Last year's Oscars were characterized less by a film and more by a film-worthy scene: Hollywood star Will Smith's resounding slap in the face of comedian Chris Rock shocked the cinema world and overshadowed the glamorous award ceremony. This year, the art of film is supposed to be the focus of the gala at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. It could be a neck-and-neck race between a wild sci-fi adventure and a gritty German anti-war film.
Because "Everything Everywhere All At Once" about the boss of a laundromat who is suddenly catapulted into a multiverse of parallel worlds goes on Sunday with eleven nominations as a favorite in the 95th Academy Awards. The film by directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert - now known in Hollywood as "the Daniels" - has won just about every other US film award in recent weeks.
"You won't find many people willing to take the risk of betting against 'Everything Everywhere,'" says film journalist Scott Feinberg of the industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter. "Behind the film is a group of very lovable people to be happy for."
However, the film, which uses hot dogs as fingers and sex toys as weapons, might be too freaky for some members of the Oscar academy - which could hurt the chances of winning the top prize for best picture. That would favor "Nothing New in the West," the German film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's anti-war novel of the same name.
The Netflix production by director Edward Berger has received nine Oscar nominations, more than any other German film before it. "Nothing New in the West", already the big winner of the British Bafta film awards, could not only win the Oscar for best international film, but also the Oscar for best film of all - something that no German production has ever achieved before.
But other films also have a chance of winning the main prize, including the pilot action film "Top Gun: Maverick" with superstar Tom Cruise. The blockbuster is celebrated by many for having attracted a large audience to the cinemas again after the lockdowns of the corona pandemic. Director Steven Spielberg recently even said that the "Top Gun" sequel may have "saved the entire movie industry".
Close races are also emerging in other categories. Cate Blanchett is considered to be a nod to the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of a female conductor in "Tár." "Everything Everywhere" actress Michelle Yeoh also has a good chance of winning the trophy. The Malaysian could thus become the first woman from Asia to win in this category.
The award for the best leading actor is a three-way battle between "Elvis" actor Austin Butler, Brendan Fraser ("The Whale") and Colin Farrell ("The Banshees of Inisherin").
Will Smith won the Oscar in this category last year - shortly after his attack on Chris Rock, who had made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who was suffering from homelessness. The superstar, known from films such as "Independence Day" and "Men in Black", is not allowed to attend this year's awards ceremony: he has been banned from all Oscar events for ten years.
The memory of the attack should be omnipresent at the gala. Presenter Jimmy Kimmel is unlikely to miss the chance to crack a joke or two about the incident.
However, the Oscar organizers do not find the topic funny at all. They want to avoid a scene like this from happening again at all costs - and have even set up a "crisis team" to deal with possible tensions.