once. But there is another nominee that came out earlier this past year that raked in big cash all summer and reset the standard for what mainstream, serialized blockbuster movie-going should look like. Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to a film that came out almost 37 years ago, was one of the biggest and most talked about movies at the center of popular culture in recent memory. Directed by Josepeh Kosinski, Maverick went on to earn $1.4 billion dollars at the box office, making it the second highest grossing film of 2022 and 12th on the all time earnings list. As an Oscar contender, there is a lot to like: it's a technically impressive display of visual filmmaking with its use of stunning practical effects; the on-the-nose script isn't flashy, but it's carefully considered and deliberate in the best possible way; and strong characterizations and relationship-building amongst each member of the cast sets up cheer-worthy catharsis from start to finish. This is a tactile, sensory experience with emotionally sincere storytelling -- it's the complete package! While I still believe Miles Teller's mustache was snubbed of an Oscar nomination, it is really exciting that Top Gun will be competing in six categories at tonight's Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And while its chances of winning are considered slim at the moment, I wouldn't close the door on this as an upset just yet. When Steven Spielberg is going up to Tom Cruise at the Oscar nominees luncheon and thanking him for "saving Hollywood's ass and theatrical distribution," you know that Maverick's box office success and widespread appeal is a big fucking deal.

Avatar: The Way of Water Avatar: The Way of Water [2022]

Can Avatar: The Way of Water Win Best Picture?

Isaac P. Ale: Don't ever doubt Big Jim! Another $2+ billion grossing film for the maestro James Cameron who now has 3 of the top 5 grossing films of all time in Avatar, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Titanic. While being yet another stunning display of the beautiful marriage of films and technology the Avatar sequel has repeated with nominations in Best Visual Effects along with a strong precursor run of similar awards. I certainly think there's a slight chance Avatar: The Way of Water wins Best Picture and in my mind it depends on the views of the voters and how they think of Top Gun: Maverick in a similar way. The Tom Cruise sequel was long thought of to be the saving grace of the theater, bringing swathes of people to the cinema after a global pandemic had ravaged the industry. Well, James Cameron did something very similar, but on enough HGH to turn the Liver King into that giant creature popping out of the Earth at the end of Eternals (oh didn't see it so you don't understand that reference? Well you didn't miss anything. Basically, if the Academy views raking in a shit load of money for a third movie as enough to just give Cameron an award, then why not Best Picture? It's also interesting to see how the Academy favors the future Avatar movies, where a movie wrapping up existing storylines, makes another $2 billion, could receive The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King treatment.

women talking Women Talking [2022]

Can Women Talking Win Best Picture?

Hopster: It is kind of bizarre that the most overlooked nominee, Women Talking, in this Best Picture race is also the odds-on favorite to win Best Adapted Screenplay. While I can only speak on this anecdotally, I can't really remember a corollary -- most of the time, the presumptive Oscar-winning screenplays are at least in the top half of contenders for winning Best Picture. And while the Best Original Screenplay is brimming with other Best Picture nominees, it is still surprising that Sarah Polley's first feature film in years has been mostly left out of the Oscar buzz conversation. Maybe you can attribute that to the film's dark subject matter, or maybe it's just the fact that not that many people went and saw this movie in theaters. Whatever the reason, it is more likely that viewers at home will be hearing about this movie for the first time on Sunday -- which I suppose is a good thing in its own right. While it is safe to assume that the chance of Women Talking win is slim to none1, Polley winning Best Adapted Screenplay absolutely puts this film in the Best Picture hunt.

Austin Butler as Elvis Elvis [2022]

Can Elvis Win Best Picture?

Isaac P. Ale: As much as it upsets me, yes Elvis could very well win Best Picture. The musical biopic is one of the Academy's favorite things since sliced bread with Bohemian Rhapsody being grossly over awarded, Walk the Line, Judy, and Ray all receiving various Academy Awards. Not to mention, it is very clear that there are pockets of voters that love this film. There was an Academy voter screening back in November that received a massive standing ovation after the film, in true Cannes like fashion. Therefore, we can assume that there are numerous voters putting it in the top 3 spots on their ballot. Not to mention, the film has been nominated for multiple awards including for a transcendant performance from Austin Butler. The more nominations a film has, obviously the more the Academy voters like it, but that's not always correlated to success. Success in the Best Picture category for Elvis will be achieved through its mesmerizing exposition on the life and career of Elvis Presley which was carried on the shoulders of Butler's performance. If Butler wins Best Actor, I would assume there's a huge chance this film wins, compared to its current odds.

tar Tár [2022]

Can Tár Win Best Picture?

Hopster: Remember when Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for There Will Be Blood, but the film and its writer/director, Paul Thomas Anderson was otherwise shut out? I would say that blueprint is the best case scenario for Tár at this year's Oscars -- an all-around excellent movie centered around a mesmerizing lead performance. This is an acid-dripped movie, written and directed by Todd Field, with at least six thesis statements baked into its script. Rarely do films with this much vinegar win big at the Academy Awards, so I wouldn't expect Tár to take home much hardware tonight. That being said, Cate Blanchett, who delivered what might be the performance of the decade thus far, will absolutely compete for Best Actress. If she wins in that category, you have to at least increase the odds that Tár will win Best Picture by 20% or more. It wouldn't be shocking to me if in five years we look back and think of Tár as one of the signature filmmaking achievements of its time -- but I'm not overestimating its chances winning at this year's Oscars.

All Quiet on the Western Front All Quiet on the Western Front [2022]

Can All Quiet on the Western Front Win Best Picture?

