Oscars 2024: Final Predictions in 23 Categories

As inevitable as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24) felt last year on its way to collecting seven Oscars including Best Picture, this year’s frontrunner, Christopher Nolan’s historic epic “Oppenheimer” (Universal) also feels undeniable for at minimum seven Oscars including Best Picture and Director. With 13 Oscar nominations, the film has swept all the precursor awards, so its final Oscar take could be more than the seven it won at the BAFTAs. But it won’t win everything.

With “Oppenheimer,” Nolan delivered a serious but entertaining portrait of a man (Cillian Murphy as the theoretical physicist) who must confront how he changed the world — and not for the better. The compelling narrative delivered almost $1 billion at the global box office. Nolan challenged his crew to create everything possible in front of the cameras and avoid digital VFX. (Hence, no VFX nomination.) Nolan cast 73 speaking parts (many with recognizable actors), including 18 aging roles that had to pass muster with unforgiving IMAX cameras.

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How can “Oppenheimer” lose? Nothing will overtake it, as its closest competitors, feminist comedies “Barbie” (Warner Bros.’ $1 billion blockbuster) and “Poor Things” (Searchlight’s arthouse hit), with eight and 11 nominations respectively, both lack the same gravitas.

What could they win? Emma Stone is in contention for Best Actress, but one possible scenario could leave “Poor Things” empty-handed. If Stone loses Actress and “Barbie” takes Costumes and Production Design, “Poor Things” could wind up with nothing. While it won five BAFTAs and thus has international support, the film is more divisive stateside.

Directors Greta Gerwig and Yorgos Lanthimos both missed BAFTA nods, but did land DGA slots, along with Nolan, who won. Gerwig missed a directing Oscar slot. After the Academy switched two-time screenwriter Oscar nominees Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s based-on-an-unwritten-character scenario from Original to Adapted, a sympathy vote for Gerwig became a factor in the race. But the feminist comedy is up against strong competition from Cord Jefferson’s popular “American Fiction,” which has repeatedly won precursor writing awards like the USC Scripter, and “Oppenheimer,” which can’t win everything.

Among the crafts, while “Oppenheimer” is likely to take Cinematography, Score, and Editing, it is competing with “Barbie” and “Poor Things” for Costume and Production Design.

Given Nolan’s British roots, even the international block is behind “Oppenheimer,” leaving the most competitive European favorites, Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest” (A24) and Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” (Neon), which France did not submit for the Oscar, to pick up five Oscar nominations apiece. “Anatomy of a Fall” could win Best Original Screenplay, while “The Zone of Interest” is likely to score Best International Feature and Sound. Since Sundance, A24 has backed first-time director DGA nominee Celine Song’s “Past Lives,” starring Greta Lee and Teo Yoo in a story about the road not taken. They may have to settle for their Best Feature and Director wins at the Indie Spirits.

Lately losing ground is Martin Scorsese’s true crime story “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple TV+), which racked up an impressive 10 nominations, including Best Director, Actress (Lily Gladstone) and Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro). Gladstone could mark the film’s only win.

Also in the Best Picture lineup of 10, which this year aligned with the PGA nominations, are DGA and BAFTA nominee Alexander Payne’s Christmas hit “The Holdovers” (Focus). It will land a win for Supporting Actress (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and, possibly, for Comedy Globe and CCA winner Paul Giamatti.

Netflix’s ace awards team landed a raft of Oscar nominations including “Rustin” (Best Actor Colman Domingo), “Nyad” (Best Actress Annette Bening and Best Supporting Actress Jodie Foster), and seven for “Maestro,” including Best Picture, Actor, and Original Screenplay (Bradley Cooper) and Best Actress (Carey Mulligan). The likeliest Netflix wins are Kazu Hiro for Best Makeup and Hairstyling (“Maestro”) and Wes Anderson for live-action short (“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”).

