What do “The Broadway Melody” (1929), “Grand Hotel” (1932) and “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) all have in common? In Oscar history, they are the only films to have won the Academy’s most coveted award — and nothing else. Could Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” join that select group this year, despite being the second-most-nominated movie of the lot?
Of the dark comedy’s nine noms, only three have a viable path to glory: Colin Farrell for actor, McDonagh for original screenplay and best picture. The other mentions — director, supporting actress and the double-dipping (and vote-splitting) supporting actors among them — face hurdles too high to clear.
Farrell is walking steadily with a Golden Globe for lead actor (comedy), but the film was shut out at the Critics Choice Awards. With Austin Butler (“Elvis”) and Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) equally building on their movies’ buzz, all eyes are on BAFTA and SAG to provide clarity on which leading man will come away with the Oscar.
McDonagh’s screenplay campaign is battling the year’s most nominated movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Given that tailwind, even if “Everything Everywhere” comes up short in the top race, supporting actor Ke Huy Quan and original screenplay seem to be two spots where its vocal admirers could convey their passion.
As to best picture, five films are seriously vying for the prize — “Banshees,” “Everything Everywhere,” “The Fabelmans,” “Tár” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” “Banshees” has a great shot mainly because the award is decided by a ranked-voting system (aka the preferential ballot). In all other categories, the popular vote determines the winner.
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. That explains upsets like “Green Book” (2018) over “Roma” and the ushering through of underdogs such as “Parasite” (2019) over “1917.” If “Everything Everywhere’s” flying dildos are a bridge too far for voters, or “Maverick” is too lowbrow, an Irish tale of two buddies who have a falling out could be just what the Oscar doctor ordered.
Additionally, in the past, one movie — think “Slumdog Millionaire” — might hold multiple statuettes by night’s end. However, since 2009, when the preferential ballot was instituted, only two best picture winners have landed five or more statuettes: “The Hurt Locker” (2009) and “The Artist” (2011). “Banshees’” prospects are more in line with those of recent winners like “Spotlight” (2015), which scored only two.
In the meantime, each of the top four best picture contenders is favored at one of the four upcoming guild and industry ceremonies, which typically determine the Oscar winner: BAFTA (“Banshees”), DGA (“The Fabelmans”), PGA (“Maverick”) and SAG (“Everything Everywhere”).
If each group goes with a different movie, it’ll be a wide-open race with few clues. In addition, it would also be the first time since the 2001-2002 awards season that the four major guilds didn’t align: BAFTA (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”), DGA (“A Beautiful Mind”), PGA (“Moulin Rouge!”) and SAG (“Gosford Park”). Oscar aligned with DGA winner Ron Howard’s drama. A rare seasonal chessboard like this might provide a lane for “Banshees” to walk toward the Dolby Theatre stage.
All that said, “Banshees,” with its international cast and relatable themes, appeals to multiple Academy branches. And with more than 60% of Academy members in the artisan categories, the period piece’s glossy production values and stunning cinematography will have voters ranking it high on their ballots.
In a year that had way more severed fingers and adorable equines than we ever expected (see “EO,” “The Menu” and “Triangle of Sadness”), “Banshees” was the one that delivered the best feckin’ time.
Oscar predictions for winners (week of Feb. 9) are down below. To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) — Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert and Jonathan Wang
Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale” (A24)
Cate Blanchett, “Tár” (Focus Features)
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel Studios)
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) – Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
“Women Talking” (MGM/UAR) – Sarah Polley
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (Netflix) – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Alex Bulkley
“Elvis” (Warner Bros.) – Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy, Bev Dunn
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix) – James Friend
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel Studios) – Ruth Carter
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures) – Eddie Hamilton
Makeup and Hairstyling:
“The Batman” (Warner Bros.) – Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine
“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures) – Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor
“Avatar: The Way of Water” (20th Century Studios) — Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix) — Volker Bertelmann
“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” (Variance Films) – Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose
“All That Breathes” (HBO Documentary Films/Sideshow) – Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany)
“My Year of Dicks” (Cat’s Pajamas) — Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” (Netflix) – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
Live Action Short:
“An Irish Goodbye” (Floodlight Pictures) – Tom Berkeley and Ross White