By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 10, 2024 at 11:01 AM

Just in time for almost a third of the way into the new year, the Oscars have arrived to look back at 2023 at the movies! (Producers, again, please move the show into February. People will care more then, I promise.)

Even with the pandemic behind them, 2023 was a highly unpredictable year for Hollywood. Cocaine bears! A strike! The year's biggest blockbuster is a talky drama about a WWII scientist! Another strike! Taylor Swift saving movie theaters! Comic book movies dying off! Studios deleting finished unreleased movies because they don't know how to do their jobs! AH, A.I., WHAT'RE YOU DOING HERE NOW AND WHY DOES EVERYONE HAVE SO MANY FINGERS!? Indeed, it was a year of highs and (A.I.-generated) lows – and Sunday night is here, an hour earlier than usual at 6 p.m. CST, to celebrate some of those many, many cinematic highs. (And also "Nyad.")

What movie's golden night will come away with the most gold? Will "Barbie" get snubbed yet again? Will "Oppenheimer" win a bunch of trophies to go with its surprising summer box office haul? Could we really live in a world where the Flamin' Hot Cheetos movie has the same amount of Oscars as Stanley Kubrick? Before Sunday night answers those questions, let's try to predict the Academy's big winners from an unpredictable year of cinema. 

Best Picture

Will win: "Oppenheimer"

Should win: "Oppenheimer"

Spoiler alert: I'm gonna predict "Oppenheimer" to win a lot Sunday night. So to make things a little more fun and interesting, let's take a shot every time the Christopher Nolan movie wins an Oscar – a Shotpenheimer, to borrow half of America's favorite portmanteau of 2023. That'll add some spice to your night – plus you're almost guaranteed to end the night with a cheers, as "Oppenheimer" is almost certainly going to win Best Picture when the credits roll on Sunday's show.

Normally, this is the part where I go through the Best Picture front-runner's close competition ... but really, there's no close competition this year. "Oppenheimer" pretty much cleaned up every single precursor award – both the meaningless ones like the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, as well as the ones that actually vote for the Oscars like the BAFTAs (aka British Oscars), the Screen Actors Guild awards and the Producers Guild. The sprawling WWII biopic earned raves from critics as well as audiences, becoming the most surprising box office sensation of 2023 – and becoming a beacon of hope to Hollywood as well as audiences that there's room at the modern cinema for dramas and movies for adults. It's a big all-caps MOVIE while also brainy, viscerally and intellectually captivating, a success for Hollywood studios and artists alike that both are happy to point to proudly and say: We made THAT this year. As far as cases for Best Picture go, between the precursors, the award season narratives and the movie's quality, the case for "Oppenheimer" is open and shut. 

But what abou-NOPE! It's not going to happen! You know how, in the movie, Lewis Strauss goes from an seemingly automatic cabinet position confirmation to shockingly losing out? That's not happening Sunday! In fact, it's genuinely difficult to discern who might be the number two movie behind "Oppenheimer" because they're all so far off in the distance.

The nomination is the win for the intimate indie dramas "Past Lives" and "Anatomy of a Fall," too small and subdued to win the night's big prize, while "The Zone of Interest" is too artsy and unsettling. (Plus, the Academy can give Jonathan Glazer's Holocaust drama its flowers in Best International Film.) "The Holdovers" and "American Fiction" are also probably too small-scale to win big. Sure, "CODA" won just a few years ago – no, really, it did, I swear; you just forgot – but Apple's family dramedy had a blunt-force heart-tugging factor (as well as Apple's insane awards campaign budget) that neither of these two have. And like "Zone of Interest," they can get their moment in the Oscar spotlight elsewhere in the evening. "Poor Things" is too weird – and yes, that's even considering last year's Best Picture had butt plug fight scenes and hot dog fingers. "Killers of the Flower Moon" is too long and divisive. And "Maestro" ... well, is "Maestro."

