Still, they'll be plenty to argue about.
That includes audience discontent about arty indie films taking the lion's share of prizes -- hello "CODA." Popcorn movie fans will be thrilled that last year's two biggest box-office bonanzas, "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water," are both up for best picture.
After Jane Campion ("The Power of the Dog") and Chloé Zhao ("Nomadland") won back-to-back Oscars for directing, you may be wondering which woman will take the gold now. Could it be Gina Prince-Bythewood ("The Woman King") or Charlotte Wells ("Aftersun") or Sarah Polley ("Women Talking")?
None of the above. The old-boys directors club reverted to form by nominating only white dudes, including veteran Steven Spielberg ("The Fabelmans"). Female directors were completely left out of the race.
To add insult to injury, what some viewed as a grass-roots campaign to get a best actress nod for Andrea Riseborough in the little-seen "To Leslie" by having such A-listers in her corner as Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron backfired when her nomination was perceived by some to have caused two acclaimed Black actresses -- Viola Davis ("The Woman King") and Danielle Deadwyler ("Till") -- to fall off the honor roll.
So let's go to the front lines of Oscar 2023 as I offer my gloves-off predictions about who should win -- and who will win -- in the essential categories.
Best actor in a leading role
- Austin Butler ("Elvis")
- Colin Farrell ("The Banshees of Inisherin")
- Brendan Fraser ("The Whale")
- Paul Mescal ("Aftersun")
- Bill Nighy ("Living")
SHOULD WIN: Brendan Fraser ("The Whale")
Scoring a comeback after making his name in roles in "George of the Jungle" and "The Mummy" franchise, Fraser, 54, cuts a direct path to the heart as a teacher living with severe obesity who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink). Forget the dissenters who object to what they call "fat suit acting." The commitment and empathy Fraser invests in this role is truly unforgettable.
WILL WIN: Austin Butler ("Elvis")
Everyone of these nominees is deserving, and Colin Farrell ("The Banshees of Insherin") was an early favorite. But the academy's preference for actors who transform to play real people, especially music greats -- Rami Malek ("Bohemian Rhapsody") and Jessica Chastain ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye") -- favors Butler, 31, for his indelible immersion into the King of Rock & Roll.
Best actress in a leading role
- Cate Blanchett ("Tar")
- Ana de Armas ("Blonde")
- Andrea Riseborough ("To Leslie")
- Michelle Williams ("The Fabelmans")
- Michelle Yeoh ("Everything Everywhere All at Once")
SHOULD WIN: Cate Blanchett ("Tar")
With two acting Oscars for "The Aviator" and "Blue Jasmine," this Australian legend, 53, hardly needs more gold to prove she's one of the greats. And yet her tour de force as Lydia Tar, a renowned composer and conductor who gets canceled for sexual misbehavior, is indisputably the role of her career. Nothing can stop her now, except ...
WILL WIN: Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once")
This Malaysian action icon, 60, who does her own stunts and acts like a dream, has shamefully never been nominated for an Oscar. Not even for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Crazy, right? As the wife and mother who holds her family together against multiverse madness, Yeoh gives a career-peak performance that is magnificent in every sense of the word.
How do you beat Yeoh at her best? Short answer: you don't.
Best actor in a supporting role
- Brendan Gleeson ("The Banshees of Inisherin")
- Brian Tyree Henry ("Causeway")
- Judd Hirsch ("The Fabelmans")
- Barry Keoghan ("The Banshees of Inisherin")
- Ke Huy Quan ("Everything Everywhere All at Once")
SHOULD WIN: Ke Huy Quan ("Everything Everywhere All at Once")
Quan rivals his "Encino Man" costar Brendan Fraser for the comeback story of the year. Quan was only 12 when he made his debut in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," as Harrison Ford's sidekick Short Rounds. When the child parts dried up, he quit acting to work as an assistant director and stunt choreographer. That's when the role of Waymond Wang, the husband and father who appears in three different incarnations in "Everything Everywhere All at Once," changed his life and brought him a string of awards, from SAG to the Golden Globes. Why should Oscar be different?
WILL WIN: Ke Huy Quan ("Everything Everywhere All at Once")
No knock on the other nominees -- Gleeson and Keoghan are both beyond brilliant in "The Banshees of Inisherin," but sometimes there really is no contest.
Best actress in a supporting role
- Angela Bassett ("Black Panther: Wakanda Forever")
- Hong Chau ("The Whale")
- Kerry Condon ("The Banshees of Inishern")
- Jamie Lee Curtis ("Everything Everywhere All at Once")
- Stephanie Hsu ("Everything Everywheere All at Once")
SHOULD WIN: Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once")
Ireland's Kerry Condon has the meatiest role as Colin Farrell's long-suffering sister in "The Banshees of Inisherin." But dazzling Jamie Lee Curtis, 64, is deadpan perfection as a tax auditor futilely trying to resist a multiverse-hopping Chinese-American family. Shockingly, this is the first Oscar nomination for the "Halloween" scream queen, despite award-caliber work in such films as "Trading Places," "True Lies," "Blue Steel," "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Knives Out." Her movie star parents, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, never won an Oscar, despite Leigh's nomination for "Psycho" and Curtis for "The Defiant Ones" (and what about "Sweet Smell of Success"). Can SAG winner Jamie seize the career Oscar she deserves? She sure gets my vote.
WILL WIN: Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever")
A first Oscar is also well-deserved for Bassett, 64, who came whisper close as Tina Turner in 1993's "What's Love Got to Do with It." If she wins the gold for her role as Ramonda, the Queen of Wakanda who is grieving the death of her son, T'Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), Bassett will be the first to win an acting Oscar for a Marvel movie. She isn't riding a best picture nominee like Curtis in "Everything Everywhere," but no one delivers elegance laced with steel like Bassett.
The duel between Bassett and Curtis is a real clash of the titans. Place your bets.
- "All Quiet on the Western Front"
- "Avatar: The Way of Water"
- "The Banshees of Inisherin"
- "Everything Everywhere All at Once"
- "The Fabelmans"
- "Top Gun: Maverick"
- "Triangle of Sadness
- "Women Talking"
SHOULD WIN (if audiences voted): "Top Gun: Maverick"
I'm speaking here for readers who keep asking how long they'll have to wait for a good, old-fashioned Hollywood epic crowdpleaser to take the top Oscar prize. This century, you'd have to go back almost 20 years since the victory of "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" or three years before that for "Gladiator." The "Top Gun" sequel is popcorn filmmaking at its apex. But Oscar voters tend to like a hit that's also says something about the human condition. Whoops!
WILL WIN: "Everything Everywhere All At Once"
Some fans are hoping that the blockbuster "All Quiet on the Western Front" can sneak in with its timeless and timely theme about the ferocity and futility of war (think of the casualties in the Ukraine). But there really is no stopping the momentum of "Everything Everywhere All at Once." It's state-of-the-art visual dazzle brings us up close to a bickering family of Chinese-American laundromat owners -- mom (Michelle Yeoh), dad (Ke Huy Quan) and daughter (Stephanie Hsu) -- who face down an IRS auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis) by zapping into the multiverse. More crucially, the movie takes a deep dive into what it means to be a family. Who can't relate to that?
Thirtysomething writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, aka the Daniels, drop us into a volcano of creative ideas in full eruption. You can feel the future of movies and their infinite possibilities popping in every frame. No other nominated movie can match this surprise juggernaut that made history by winning a record four awards from the Screen Actors Guild. The Oscar for best picture belongs right here.
Watch the 2023 Oscars live from the Dolby Theater on Sunday, March 12 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and catch the best celebrity moments, wins, and performances at Oscar.com.