oscar futures

Oscar Futures: Can Banshees of Inisherin Banter Its Way to a Trophy?

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo Courtesy of SearchlightPictures/YouTube

Every week between now and January 24, when the Academy Award nominations are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes of this year’s Oscars race. In our “Oscar Futures” column, we’ll let you in on insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.

Best Picture


The Banshees of Inisherin

In the era of the preferential ballot, likability reigns supreme. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more universally regarded contender than Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges reunion, which opens today to a sterling 100 percent Tomatometer score. The mournful and muted Banshees might not have the heft of a traditional frontrunner — A.O. Scott says the film “might feel a little thin if you hold it to conventional standards of comedy or drama,” comparing it to “a piece of village gossip, given a bit of literary polish and a handsome pastoral finish” — but its relative understatedness should help it evade the backlash that derailed McDonagh’s last go on the Oscar carousel, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.



Paramount this week switched up its plans for Babylon. Rather than starting in limited release and then expanding after the holidays, Damien Chazelle’s Old Hollywood extravaganza will instead open wide over Christmas, thereby raising the stakes for the would-be Oscar gatecrasher. Contra Gaga, money does talk. Last winter’s dismal openings added a stench of failure to contenders like West Side Story, and Babylon will have to pray the Monday-morning headlines are good.

Current Predix

The Banshees of InisherinElvisEverything Everywhere All at OnceThe FabelmansGlass OnionTárTop Gun: MaverickTriangle of Sadness, The Woman KingWomen Talking

Best Director


Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin

Three Billboards was savaged in some corners as a depiction of Middle America written by someone who had clearly never spent much time there. McDonagh’s latest portrait of rural Ireland evinces a much more convincing sense of place, at least to American viewers. (The Irish TimesDonald Clarke allows that, “for those not temperamentally opposed to [McDonagh’s] entire shtick, there is much life yet in his embrace of durable narrative traditions.”) Combined with stellar reviews, being back on familiar soil could be a boon for the playwright-turned-filmmaker, who’ll be hoping obtain the Best Director nom that eluded him five years ago.


Lukas Dhont, Close

Though Belgium’s Oscar entry has received some high-profile pans, those haven’t drowned out the sound of everyone else sobbing at the Cannes runner-up — including at the Hamptons Film Festival, where Close received the Narrative Feature prize from a jury that, as Greg Ellwood notes, was entirely made up of AMPAS members. Could Dhont be a dark-horse pick in a category where European auteurs often thrive, or is the 31-year-old still too unseasoned?

Current Predix

Todd Field, Tár; Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin; Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness; Sarah Polley, Women Talking; Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

Best Actor


Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin

Pundits say a successful acting bid is built on the confluence of star, role, and film, and Farrell’s got all three working for him at the moment. Banshees is the capstone of the actor’s art-house reinvention. It prompted The Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan to dub him “a legend in his own right,” while his performance as a lovable dullard trying to repair a friendship is hailed by Justin Chang as “one of the finest he’s ever given … a thing of rough-hewn simplicity and exquisite delicacy, nailing comic beats and striking emotional chords with the same deft touch.” Farrell lifts Banshees, and Banshees could lift him: With The Whale and The Son both inspiring mixed reactions, he may end up the only Best Actor candidate repping a Best Picture nominee. Don’t underestimate him.


Paul Mescal, Aftersun

Since breaking out in Normal People, Mescal has become one of the most in-demand young actors around. He seems like the kind of leading man who’ll catch Oscar’s attention eventually, but will this elliptical memory piece get him there ahead of schedule? The 26-year-old actor is playing older than his years here as a dad on vacation with his preteen daughter, and almost every glowing review spotlights his captivating, elusive performance. There’s a gossamer-like slightness to Aftersun; too much pressure and it might collapse. Even so, this category has a soft underbelly that could draw in an actor from a movie people actually like. It might be worth it for critics’ groups to give Mescal a push.