That leaves "Barbie," but the Academy rarely goes full broad comedy for its top prize, much less any prizes at all – and as seen with Marvel movies in the past, it's clear some voters struggled with the idea of giving a brand-centric toy doll movie its ultimate creative honor. There was a moment where it could've pulled an "Argo" and turned writer-director Greta Gerwig's director snub into a rallying cry for the film overall – but that never happened. Warner Bros. was probably too busy still counting up all the billions of dollars the movie made this past year ... or busy deciding which of its unreleased completed films to delete out of existence next. 

And that just leaves its partner in summer box office saving crime: "Oppenheimer," the world's most unpredictable blockbuster becoming the world's most predictable Best Picture winner – and deservedly so on both accounts. And maybe best of all: You can't say the Oscars disrespected and ignored popular movies this year!

Best Actor

Will win: Cillian Murphy, "Oppenheimer"

Should win: Cillian Murphy, "Oppenheimer"

Yep, pour another shot, because "Oppenheimer" is winning again – though not as convincingly as it seems on paper. 

"Oppenheimer" has a terrific cast – the entire Supporting Actor field could've been all "Oppie" without much argument – but the movie's success rests almost entirely on Murphy's haunted face and shoulders. It's a terrific and instantly indelible screen performance – but at some point this season, everyone suddenly remembered that Paul Giamatti, wonderfully prickly then warm in "The Holdovers," doesn't have an Oscar. And that he somehow WASN'T EVEN NOMINATED for "Sideways." And that he's incredibly charming, personable and shares our common love for In-N-Out burgers. As a result, Giamatti started racking up a few early precursor trophies – and therefore some momentum – at the Golden Globes, the National Board of Review and the Critics Choice Awards. 

"Oppenheimer," though, is inevitable. After that surprising burst of competition, Murphy won back front-runner status at the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTAs while Giamatti's momentum faded as the season wore along and as attention on "The Holdovers" melted away like the holiday snow outside Barton Academy. There's still a chance for Giamatti, but I imagine the Oscars will go with the bigger, bolder and more all-caps DRAMATIC performance this year. Judging by the overwhelming groundswell of enthusiasm for Giamatti this awards season, though, keep your lazy eye on whatever projects and performances he has on the horizon – because whenever he gets nominated next, he's winning.

Best Actress

Will win: Lily Gladstone, "Killers of the Flower Moon"

Should win: Sandra Huller, "Anatomy of a Fall" (and "The Zone of Interest")

Sorry, no shots this time – but how about something even more exciting than booze: an actually competitive Oscar race! Yes, while most of the top categories this year are comfortably sewn up, Best Actress is still a genuine toss-up between Emma Stone in "Poor Things" and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Both performances are great in opposite directions – Stone brimming with delightful comedic energy while Gladstone mesmerizes with quiet fuming humanity, pain and rage, down to her remarkable final confrontation scene. Both have won notable precursors; Stone won the BAFTA while Gladstone won the SAG Award. And both have reasons why the Academy might go in the other direction. In Stone's case, she's already won an Oscar. As for Gladstone, her terrifically rich performance comes attached to one of the movie's most divisive elements, with detractors of "Killers of the Flower Moon" saying her character is underwritten and sidelined. But in its way, that almost plays to Gladstone's advantage, her performance helping make a weakness in the film stronger.

Add in that Stone's already got an Oscar and that nobody's likely in a rush to give her another at just 35 years old, and the first Native American nominee for Best Actress is about to become the first Native American winner for Best Actress. 

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Robert Downey Jr., "Oppenheimer"

Should win: Ryan Gosling, "Barbie"

Yep, it's Shotpenheimer time once again – and in a great category this year. De Niro's cold-blooded portrayal of evil in "Killers of the Flower Moon" went underrated this year – yes, nominated here but it's a top-tier performance that got immediately treated as an also-ran – while Sterling K. Brown's balance of heart and humor that made him a favorite on "This Is Us" served him just as well in "American Fiction." Speaking of scene-stealers, Ruffalo is a ridiculous delight in "Poor Things" (with Dafoe maybe pulling off an even more difficult performance as Bella's monstrous yet human Dr. Frankenstein) while Gosling played Ken like he'd been waiting for this character his entire career, a hilarious cartoon yet totally true to the core. In case this and "The Nice Guys" didn't make it clear enough, Comedic Doofus Gosling is the best Gosling – and it's not even close.

