2024 Oscar Predictions

It feels like, for one reason or another, this has been the longest awards season I've ever experienced. Maybe it's because last year's biggest movie-related story was that of "Barbenheimer" and because both have ended up playing heavily into this awards season it seems we've simply been on this wave for eight months straight or maybe it is simply the deluge of precursors and other ceremonies I've paid attention to, but either way I think I'll be more relieved by the time this weekend is over than excited about any of the (mostly foregone) results. To put it simply, this is the year of Oppenheimer and I don't really see things swaying in another direction even if the manifestation of Christopher Nolan's career doesn't win in every category it's expected to. Oppenheimer leads all nominees with thirteen nominations this year, one fewer than Titanic's record and listen, this is all fine by me. As someone who saw Batman Begins twice opening day, a few days after graduating high school, and then stood in line for five hours to get a good seat at the midnight showing in the only IMAX theater in Arkansas as a 21 year-old (before assigned seating and early Thursday night previews were a thing) I have been on the Nolan fan train as long as his name has been relevant. Given I saw Dark Knight at such a formative and impressionable point in life I've been rooting for the auteur to win the big award ever since. With a historical biopic of one of the more complicated if not necessarily influential figures in American history, the worlds of Nolan's aesthetic and Academy prestige came together to give us this moment and I just can't imagine the likes of Poor Things or The Holdovers overtaking that. All of that to say, while Oppenheimer may appear as the predicted winner in many categories below 2023 was a strong year for movies all-around and a fair amount will still be celebrated as winners at this year's ceremony.

Best Picture

As already mentioned, Oppenheimer, Poor Things, and The Holdovers all scored best picture nominations. In addition, the other half of "Barbenheimer" AKA Barbie also joined them along with American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Maestro, Past Lives, and The Zone of Interest. This line-up includes - for the first time - three best picture contenders directed by women in Barbie, Past Lives, and Anatomy of a Fall with one of the bigger controversies around this year's nominations being that Greta Gerwig missed out on the directing category. Justine Triet did earn a best director nomination for Anatomy of a Fall, but the lack of love for Gerwig in director and Margot Robbie in actress in a leading role certainly made waves. Barbie was last year’s biggest box office hit as it, along with Oppenheimer, earned more than $2 billion globally and put major emphasis back on the theater-going experience at a time when movie theaters were and still are struggling to rebound from the pandemic. That said, it's a testament to Gerwig's talent that her film based on a sixty-five year-old toy was nominated for Oscars at all. Having only directed three feature films thus far, Gerwig's writing has been nominated each time with her having earned a directing nod for her debut feature, Lady Bird. In regards to this year's best picture though, as I said in my introductory paragraph, it is Oppenheimer and Chris Nolan's to lose, but I don't think they will and am pleased to see the Academy awarding a filmmaker who deserves this award for a film that is also worthy of it rather than rectifying as much down the line for a lesser work. Oppenheimer is peak Nolan and thus he both deserves and will win for Best Picture this year.     


As the previous two paragraphs have indicated, this will be Nolan's award to lose, but again - I don't think that will be the case. Nolan has won nearly every precursor award there is including the BAFTA, Golden Globe, DGA, and Critic's Choice among others. He is joined in this category by the aforementioned Justine Triet as well as Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Glazer, and Yorgos Lanthimos. At 81, Scorsese made history by becoming the oldest directing nominee with his tenth directing nomination whereas this marked the first nominations in the category for Glazer and Triet and the second for Lanthimos, Scorsese being the only previous winner nominated this year. There has seemingly been some momentum as of late for Glazer and The Zone of Interest in picture, but this would seem to be as a result of the elongated awards season and needing potential drama to discuss more than anything else, but with Glazer's film likely to take the internation category it's difficult to see the biggest award of the night going that way as well. Nolan's film, on the other hand, was nominated in almost every category for which it was eligible and will undoubtedly win in several of those categories (score, editing, cinematography) including the major ones including the next award on the docket to discuss...

Actor in a Leading Role

The nominees in this category inlcude Paul Giamatti for playing the prickly boarding school teacher Paul Hunham in Alexander Payne's The Holdovers, Bradley Cooper, who also directed himself as composer Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, Colman Domingo as Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin in Rustin, Jeffrey Wright for his performance as underappreciated novelist Thelonious "Monk" Ellison who gets himself entangled in an elaborate ruse in American Fiction, and Cillian Murphy for his portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer. It has seemingly come down to a race between Giamatti and Murphy, but I don't really think there is much of a race at all to be honest. Giamatti won the Globe in the Musical or Comedy category as well as the Critic's Choice, but other than that Murphy has swepteverything else as well as winning the Globe in the Motion Picture Drama category. Much like in picture and director, this is the Oppenheimer stars to lose. It is unfortunate Giamatti has never won an Oscar before (having only been nominated once prior in 2006 for supporting actor for Cinderella Man) and that he will lose out for what is a genuinely great performance in a really solid film, but Murphy absolutely carries the weight, the breadth of time, as well as supporting the huge ensemble of Oppenheimer which is simply more of a vital and timely piece than The Holdovers. I do fear what Cooper might do next in light of throwing so much of himself into Bernstein and Maestro and getting nothing in return, but this just didn't come together as he imagined in any conceivable way. I'm glad Wright was nominated and in a different year might have been a real contender whereas I almost believe Domingo should have been nominated for his turn as Mister in The Color Purple rather than the very average movie about a man who was anything but in Rustin.

