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The universe is bigger than you realize, and so are the Oscar-nom possibilities. The nomination period for AMPAS members runs from Jan. 12-17, which means voters will be casting ballots prior to the reveal of noms from key guilds such as BAFTA and the WGA. That poses some tantalizing questions about how Academy voters will approach this year’s crop.

Will the box office dictate the Oscars?

The three highest-grossing films of 2022 — “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Top Gun: Maverick” — are feasibly in the running for best picture nods. Since the start of modern box office tracking in 1977, the Oscars have never nominated all three of the year’s top-grossing films. Only twice have they recognized the top two: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “On Golden Pond” in 1981 and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Tootsie” in 1982.

That said, five highest-grossing films have won best picture: “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), “Rain Man” (1988), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “Titanic” (1997) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003).

Will AMPAS embrace directors resurfacing after long breaks?

Several helmers returned to the director’s chair after more than a decade away, most notably Todd Field with “Tár” (16 years), James Cameron with “The Way of Water” (13 years) and Sarah Polley with “Women Talking” (10 years). All have drawn critical acclaim and shown strength with the precursor awards, putting them firmly in the conversation for nods from their directing colleagues. Will voters think it was worth the wait? 

AFTERSUN, from left: Frankie Corio, Paul Mescal, 2022. © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection Courtesy Everett Collection

Will the Oscar best picture lineup mirror BAFTA’s best-film shortlist?

This year, BAFTA changed its voting process, shortlisting 10 movies instead of 15, and will narrow that list to five for final nods. That means the British Academy’s selections, which included surprises like A24’s “Aftersun” and Sony Pictures Classics’ “Living,” may be more influential than ever. The significant overlap of BAFTA and AMPAS members might be good news for entrants like Neon’s “Triangle of Sadness” and troubling for movies like 20th Century Studios’ “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which was snubbed. 

Will Tom Cruise get his first nod in 24 years?

Beginning with “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) and continuing with “Jerry Maguire” (1996) and “Magnolia” (1999), Tom Cruise seemed destined to win an Oscar. However, despite the star’s acclaimed turns in films such as “The Last Samurai” (2003) and “Tropic Thunder” (2008), the Academy hasn’t shown much interest in recognizing his wide range of roles. Due in part to a weaker actor field than in other years, his return in the “Top Gun” sequel has been on the bubble for consideration after securing a Critics Choice nom. And as a producer of the film, the Hollywood fixture has two shots at recognition. Will the actors branch, the Academy’s largest, be charmed by the high-altitude eye movements and voice-over behind the oxygen mask?

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, from left: co-directors Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, on set, 2022. ph: Allyson Riggs /© A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection Courtesy Everett Collection

Is it going to be an all-white directing lineup?

Women have won best director for two consecutive years. And there has been significant progress with the highlighting of directors of color, such as Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) and Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”). However, this year the chances for diversity in the category seem slim, based on precursor notices so far. 

Pundits agree two-time winner Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) is locked for another nod. Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Todd Field (“Tár”) and Baz Luhrmann (“Elvis”) are likely shoo-ins as well. 

With only one spot left, hope is resting on “Everything Everywhere All at Once” directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert to prevent a #DirectorsSoWhite outcry.

Meanwhile, Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King”) are the only women directors with the momentum to cross the nomination threshold. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. AMPAS can vote for both.

AMPAS nomination voting is open and closes on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. PT.

See the latest film predictions, in all 23 categories, in one place on Variety’s Oscars Collective. To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.

See the 2022-2023 Awards Season calendar for all key dates and timelines.