AND YET! Even with all those great supporting turns – and not even including all the equally marvelous ones joining him in "Oppenheimer," including Jason Clarke, Casey Affleck, David Krumholtz and even Macon Blair in a small role – it says a lot that there's been no question about RDJ taking home this trophy. Strauss is a great meaty character with the simmering performance to match – then you toss in the off-screen narrative of Downey Jr. "being due" and Hollywood rewarding him for being the cornerstone of the biggest franchise in the industry's existence. Sometimes it's easy to forget, 25 or so films later, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe started not because of great action or comic book-y storytelling thrills but because Robert Downey Jr. was so perfect as Tony Stark. Hollywood clearly didn't; he's been winning awards this whole season, and that'll continue Sunday with the ultimate Iron Man earning the ultimate gold man. (Awful, terrible, delete article.)

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Da'Vine Joy Randolph, "The Holdovers"

Should win: Da'Vine Joy Randolph, "The Holdovers"

Da'Vine Joy Randolph's warm and winning turn in Alexander Payne's "The Holdovers" – one that makes you want to continue following her character around, just to see what she's up to and make sure she's doing OK, whenever the camera cuts to someone else – has turned into a quiet behemoth this awards season, pretty much sweeping all the prior awards without much contest. Only America Ferrera registered as much competition, especially after "Barbie" got some surprising blanks on nomination morning – but that momentum peetered out, mainly because her nomination is mostly just for The Big Speech Scene. (But hey, people have earned noms – and heck, wins – for less before!)

When it comes to speeches on Sunday night, though, Ferrera and everyone else not named Da'Vine Joy Randolph in this category can leave them at home.

Best Director

Will win: Christopher Nolan, "Oppenheimer"

Should win: Christopher Nolan, "Oppenheimer"

SUMMON ANOTHER SHOTPENHEIMER! Yes, "Oppenheimer" may be one of the brainiest blockbusters of the year, but feel free to give your brain a break on this category and pick the obvious win (along with picking up another shot). 

Christopher Nolan's undoubtedly one of the best and most powerful living filmmakers right now, but he's still doesn't have the Oscar win that serves as an official Hollywood coronation. And it's been arduous road for Nolan to get here, between getting snubbed so hard for "The Dark Knight" that the Oscars changed how many movies get nominated for Best Picture to not receiving any Best Director nods at all until "Dunkirk" just five years ago.

So combine that "he's earned it" narrative with the movie's monumental success both on and off screen, Nolan's unexpectedly charming Oscar season campaign work and all of his precursor award wins, and you have the most obvious victory of the night – even before the Academy announced Steven Spielberg would be one of the evening's presenters, seemingly spoiling that Nolan's gonna get the 2007 Martin Scorsese treatment.

Best Original Screenplay

Will win: "Anatomy of a Fall"

Should win: "May December"

Ah, the writing categories – aka where things get interesting! Your movie too unique or genre to win Best Picture? Congrats, Jordan Peele, Quentin Tarantino, Diablo Cody and Spike Jonze: You can win here. 

Unfortunately, I think "May December" is probably too much of a reach even for Best Original Screenplay. It's great, thorny work ... but probably TOO thorny, especially for actors and Hollywood types watching a movie about actors and Hollywood types exploiting real-world drama and issues for clout. Even more so, it's the only film lacking a Best Picture nomination here, aka it's the only film far from top of mind and top of watch-lists for voters. It's a shame – because it's terrific and also because I'd love to give screenwriter Samy Burch, who also wrote the probably-deleted "Coyote vs. ACME," a microphone on Hollywood's biggest stage. I imagine she'd have things to say!

