The 2024 Oscars – Picks and Thoughts

The time has come again to hand out the gold in the heart of Hollywood as we arrive at the industry’s biggest night.  Though we are well into the new year now, the Academy Awards do feel like the final curtain to the year prior when it comes to the movies.  It’s the Awards ceremony that definitively gives us the snapshot of where the film industry is at the current moment, and this year’s Oscars certainly marks the end of one of the most tumultuous in cinema history.  What defined the year of 2023 more than anything else was the months long Writers’ and Actors’ strike, and while it did result in much needed beneficial gains for the creative community, it also shook up the release calendar on the back end of the year, when Hollywood puts out it’s Oscar contenders.  There were many films garnering for attention that still got released during the strike, but without the benefit of having the cast out in the circuit promoting them a lot of those potential contenders ended up getting no attention at all and were mostly forgotten by year’s end.  Some distributors even decided to give up and pushed their movies to the following year.  Who knows how different this year’s award season would’ve been had the strikes not happen.  While that may be a question to speculate in the years ahead, this year’s Oscars definitely reflects the affect of 2023’s other major event which was the “Barbenheimer” effect at the box office.  Not only did the two high grossing saviors of last summer dominate the box office, but both Barbie and Oppenheimer ended up with a healthy amount of awards recognition too from the Academy, with one in a pretty good position to take Best Picture.  It’s fitting that the Academy recognized the importance of what “Barbenheimer” did for the industry.  The Academy has been seen as very out of touch with the average audience for a long time, and that has been reflected in the dismal ratings for the ceremony on television in recent years.  Hopefully they learned this year that a movie being a blockbuster doesn’t always mean it’s unworthy of an Oscar, and the hope is that this year the Oscars ceremony will also get that “Barbenheimer” bump.

What follows are my in-depth breakdowns of all the top categories, as well as my quick list of all the others.  For these top ones, I will provide my commentary and reveal not just who I think will win, but also who I would like to see win, which sometimes diverges.  My track record is not 100%, but I do observe the trends and momentum leading up to Oscars night, so I try to make the best educated guess I can on these picks.  I even go out of my way to see as many of the nominated films as possible, including the short subjects.  So, with all that said, here are my picks for the 2024 Academy Awards.


Nominees: Cord Jefferson, American Fiction; Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach, Barbie; Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer; Tony McNamara, Poor Things; Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest

Perhaps the most stacked category of the night.  Any one of these nominees would be the hands down favorite in any other year, and the fact that they all have to compete against one another is unfortunate.  In one case, the Oscars made a misstep, putting the screenplay for Barbie in the Adapted category, when it is far from an adaptation.  The explanation was that Barbie is a pre-established IP before the movie, but anyone who has seen the film knows that it’s story was purely from the imagination of Greta Gerwig, as well as her co-writer and real life partner Noah Baumbach.  This is also one of the many categories pitting the two “Barbenheimer” films against each other.  While Oppenheimer‘s script is an excellent one, with Christopher Nolan adapting a 700 page biography into a compelling and intense three hour film, it’s also clear that the film’s better strength is in it’s direction, so this is a case where Barbie actually has the edge.  But, it’s looking like that it too will come up empty handed.  A lot of the momentum in this category seems to be shifting in Cord Jefferson’s direction.  Jefferson’s cinematic debut is winning raves across the board, and in particular for it’s witty and satirical screenplay, poking fun at the way race is addressed in the publishing world.  His screenplay is sharp tongued, but also has a great deal of subtlety in it’s character building moments.  While it likely will be the winner, I do find myself more drawn to the more risk taking scripts.  Tony McNamara’s Poor Things script has some of the most hilarious “WTF” lines of the year, and it does a great job of mixing the absurd with the profound.  Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest is also a brilliant example of writing through subtext, as he perfectly captures the banality of the evil found in the casual conversations from the Nazis he observes in the film; finding the power in the things not said.  But honestly out of the bunch, I found Greta and Noah’s examination of the dynamics of femininity and masculinity through the famous toy brand to be the most impressive writing achievement in this field of nominees.  Who knew that Barbie would end up being the best statement film of the year?

