The last time we tried to predict the unexpected things that could happen at the Academy Awards, we of course failed to predict the most truly shocking Oscar moment of the century. (And that doesn’t even include what you didn’t see on TV.) But that’s no reason not to try again! At the 2023 Oscars, we’re looking out for some record-breaking wins, splashy performances, and the triumph of the proud nepo baby among these 2023 Oscar nominees.
Someone truly unexpected could replace Will Smith
It is Academy tradition for acting Oscar winners to return the next year to present—that’s why Jessica Chastain accepted her Oscar from Anthony Hopkins last year, you might remember. Because last year’s best-actor winner, Will Smith, won’t be at this year’s ceremony (or any other for the next decade), though, it’s an open question as to who will present best actress. Could it be one of the already announced presenters—Florence Pugh? A dream team of previous best-actress winners Chastain, Halle Berry, and Nicole Kidman? Or could it be a total surprise—a famous best-actress winner from the past, like Ellen Burstyn or Shirley MacLaine? Oscar nerds will be keeping a close eye on this one, and we’re hoping for the good kind of surprise this time.
RRR’s best-song performance could inspire an onstage dance-off
Few Oscar-nominated songs from the past several years—hell, the last several decades—are as infectious as “Naatu Naatu,” the vibrant centerpiece of S.S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language blockbuster. And that’s true even without considering the arresting dance number that accompanies the song in the film, performed by lead actors N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. It’s not clear yet whether the pair will recreate their suspender-forward choreography from the Oscars stage when singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava perform “Naatu Naatu” live—but either way, it isn’t hard to imagine a scenario in which other boldfaced names are pulled out of their seats, Anne Hathaway–style, to show off their own moves during the performance. If we can’t have Lady Gaga, please just let us have this.
Michelle Yeoh could make history
Yes, it’s true: In the 95-year history of the Academy Awards, no Asian-identifying performer had been nominated for best actress until Michelle Yeoh was recognized this year for Everything Everywhere All at Once. (Merle Oberon, who was nominated in 1936, was of British, Sri Lankan, and Māori descent, but hid her ancestry when she became a star.) If she triumphs over competitors Cate Blanchett, Ana de Armas, Andrea Riseborough, and Michelle Williams, Yeoh will break ground once more. She might even be the cherry on top of a historic night for Asian performers writ large: If her castmates Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu win in their respective categories, or if Hong Chau nabs supporting actress over Hsu, the Oscars could have multiple Asian acting winners for the first time ever. Such a feat would nearly double the number of Asian performers who have won acting Oscars thus far.
Mandy Walker could become the first woman to win in best cinematography
Many of the worst Oscar track records are slowly being repaired—see above—but the all-male list of best-cinematography winners has remained shockingly stubborn. Elvis cinematographer Walker is only the third woman ever nominated in the category, after Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison and The Power of the Dog’s Ari Wegner. Wegner seemed poised to break the streak last year, but lost to a crafts sweep for Dune. Walker now has the chance to break that glass ceiling, and many Oscar pundits, VF’s included, are predicting a win.
John Williams could become the oldest Oscar winner ever
The Fabelmans composer is already in an Oscar class of his own; with 53 nominations, he holds the record as most-nominated living person, and is behind only Walt Disney in the all-time records. He’s not a favorite in the original-score category this year, but winning an Oscar at age 91 would be a fitting tribute for a living legend.
Diane Warren could end her Oscar losing streak in spectacular style
In truth, Warren already has her Oscar—the songwriter was among the honorary Oscar winners at the Governors Awards in the fall. But she’s been nominated a remarkable 14 times in the competitive original-song category, including for all-time classics like “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and “Because You Loved Me.” Her career is certainly Oscar-worthy, but this year she’d have to beat Rihanna and Lady Gaga, not to mention the “Naatu Naatu” crew, to get there.
My Year of Dicks could be the first movie with the word “Dicks” in its title to win an Oscar
The animated-short nominee and viral sensation would be in a class of its own—that is, unless It Happened One Night has an alternate title we’re not aware of.
Angela Bassett could be the first actor to win an Oscar for a Marvel movie
True, some Oscar voters might consider a win for Bassett to be more of a lifetime achievement award, as often happens when beloved stars are recognized at the Academy Awards for comparatively minor films. (No offense, Scent of a Woman.) But if Bassett gets a trophy Sunday night, it will in fact be for her performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Such a victory would make Bassett the first and only actor to not only be nominated for their MCU work, but to win for it. For those keeping score, her win would also reiterate the Black Panther movie’s status as the franchise’s only Oscar-winning series. That’s what we call doing the thing.
Jamie Lee Curtis could pull off a nepo baby hat trick
The Everything Everywhere All at Once supporting-actress hopeful has, in recent weeks, begun to really embrace her status as a child of celebrities who also went into showbiz. But Curtis is, in fact, no normal nepo baby: She’s the rare Oscar nominee born from not one, but two fellow Oscar nominees. (Mom Janet Leigh was nominated for Psycho in 1961; dad Tony Curtis was nominated for The Defiant Ones in 1959.) If Curtis comes out on top, she’ll reign as just the third ultra-extra-super-nepo-Oscar-winner in history, following in the illustrious footsteps of Laura Dern and Liza Minnelli. Stars: Some of them aren’t just like us!
Presenter Florence Pugh could bring an Aperol spritz onstage
Because if we’re still not over the Don’t Worry Darling press tour, maybe she isn’t either.