Will win: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
The story: Where to begin? A woman whose family owns a laundromat finds herself in parallel worlds where she’s a spy, a superhero and a movie star.
In its favor: It was a hit with critics and audiences, who made the modestly budgeted comedy-drama a surprise hit last spring.
Then again: It’s weird. The universe-jumping, in particular, put off some moviegoers who ordinarily would be attracted to a story with a strong woman at its center.
Should win: “Women Talking”
The story: Women in a religious community, who discover they’ve been drugged and assaulted by male family members, convene in a barn to decide their next steps.
In its favor: Actors are the largest branch of Oscars’ voting body, so they’re liable to be on the side of actor/writer/director Sarah Polley, whose woman-forward story suits the moment.
Then again: Despite a big promotional push, the movie has struggled to find an audience. And it’s a downer.
“All Quiet on the Western Front”
The story: With war breaking out in 1914, young German men have varying reactions as they head into battle.
In its favor: With nine nominations, there’s broad support for the film. And antiwar epics always are a safe bet with voters.
Then again: It has a better shot in the international feature category, especially since a 1930 film with the same title, also based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, already won best picture at the third Oscars.
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
The story: A war for survival takes place on the moon of Pandora. The bad guys are from Earth, looking for a new place to wreck.
In its favor: Already in the top six, James Cameron’s epic could become the biggest money-maker ever, in a town where money talks (remember his 1998 winner “Titanic”).
Then again: The “king of the world” may not be Hollywood’s favorite dude and with gazillions more “Avatar” sequels planned, there will be other chances to honor it.
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
The story: As the drama opens on the titular Irish island, a man (Brendan Gleeson) tells his buddy (Colin Farrell) they’re no longer friends.
In its favor: Oscar loved Martin McDonagh’s last movie, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and gave “Banshees” nine nominations, including all four leads.
Then again: It’s tough to describe the drama, which is sometimes funny and tender but also features shocking violence that voters could find off-putting.
The story: The king of rock and roll rises and falls.
In its favor: It’s the most audacious movie in this bunch, with Baz Luhrmann’s peripatetic style all over it. And it created one of the year’s biggest new stars in Austin Butler.
Then again: Luhrmann has made better movies and they didn’t win best picture. That also seems likely for this one, which appeased Elvis Presley’s family by not revealing much about him.
The story: Drawing on his childhood, Steven Spielberg (with screenwriter Tony Kushner) details how the breakup of his parents’ marriage affected his development as a filmmaker.
In its favor: It has been hailed as the most complicated and personal movie from a director who often shied away from those things. And Oscar loves movies about movies as well as late-career resurgences (Spielberg also was a nominee last year for “West Side Story”).
Then again: Is opening one’s family photo album Oscar-worthy?
The story: Conductor Lydia Tár is a Leonard Bernstein-style superstar, with a beloved wife and daughter, until misconduct comes to light.
In its favor: It’s a bold, unpredictable film and probably the most evidently “directed” of the movies in contention. That ending!
Then again: If we were going to get the first “Me, too” story in which the perpetrator is a woman, maybe it would have made more sense if it came from a female filmmaker?
“Top Gun: Maverick”
The story: Tom Cruise returns as a fighter pilot who, 38 years after the original movie, is still breaking all the rules.
In its favor: Although it’s been surpassed by “Way of Water,” it’s widely agreed that the huge success of “Maverick” “saved” movie-going.
Then again: It’s a sequel, it’s not as weighty as best pictures almost always are, it’s nearly female-free and it’s more about technology than humanity.
“Triangle of Sadness”
The story: When a cruise ship sinks, the rich dopes on board realize people who actually work for a living are better equipped to survive.
In its favor: It already won the top prize at Cannes, so it has a pedigree, and Hollywood’s rich dopes may like to pat themselves on the back by acknowledging their privilege.
Then again: It’s more like the “Bermuda Triangle of Sadness,” since the movie vanished after a brief run in theaters.
Will win: Steven Spielberg
In his favor: He is beloved and has worked with everyone but Spielberg hasn’t won this award since 1998. Even if “The Fabelmans,” which was a passion project, doesn’t take best picture, suspicion about directing teams, such as the one behind “Everything,” works in his favor.
Then again: “The Fabelmans” fever seems to have faded with its disappointing box office numbers.
Should win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
In their favor: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is so complex that it probably required two directors. It cannot have been easy to get this wildly original film made but “the Daniels” pulled it off.
Then again: Other than the special sibling case of Joel and Ethan Coen, Oscar voters like to support one director’s visions, so they’ve been reluctant to endorse co-director credits.
In his favor: The bold “Tár” has Field’s imprint on every frame.
Then again: One quirk of this category is that directors nominate but everyone votes on the winner. Even when “Argo” won best picture, director Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated, perhaps because actors (such as Field) are the most powerful voting bloc and directors know that, given the chance, they’ll choose one of their own for the directing prize.
In his favor: The Oscars were all over his “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” because, as in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” it had juicy roles and the narrative took big swings.