Who Will Win: Cord Jefferson, American Fiction

Who Should Win: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, Barbie


Nominees:  Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, Anatomy of a Fall; Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer, Maestro; Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik, May December; Celine Song, Past Lives; David Hemingson, The Holdovers

Here we have a category with far more clear favorites.  While Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik’s May December may have gotten a lot of buzz going into awards season, the fact that this is the sole nomination that the film received pretty much tells you that it’s not favored to win.  Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer’s Maestro is a charming love letter to a legendary artist, but it’s also fairly formulaic as far as biopic screenplays go, which hurts it’s chances as well.  With those two flashy Netflix movies out of the way, the remaining nominees are representative of the strong year in independent cinema we had in 2023.  Celine Song’s understated Past Lives was a critical darling that stuck with critics and Academy voters all year.  But it’s modest showing in the other categories shows that a nomination is about as far as the movie is likely to go in this category.  For right now, the momentum seems to be behind the Palme d’Or winner from Cannes, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall.  Triet’s crime drama showing the process of a murder trial unfolding from investigation to ultimately the verdict is a captivating watch, and the screenplay is very precise in the way it uses language as a part of the mystery.  It certainly is the movie that makes you think the most while watching it, and it’s satisfying that Justine Triet doesn’t give you an easy answer as to what actually happened either.  As good as Anatomy of a Fall’s script is, my favorite in this category has to be the script for the movie that I named as my favorite for the year.  David Hemingson’s screenplay for The Holdovers is this beautiful throwback to the subdued character driven comedies of the 1970’s, fitting perfectly with the visual aesthetic that director Alexander Payne gave the movie.  It is the perfect blend of drama and humor with just the right amount of edge to keep it from growing schmaltzy.  And he should get the award for some of the best written insults of the year, which Paul Giamatti delivers to perfection.  While it’s chances are fading, I would like to see The Holdovers make an upset win here.

Who Will Win: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, Anatomy of a Fall

Who Should Win:  David Hemingson, The Holdovers


Nominees:  Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things; Robert DeNiro, Killers of the Flower Moon; Robert Downey, Jr., Oppenheimer; Ryan Gosling, Barbie; Sterling K. Brown, American Fiction

For all the comic book movie nerds out there, it is funny to see this as a competition between Iron Man and the Hulk, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo both nominated here.  While Ruffalo’s performance as a petty womanizer in Poor Things was certainly a delight and deserving of awards recognition, it seems he is likely to see his fellow Marvel alum take home the gold this year.  Robert Downey, Jr. has had one of the best redemption arcs of anyone in movie history, coming from a near career destroying set of scandals and drug addiction to eventually headlining in the biggest movie franchise ever.  Winning an Oscar would be yet another distinction to help cement Downey’s remarkable career resurrection.  Playing former Atomic policy chief and later adversary of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Lewis Strauss, Downey’s performance is big and memorable, and it demonstrates all the best qualities we’ve seen out of him as an actor.  This is his third nomination, and all signs show that he is likely to win.  But, as much as I loved Robert Downey’s performance in Oppenheimer, the performance that impressed me the most in this category was Ryan Gosling as Ken.  Comedy roles are often overlooked by the Academy, especially with the broad, cartoonish type of comedy that we see in Barbie, so it’s a real testament to Gosling’s comedic chops that he managed to get nominated for his performance.  It is far and away one of the funniest performances we’ve seen in years, with Ryan Gosling commanding every moment and being absolutely perfect in the role of the insecure Ken doll that messes up the harmony of Barbieland in the film.  His “I’m Just Ken” musical performance may in fact be my single favorite scene in any movie of last year.  As hard as it is to be nominated for a comedic performance, it’s even harder to actually win.  Still, I think that Gosling is the closest competition that Downey has in this category; a true “Barbenheimer” showdown.  But, like what is expected for this upcoming Oscar night, Oppenheimer has the edge in this category.  And it will be a deserved win for Robert Downey, Jr. whose career turnaround really is a remarkable story in itself.

