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Our predictions for Oscar nominees in the top six categories

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Martin McDonagh failed to make best directorial composition for his Oscar-winning “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a reminder that dialogue-driven comedies aren’t always flashy enough for this branch. Still, I expect his new film, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” where conversations are punctuated by stunning scenery, will finally earn him entry into this race.

I’d be a little surprised if the DGA’s fifth choice, “Top Gun: Maverick” director Joseph Kosinski, gets it right: The movie is well done, but it lacks an auteur stamp. “Avatar: The Way of Water” could only have been directed by James Cameron, but voters will likely wait until his franchise ends to pay their respects. And while there are worthy women who should be contenders in this category – among them Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King”), Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”) and Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”) – their films are ‘t guaranteed to make the best range of images.

There might be some surprise from the international film community here, as this branch recently sprung up for Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Thomas Vinterberg. But I bet on a big name Australian author Baz Luhrmann (“Elvis”), who has embraced the awards season election campaign with zeal.

This front-loading race features four contenders drawn from some of the academy’s most beloved archetypes. You have a makeup-assisted comeback performance (Brendan Fraser in “The Whale”), a movie star who proves he’s more than people might have suspected (Colin Farrel in “Banshees”), a singing and strutting biopic performer (Austin Butler in “Elvis”) and a well-regarded but often overlooked veteran (Bill Nighy in “Living”).

After that, there are no guarantees. Although “Top Gun: Maverick” will rack up accolades in other categories, when academy voters consider nominating a Tom Cruise performance, they want to see him stretch. Other big stars in the running all have significant downsides: Hugh Jackman (“The Son”) helms a film that has been haunted by critics, Tom Hanks scored a hit in the heartland (“A Man Called Otto”) that coastal voters aren’t watching, and Will Smith (“Emancipation”)… well, you know.

Every once in a while you’ll see someone in the Best Actor category whose movie doesn’t consider any other race, but that party breaker is usually a well-respected veteran – a Denzel, a Willem, a Viggo – and no Adam Sandler, whose SAG nomination for basketball drama “Hustle” may be all he can muster. I therefore anticipate that our fifth candidate will be Paul Mescalwhose acclaimed “Aftersun” is at least up for best picture, and whose rising star trajectory (following his breakthrough in the “Normal People” limited series) is something the academy will want to get involved with.

nytimes Gt

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