Then again: He has earned two writing nominations (also for “In Bruges”) but no directing nods to go with them. Maybe the Academy perceives him as a stronger writer than director? And he already has a trophy, albeit for a short (“Six Shooter” in 2006).
In his favor: Voters often opt for writer/producers like the Swede, whose previous “The Square” was nominated in the international feature category. His movie, which has won many prizes overseas, touches on hot-button issues that make it feel timely.
Then again: Voters are more likely to identify with the rich, beautiful bad guys in the movie than its more capable working stiffs.
Missed the cut: Sarah Polley
Why she had a chance: As a writer/director, there’s no arguing she was the creative force behind “Women Talking,” an unusual movie with widespread acclaim.
Why she missed out: But it’s not doing much business and, recent winners Chloé Zhao and Jane Campion aside, Oscar’s history with female directors is atrocious. Like Field, Polley has the baggage of being an actor who could “steal” the category — a reason for fellow directors to avoid nominating her.
Will win: Cate Blanchett, “Tár”
The role: Lydia Tár, a mercurial-to-say-the-least conductor whose wrongdoings endanger her career and family.
In her favor: Oscar loves her (seven nominations) and her character dominates virtually every scene of the movie.
Then again: In almost any year, Blanchett’s ferocious work would be a slam-dunk winner. But 2022 was surprisingly great for leading women, so she has strong competition.
Should win: Michelle Yeoh
The role: Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner who dives into parallel universes in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
In her favor: Her career has been long, varied (from Bond “girl” to mean mom in “Crazy Rich Asians”) and ignored by Oscar. It’s also an incredible role that allows Yeoh to play multiple characters.
Then again: Can a first-timer compete with the acting legends and multiple nominees Yeoh is up against?
Ana de Armas
The role: Troubled superstar Marilyn Monroe, in “Blonde.”
In her favor: The movie was reviled but everyone agreed that de Armas triumphed. It could almost work in the up-and-comer’s favor that her heroic performance rescued this disastrous biopic.
Then again: It’s a tough ask to win an award for a movie as universally hated as “Blonde,” which highlights all the victimization of Monroe but none of her talent or zest for life.
The role: The down-on-her-luck title character in “To Leslie”
In her favor: Drinking, crying, yelling, sleeping rough. Riseborough, whose lengthy resume shows she’s well-connected in Hollywood, gets to do it all here.
Then again: Deep-but-not-wide support for her nomination could backfire. Famous friends spread the word about “Leslie” but, with a total gross of $26,000 and change, they may be the only ones who saw it.
The role: Mitzi Fabelman, an unhappy housewife, artist and mom in “The Fabelmans.”
In her favor: The five-time nominee plays a key influence on one of the most lauded filmmakers of all time. And he chose her to play his mom.
Then again: The conversation around her performance has been dominated by hair-splitting about whether she’s a lead or supporting actor. Will that remain an issue, now that Oscar has decided?
Missed the cut: Viola Davis
The role: Nanisca, the woman king in “The Woman King”
Why she had a chance: Playing the title role helps, as does shepherding it as producer. And, although Davis is a supporting actress winner, it’s high time someone became the first Black best actress since Halle Berry, 21 years ago.
Why she missed out: The last action star to win best actress would be — um, no one ever.
Will win: Colin Farrell
The role: Pádraic, a lonesome friend in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
In his favor: Farrell also was great last year in “The Batman,” “After Yang” and “Thirteen Lives.” He could get a career achievement award for 2022 alone — which seemed to be the thinking as he gobbled up preliminary awards.
Then again: Despite a couple decades in the spotlight, he’s never been nominated for an Oscar. Can he win the first time out?
Should win: Bill Nighy
The role: Mr. Williams, a quiet Brit who gets a devastating diagnosis in “Living.”
In his favor: “Classy British veteran” is right in Oscar’s sweet spot — see Anthony Hopkins’ surprise win two years ago. In fact, Nighy plays a role very similar to the one that earned Hopkins a nom in “Remains of the Day.”
Then again: Same issue as Farrell. The lead Oscars don’t often go to nomination newbies.
The role: Mr. Blue Suede Shoes in “Elvis.”
In his favor: Parts don’t come much flashier. Butler is a former child actor who hasn’t had great movie roles as an adult, so he comes across as both a newcomer and an industry veteran.
Then again: His awards tour, in which he still seems to be playing Elvis and still is doing the drawl, has been off-putting. Is Elvis all the Anaheim native can do?
The role: Charlie, who’s confined to his apartment in “The Whale.”
In his favor: There’s a huge degree of difficulty in the role, which required prosthetics to make Fraser appear to weigh 600 pounds while also stepping into the shoes of a man at the end of his rope. Fraser makes it seamless.
Then again: Where has he been? It feels like the first-time nominee disappeared for about a decade.
The role: Calum, vacationing with his daughter in “Aftersun.”