Who Will Win:  Robert Downey, Jr., Oppenheimer

Who Should Win:  Ryan Gosling, Barbie


Nominees:  America Ferrera, Barbie; Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers; Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple; Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer; Jodie Foster, Nyad

Here we have the most locked down Award of the night.  From the beginning of the Awards season to now, Da’Vine Joy Randolph has dominated this category, winning pretty much everything.  Her role as the warm-hearted boys academy cafeteria cook Mary Lamb in The Holdovers has been celebrated across the board and it’s the kind of nuanced performance that really grabs the attention of Academy voters.  I couldn’t agree more.  The moment you first see her character in The Holdovers, you instantly want to know more about her, and Ms. Randolph delivers a tour de force performance that perfectly aligns with the overall tone of the film.  I’m happy she’s getting all of this due recognition as it means that The Holdovers is guaranteed at least one Oscar this year.  I don’t see any of the others in this category denying her the Award.  The only one who might have the most outside chances of an upset might be America Ferrera for Barbie, who was the surprise nominee this year.  There’s an outside chance that her surprise nomination could lead to an outside win, but it seems unlikely.  I think one of the reasons that America got the nomination was because of that viral moment in Barbie where she gives the big speech about the pressures of being a woman today that pretty much spelled out the main thesis of the film.  It’s a deserving nomination to be sure, as are the other nominees.  Danielle Brooks was a bright spot in an otherwise unnecessary remake of The Color Purple.  Emily Blunt stole the show in her brief scenes as Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty, leading to a first ever nomination.  And Jodie Foster was an expected stand out in the inspirational Nyad.  But Da’Vine Joy Randolph clearly stood out the most this year, with a performance that is equal measures devastating and inspiring, while also filled with charming humor.  You can count on her making the Awards season sweep, with an almost sure thing Oscar becoming the jewel in her crown.

Who Will Win:  Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Who Should Win:  Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers


Nominees:  Bradley Cooper, Maestro; Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer; Colman Domingo, Rustin; Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction; Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers

This is a tough category for me, because it involves pitting my two favorite movies of the year against each other.  Two favorites have emerged in this category since the nominations were read, and in the last couple weeks, the race has actually flipped a bit in favor of one over the other.  Initially, Paul Giamatti looked to be the favorite, with his win at the Golden Globes (and his subsequent after party trip to In-and-Out Burger that went viral).  But, in the last few weeks, Cillian Murphy has been racking up wins at the BAFTAs and the SAG Awards.  As of right now, it looks like Murphy is benefitting from the overall momentum behind Oppenheimer going into the Oscars, and he seems to be pulling away right now.  I do indeed like Cillian Murphy’s performance as J. Robert Oppenheimer.  It would be fitting that Murphy earns his Oscar for a Christopher Nolan film, as the two have been frequent collaborators on multiple movies.  And given how so much of the film’s success is dependent on his performance, given that he’s in nearly every scene of the three hour epic, the fact that the movie was the box office hit that became shows just how well his performance hit it’s mark.  It certainly wouldn’t upset me if Cillian Murphy wins the Award.  But, my favorite performance here comes from my favorite movie of the year.  Paul Giamatti’s career has been made up of a remarkable string of memorable, quirky characters, and sadly this is only the second nomination he has ever gotten (and first for a Lead role).  Winning here would really be a great acknowledgement for a career of outstanding character roles, but it’s also just a recognition for a phenomenal performance that achieves the right balance between hilarious and heartbreaking.  And man does he put some punch into those intellectual sounding insults.  At this point, I feel that some of that goodwill within Hollywood that Paul Giamatti has built up over the years could lift him to the top, but right now Oppenheimer is looking to have a big night and that will likely be the tide that lifts Cillian Murphy over the edge as well.

