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Oscars 2024: Who Will Win, Should Win

Best Picture

WILL WIN: Oppenheimer

The Zone of Interest, Poor Things, Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers and Barbie each have many admirers, but Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece has swept the entire awards season, and there’s no reason to believe it will be stopped now. It’s a period piece that still feels urgent, stars popular actors and was directed by the most admired (and overdue) filmmaker of his generation — in other words, catnip for Academy members. — Scott Feinberg

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SHOULD WIN: Oppenheimer

The seeming inevitability of a win for Nolan’s probing account of a pivotal moment in warfare history doesn’t make it a wrong choice. This is a towering achievement, combining an intimate character study with large-canvas exploration of scientific obsession, American exceptionalism and political gamesmanship, while also demonstrating that movies tackling knotty subjects don’t need to be dumbed down to draw a rapt audience. — David Rooney

Best Director

WILL WIN: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

If there’s one thing that you can bet the farm on, it’s that British enigma Nolan — whose credits range from The Dark Knight to Inception — will, at long last, snap his winless streak in this category. He has won every precursor in the book, from the best director BAFTA Award to the historically predictive DGA Award. Even the other four nominees seem reconciled to the idea that it’s his year, not theirs.  — SF

SHOULD WIN: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

I’ve been hot and cold on Nolan’s work over the years and have to confess a certain ambivalence to his signature mind-benders, not least because of the slew of inferior imitations they spawned. But the flawed genius behind the breakthrough invention in atomic armament represents an ideal match of director and material, allowing Nolan to nerd out over detailed scientific theorization while masterfully building a slow-burn thriller. — DR

Best Actor

WILL WIN: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

It long has looked like a two-horse race between The Holdovers’ Paul Giamatti and Oppenheimer’s Cillian Murphy, neither a conventional leading man. Each won a best actor Golden Globe; then Giamatti won the Critics Choice Award; and then Murphy got hot and won the BAFTA and SAG awards. The Irishman probably benefits from momentum, playing a real person and enthusiasm for his film, which will lead to coattail votes. — SF

SHOULD WIN: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

Murphy’s fine-grained portraiture gives Nolan’s brainy biopic a quietly shattering center — his pale blue eyes reveal the soft-spoken J. Robert Oppenheimer’s lofty intellect as well as his creeping anguish and corrosive moral qualms over the destruction he has set in motion. Still, I wouldn’t be mad at an upset in favor of Jeffrey Wright for the prickly complexity and melancholy vulnerability of his work in American Fiction.  — DR

Best Actress

WILL WIN: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

I’m sensing a late surge for Anatomy of a Fall’s Sandra Hüller, but given that only three people have won an acting Oscar without first winning a major precursor, the safer bet is Poor Things’ Emma Stone (Globe, Critics Choice and BAFTA Award winner), who won seven years ago, or Killer of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone (Globe and SAG winner), who would make history as this award’s first Indigenous American winner. — SF

SHOULD WIN: Emma Stone, Poor Things

The stirring sensitivity of Gladstone would make her a richly deserving winner. The same goes for Hüller, who brings spiky intelligence and a refusal to soften the edges of a writer accused of killing her husband. But there was no more dazzling performance than Stone as a woman who literally rebuilds herself from scratch, throwing off the shackles of polite society and patriarchal order as she acquires knowledge and experience.  — DR

Best Supporting Actor

WILL WIN: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

Four beloved actors who have never won have strong cases this year: Sterling K. Brown (American Fiction), Ryan Gosling (Barbie), Mark Ruffalo (Poor Things) and Robert Downey Jr. (Oppenheimer). Given that Downey is up for the film that voters like most, has a great personal narrative (he’s lived many lives since his first nom, for Chaplin, 31 years ago) and won every significant precursor award, you’ve got to go with him. — SF

SHOULD WIN: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

Not enough attention has been paid to the icy effectiveness of Robert De Niro as the duplicitous monster manipulating his nephew in Killers of the Flower Moon, while Ryan Gosling’s sublime himbo Ken comes very close to walking off with Barbie. But it takes charismatic spark and quicksilver intelligence to pull off what Downey does as the chief antagonist in Oppenheimer, gradually revealing his ruthlessness. — DR

Best Supporting Actress

WILL WIN: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Of this category’s five nominees, four were at least fairly well known a year ago — Jodie Foster, Emily Blunt, America Ferrera and Danielle Brooks. But then The Holdovers’ Da’Vine Joy Randolph stole every scene in which she appeared. Her performance, having already swept the precursors, is now poised to become the first of nine Oscar-nominated performances in an Alexander Payne movie to actually be crowned a winner. — SF

