Once again we stick our fingers into chicken innards and predict what the 10 best picture nominees will be at the 2023 Oscars. We did well last year. Five out of our 10 scored. That is an excellent result when all but one of the predictions had yet to screen for anybody.
Missing out were Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch, a reasonable punt, Leos Carax's Annette, a bit of a wild card, Rebecca Hall's Passing, competitive throughout, John Chu's In The Heights, killed by bad box office, and – a title we'll come back to – Andrew Dominik's still-unreleased Blonde. We correctly guessed the Academy would go for West Side Story, Dune, The Power of the Dog and eventual winner CODA. Sian Heder's sweet drama of life among deaf fisherfolk in New England was the only film anyone had then seen. It had recently sold for a record sum at Sundance and won the Grand Jury Prize there in the US dramatic strand. That snowy festival has served us well in these annual predictions, but, in 2023, there were no obvious breakout hits to compare with CODA, Minari and Whiplash. So we move forward uncertainly into a list of entirely unseen releases.
If this game were easy it wouldn't be worth playing
Blonde, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates's semi-fictional novel about Marilyn Monroe, remains one of the year's most tempting releases, but early reports of extreme content and elliptical storytelling suggest it may not be in the academy's wheelhouse. We reluctantly edge it out of the frame. Cannes will almost certainly kick up at least one surprise – Drive My Car debuted their last year – that is not yet on our radar, but the thing about surprises is they're impossible to predict. Nobody saw Belfast as a contender before it landed with a happy splash at Telluride. If this game were easy it wouldn't be worth playing.
In no particular order…
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Chazelle landed nominations for Whiplash and La La Land. First Man, arguably his best film, somehow failed to make the best picture race. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Tobey Maguire and Katherine Waterstone star in a study of Hollywood's early days. It opens at Christmas after an expected premiere at the autumn festivals. Do the maths. That cast and that subject matter – Hollywood loves to contemplate its own navel – are all pointing towards the Dolby Theatre.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
Directed by Martin Scorsese
If you will excuse our use of highbrow film theory… Well, duh! Seventy-five per cent of Scorsese's films in the 21st century have been nominated for best picture. Nothing we hear about his adaptation of David Grann's book concerning corruption in 1920s Oklahoma counts against it. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Jesse Plemens star. After scoring the first ever best picture win for a streaming service with CODA, could Apple TV sneak past Netflix again?
Directed by Maria Schrader
The German director of the much-liked I'm Your Man moves onto subject matter that is certain to attract the attention of awards juries. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan play, respectively, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times journalists who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct. Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt's Oscar-friendly company, is producing and a premiere at Cannes looks to be on the cards. Talk of a November release suggests confidence in awards action.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
We refer you to the words "Well, duh" above. In the last decade, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The Post and West Side Story have all scored best picture nominations for Spielberg. Throughout his career he has told tales obliquely related to his upbringing, but The Fabelmans tackles memoir head on. Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen play parents to a bright kid in Spielberg's home state of Arizona during the 1950s. Well, the Cider with Rosie approach recently scored nominations for Roma and Belfast.
Directed by Sarah Polley
The Canadian director's latest sounds absolutely perfect for an academy that has recently embraced more independent cinema and more stories about women. Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara and our own Jessie Buckley – all Oscar nominees – star in an adaptation of Miriam Toews's novel about women resisting abuse in a Mennonite community. Surprisingly this will be Polley's first drama feature since the fine Take This Waltz in 2011. Festivals will fight over it.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Dublin's Element Pictures have a number of contenders this year, but the most tasty Oscar possibility is surely their fourth collaboration – after The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite – with Lanthimos, the master of Greek oddness. Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo star in an adaptation of the brilliant Frankenstein-adjacent novel by Scottish genius Alasdair Gray. Doesn't feel as if it will be ready for Cannes. Venice a cert if not.
Directed by Ari Aster
The academy has always been less friendly to horror than to any other genre. So we shouldn't be all that surprised that neither Aster's Hereditary nor Midsommar were even in the conversation. His latest features a cast groaning with class in the epic tale of an entrepreneur making his acquisitive way through the decades. Joaquin Phoenix, Nathan Lane, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan and Parker Posey star in a release from the admired A24. Might it still be too odd?
Directed by Noah Baumbach
We had to get to a Netflix title eventually. Noah Baumbach moves a little further to leftfield with an adaptation of Don DeLillo's great post-modern novel concerning an academic's interactions with an "Airborne Toxic Event". It will be interesting to see if DeLillo's high literary style can make successful translation to the cinema. Adam Driver stars opposite the director's romantic partner Greta Gerwig. This has the feel of a "long-cherished project" about it. For good or ill.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
Directed by Martin McDonagh
McDonagh, who won an Oscar for a short film as long ago as 2004, became a serious player at those awards when Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri scored seven nominations in 2018. So we must take him seriously as a contender with his latest black comedy. The title is very on brand. So is the cast. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, stars of McDonagh's In Bruges, are back for a film that revolves around the severing of a long friendship.
Directed by David O Russell
Russell divides opinion, but he has a starry record at the Oscars. The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle all scored multiple nominations including, in each case, a best picture nod. Here we go again. Get this cast: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Zoe Saldaña, Andrea Risborough, Chris Rock, Taylor Swift, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers. It would be easier to note who's not in the mysterious "period drama".