Who Will Win:  Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

Who Should Win:  Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers


Nominees:  Annette Bening, Nyad; Carey Mulligan, Maestro;  Emma Stone, Poor Things; Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon;  Sandra Huller, Anatomy of a Fall

Again, this is a category where it looks like two favorites have emerged.  And this one is a bit more competitive than Best Actor going into the home stretch.  Overall this is a strong category with deserving nominations for all.  A special shout out to German actress Sandra Huller, who is nominated here for Anatomy of a Fall, but also delivered another standout performance in the Best Picture nominee The Zone of Interest; a breakout year for her for sure.  Right now, this is a race between Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone, and it’s hard to say who has the edge.  Both won the Golden Globes in their respective Drama and Musical/Comedy categories, but since then Lily has picked up the SAG award and Emma has picked up the BAFTA.  If I were to put my pulse on the race right now, I would say this is going to go to Lily Gladstone.  Hollywood loves to make history at the Oscars ceremony, and a win for Lily would give them that moment as she would be the first Indigenous actor to ever win an Oscar.  It would be a deserving honor too, as she was definitely the standout in Martin Scorsese’s expansive Western epic, outshining even big heavyweights like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro in the film.  But, as much as I liked Lily Gladstone’s performance and would cheer a historic win for her on Oscar night, I do feel the best performance this last year belonged to Emma Stone in Poor Things.  Her performance in this oddball re-imagining of Frankenstein is a performance unlike anything I have seen before, and it really takes a committed and fearless actress to convincingly put it off.  Emma Stone, reuniting with director Yorgos Lanthimos after making The Favourite together, makes the character of Bella Baxter one of the most unique big screen protagonists I seen in a long while, and where she takes this character in the film is a wild journey.  And yet, she manages to nail even the more dramatic parts as well alongside the goofy moments.  It’s my favorite performance across all categories at this year’s Oscars, so I definitely am rooting for Emma Stone to prevail.  But, a win for Lily Gladstone wouldn’t upset me either, and it would be a long overdue Award for the Native Indigenous community who have long deserved recognition for their contributions to cinema.  Her win will also likely be the sole Award for Killers of the Flower Moon at this year’s Oscars, so it’s hard to completely count out the Scorsese effect as well.

Who Will Win:  Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

Who Should Win:  Emma Stone, Poor Things


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

This is another one of the easy to call categories.  That not to say that the other nominees here are slouches.  It’s remarkable that Martin Scorsese is still being recognized in this category this late into his career, showing that he hasn’t lost his magic touch at all, having now been nominated in 6 different decades.  Yorgos Lanthimos made perhaps his biggest leap yet as a visual storyteller with his dreamlike aesthetic placed upon the world of Poor Things.  And Jonathan Glazer delivered one of the most chilling Holocaust films ever with a movie that remarkably shows very little carnage but conveys the horrors instead brilliantly through atmosphere and sound.  Justine Triet delivers a brilliant dissection of the French legal system in action through Anatomy of a Fall, though I feel her nomination should have been filled by Greta Gerwig for Barbie.  But, it’s been clear to anyone going into this Awards season that this is going to be Christopher Nolan’s year.  The Holdovers topped my list this year because I thought it was the best written movie of the year, but Oppenheimer was my number two and it was undeniably the best directed movie of the year.  Nolan has always been pushing the boundaries of the cinematic artform, creating these monumental films that are more than just a movie; they are events.  A huge proponent of IMAX photography, he made Oppenheimer as must see film in theaters, and that helped to contribute to it’s nearly $1 billion box office.  There has been a groundswell for years for the Academy to honor Christopher Nolan for the advancements in cinema that he has made.  The reason we have 10 nominees for Best Picture is because the Academy overlooked Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008), so that’s a profound legacy he has left right there on it’s own.  Thankfully, Oppenheimer is one of those undeniable achievements that no one can argue isn’t deserving of the Oscar for Directing.  It may have taken a while, but Christopher Nolan should finally get that long overdue recognition from the Academy.

Who Will Win:  Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Who Should Win:  Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer


Nominees: American Fiction; Anatomy of a Fall; Barbie; Killers of the Flower Moon; Maestro; Oppenheimer; Past Lives; Poor Things; The Holdovers; The Zone of Interest