Isaac P. Ale: One of the most awarded films this year, All Quiet on the Western Front is almost a lock for Best International Feature. Winning the Best Film award at the BAFTA's certainly helps its chances here but its going to come down to how voters view its adaptive nature. Based off of the 1929 book by Erich Maria Remarque this film has a strong chance in Best Adapted Screenplay, and by all accounts is a fantastic adaptation of the source material. One of the more culturally pertinent films this year, the film examines the horrors of war from the viewpoint of those that sacrifice everything and are even initially enamored with the idea of fighting for their country. Its utilization of young German kids fighting in World War I sears this anti-war messaging into your brain and the direction from Edward Berger is some of the best, even without a nomination in Best Director. Being a Netflix feature there's a big marketing push that could sway some voters but we've seen how that's worked for prior Netflix films such as Roma, Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Marriage Story, and others. Furthermore, like I mentioned before this film won big at the BAFTA's going 7 for 14 including the big Best Film award. There's certainly momentum and if Netflix can capitalize on that along with voters looking favorably on a Best International Feature being in Best Picture, there's a great chance for All Quiet.

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans The Fabelmans [2022]

Can The Fabelmans Win Best Picture?

Hopster: Maybe this isn't great analysis, but in my expert opinion, betting on Steven Spielberg, arguably the most important filmmaker of the last 50 years in Hollywood, is usually a mistake. With The Fabelmans, the great American emeritus director of his time finally peeled back the darker and more complicated layers of his childhood and inner psyche. With the help of his writing partner Tony Kushner, Spielberg leans into this autobiographical investigation without hesitation. What you might've assumed would be a straightforward, by-the-books biography is instead something potent and idiosyncratic. In unpacking the nuances of his fractured family unit and rationalizing his own creative metamorphosis, Spielberg is brazenly introspective while still being light and playful, as he uses every filmmaking tool in his cinematic toolbox. The Fabelmans is Steve's late-period capstone, and a win tonight would only add to his sterling legacy. Because Spielberg has won three Oscars (the last of which was Best Director for Saving Private Ryan in 1999), it's hard to approximate how much of an appetite Academy voters will have in recognizing him again. The Fabelmans is by no means a favorite in contention for Best Picture, but with such undeniable gravitas behind the camera, I wouldn't count it out of the race.

EEAAO2 Everything Everywhere All at Once [2022]

Can Everything Everywhere All at Once Win Best Picture?

Isaac P. Ale: My short answer is yes. My long answer is, this film officially passed The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for the most awarded movie in history, and is the most nominated film at the Oscars this year. An acting sweep, outside of Best Actor, is very likely for the film and with that happening it would be almost unprecedented for it to not win Best Picture. This film has become an awards darling from its early, non-traditional awards player, release along with its support from its production company A24 a well recognized indie film company. With how well this film is made, from the top to the bottom, along with the messaging, cultural importance, and appeal to every demographic it really is a big time contender. Being the heavy-weight champion of the precursors this season, along with winning the big time SAG award for Ensemble (which is insanely correlated with Best Picture winners i.e., CODA last year) Everything Everywhere All at Once is standing alone at the top of the mountain. I think this film has the best chance out of any of the nominees, but in true Academy Awards fashion, anything can happen.

Brendan Gleeson and Collin Farrell in Banshees of Inisherin The Banshees of Inisherin [2022]

Can The Banshees of Inisherin Win Best Picture?

Hopster: "I'm not puttin' me money on The Banshees of Inisherin -- there's no feckin' way it wins, don't I know it." My advice to those Irish naysayers is this: put down your soda bread and Guinness pints for a minute and start believing! This isn't as crazy as you might assume. Yeah, yeah, I know Martin McDonagh's black tragicomedy is polling in second with only an 8.3% chance of winning Best Picture. But let us not forget that unlike the other categories at the Academy Awards, Best Picture is decided by way of a preferential ballot (aka, a ranked-voting system), NOT by popular vote. In his Oscar preview article on Variety, Clayton Davis laid out the case for a Banshees out-of-nowhere upset: "The preferential system favors not the movies that are most loved (that is, with the most passionate admirers) but the ones that are most liked (having the greatest general appeal). While a first-place “most loved” vote is ideal — a contender needs 50% of the vote plus one to secure a win — it’s the second-and third-place “most liked” picks that push a title across the finish line."2 He goes on to talk about the lack of homogeneity that has become increasingly common with Best Picture winners -- it is rare that the winner walks away with multiple statuettes beyond Best Picture. Only since 2009 have two films won 5 or more Oscars including Best Picture (one being The Hurt Locker in 2010 and the other was The Artist in 2011). Winning Best Picture is a little more random that you might expect; the past decade of results backs up that line of reasoning. While Everything Everywhere All at Once is unequivocally the frontrunner and the people's choice, a Banshees win is still in play if not only because of the Best Picture ranked-voting system. Because EEAAO has been the runaway winner for months, it might come as a shock for viewers if it ended up not winning, especially those of us who might mourn a moment lost for celebrating one of the most diverse and imaginative indie-turned-blockbuster movies to contend at the Oscars ever. But also, Banshees would certainly be a worthy winner in its own right, as it was one of the most well-made and beautifully tragic films of 2022. Ugh, I don't know what to think, but keep an eye out for a Banshees upset tonight -- as Isaac said earlier, you never can be certain how things will play out at the Academy Awards...

  1. All of our odds and implied probabilities are informed by the extremely helpful Action Network
  2. Clayton Davis' Oscars write-up in Variety

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