Actress in a Leading Role

Best actress is a contest between Killers of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone, who would be the first Native American actress to win the prize, Emma Stone for her bold turn as the child-like Bella Baxter in Poor Things, as well as Annette Bening for her performance as the titular Diana Nyad, a competitive swimmer who defied the odds and time itself in order to achieve the 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida in NYAD. Sandra Hüller, who stard in both Anatomy of a Fall and Zone of Interest was nominated for her work in the former as a woman on trial for the murder of her husband and finally, Carey Mulligan was acknowledged for her turn as Felicia Montealegre, the loyal wife of Leonard Bernstein in Cooper's Maestro. Like actor, this has become something of a two horse race between Gladstone and Stone. Personally, while I adore Emma Stone as much as the next millenial caucasian and no matter how much I appreciate the direction in which she is choosing to take her career it both feels more important for Gladstone to win not only at this point in time, but for this role specifically given the significance that would come along with the win. Killers of the Flower Moon is a monumental achievement of a film that will essentially be shutout of the awards elsewhere despite garnering 10 total nominations. That is to say, I believe Gladstone wholeheartedly deserves the win for the acting chops she displays for, while she doesn't have the loudest performance in Killers of the Flower Moon, she is undoubtedly the center of it all. Furthermore, the opportunities and control a win would lend her career is something she is deserving of and unfortunately something she needs more than Emma Stone.

Actor in a Supporting Role 

In what might be my favorite category with an almost certain winner this Sunday, every performance in best supporting actor absolutely belongs there. The frontrunner is obviously Robert Downey Jr. for his turn as Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer followed by Ryan Gosling's absolutely immaculate Ken in Barbie. I do appreciate that Downey Jr. will get an Oscar statue as his career certainly merits one and that he will receive it for a stellar performance and not as a make-up down the line, but man does it suck it had to happen the same year Gosling turned in one of the best performances of his career. Running in third is likely Mark Ruffalo who played largely against type as Duncan Wedderburn in Poor Things, but for as much as I enjoyed Ruffalo in the role (his line deliveries were a real highlight) it seems Robert De Niro has been severely overlooked for his genuinely menacing turn as William Hale in Killers of the Flower Moon. In one of De Niro's final scenes as Hale he asolutely hammers home the pure evil of the character via a facade of humility and deserved to be nominated for said sequence alone if not win for sustaining such terror and intimidation throughout, but as is evidenced - this is one of the strongest categories of the year. In fifth place would likely be American Fiction’s Sterling K. Brown whose nomination was a bit unexpected, but wholly welcome as his performance as Clifford Ellison, brother to Jeffrey Wright's Monk, lent the family drama aspect of Cord Jefferson's debut both a weight and levity that was needed to ground the larger, more ridiculous and satirical piece of the film. It would in no way upset me if any one of these performances were announced as the winner come Sunday evening, but it is almost certain that thirty-one years after his first Oscar nomination for Chaplin, Downey Jr. will take home his first.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Though the nominees from Oppenheimer will best those from The Holdovers in every other category where the two are nominated, this will not be the case in best supporting actress. In fact, best supporting actress is likely the biggest lock of the night. To verify why, Da'Vine Joy Randolph has won thirty-five supporting actress awards so far this season from both critics asssociations and awards shows and that isn't counting all the ensemble and breakthrough awards she has won as well. Admitttedly, this was one of the weaker categories of the year, but that shouldn't discount Randolph's work as Mary Lamb, a grieving mother who recently lost her son to war. Randolph plays the part with such humanity and realism that her abbreviated appearance and the transparency of her function in the script disappear. In addition to Randolph though, Barbie’s America Ferrera, whose monologue about the unfair expectations society places on women drew cheers in screenings, scored a surprise best supporting actress nod along with Oppenheimer's Emily Blunt, The Color Purple's Danielle Brooks, and NYAD's Jodie Foster. This was also the category that maybe had the biggest snubs of the year with Penelope Cruz not getting in for Ferrari, Julianne Moore missing out for May December, and no Rachel McAdams for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. If any of those three performances had made it into the category it might have proved to be a more interesting race, but as it sits the odds Randolph doesn't walk away with a statue are astronomically low.

