Friday, March 8, 2024

96th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

It's Oscar time, folks!  And that means that for the ninth time my colleague Mike Drinan and I will regale you with our predictions for who wins what awards!

Best Picture

Justin: This year is special for me, as for the first time in my life thus far, I've actually seen every Best Picture nominee ahead of time.  Holy jeez, I feel so accomplished.  Anyway I enjoyed all ten films on some level.  Barbie is a lot of fun and has a good message, Maestro is a compellingly intimate look at an esteemed but troubled artist, Past Lives deals with the issue of childhood romance vs. mature relationships, Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic look at the atrocities committed against the Osage nation, The Zone of Interest is a tiny-scope look at the atrocities of the Holocaust, Anatomy of a Fall is a fascinating procedural that tackles gender inequality in the legal system, American Fiction is a quietly hilarious satire on race in art, The Holdovers is a funny and often touching coming-of-age story, Poor Things is a demented but brilliantly crafted feminist parable, and Oppenheimer is a massive cinematic achievement and a reinvention of the biopic.  For once my favorite nominee is also the odds-on favorite.

Pick: Oppenheimer

Mike: I’ve only seen four of the nominees this year which is pretty pathetic considering how many really good films came out this year. Really looking forward to sitting down with Poor Things and The Zone of Interest, also heard great things about Anatomy of a Fall. I really enjoyed Killers of the Flower Moon with its harsh look at the crimes committed against the Osage and loved Jason Isbell’s acting as well, definitely a highlight for me. The Holdovers was great simply because Paul Giamatti is a frigging acting giant. I feel like Barbie is getting shorted in the discussion of nominees. The spin that film presented was a stroke of genius. I know we cringe when we agree, but it’s hard to deny Oppenheimer. It was not only a brilliant biopic, but it checks off all the boxes for the Oscars.

Pick: Oppenheimer

Best Director

Justine Triet – Anatomy of a Fall
Martin Scorsese – Killers of the Flower Moon
Christopher Nolan – Oppenheimer
Yorgos Lanthimos – Poor Things
Jonathan Glazer – The Zone of Interest

Justin:  These five directors made verrrrry different films from each other.  Nolan and Scorsese's films are simultaneously epic in scope and intimate in their character studies, while Triet and Glazer center their stories within one household, while still exploring larger sociopolitical issues.  And then there's the truly unique vision of Yorgos Lanthimos, one of the most adventurous directors working today.  But it's Christopher Nolan's year, and I couldn't be happier he's finally getting the big-award recognition.

Pick: Christopher Nolan

Mike: Yeah, I can’t wait for Yorgos’ time in the sun because he’s so imaginative in his storytelling and I love unique and challenging storytelling. Scorsese is always going to give you great work but he really needs to work on the runtime of his films. No one has that kind of time. Again, you can’t deny Oppenheimer and Nolan masterfully structured that biopic.

Pick: Christopher Nolan

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper – Maestro
Colman Domingo – Rustin
Paul Giamatti – The Holdovers
Cillian Murphy – Oppenheimer
Jeffrey Wright – American Fiction

Justin: I've seen all of these performance except Colman Domingo's, and all four that I have seen are eminently worthy of this category.  For me though the two standouts were Paul Giamatti and Cillian Murphy.  I'll be happy if either of them takes home the Oscar.  But it'll be Mr. Murphy who comes out on top, for his beautifully understated turn as J. Robert Oppenheimer.  As someone who's admired his work since 28 Days Later and Batman Begins, it's very exciting to see him garnering such acclaim.

Pick: Cillian Murphy

Mike: It’s a two horse race between Giamatti and Murphy. The safe bet is on Murphy. He took that character and conveyed so much ambition and conflict. The performance still resonates with me. Paul Giamatti is one of my favorite actors of all time. I love him in everything that he’s in. If there’s a role that could pull off the upset, it’s that of Professor Paul Hunham. However, you can ask my wife and she’ll tell you that I’m not a betting man.

Pick: Cillian Murphy

Best Actress

Annette Bening – Nyad
Lily Gladstone – Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Hüller – Anatomy of a Fall
Carey Mulligan – Maestro
Emma Stone – Poor Things

Justin: I've also seen four of these; only Annette Bening's performance is unknown to me.  This is a three-way category for me, as Carey Mulligan was fantastic as Leonard Bernstein's wife Felicia Montealegre, and Emma Stone was fearless as Bella Baxter in Poor Things.  But I think the Oscar goes to Lily Gladstone for her show-stealing turn as Mollie Burkhardt in Killers of the Flower Moon.  To be in a cast with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio and still have more people talking about your performance is a pretty astonishing feat.

Pick: Lily Gladstone

Mike: I was all onboard the Lily Gladstone train after watching Killers Of the Flower Moon. She definitely held her own amongst acting giants and is more than deserving of the Oscar. She also has the potential to be the first Indigenous American to win the award and with the history the Academy has had with Indigenous Americans, this would certainly be the safe bet. However, you can ask my wife and she’ll tell you that I like to gamble so I’m going for Emma Stone.