With that out of the way, "Mastro" is a nope while the nomination is the win for a film as small, quiet, nuanced and far from memory (it came out last summer) as "Past Lives." Meanwhile, for a movie as appreciated and as reliant on its script as "The Holdovers," the screenplay has drawn a blank at most of the precursors. Maybe its reputation as "the kind of movie Hollywood doesn't make anymore" makes it feel more basic and less exciting to voters – whereas the thorny foreign courtroom drama "Anatomy of a Fall" is a little trickier, more modern and more intriguing, especially to the increasingly younger, more international and more diverse voting contingent. It's been winning most of the precursors – and I think it wins here too. And if so: LET MESSI THE DOG ACCEPT THE OSCAR!

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will win: "American Fiction"

Should win: "Oppenheimer"

SERVE ME ANOTHER SHOTPENHEIwait a second, what? No "Oppenheimer" win here? OK, fine then. (*grumpily puts down shot glass*)

While turning a dense 700-page biography about WWII scientists and complicated backroom politics into one of the year's most entertaining, riveting, complex and shockingly profitable blockbusters is perhaps the most impressive feat of 2023, I think most voters consider "Oppenheimer" more of a directorial achievement than a writing one. When it comes to awards season narratives, Christopher Nolan the director unfortunately overshadows Christopher Nolan the screenwriter. Plus, given the chance, the Oscars tend to like sharing the wealth. This is one of those chances. 

So who gets the win instead? Much like "Oppenheimer," "Poor Things" and "The Zone of Interest" are regarded more as technical achievements than screenwriting ones – and they'll get their moments elsewhere – so they're out too. That leaves "Barbie" and "American Fiction," and while the former is an impressive feat of tonal balance, packing original laughs and thoughtful brains into a big, bubbly, pink audience-pleasing package (and it would give them a chance to get two-time previous nominee Greta Gerwig on stage for a well-deserved bow), I'm betting they go with the more "serious-minded" satire of "American Fiction." Plus, Cord Jefferson's dramedy mocks the industry – and the Academy sure loves a self-regarding self-flagellation. 

Best Animated Film

Will win: "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse"

Should win: "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse"

Hayao Miyazaki may be a cinephile favorite, but he's been less so at the Oscars, winning only once ("Spirited Away" in 2003) and earning only two other nominations across his beloved career. His beautiful "Boy and the Heron" won at the BAFTAs and, awards narrative-wise, is considered his swan song – but Miyazaki's said he's retiring before only to change track. Plus, the Academy might feel like they've already given him his career achievement award with ... their career achievement award, honoring him in 2015.

Meanwhile, the first "Spider-Verse" won back in 2018 – and many consider this past summer's sequel even better, pushing its vibrant visual boundaries and tangled meta-textual storytelling even further. The animated adventure was even in circling the Best Picture nomination conversation. It eventually fell short there – but I'm guessing it doesn't here on Sunday night. Sure, the category showed no love to animated "outsiders" Phil Lord and Christopher Miller before, snubbing "The LEGO Movie" completely back in 2014 – but that was a decade ago, with wins for "Spider-Verse" and Guillermo del Toro's "Pinocchio" in recent years. 

That was clearly the past. As for the present, in this geek's Sophie's Choice scenario – having to pick between Marvel or Hayao Miyazaki – I see the Academy going with the former.

Best International Film

Will win: "The Zone of Interest"

Should win: "The Zone of Interest"

The Oscars have made this category pretty foolproof to guess over the years. Just ask yourself a simple question: How many of the films are also nominated for Best Picture? Oh, just one? Yeah ... pick that one. Plus, since "The Zone of Interest" is too small, arthouse-y and unsettling to win any of the other awards it's nominated for, here's where the Academy will give the haunting Holocaust film a chance to take its bow for the night – as well as a chance to speak on its all-too-relevant themes of insulating oneself from cruelty right in plain sight.