Original Screenplay

Both screenplay categories are fairly exciting this year with the original actually being the lesser of the two. It would seem from the outside that, with its five nominations, this is the category in which Anatomy Fall will take its win. Triet won by being nominated in the director category, Hüller is probably in third place behind Gladstone and Stone in leading actress, and Oppenheimer will likely take editing and definitely picture so without the international feature nod this is where the highly-touted courtroom drama will garner its recognition. I found Anatomy of a Fall intriguing, no doubt, and I would like to re-visit the film a second time before making any bold declarations, but I will also say I wouldn't be mad if David Hemingson snuck in for The Holdovers as a second viewing of that film was nothing if not a testament to how well the dialogue hummed and aided in the pacing. Of course, if I'm being honest with myself, The Holdovers is likely running in third as another female written and directed screenplay that doesn't have much of a shot at winning outside of this category is the only one that genuinely has potential to upset Triet and Arthur Harari's screenplay for Anatomy of a Fall. I'm talking of course about Celine Song's Past Lives. With only two nominations (picure and original screenplay) the South Korean/U.S. production could certainly give its French competitor a run for its money, but if I were betting any actual money on this category I would still place most of it on Anatomy of a Fall. It is notable this was the only category in which May December was nominated as Samy Burch was recognized for her screenplay, but the inclusion of Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer's Maestro is truly baffling as it story and structure elicited some of the more questionable and confounding choices in any movie last year.

Adapted Screenplay

First things first: It is a travesty Killers of the Flower Moon was not included in this line-up. That said, even if it were, I don't believe Scorsese and Eric Roth's adaptation of David Grann's novel would have wound up on top as I think this category - once again - firmly belongs to Christopher Nolan and Oppenheimer. That also said, outside of actress this may be the tightest race of the night. Ultimately, I tend to inherently believe Nolan's very Nolan yet very precise adaptation of Martin Sherwin and Kai Bird's sprawling biography, "American Prometheus", presents a level of skill and expertise the other nominees here simply do not possess, but I also understand that the writing categories are often the areas in which voters see fit to recognize talent who produced highly-respectable work, but will be shut out of every other major category. With that in mind, it is highly likely that this is either where Barbie, with its eight nominations, might take home an above the line award OR this is where American Fiction will finally land a win and Cord Jefferson will be recognized for his adaptation of Percival Everett's 2001 novel "Erasure". Barbie is likely to win production and costume design along with original song, but this is where Gerwig would be recognized for her achievement and aforded the opportunity to give a speech thus the reason Barbie is still ahead of Tony McNamara's Alasdair Gray adaptation and Jonathan Glazer's take on Martin Amis' 2014 work, but this could easily go one of three ways. I will continue to put my stock in Oppenheimer as I personally believe it to be the most accomplished writing of the five, but would not be shocked (or upset, necessarily) if we do in fact get a speech from Gerwig...or Jefferson. You know, it may very well be Jefferson...we shall see.

Animated Feature Film

I don't have much to say or comment on here as I have only seen two of the five nominees (Elemental and Spider-Verse), but it very much feels like this will be a crowing achievement of a win for Hayao Miyazaki for his final film, The Boy and the Heron. I am admittedly not a fan of Japanese animation and have not seen any of the Studio Ghibli films. I understand the perspective of this being Miyazaki's final film and congragulating him on such a remarkable body of work by awarding his final film with a win here and almost agree with it - especially in the sense that Across the Spider-Verse is the middle chapter of a trilogy and it is typically the finale of such critically acclaimed commerical franchises that earn them the awards love if there is awards love to receive, but we saw what happened with The Dark Knight - do we really need to retrace that whole scenario? Across the Spider-Verse was not only one of my favorite films of last year, but it is immensely rewatchable and impeccably crafted. I would like to believe the third and final chapter being just as good and just as innovative as the first two films is a foregone conclusion, but it's not and Beyond the Spider-Verse could certainly end up being more Dark Knight Rises than Return of the King. It would also be cool to see each of the three Spider-Verse films take home the best animated feature trophy should Beyond deliver on expectations, but while I won't be surprised Across the Spider-Verse ends up winning on Sunday I will be rather stunned by the fact that Miyazaki's final film lost.  

Documentary Feature: 20 DAYS IN MARIUPOL

International Feature: THE ZONE OF INTEREST

Production Design: BARBIE

Cinematography: OPPENHEIMER 

Visual Effects: THE CREATOR

Costume Design: BARBIE

Makeup and Hairstyling: POOR THINGS


Original Score: OPPENHEIMER

Original Song: "What Was I Made For?" BARBIE




Animated Short: LETTER TO A PIG

You can also hear me talking Oscar predictions on The Word on Pop Culture podcast with Julian Spivey below:

The 96th Academy Awards air Sunday night, March 10, 2024, at 6:00 PM CT on ABC.

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