Hollywood’s slow recovery from the pandemic is evident, but the audience’s appetite and love for the movies hasn’t stopped. This year, we’ve entered multiple multiverses with Everything Everywhere All At Once and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, soared the skies in Top Gun: Maverick and found love in the most extraordinary places in Fire of Love. And true to its word, once again, we’re witnessing the power of cinema at its most emphatic best.

A lot can change between now and the end of the year. Festival season is upon us, with TIFF, Venice and BFI’s London Film Festival ready to welcome the major players. The big blockbusters such as Avatar: The Way of Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could have a final say for Oscar contention as end of year entries.

So who are the potential frontrunners? Let’s look at the major categories and see how next year’s awards could shape up.

Best Picture

Everything Everywhere All At Once
It would take something special to dethrone the best movie of the year, aka Everything Everywhere All At Once. As A24’s highest-grossing film, Daniels’ multiversal masterpiece has won the hearts of both critics and audiences for its poignant, comedic, heartfelt, imaginative and philosophical journey of self-discovery and existence. It’s a mind-blowing and endearing piece of work by Daniels, made with a fraction of a Marvel movie budget. While The Matrix in 1999 and Inception in 2010 were cinematic game changers, Everything Everywhere rightfully belongs in that same calibre.

Possible Contenders: Nope, Babylon, The Whale, Elvis, Babylon, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, The Batman, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Fablemans

Best Director

Daniels (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka Daniels) have come a long way since their music videos and offbeat comedy Swiss Army Man. But if nominated, this will be a deserved accolade for the directing pair. The impeccable range and skill they share combine all of Everything Everywhere’s multifaceted and ambitious exploits into one of the most unique and heartfelt spectacles in cinema history.

Possible Contenders: Steven Spielberg (The Fablemans), Damien Chazelle (Babylon), Olivia Wilde (Don’t Worry Darling), Jordan Peele (Nope), Sam Mendes (Empire of Light), Ryan Coogler (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Maria Schrader (She Said), James Cameron (Avatar: The Way of Water).

Best Actor

Austin Butler (Elvis)
Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’ through Elvis’s career may have been a mixed affair with critics and audiences alike, but Austin Butler’s stellar performance as Elvis is undeniable. Butler accomplishes a complete spiritual embodiment of Elvis, going beyond simple mimicking of his mannerisms and on-stage presence. With immense heart, soul and pure on-screen magnetism, Butler weaves through each of Elvis’s highlights with convincing ease. The impact so effective, he uncannily blurs between the lines to deliver a performance that’s inseparable from the real-life entertainer. To no surprise, Butler will be leading the charge to pick up that famous golden statuette.

Possible Contenders: Tom Cruise (Top Gun: Maverick), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Daniel Kaluuya (Nope), Brad Pitt (Babylon)

Best Actress

Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
Despite a decorated career which has seen Michelle Yeoh star in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Crazy Rich Asians, the Queen of the multiverse finally got her due in her first leading Hollywood role in Everything Everywhere All At Once – and the payoff is rewarding. As the heartbeat of the film, Yeoh’s transformative performance as Evelyn Wang draws upon her dramatic experience, martial arts expertise, comedic timing and emotional vulnerability, beautifully culminating in a career-best for the actress. And for a film that celebrates the ordinary within the extraordinary, the role is a testament to Yeoh’s talents, a facet she’s finally able to showcase in a much-deserved role.

Possible Contenders: Keke Palmer (Nope), Ana De Armas (Blonde), Carey Mulligan (She Said), Emma Thompson (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande), Florence Pugh (Don’t Worry Darling), Viola Davis (The Woman King), Regina King (Shirley)

Best Supporting Actor

Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
Best Supporting Actor feels like a wide-open contest, but Ke Huy Quan should be in contention. Like Yeoh, Ke – who famously played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies – finally gets his Hollywood due. For Daniel’s ambitious concept, Ke brings playfulness and charm to Evelyn’s husband Waymond and after decades away due to a lack of Asian roles in the industry, it’s great to see him back in the fold.

Possible Contenders: Don Cheadle (White Noise), Paul Dano (The Fablemans), Woody Harrelson (Triangle of Sadness), Tom Hanks (Elvis).

Best Supporting Actress

Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All At Once)
Michelle Yeoh will undoubtedly get all the attention for Everything Everywhere, but Stephanie Hsu’s performance as Joy/Jobu Tupaki shouldn’t be left out of the conversation. As Joy, Hsu channels the relatable teenage fears and anxieties of someone struggling to understand their place in the world. As Jobu, the film’s villain, Hsu embraces her character’s nihilism, granting her the unfiltered, unhinged, and uncaring freedom to run havoc within the multiverse. The result is an incredible dual performance (along with some awesome costume changes) that shows off her talent and range. One of the future Asian stars to watch.

