Arts·My Favourite Season

With the Oscars race heating up fast, awards season is about to be everything everywhere all at once

Here's a look at what (and who) is out in front as nominations start to come in for the Spirit Awards, the Gotham Awards, the Golden Globes and more.

Here's what (and who) is out in front as nominations start to pour in for this year's big film awards

Actress Margot Robbie is wearing a sultry red dress and smoking a cigarette in character in a still from the upcoming film Babylon.
Margot Robbie in Damien Chazelle's Babylon, a film that was met with a wildly mixed response when it started screening last week. (Paramount)

My Favourite Season is a monthly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that runs through the six-month "season" that is both his favourite and Moira Rose's. It explores all things awards in the leadup to the big one: the Oscars, which will take place on March 12, 2023.

As November winds down, awards season is in the midst of doing quite the opposite. Earlier this week, the Independent Spirit Awards announced their annual nominations. And then after a little break for American Thanksgiving, things get wild, with the first ceremony of the season happening on November 28th (the Gotham Awards) followed by two weeks straight of nonstop announcements, including the New York Film Critics Circle winners (December 2), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association winners (December 11), the Golden Globe nominations (December 12) and the Critics Choice Award nominations (December 14).

What's more, pretty much every major contender save Avatar: The Way of Water has now screened for at least critics, including what had been the biggest question mark of the season, Damien Chazelle's Babylon (more on that in a bit). Basically: giddy up, awards seasoners. Our time is nigh!

So where exactly do things stand heading into this storm? Well, if the Spirit Award and Gotham Award nominations are any indication of momentum, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's hit science fiction-action-comedy-drama (genre anarchy!) Everything Everywhere All At Once is looking wildly strong so far. It led the Spirit Awards with 8 nominations, including best feature and nods for all four of its primary cast members: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu. Yeoh and Quan also got Gotham Award nominations, where the film is up for best feature as well. This certainly bodes well for its Oscar chances, and as a huge fan of both the film and awards season recognizing films that weren't made as "Oscar bait," I could not be happier. 

Other films getting big boosts from the Spirits and the Gothams? Three of my other favourites of the year: Todd Field's TÁR, which led the Gothams with 5 nominations and came in a close second to Everywhere at the Spirits with 7 mentions; Sarah Polley's Women Talking, which was already announced the winner of the Spirit Awards' Robert Altman Prize (which fetes a film's entire cast, director and casting director and has previously gone to eventual best picture Oscar winners Spotlight and Moonlight); and, perhaps most surprisingly, first-time director Charlotte Wells' Aftersun, which is riding a rapturous critical response (as it should: the film is extraordinary) to multiple nominations from both awards, including two a piece for its stars Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio (who is making her acting debut in the film and is also... only 12 years old).

Actors Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal are cuddling on a couch in character in a scene from the new film Aftersun.
Frankie Corio (left) and Paul Mescal in Charlotte Wells' Aftersun. (A24)

Notably, both the Spirits and the Gothams did something for the first time this year: they removed gender-specific acting categories (and frankly, good on them and I hope others follow in their footsteps soon). Mescal, for example, is competing in "best lead performance" at both ceremonies, meaning he's up against the likes of Yeoh and Cate Blanchett for TÁR. Interestingly, any fears that combining all genders into acting categories would result in a race dominated by male-identified performers turned out to be unfounded. At the Spirits, Mescal and The Inspection star Jeremy Pope are the only men, nominated alongside 8 women. At the Gothams, there were 3 men and 7 women in that category.

Now, it is important to note that besides having genderless acting categories, another thing way the Spirits and Gothams are different from most other awards is that only certain films qualify. At the Spirits, it's American-produced (or co-produced, like Aftersun) films with budgets under $30 million. For the Gothams, the budget ceiling is $35 million and the films must have been written and/or directed and/or produced by a U.S. citizen. So if you were reading this thinking all of this must be bad news for big Oscar contenders like The Banshees of Inisherin or Triangle of Sadness (both not American) or Babylon or The Fabelmans (both too expensive), it's not… necessarily. 

Actor Gabriel LaBelle is looking into the lens of a movie camera in a still from the film The Fabelmans, which is based on the youth of its director, Steven Spielberg.
Vancouver-born actor Gabriel LaBelle essentially plays a young version of Steven Spielberg in The Fabelmans. (Universal)

My updated Oscar prediction charts (which you can read here) are still betting on all four of those films being nominated for best picture, alongside the aforementioned TÁR, Women Talking and Everything Everywhere All Once. And I'm currently giving the last three slots to Top Gun: Maverick, Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio and Elvis. (I was tempted to go out on a whim and put Aftersun in there, but it still feels like too much of a feat for such a tiny film... though I do think Mescal is getting in for best actor.)

The next few weeks of announcements — mostly for awards in which all of those films are eligible — should paint a much clearer picture of who's in and who's out, though I'm paying closest attention to how two films in particular far: The Fabelmans and Babylon.

The Fabelmans — Steven Spielberg's semi-autobiographical film about his youth — has basically been seen as the big Oscar frontrunner since it debuted to raves (and the People's Choice Award) at September's Toronto International Film Festival. It's now out in theatres, and it hasn't quite been making the box office it had hoped for. A big showing at awards like the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice — which it almost certainly will have — will offer some much-needed momentum to help it in what (at least for now) seems like a best picture race between it and Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Babylon, meanwhile, isn't out in theatres until Christmas. But the 1920s Hollywood-set film starring Margot Robbie, Diego Calva and Brad Pitt has started screening to voting members of various awards, and while there is still an embargo on reviews, they have allowed people who have seen it to note their thoughts on social media. Those thoughts have been... all over the place, ranging from ecstatic to disastrous (here's mine, for what it's worth, and... it's definitely in the latter group). At this point, Babylon could end up with 12 Oscar nominations or just a few. (Even if voters don't like it overall, it will be hard to resist giving it well-deserved nominations for its ambitious production design, costume design and cinematography.)

My guess is that Babylon ultimately lands somewhere in the middle; I cannot imagine something so divisive actually being a threat to win best picture. Then again, it's still only been 4 years since Green Book won, so anything is possible. One place it seems extremely likely Babylon will thrive is the Golden Globes, which have historically eaten up films of similar cinematic excess. But there's also the question of whether the Golden Globes can return to any kind of relevance after a racial exclusion scandal got the ceremony cancelled last year. But more on that in the next edition of this column, which will run shortly after the Globe nominations are announced on December 12th.

Check out our latest predictions for the 2023 Academy Awards here.


Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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