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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Stuart Heritage

What can we learn from 2023’s brutally honest Oscar ballots?

Angela Bassett.
Angela Bassett. Photograph: Aude Guerrucci/Reuters

About 10,000 people get to vote for the Academy Awards. By all accounts they enjoy a relatively simple process. First they watch all the films. Then they decide which films they like the best. And then they run off to screech at as many media outlets as they possibly can about their choices.

That’s right, if it’s Oscar season it must be anonymous Oscar ballot season. This year, as with most other years, a fat swath of Oscar voters have spoken to various publications about their choices. Taken independently, the resulting pieces are usually a mess of bad opinions and insane bitchiness. However, once gathered and collated, they can sometimes make a pretty decent prediction tool. For example, last year’s batch correctly identified that Troy Kotsur and Will Smith would win, and that Being the Ricardos would be banished in shame. So what of this year? Glad you asked. Here’s what I could gather from this year’s anonymous crop.

Everything Everywhere All at Once will win everything

Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Although there’s a smattering of praise for The Fabelmans (and, in one terrifying instance, Avatar: The Way of Water), there seems to be an overwhelming push for Everything Everywhere All at Once to win best picture. The Hollywood Reporter’s anonymous voter (who called it “one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen”) went for it, as did one of Variety’s voters, two of GoldDerby’s voters and three of EW’s voters. But if it fails to land best picture, then Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have grown to become the ones to beat for best director. Two Variety voters, three EW voters, the Hollywood Reporter voter and a whopping six GoldDerby voters have all claimed to have voted the way of Daniels. One of them said of their direction: “Sometimes I thought I was in the Matrix. Sometimes I thought I was in a washing machine,” which would make a hell of a poster quote. Either way, Steven Spielberg probably shouldn’t bother writing a speech.

But Triangle of Sadness might cause some upsets

Harris Dickinson in Triangle of Sadness.

This year, the best picture voters were asked to rank all 10 nominated films in order of preference. And, although it didn’t outright win any of the published ballots, Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness was the second or third choice for a surprisingly large amount of voters, with an Indiewire voter calling it “intriguing and inventive”. This year’s awards have the potential to contain all manner of upsets – all seven of Variety’s voters picked a different film for best picture – and so it’s possible, if unlikely, that Triangle of Sadness might slip through the gaps and secure victory.

Expect Ke Huy Quan to win best supporting actor

Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Just like Troy Kotsur last year, Ke Huy Quan has almost unstoppable momentum behind him this year. Thanks to a combination of factors – his talent, his flair for speeches, the warmth of his comeback story – Quan has won over almost everyone. There’s a chance that someone from The Banshees of Inisherin will snatch it, although having two nominated actors is likely to split the vote. But the big Hollywood ending, one that Hollywood itself is self-aware enough to root for, is a Quan win. As the Hollywood Reporter voter said, his win would be proof that “it’s never really over in Hollywood unless you’re dead or Will Smith”.

And Angela Bassett to win best supporting actress

Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The same goes for Angela Bassett, an incredible actor with a long and storied career. Even if Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wasn’t actually very good, it seems as if voters are willing to overlook the film itself in favour of rewarding Bassett’s entire career. One GoldDerby voter mentioned Bassett’s “body of work”, stating that she “has laid track for many other actresses in their careers”, while another said: “She has such a presence that I think was highly underrated and underappreciated, much as she has been in her career as a whole.” The Hollywood Reporter’s voter said her win is “long overdue”. And, slightly bewilderingly, an Indiewire voter said that they would vote for Bassett, even though they haven’t actually seen Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. You can’t argue with logic like that. Angela Bassett, do the thing.

Maybe don’t root for Aftersun, though

Paul Mescal in Aftersun.

On the whole, this year’s batch of anonymous voters have abstained from the frenzied cattiness of previous years – no nominated film this time has been derided as much as Being the Ricardos last year – although it is very hard to find anyone with anything nice to say about Aftersun. The Hollywood Reporter’s voter instantly ruled out voting for Paul Mescal, on the basis that “I’m confused about all the excitement over that movie”. An Indiewire voter, meanwhile, said: “I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t think the little girl was that compelling. I didn’t know what [Paul Mescal‘s character’s] problem was. There was another level going on I was not appreciating.” They are all wildly wrong, of course, because Aftersun is terrific. Maybe we should push for an influx of voters who went on cheap Mediterranean package holidays in the late 1990s to balance things out for next year.

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