Possible Contenders: Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Sadie Sink (The Whale), Michelle Williams (The Fablemans), Jean Smart (Babylon)

Best Original Screenplay

Everything Everywhere All At Once
How do you get a world where there are hotdogs for hands? Or a racooncontrolling a Hibachi chef in a tribute to Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille? But that is the level of crazed insanity that runs through Daniels’ highly imaginative script. With so much complexity involving infinite multiverses (and in most scenes, happening simultaneously), something of this magnitude shouldn’t have worked. But it does, and the layered beauty and comedic ingenuity throughout excels above anything that has been released this year. Therefore, this should be a sure bet for a nomination.

Possible Contenders: Nope, The Northman, Elvis, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Babylon, Fresh

Best Adapted Screenplay

She Said
It was inevitable that Hollywood would eventually dramatise the groundbreaking investigation by the New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor into the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s screenplay may just propel the film towards a most likely Oscar nomination. Based on the novel of the same name, She Said draws upon the spirit of journalism and the collective fight to expose the truth about sexual predators and abusers within the institutions that protect them.

Possible Contenders: Three Thousand Years of Longing, Top Gun: Maverick, The Banshees of Inisherin, The Whale, Women Talking, The Batman, After Yang, Blonde

Best Documentary Film

Fire of Love
The story of Maurice and Katia Krafft are immortalised in Sara Dosa’s compelling and melancholic documentary about two volcanologists who loved each other and loved their passion for volcanoes. Emotional yet informative with incredible volcano footage at its disposal, Fire of Love endures because of humanity’s curiosity for the unknown and its persistence to uncover its secrets – and it celebrates that in a fiery abundance.

Possible Contenders: Free Chol Soo Lee, The Princess, The Janes, Sidney

Best Animated Feature

Turning Red
It’s a travesty that the best-animated film of the year did not get a cinema release. However, that shouldn’t stop Turning Red from dominating this category. After her successful debut in the Pixar short Bao, Domee Shi’s coming-of-age tale about a Chinese-Canadian girl who transforms into a giant red panda whenever she gets emotional is Disney/Pixar’s best in recent years. The animation (as always by the studio) is exquisite and the boy band craze of the early noughties is spot on. However, it’s the mother/daughter dynamic between Meilin (Rosalie Chiang) and her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) that beautifully underpins it all, resonating into a relatable metaphor about growing up, changes, and choosing your own path.

Possible Contenders: Lightyear, The Bad Guys, Minions: Rise of Gru, Bob’s Burgers: The Movie, Strange World, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, DC League of Superpets

Best International Feature

Comedy, action, drama, romance, friendship and music – S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR has it all! Starring two of India’s biggest stars in N.T. Rama Rao and Ram Charan, the three-hour epic film follows two revolutionaries who team up to rescue a kidnapped girl in 1920s English colonial rule India. The story takes massive creative liberties with its history; the revolutionaries in question – Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju never actually met! But with some movie magic, the pairing gets the Avengers Assemble treatment with hyper-masculine abilities and an army of animals to fight their way through oppression, subjugation and freedom. So incredibly self-aware for every Hollywood trademark Rajamouli pays homage to, the reward is an entertaining, absurdly fun and genre-twisting OTT spectacle which may land India its first-ever Oscar nomination.

Possible Contenders: Anaïs in Love, Official Competition

Best Original Score

The Batman (Michael Giacchino)
Following in the footsteps of Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard to create Batman’s signature theme is no easy feat, yet composer Michael Giacchino fulfils this task with aplomb. Giacchino creates a cacophony of haunting and operatic soundscapes, perfectly complementing director Matt Reeves’ visceral and vengeful interpretation of Batman. The score is so brilliantly atmospheric, capturing Gotham’s shady and corrupt underbelly, it’s arguably one of Giacchino’s best scores in his composing filmography.

Possible Contenders: Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, Prey, Nope, Babylon

Best Visual Effects

Avatar: The Way of Water
The movie is not out until December, but already, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is a sure fire bet to lead the charge for Best Visual Effects. The groundbreaking 2009 film welcomed audiences to Pandora and the Na’vi. With themes on nature and ecological exploitation, once again, the sequel looks set to continue that trend with Cameron and company pushing the boundaries of VFX to an impressive depth of scale and spectacle. Judging by its impressive trailer, Pandora has never looked this beautiful.

Notable Mentions: Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel’s Eternals, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Jurassic World Dominion, Nope, RRR, The Batman

Other Category Mentions

Best Cinematography
Nope, The Batman, Avatar: The Way of Water, Marvel’s Eternals, Prey, The Northman

Best Editing
Top Gun: Maverick, Boiling Point, The Northman, RRR, Prey, Nope, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Sound
Top Gun: Maverick, Nope

Best Production Design
After Yang, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Don’t Worry Darling, Avatar: The Way of Water, Elvis, RRR, Prey, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Best Costume Design
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Elvis, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Downton Abbey: A New Era, The Batman, RRR, Blonde

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Northman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Babylon