As always, the question for Academy-wide voting is: Who has seen the movie? For once, two of the top contenders, “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie,” are global box office juggernauts, for which the Academy is grateful. More fans will tune in to the show on March 10 as a result.

My final list of 23 Oscar picks and spoilers is below.

Best Picture: “Oppenheimer”
Spoiler: “The Zone of Interest”
Bottom Line: There was a moment when Jonathan Glazer’s holocaust film seemed to surge after its December 15 opening, but with only three wins on its BAFTA home turf, that scenario became unlikely. There’s nothing to challenge the mighty “Oppenheimer.” After “Dunkirk” didn’t land Best Director or Picture wins, it’s Nolan’s time.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan (“Oppenheimer”)
Spoiler: Yorgos Lanthimos (“Poor Things”)
Bottom Line: While “Poor Things” landed 11 Oscar nominations and is challenging “Oppenheimer” in several craft categories, director will go to the long overdue Nolan, who was nominated for directing only once before, for “Dunkirk.”

Best Actor: Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”)
Spoiler: Paul Giamatti (“The Holdovers”)
Bottom Line: Both actors give the performances of their careers. Oscar first-timer Murphy commands the big screen with his deep blue eyes, bass voice, and gaunt silhouette. After winning the Globe (Drama), BAFTA, and SAG, the Irish actor is favored to win, with international voters on his side. Once-nominated American Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”), who also won the Globe (Comedy) and beat Murphy at the Critics Choice Awards (CCA), gives a heart-tugging performance as a grumpy teacher marooned for the holidays with a rebellious student. But finally, gravitas and degree of difficulty often trump comedy.

Best Actress: Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)
Spoiler: Emma Stone (“Poor Things”)
Bottom Line: This race is close. Gladstone started out by winning a raft of critics’ prizes and the Globe (Drama), while Stone won Comedy and then the CCA and BAFTA as well, where Gladstone did not summon a nomination, showing weak international support for “Killers.” But then Gladstone won the more mainstream SAG Award. Although many believe Gladstone should have run in Supporting given her lack of dialogue, Gladstone held her own with Leonardo DiCaprio as her husband, and would mark the first Native American winner of the Best Actress award. She has charmed many supporters on the awards circuit. This could mark the only win for Martin Scorsese’s Osage epic, which peaked early. Voters may not want to repeat “The Irishman” scenario: 10 nominations, no wins. For her part, Stone has already won one Oscar (“La La Land”), but that hasn’t stopped Oscar voters in the past (Frances McDormand boasts three). The level of acting challenge could be the deciding factor: Stone created five phases in order to portray Bella Baxter in “Poor Things,” who starts out as a grown woman with a baby’s brain implanted in her skull, and gradually matures into a curious and questing creature who learns how to function in the world without shame. On the other hand, the in-demand star will have other turns in the Oscar box.

Best Supporting Actor: Robert Downey, Jr. (“Oppenheimer”)
Spoiler: Ryan Gosling (“Barbie”)
Bottom Line: Again, drama trumps comedy in this race. Downey has been winning everything. And he has a powerful comeback narrative. After dallying in big commercial movies and the Marvel universe, he tackled a challenging dramatic role for a demanding taskmaster. While Gosling runs away with “Barbie” as her favorite Ken, displaying his comedy and musical chops, this is Downey’s to lose.

THE HOLDOVERS, from left: Dominic Sessa, Paul Giamatti, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, 2023. ph: Seacia Pavao /©Focus Features /Courtesy Everett Collection
‘The Holdovers’©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”)
Spoiler: Jodie Foster (“Nyad”)
Bottom Line: Critics Choice and Globe winner Randolph went on to sweep all awards including BAFTA and SAG. She should take home the Oscar for her first nomination, playing a grieving mother who lost her son in Vietnam and cooks for a professor and student left behind for the holidays. This could mark the only win for “The Holdovers,” should Giamatti and screenwriter David Hemingson come up empty-handed. Voters adore Foster’s return in a supporting role to Annette Bening, her first outing as an openly gay character, as well as her gruff detective in HBO’s recently aired “True Detective: Night Country,” which heightened her profile during campaign season. But Randolph has this one. And Foster will be back.