Current Predix

Austin Butler, Elvis; Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin; Brendan Fraser, The Whale; Hugh Jackman, The Son; Bill Nighy, Living

Best Actress


Zoe Kazan, She Said

Last week, I predicted that She Said might decide to bump one of its leading ladies down to supporting, but I was wrong about which one it’d be. Turns out Carey Mulligan will bite the category-fraud bullet, while Kazan goes it alone in lead. It’s a slightly odd choice in the context of the film, given that Mulligan is introduced first and plays the more senior of the two reporters. But as awards-season gamesmanship, it smacks of realpolitik: Mulligan, the more familiar face for Oscar voters, will run in the easier category, while the never-nominated Kazan gets pushed into the Best Actress gauntlet. Good luck!


Rooney Mara, Women Talking

This week also brought clarity on the traffic jam of actress contenders that is Women Talking: As expected, Mara will go lead and everyone else will go supporting. The film’s ensemble focus could hamper her chances here, as might the fact her beatific performance offers fewer surprises than her co-stars’. But Mara’s also playing the character most committed to the movie’s mission, which could give her some standard-bearer appeal if Sarah Polley’s intellectual drama picks up Best Picture heat.

Current Predix

Cate Blanchett, Tár; Olivia Colman, Empire of Light; Danielle Deadwyler, Till; Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans; Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actor


Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin

You’ve got to hand it to Gleeson, who’s earning ringing endorsements from critics for his part as Farrell’s ex-BFF in Banshees. Many pundits are pointing to him as the early Supporting Actor frontrunner, and it’s not hard to put your finger on why: As a face-palming fiddler who’s fed-up with Farrell’s knucklehead, he’s in the middle of the film’s central conflict, and he nails the obstinacy that keeps it escalating. “Can a man scowl not just with his face but with his entire hulking frame? Somehow, Gleeson manages,” says Chang. A real thumbs-up!


Harry Styles, My Policeman

As one veteran producer recently put it to me, Styles made a rookie mistake when he was picking his first big movie roles: In both Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman, he plays men hiding something fundamental about themselves, a task that demands layers any newcomer would have trouble delivering. “Styles’s thoughtful, shaggy-sweet quality works well,” says Richard Lawson of My Policeman, “but when he has to hold a scene’s emotional tenor for longer than a line reading, he’s flat.” The EGOT will have to wait.

Current Predix

Paul Dano, The Fabelmans; Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin; Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans; Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Ben Whishaw, Women Talking

Best Supporting Actress


Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin

In other hands, the part of Farrell’s responsible sister in Banshees could have been a dutiful drag, but Condon, who broke out in McDonagh’s play The Lieutenant of Inishmore, brings the woman to life. The movie belongs to Condon,” raves Anthony Lane. “She adds a snap of anger, never dour but zestful and vivifying.” In a supporting-actress race that has yet to settle, the Rome vet is one to watch out for: She’s the moral center of the film.


Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once

As other categorization knots get untied, there’s still the thorny issue of which supporting actress from Everything Everywhere gets to ride Michelle Yeoh’s coattails. Here on the east coast, I’ve seen more of Stephanie Hsu: She gave a moving introduction to Yeoh at the TIFF Tribute Awards, and the EEAAO talk at the Hamptons Film Festival turned out to be an hourlong For Your Consideration ad for her shape-shifting performance. But Jamie Lee Curtis is an industry legend who’s been shilling hard for the film out in L.A., and the Halloween Ends press tour has often mentioned the factoid that, despite working in Hollywood for 45 years, she’s never been nominated for an Oscar. Judging solely by what’s on screen, you’d probably go with Hsu, whose madcap villain drives the movie’s plot. But the extracurriculars may throw it to Curtis.

Current Predix

Jessie Buckley, Women Talking; Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin; Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once; Dolly de Leon, Triangle of Sadness; Claire Foy, Women Talking

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Oscar Futures: Can Banshees Banter Its Way to a Trophy?