Pick: Emma Stone

Best Supporting Actor

Sterling K. Brown – American Fiction
Robert De Niro – Killers of the Flower Moon
Robert Downey Jr. – Oppenheimer
Ryan Gosling – Barbie
Mark Ruffalo – Poor Things

Justin: Shit yeah, five for five on this one.  All of these performances were great.  De Niro is slimy and ingratiating in Flower Moon, Gosling is goofy and hilarious in Barbie, Brown is acerbic and sad in American Fiction, and Mark Ruffalo is brilliantly buffoonish in Poor Things.  But I'm gonna go with Robert Downey Jr. as the manipulative, vindictive Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer.

Pick: Robert Downey Jr.

Mike: Gosling’s nomination for this role irks me, and not because of the obvious Directorial snub of Greta Gerwig, but because it’s just a goofy role that downplays his acting strengths. I enjoyed his performance but Oscar nod? Give me a break. Guess you can get anything if you sing Matchbox Twenty at people. Anyways, this one is a no brainer. Not only did Robert Downey Jr. crush his performance, he’s been piling up the accolades.

Pick: Robert Downey Jr.

Best Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt – Oppenheimer
Danielle Brooks – The Color Purple
America Ferrera – Barbie
Jodie Foster – Nyad
Da'Vine Joy Randolph – The Holdovers

Justin: I've seen three of these - Emily Blunt is a wonderful firebrand in Oppenheimer, America Ferrera gets the most memorable speech in Barbie, and Da'Vine Joy Randolph is sweet and tragic in The Holdovers.  I'm going with the latter.

Pick: Da'Vine Joy Randolph

Mike: Grief makes for good characters and performances and it certainly was the case for Da’Vine Joy Randolph. She owned that movie and whenever she was off the screen I wondered where her character was. I wanted more!

Pick: Da'Vine Joy Randolph

Best Original Screenplay

Anatomy of a Fall – Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
The Holdovers – David Hemingson
Maestro – Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer
May December – Screenplay by Samy Burch
Past Lives – Celine Song

Justin: I've seen four of these as well.  Kind of a tough category to predict, I could see Anatomy, The Holdovers or Past Lives winning this one.  Anatomy  won the Golden Globe in this category but the other two have both won their share of accolades as well.  I guess I'll go with Anatomy....

Pick: Anatomy of a Fall

Mike: It’s difficult for me to pick against David Hemingson only because two screenplays for Alexander Payne films have won before and his screenplay was fantastic. What doesn’t escape me is the large international contingency that makes up the Academy which sets up Anatomy of a Fall.

Pick: Anatomy of a Fall

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Fiction – Cord Jefferson
Barbie – Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan
Poor Things – Tony McNamara
The Zone of Interest – Jonathan Glazer

Justin: I've seen all five of these and I think my favorite screenplay was probably American Fiction, which I would say does have a good chance at taking this category.  On the other hand Oppenheimer has been winning in this category a lot as well.  Since it's Oppie"s year I'll go with Nolan again.

Pick: Oppenheimer

Mike: Do I go with history (large majority of Best Picture winners also win this category) or do I go rogue? Oppenheimer is a safe bet in this category considering how likely it is to win Best Picture and the adaptation was damn near perfectly done. I also feel The Zone of Interest and Poor Things are very well deserving of this award. I’m very tempted to lean Poor Things, but it’s difficult to go against Oppenheimer

Pick: Oppenheimer

Best Cinematography

El Conde – Edward Lachman
Killers of the Flower Moon – Rodrigo Prieto
Maestro – Matthew Libatique
Oppenheimer – Hoyte van Hoytema
Poor Things – Robbie Ryan

Justin: This is a two-horse race from where I sit, between Robbie Ryan's surrealistic, bokeh-saturated wide lens photography in Poor Things, and Hoyte van Hoytema's gorgeous landscapes and closeups in Oppenheimer.  I think it's probably Oppie again.

Pick: Oppenheimer

Mike: I agree it’s a two horse race but I tend to think the Academy loves futuristic, or dystopian looking films and Poor Things not only fits that bill but looks gorgeous. 

Pick: Poor Things

Best Original Score

American Fiction – Laura Karpman
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – John Williams
Killers of the Flower Moon – Robbie Robertson
Oppenheimer – Ludwig Göransson
Poor Things – Jerskin Fendrix

Justin: This one's definitely going to Ludwig Göransson for Oppenheimer. Dude's on fire right now.

Pick: Oppenheimer

Mike: This is probably the only time I will ever feel comfortable going against a John Williams score. Probably got the nomination out of respect and nostalgia, which is fine. Killers of the Flower Moon had a killer score that I thoroughly enjoyed and felt really gave the film an additional punch. However, Oppenheimer again I think will pull through on this one as well.

Pick: Oppenheimer

Tiebreaker: Best Documentary Short Film

The ABCs of Book Banning – Sheila Nevins and Trish Adlesic
The Barber of Little Rock – John Hoffman and Christine Turner
Island in Between – S. Leo Chiang and Jean Tsien
The Last Repair Shop – Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers
Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó – Sean Wang and Sam Davis

Justin: Hell if I know.

Pick: What the hell, Nai Nai & Wai Po.

Mike: Yeah, I’m lost on this one too. I feel like book banning is a hot topic issue these days and the Academy has a tendency to TRY and make a point. 

Pick: The ABCs of Book Banning

That'll do it for this year's Oscar picks.  Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the ceremony!

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