Best Original Screenplay: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari (“Anatomy of a Fall”)
Spoiler: David Hemingson (“The Holdovers”)
Bottom Line: Golden Globe and BAFTA screenplay wins went to “Anatomy of a Fall,” while the CCA Original Screenplay was taken by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach for “Barbie.” Unfortunately for them, the Academy moved their Barbie creation myth to Adapted Screenplay, where it faces more competition. “The Holdovers” marks TV writer Hemingson’s first foray into features; he wrote several family members into the heartfelt script.

ANATOMY OF A FALL, (aka ANATOMIE D'UNE CHUTE), Sandra Huller, 2023. © Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Anatomy of a Fall’Courtesy Everett Collection

Best Adapted Screenplay: Cord Jefferson (“American Fiction”)
Spoiler: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (“Barbie”)
Bottom Line: At first it looked like a “Barbenheimer” duel for the win, until “American Fiction” kept winning writing awards. No one seems to dislike “American Fiction,” adapted from Percival Everett’s “Erasure” by TV writer and rookie director Jefferson, who won the CCA, BAFTA, Indie Spirit and Scripter Awards. Academy voters remain predominantly male. As a feminist comedy, blockbuster “Barbie” is more divisive, but Gerwig and Baumbach won CCA Original Screenplay kudos for inventing this outrageous story based on a Mattel doll. This is a three-way race including Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of his box-office juggernaut “Oppenheimer,” from the sprawling opus “American Prometheus.” The time-shifting historic epic is anchored to the POV of J. Robert Oppenheimer, in color, and Lewis Strauss (Downey), in black and white.

Best Animated Feature: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
Spoiler: “The Boy and the Heron”
Bottom Line: Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s blockbuster sequel ($681 million worldwide), should win this category, despite competition from another inventive and innovative story from returning Japanese Master Hayao Miyazaki, “The Boy and the Heron,” a sleeper hit in Japan and North America ($162 million worldwide).

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE, (aka SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE - PART ONE), from left: Miguel O' Hara (voice: Oscar Isaac), Jessica Drew (voice: Issa Rae), 2023. © Sony Pictures Releasing / © Marvel Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection
‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Best Animated Short: “War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko”
Spoiler: “Letter to a Pig”
Bottom Line: The advantage goes to the most accessible or moving entry, which this year is “War is Over!,” from Pixar alumnus Dave Mullins (“Lou”), about a chess game played across enemy lines thanks to a heroic carrier pigeon. “Letter to a Pig” from Tal Kantor, winner of the Animation Is Film Festival Grand Prize, uses elegant line drawings to tell the story of a Holocaust survivor who writes a thank you letter to the pig that saved his life.

Best Cinematography: “Oppenheimer”
Spoiler: “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Bottom Line: ASC winner Hoyte van Hoytema is vying for his first Oscar thanks to his delicate work on “Oppenheimer” with massive IMAX cameras, which he hoists on set and shoves in actors’ faces. Three-time Oscar nominee Rodrigo Prieto campaigned for both nominated 1920s saga “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Barbie.”

Best Costume Design: “Poor Things”
Spoiler: “Barbie”
Bottom Line: It’s a feminist battle between BAFTA winner “Poor Things” and CCA winner “Barbie.” ”Barbie” conveys Mattel’s fashion history, tailored to Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Gosling). “Poor Things” takes a bold and provocative approach to outfitting Victorian free spirit Bella Baxter (Stone). Sheer originality may push “Poor Things” ahead of “Barbie.”