In his favor: It’s essentially a two-character movie and Mescal’s is the more complex one. He’s riveting as a troubled man, trying to show his child a good time.
Then again: Mescal is looking like the Next Big Thing in Hollywood (he’ll be in the “Gladiator” sequel) but he’s not there yet.
Missed the cut: Tom Cruise
The role: Hotshot pilot Pete Mitchell in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
Why he had a chance: How often does one actor get name-checked twice in his movie’s title? Cruise is crucial to the success of the blockbuster that brought folks back to multiplexes.
Then again: His Scientology connection was a talking point at the Golden Globes and continues to unsettle. And a viral video of him cursing the “Mission: Impossible” crew didn’t win friends.
Best supporting actress
Will win: Angela Bassett
The role: Ramonda, who rules her people in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
In her favor: She’s the soul of the movie and its strongest connection to the character played by the late Chadwick Boseman. And, 29 years since her previous nod for “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” she’s overdue.
Then again: No Marvel Cinematic Universe actor had previously been nominated for an Oscar. Is it too soon to actually win one?
Should win: Hong Chau
The role: Dedicated nurse/friend Liz in “The Whale.”
In her favor: She plays a sympathetic character in a film with a lot of thornier ones. Chau scored a Screen Actors Guild nomination and is owed a make-good for missing out on a “Downsizing” nomination a few years back.
Then again: The movie is another tough watch, and most of the conversation around it has been about co-star Brendan Fraser.
The role: Siobhan, a restless villager in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
In her favor: The name may be unfamiliar but Condon has racked up many big credits since “Angela’s Ashes” in 1999. She’s in the most emotionally direct scene of “Banshees” and she stands out in the much-lauded cast by being virtually the only woman on screen.
Then again: That emotional scene is about the other character (Barry Keoghan), not hers.
Jamie Lee Curtis
The role: Deirdre, an IRS wonk in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
In her favor: She’s Hollywood royalty whose parents, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, were Oscar nominees. A yeoman actor since 1977, she’s finally in a movie with awards oomph.
Then again: If voters are divided about the wild “Everything,” she probably appears in the scenes that are their least favorite part. Two words: Hotdog fingers.
The role: Joy, a discontented daughter in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
In her favor: Like all the performers in “Everything,” she gets to show her stuff in a variety of different settings, from whining about being bored in her family laundromat to snuffing out bad guys in a parallel universe.
Then again: Of the four “Everything” actors earning awards attention, Hsu got the least love.
Missed the cut: Jessie Buckley
The role: Mariche, angry young mother in “Women Talking.”
Why she had a chance: She gives the showiest performance in the “Women” ensemble and she was nominated in this category last year for “The Lost Daughter,” so she’s fresh in voters’ minds.
Why she missed out: Up against popular stars like Bassett and Curtis and splashy newcomers like Hsu, it may have been hard to get voters to watch “Women,” which deals with several difficult subjects.
Best supporting actor
Will win and should win: Ke Huy Quan
The role: Waymond, unhappy with his marriage and life in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
In his favor: Everything! Quan has been killing it with speeches on the awards circuit. His comeback story is incredible, having quit the biz after making an “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” splash as a kid. And “Everything” showcases his chameleonic skills.
Then again: You can fit his resume on a Post-it.
The role: Colm, who wants to play his fiddle and live in peace in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
In his favor: It’s shocking the longtime standout has never been nominated (although an Emmy win for “Into the Storm” helps). He has lots of screen time to make an impression, since he’s really a co-lead in “Banshees.”
Then again: Of this year’s “Oscar Brendans,” he plays second fiddle to Mr. Fraser.
Brian Tyree Henry
The role: James, a kind auto repairman who befriends Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway.”
In his favor: He probably just missed a nod for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” And how many other actors can you name who stole scenes from Lawrence? (That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is “Zero.”)
Then again: It’s the movie’s lone nomination, which may mean many voters have not gotten around to watching it.
The role: Boris, uncle of the Spielberg character, in “The Fabelmans.”
In his favor: It’s a classic supporting role, like the one that earned him his previous nomination 42 years ago, for “Ordinary People”: Comes in for a couple scenes, dazzles us, leaves us wanting more.
Then again: How good are voters’ memories? He’s mostly in the beginning of “Fabelmans,” and it’s a very long movie.
The role: Dominic, a shy villager in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
In his favor: It’s never a bad idea to dominate a movie’s best scene, which he does in the heartbreaking moment his character professes his (unrequited) love for Condon’s Siobhan.
Then again: Although he’s given a bunch of memorable performances, this may be the first to register with voters. (It won’t be the last.)
Missed the cut: Anthony Hopkins
The role: Aaron, kindly grandpa of Paul, the protagonist of “Armageddon Time.”
Why he had a chance: Although it’s a small role, Hopkins’ character emerges as the driving force in the life of the main character. The two-time Oscar winner makes his scenes count by hinting at demons behind the genial facade.
Why he missed out: “Armageddon” came into awards season hot, but lost all its steam.