SHOULD WIN: Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple

While Randolph is moving as the prep school cook devastated by grief, her sweep of every significant supporting actress honor this awards season seems like a hive-mind choice. I’m going with The Color Purple’s Brooks, whose radiant vitality as Sofia burned bright enough to be rekindled even after years of dehumanizing cruelty, her joy exploding off the screen. — DR

Best Adapted Screenplay

WILL WIN: Oppenheimer

Critics Choice and BAFTA voters backed Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction, and plenty of Oscar voters did, too. Others saw this as a spot to celebrate Greta Gerwig (and Noah Baumbach) for Barbie. But the vast majority of best picture winners also win a screenplay award (including four of the past five). Given how likely Oppenheimer is to win best picture and how impressive Nolan’s adaptation is, I’m hesitant to bet against it. — SF

SHOULD WIN: Poor Things

Both Nolan for Oppenheimer and Jonathan Glazer for The Zone of Interest would be worthy winners, though for me nothing beats Tony McNamara’s audacious molding of Alasdair Gray’s novel into a picaresque feminist fairy tale bursting with rude humor, radical eccentricity and exultant sensuality. Was there a funnier line this year than, “I must go punch that baby?” — DR

Best Original Screenplay

WILL WIN: Anatomy of a Fall

The Holdovers, written by David Hemingson, could become the third Payne-directed film to win a screenplay Oscar. Past Lives, Celine Song’s feature debut, has massive support from the indie community. But Anatomy of a Fall, penned by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, has shown impressive strength with international voters (a large chunk of the Academy), winning Globe, BAFTA and European Film awards.  — SF

SHOULD WIN: Past Lives

It’s almost impossible to decide between Triet’s intricately layered courtroom thriller about an inscrutable author on the stand for the possible murder of her husband and Song’s deep dive into fates intertwined and divergent. I’m choosing the latter simply because the drama’s reflections on roads not taken have not stopped resonating with me since I first saw it more than a year ago. — DR

Best Documentary Feature

WILL WIN: Bobi Wine: The People’s President

Because the year’s highest-profile docs failed to make it through the Academy’s documentary branch, we are left with five strong but tough-sell nominees that many voters have skipped altogether, making this one very hard to predict. 20 Days in Mariupol, about Russia’s attack on Ukraine, is arguably the timeliest, but Bobi Wine: The People’s President, also about a fight for freedom, is less brutal and has a charismatic subject to root for.  — SF

SHOULD WIN: The Eternal Memory

Two films have dominated the conversation — the heartbreaking study of intergenerational trauma in Four Daughters and the immersive account of Russia’s siege of Ukraine in 20 Days in Mariupol. But I can’t recall a more achingly tender consideration of love and selfless devotion than Maite Alberdi’s portrait of two prominent Chilean public figures as one of them slides inexorably into the fog of Alzheimer’s. — DR

Best International Feature

WILL WIN: The Zone of Interest

In another year, Netflix might have muscled Spain’s Society of the Snow to a win. But this year, the only non-English-language film that could’ve derailed The Zone of Interest from becoming the U.K.’s first-ever winner of this award, Anatomy of a Fall (which beat it at Cannes and the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, NBR and Spirit awards but lost to it at the BAFTA Awards), wasn’t even submitted by France. — SF

SHOULD WIN: The Zone of Interest

Nothing comes close to Jonathan Glazer’s sui generis Holocaust drama, in which we hear but never witness the atrocities being committed at Auschwitz from the disorienting distance of the camp commandant’s comfortable family home, just over the wall. The director’s control of tonal and visual storytelling, his meticulous attention to detail and his bone-chilling use of sound make this a uniquely disturbing experience. — DR

Best Animated Feature

WILL WIN: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

One should not underestimate the power of the Disney/Pixar bloc of voters in the Academy, which will support Elemental, or the international admiration for anime master Hayao Miyazaki, which could boost his probable swan song The Boy and the Heron. But five years after Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won this award, its comparably acclaimed sequel seems very likely to follow in its footsteps. — SF

SHOULD WIN: The Boy and the Heron

I get all the love for Spider-Man: Across the Universe: At a time when the superhero movie is in dire need of a genre overhaul, the saga serves up clever action, kinetic energy and dizzyingly inventive visuals. But Miyazaki’s emergence from retirement after 10 years is a rare gift. The painterly beauty in every frame is extraordinary, while the storytelling is enriched by the elegiac tone of a man looking back on an eventful life. — DR

And Feinberg Forecasts the Rest …

Cinematography
Oppenheimer

Costume Design
Barbie

Film Editing
Oppenheimer

Makeup & Hairstyling
Maestro

Original Score
Oppenheimer

Original Song
“What Was I Made For?” from Barbie

Production Design
Barbie

Sound
Oppenheimer

Visual Effects
Godzilla Minus One

Animated Short
War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko

Documentary Short
The Last Repair Shop

Live Action Short
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

This story first appeared in the March 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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