Best Cinematography

Will win: "Oppenheimer"

Should win: "Oppenheimer"

Hmm, I'm becoming distressingly sober. It's clearly been too long since I've predicted an "Oppenheimer" win – well, would you look at that!

Best Cinematography tends to go to the flashiest, showiest nominees in recent years – which, if that's the case, Sunday night's award would go to "Poor Things," which makes its beautifully oddball world even more beautifully oddball with the occasional fisheye and wide-angle lens. As with most things with "Poor Things," though, it might go too far for some viewers – while the black-and-white has meaning in that film, some of the cinematography choices don't – whereas "Oppenheimer" is arguably just as impressive and showy, as well as more focused visually.

Plus, "Oppenheimer" nominee Hoyte van Hoytema may be a relatively new name in Hollywood, but he's already built up quite a reputation as one of the best cinemtographers out there with his work in the last several Nolan films (picking up where the great Wally Pfister left off, starting with "Interstellar"), Spike Jonze's "Her" and Jordan Peele's "Nope." He'll cement that reputation with a well-deserved victory on Sunday night – one of many more to come, I'd bet too. Unless he pulls a Roger Deakins and goes 20 years or so without a trophy. There's been worse company to join, though.

Best Editing

Will win: "Oppenheimer"

Should win: "Oppenheimer"

You guessed it: Shotpenheimer time! Throw down a shot to celebrate editor Jennifer Lame's impressive work, hypnotically getting the audience into Oppenheimer's conflicted mind while hopping around Nolan's intricate and sprawling adaptation with grace and thematic purpose. And then throw a shot at whoever in the room inevitably makes a joke about a three-hour movie winning an award for Best Editing. Unfortunately, it'll probably be Jimmy Kimmel. 

Best Production Design

Will win: "Poor Things"

Should win: "Barbie"

I would love to see the gorgeous crafted sets and old-school colorful creativity of "Barbie" win this production design award – it's a real tribute to the throwback grandiose sets of old Hollywood musicals and productions. However, I think this award will go to the other wildly creative and colorfully unpredictable coming-of-age feminist adventure nominated in the category: "Poor Things." Once again, the Oscars just never have a tendency to reward genre films – particularly broad comedy – and many voters may just view "Barbie" as simply that. Then there's the Barbie of it all, which I'll get into in the Best Costume Design category ... 

Best Costume Design

Will win: "Poor Things"

Should win: "Poor Things"

WELL WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT? Almost like I planned it.

One would assume "Barbie" would have this award locked up considering just how many costumes it created and put on screen. I mean, remember the part where Ken's tossing elaborate Barbie outfit after elaborate Barbie outfit out the window, each one getting to basically take a bow to the camera? But I do wonder how many people give the creative credit less to the movie and more to the Mattel Barbie brand instead, since the movie is in many cases recreating looks and costumes already developed for the doll itself. The same goes for Best Production Design: How many voters are dinging "Barbie" for thinking it's just adapting toy models to life-size rather than creating a cinematic vision from whole cloth?

Maybe if it wasn't such a stacked year for these technical categories, "Barbie" would still walk to a victory – but the immensely inventive and creative "Poor Things" is also up for those awards. And I think if given a choice, many voters will favor its more serious-minded comedic creativity and more outlandish sensibilities over the more commercial, brand-approved "Barbie." The Oscars: They may reward popular movies more than you think ... but they've still got their snobby side.

Best Makeup

Will win: "Maestro"

Should win: "Society of the Snow"

With seven nominations on the night – including Best Picture – somebody somewhere must've liked "Maestro," right? The movie and particularly writer-director-star Bradley Cooper have become this award season's punching bag for having the GALL to make a decent if not spectacular film, for wanting a trophy that represents one of the greatest achievements in the industry granted to you by your peers, and for being emotionally honest and candid in interviews without considering modern media's love of using out-of-context quotes for clicks. I know – what an asshole.