Thankfully this was another year where I managed to see all 10 nominees in a theater; even the one made for Netflix (Maestro).  And I was happy to see that 6 out of the 10 were movies that appeared on my own Top 10.  In fact, 4 of my top 5 are present in this category, and each makes a good case for being Best Picture.  However, from the looks of it, Oppenheimer is coming into the Oscars as a heavy favorite.  It has swept through all the Guild awards (except the strike delayed WGA) which is a tell tale sign of a big night at the Oscars.  It just remains to be seen how big of a night.  It might be a big winner like last year’s Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), or it could be a case where the Academy likes to spread things around.  Are there any movies that could challenge Oppenheimer for the night’s top prize.  With the second most nominations, it would seem that Poor Things could be in the best position.  There’s also Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon to contend with as well as Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, both of which tackle issues that appeal very much to the tastes of the Academy.  The other half of “Barbenheimer” could even arguably muster a surprise win as Barbie was the undisputed box office champ of last year, and is credited for saving the theater industry during the contentious strike period.  Right now, Oppenheimer feels unstoppable with all the bellwether awards in it’s pocket, but at the same time I don’t feel it’s locked down as much as Everything Everywhere All at Once had a year ago.  Weirder things have happened before at the Oscars.  I of course would love to see The Holdovers come out on top, but it’s Best Picture chances faded pretty early, and it’s got a better chance anyway in the acting categories.  In the end, I feel that Hollywood is keen on honoring the phenomenon that was “Barbenheimer” in some way, and Oppenheimer is the movie that best represents what the Academy is looking for.  It’s the kind of movie that the Academy used to love in the 90’s, that being the “prestige blockbuster;” a lavish prestige film that manages to have crossover with audiences and become a huge moneymaker as well as an Awards contender (Forrest Gump, Titanic, Gladiator).  Oppenheimer hopefully re-sparks that trend as the business really has missed that kind of movie for a long time.  Oppenheimer should be the big winner of the night; the only question is how big?

What Will Win: Oppenheimer

What Should Win:  The Holdovers

And here we have my quick rundown of all the remaining categories with my picks to win in each:

Best Cinematography: Oppenheimer; Best Film Editing: Oppenheimer; Best Production Design: Poor Things; Best Costume Design: Barbie; Best Sound: The Zone of Interest; Best Make-up and Hairstyling: Poor Things; Best Original Score: Oppenheimer; Best Original Song: “I’m Just Ken” from Barbie; Best Visual Effects: Godzilla Minus One; Best Documentary Feature: 20 Days in Mariupol; Best Documentary Short: The Last Repair Shop; Best Animated Feature: The Boy and the Heron; Best Animated Short: Ninety-Five Senses; Best Live Action Short: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar; Best International Feature: The Zone of Interest

There are a number of things that I hope we’ll see happen at this year’s Oscars.  One, I hope there is acknowledgement of the hard fought for changes that the strikes brought to the creative community this last year.  It seems unlikely, given that the guild members would like to move on and the studio heads would like to forget.  But this was a monumental thing that happened in 2023, so so mention of the progress made in the industry would be ideal.  The Academy also needs to understand that the ceremony is about the people and the movies that they make.  Don’t try to turn the Oscars into it’s own spectacle.  The Oscar winners will provide that for the ceremony itself.  The Academy has been tinkering with the format too many times in recent years, and every new gimmick they try just does not work; especially the one where they cut out and pre-taped the “lesser” categories before the start for the show.  What people want to see are the movies and celebrities they care about getting the highest recognition from the industry and that’s all the Oscars need.  I’m seeing a trend in recent Awards shows like the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards where they’ve trimmed the fat and just presented the Awards without needless sketches and montages to pad out the run time.  Last years Oscars was another example of a well paced awards that felt trimmed down without having to cut out any of the categories from the broadcast, and sure enough that was reflected in the ratings.  It should also help that two of the nominees this year were the highest grossing movies of the year.  “Barbenheimer” saved the box office last year, so let’s see if it can do the same to the Oscars as well.  I’m hopeful for a more positive direction with the Academy Awards, where prestige and blockbuster don’t have to be relegated to separate camps.  Last year revealed a significant change in what audiences want to see and it’s reflected in the nominees this year.  It looks like the theatrical comeback is becoming more and more cemented as a reality in Hollywood, as streaming was far less represented at the Oscars this year.  So, while it appears that Oppenheimer is the movie to beat at this year’s awards, there still could be plenty of surprises, and it should make for an all around exciting Awards presentation this year.  Here’s hoping for a great show at the 2024 Academy Awards.