’20 Days at Mariupol’
’20 Days at Mariupol’

Best Documentary Feature: “20 Days at Mariupol”
Spoiler: “Bobi Wine: The People’s President”
Bottom Line: It’s a two-way race between two films that placed their respective filmmakers in grave danger: Mstyslav Chernov’s BAFTA and DGA winner “20 Days at Mariupol” (PBS) which documents the devastatingly destructive start of the Ukraine War; and IDA winner Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo’s “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (NatGeo), about an Afrobeat star who dares to run against the brutal dictatorship in Uganda, and gets thrown into prison repeatedly for his popularity.

Best Documentary Short: “The ABCs” of Book Banning”
Spoiler: “The Last Repair Shop”
Bottom Line: HBO veteran Sheila Nevins earned her first Oscar nomination at age 84 for MTV Documentary Films’ agitprop protesting book censorship in the United States. Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers’ “The Last Repair Shop” (Searchlight) is a moving portrait of the dedicated folks who repair instruments for the LA Unified School District.

Best Editing: “Oppenheimer”
Spoiler: “Anatomy of a Fall”
Bottom Line: BAFTA, CCA, and ACE winner Jennifer Lame will take this one for Nolan’s artfully executed historic drama. Triet’s French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall,” with five Oscar nominations, landed a nomination in this category, a sign of strength. This film has support from international voters.

The Zone of Interest
‘The Zone of Interest’Courtesy Everett Collection

Best International Feature Film: “The Zone of Interest”
Spoiler: “Society of the Snow”
Bottom Line: With five Oscar nominations, hard-hitting holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest” has support from multiple branches of the Academy and should handily take the win. Netflix has built a following for J.A. Bayona’s Spanish entry “Society of the Snow,” which is also nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling.

Best Live Action Short: “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”
Spoiler: “Invincible”
Bottom Line: Wes Anderson may be taking a slot from the usual emerging filmmaker, but the theatrical delights of his Roald Dahl adaptation are undeniable. Artfully executed French Canadian “Invincible” is a tough watch.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. (L-R) Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar and Ralph Fiennes as the policeman in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023
‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’Courtesy of Netflix

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “Maestro”
Spoiler: “Poor Things”
Bottom Line: With seven nominations, this could be “Maestro”‘s only win, and could mark a third Oscar for Kazu Hiro. “Poor Things” took the BAFTA in this category, so that win could repeat here.

Best Production Design: “Barbie”
Spoiler: “Poor Things”
Bottom Line: Often, the craft winners at the BAFTAs repeat at the Oscars — this year, British film “Poor Things” won four crafts — but at the Oscars, “Barbie” could take both Costumes and Production Design.

Best Original Score: “Oppenheimer”
Spoiler: “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Bottom Line: Ludwig Göransson’s violin-leaning score is the favorite, having won the Globes, Critics Choice, and BAFTAs, but there is sentiment for the late indigenous musician Robbie Robertson’s last score, for his old friend Scorsese.

Best Original Song: “What Was I Made For?”
Spoiler: “I’m Just Ken”
Bottom Line: “Barbie” should mark a win for Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, who know how to campaign for a song, although Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt’s Ken song boasts supporters and Ryan Gosling will perform at the Oscars. If the two “Barbie” songs split, another nominee could walk away with the Oscar.

BARBIE, from left: Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie, 2023. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Barbie’©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Best Sound: “The Zone of Interest”
Spoiler: “Oppenheimer”
Bottom Line: Much like the years when “Whiplash” and “The Sound of Metal” took home Oscar wins, Johnnie Burn’s extraordinary, film-defining sound design in “The Zone of Interest” should win the day with Oscar voters. If not, this will go to “Oppenheimer.”

Best Visual Effects: “Godzilla Minus One”
Spoiler: “The Creator”
Bottom Line: If the low-budget (under $15 million) “Godzilla Minus One” wins the VFX Oscar, it’s an opportunity for the film to reach a wider audience — except that Toho pulled it from theaters ahead of Legendary’s “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” release March 29. Budgeted at $80 million, VES winner “The Creator,” relative to VFX behemoths like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” was also a low-budget feat, which more Academy voters may have watched.

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