But still, the movie has more nominations than most, so the Leonard Bernstein Netflix biopic must have fans somewhere – and this seems like the easiest and most obvious place to reward it. I think Netflix's other nominee – the plane crash survival drama "Society of the Snow" – has more impressive makeup work, but nasty and visceral makeup tends to fall short because the Oscars just can't help themselves around a physical transformation into a real person. Five of the past six winners have been exactly that, with last year's "The Whale" serving as the lone outlier. And as for the grumbles and controversies about the makeup of "Maestro" ... did I mention "The Whale" won last year? Doesn't seem like that stuff makes a dent.

So congrats, "Maestro" haters: Here's your last moment to rip on Cooper and his movie this awards season before you irrationally move onto to something or someone new!

Best Score

Will win: "Oppenheimer"

Should win: "Oppenheimer"

I hope you didn't lose your Shotpenheimer glass! That's right: Take another swig because Nolan's movie is winning yet again, this time for Ludwig Goransson's sweeping, pounding and overall brilliant score. (The way the stomping Los Alamos crowd works into the theme for Oppenheimer's blind progress and nightmarish visions? Terrific and terrifying.) Unless a sentimental streak hits the Academy and everyone decides to reward the late great Robbie Robertson for his (very good) "Killers of the Flower Moon" work, this category's not even going to be close. 

Best Song

Will win: "What Was I Made For" from "Barbie"

Should win: "I'm Just Ken" from "Barbie"

Don't worry, folks: Thanks to the Best Original Song category, Greta Gerwig's very charming, better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be blockbuster isn't leaving the Oscars empty-handed. It's just a matter of which "Barbie" song will claim the victory – and while I love the extravagant, climactic "I'm Just Ken" rock ballad number, I think the Oscars will go for the more emotional, resonant and radio-omnipresent "What Was I Made For" from Billie Eilish, who already established herself as an Academy favorite two years ago winning for a worse song. That song will win the Oscar, while "I'm Just Ken" will win best moment of the night when Ryan Gosling performs it live – which is also a win for all of us.

Ironically, the biggest thing in the way of "Barbie" winning an Oscar ... is "Barbie." I doubt it'll happen, but there's a chance the two songs split the "Barbie" fan vote and some third candidate creeps in for the shocker win. Again, it's improbable – but you should still probably prepare yourself and have emergency protocols in place just in case the phrase "Oscar-winning Flamin' Hot Cheeto movie" becomes reality.

Best Sound

Will win: "Oppenheimer"

Should win: "The Zone of Interest"

ONE! MORE! SHOTPENHEIMER! Yes, "The Zone of Interest" could make things interesting – its audio design plays a critical role in Glazer's haunting, unsettling vision, the sounds of the crimes against humanity providing the horrifically muted soundtrack to the lives of the seemingly unfazed Nazis next door – but the Academy tends to go big, loud, masculine and bombastic in the technical categories. And you can't get much more bombastic than a movie about bombs.

You can now put away your shot glass. With this win, I've got "Oppenheimer" earning eight Oscars in total on Sunday night, the most since "Slumdog Millionaire" more than a decade ago. It'll be a night to remember ... unless you play the drinking game. 

Best Visual Effects

Will win: "Godzilla Minus One"

Should win: "The Creator"

Ironically, in this era of ridiculous movie budgets and massive (and typically hideous) CGI spectacles, the two front-runners for Best Visual Effects are two displays of grand visuals for not-so-grand price tags. Gareth Edwards' "The Creator" delivers a hugely scaled and remarkably textured sci-fi A.I saga with a price tag ($80 million) three times less than most of today's blockbusters while looking three times as good. And if you think that's impressive, the Toho smash hit monster mash made a thrilling, gigantic Godzilla film with all the impressive destruction you'd expect without the hefty price tag, coming in even cheaper at under $15 million. 

I think "The Creator" looks better, but "Minus One" is the better film – one of the best of the past year, at that. The real deciding point, though, is this: People didn't see "The Creator," while "Godzilla Minus One" became a surprise sensation at the box office, ranking as the highest grossing live-action Japanese movie in America and the fifth highest grossing foreign language film of all time in the states. That's the narrative at least. (Ironically the two movies made almost the exact same amount of money worldwide.) But while "The Creator" came and went quickly, "Godzilla" just kept enthralling audiences week after week when nothing was around in theaters during the strikes – and that success will continue to enthrall Oscar voters on Sunday.

Consider it karmatic revenge on Gareth Edwards for focusing so much on Aaron Taylor-Johnson's dull-ass character in his 2014 Godzilla movie.

Best Documentary

Will win: "20 Days in Mariupol"

Should win: "20 Days in Mariupol"

Despite all the docs you see on streaming services these days, it's not exactly the golden age for documentary. There's a lot of docs inspired more by brand management than storytelling, and for every good true crime doc out there, there's seemingly 25 others that are exploitative, insight-free and seemingly cranked out of an assembly line.

That being said, there still were great docs last year – and some of them are here, including the presumptive winner "20 Days in Mariupol," a gripping watch about the war in Ukraine and the importance of those documenting the horror and humanity of it all. It's a powerful film – and the Oscars do love a statement win in these less star-driven categories. Last year, the Academy did exactly that and gave the Ukrainian struggle against Russia a platform in this very category with "Navalny" – and unfortunately, a year later, there's still pressing reason to do so.

Best Live Action Short Film

Will win: "The After"

Should win: "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar"

And we've reached the dart throw categories! But this year, in the Best Live Action Short Film category, even my usual miniscule sense of "logic" is out the window. You see, normally I say pick the one with the famous names and faces – which would seem to be "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar," a Netflix production (aka easy to find) starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel and Ralph Fiennes, all directed in impeccable imaginative fashion by Wes Anderson.

But ... is it possible to have TOO big of names?

Even for a category where winners are typically determined by whatever's easiest and most obvious, there are rumblings that some feel voting for Wes Anderson and company feels TOO easy and obvious. Plus, considering Anderson's feature "Asteroid City" went 0-for-everything with the Academy – even in Best Production Design, which come on now – it seems voters may have at least slightly lost their enchantment with the famed auteur. We're also short on surprises as far as my predicted winners go, so I'll take a swing here and say this goes to "The After" ... which is also easily found on Netflix and stars notable big-name actor David Oyelowo. That's what we love about the Oscars: the logic and consistency!

Best Animated Short Film

Will win: "WAR IS OVER! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko"

Should win: "Letter to a Pig"

OK, so Wes Anderson and Benedict Cumberbatch are potentially too big of names to snag an Oscar in these short film categories ... but John Lennon and Yoko Ono? Apparently just fine! Again, guessing these awards with any real logic is always a shot in the dark while getting struck by lightning and winning the lottery simultaneously – but it's never a bad strategy to go with eye-catching titles and significant stars. And my apologies to "Letter to a Pig" as well as the guy behind "Napoleon Dynamite" (and current nominee "Ninety-Five Senses"), but an all-caps "WAR IS OVER!" is pretty eye-catching and one of the most famous couples in celebrity history placed right there in the name is awfully significant.

Best Documentary - Short Subject

Will win: "The ABCs of Book Banning"

Should win: "The Last Repair Shop"

A part of me just wants to say "Oppenheimer" for one last shot – and because, hey, it's winning all over the place elsewhere, so why not. But no, let's go with an actual nominee with "The ABCs of Book Banning" over the charming "The Last Repair Shop." Because the Oscars love a meaningful winner in the smaller categories that speaks to a pressing issue of the moment – and even if you're filling out this ballot without watching any of the shorts nominees (which ... is not an insignificant amount of Academy voters), the name alone says it's exactly that.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.