2024 Oscar predictions

by Gavin Meichelbock & Isabelle Fortaleza-Tan

After a historic year for film in 2023, which saw the fall of franchise favorites and the surprise successes of original films, the 2024 Oscar nominations are exactly what audiences expected. “Peaches” from the “Super Mario Bros. Movie” was not nominated for best original song. There was no love for “Iron Claw” and “Godzilla: Minus One” was not nominated for best international film.

While the nominations themselves were predictable, audiences are still excited to make their own predictions.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Before getting into what should be crowned the best film of the year, it is important to recognize how great the mix of nominees is. It has the traditional Oscar bait films with “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Maestro.” It includes a great selection of genre films with “The Holdovers” and “Past Lives.” And lastly, to round out this incredible list, the fan favorite and one of the biggest films of the previous year, “Barbie.” However, “Oppenheimer” will most likely drop the bomb on its competition.

This film has everything going for it. It has a wide audience appeal as it makes science jargon and politics fascinating to the average person, the editing is expert and the cinematography breaks new ground. Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. both give generation-defining performances, plus the film is helmed by one of the best directors working today, Christopher Nolan. “Oppenheimer,” without a doubt, is the best film of 2023.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Bradley Cooper disappeared into his portrayal of Leonard Bernstein, but his performance has nothing more to it than Oscar bait. Coming off his win for best actor in a musical or comedy at the Golden Globe Awards, Paul Giamatti is considered a serious contender. He brings so much heart and depth to what could have been a generic and “uncool” teacher role. Another favored actor coming away a winner from the Golden Globes is everyone’s Oscar nominee, Cillian Murphy, who gave the performance of a lifetime as theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Every wit and mannerism that comes with being the smartest guy in the room, he sold with such charisma. Murphy also perfectly delivered the darker side of this character, the moral dilemma and internal conflict that comes with giving man the power to destroy itself. The fact that audiences will continue to remember this masterful performance from Murphy makes this his award to win.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Carey Mulligan is one of those actresses who pops up in a lot of films and makes audiences go, “I think I recognize her.” Mulligan is a phenomenal actress, but gets swallowed up in a movie as loud as “Maestro.” In her defense, it didn’t help that Bradley Cooper talked over all of her lines. Emma Stone is electric and “Poor Things” is no exception. She imbues every role with her bubbly personality, making her an absolute blast to watch on screen. While always bringing her unique brand of charm and charisma to every role, she also always delivers gut-punching emotional scenes. She won the Golden Globe for a reason, but unfortunately, she doesn’t stand a chance against Lily Gladstone.

Gladstone seemingly comes out of nowhere and bursts into the Hollywood limelight with her performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” She goes beat for beat and steals scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Not only is she a phenomenal actress, but also the first Native American to be nominated for Best Actress. If Gladstone wins, she will be the first Native American ever to win an Academy Award. The academy will simply not pass up the opportunity for such a historic win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

After winning the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice awards, Robert Downey Jr. appears to be in the lead for his turn as United States Atomic Energy Commission member Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer.” Downey has received unanimous praise for his performance, showcasing a different, more nuanced side of his craft in contrast to his iconic role as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Backed by the steam of the Best Picture campaign for “Oppenheimer” and his standing as a beloved Hollywood figure, winning gold in March seems to be in Downey’s future. However, given the academy’s appreciation of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” Ryan Gosling, another widely liked Hollywood leading man, seems to be in the running for his very different — but humorous and charming — performance as Ken.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Da’Vine Joy Randolph is undeniably in the lead as her sweep of critic’s and televised awards is not losing steam. Randolph’s performance as Mary Lamb in Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” served as the heart and soul of the film and, clearly, has won over audiences and the academy alike. If there had to be a “second-in-the-running,” that person would probably be Emily Blunt, given the momentum behind “Oppenheimer”.

Best Achievement in Directing

The award for best director is a two-horse race between Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan. Scorsese constantly delivers a classic cinematic experience with layered characters and compelling storylines, and the performances are always excellent. This is in no small part due to Scorsese’s directorial expertise behind the camera. Unfortunately for Scorsese, this will be Nolan’s lifetime achievement award.

Nolan has built a name for himself as one of the best directors of this generation and potentially ever. He consistently delivers films that are praised by audiences and critics alike. Whether it be a superhero film, a psychological thriller or a heist movie, Nolan has reinvented and elevated the genre of filmmaking and turned it into cinema. With “Oppenheimer” being his Oscar bait film, Nolan finally has a chance to receive academy recognition for reimagining the movies over the past two-plus decades.

Best Achievement In Cinematography

“El Conde,” “Maestro,” “Poor Things” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” are all impressive-looking films in their own right, but “Oppenheimer” did something special. Black-and-white 65-millimeter IMAX film was not a thing before this movie. New camera technology was invented to capture the look of the film, and select shots were captured on these new IMAX cameras. Since “Oppenheimer” pushed the threshold of what cinematography is capable of, it deserves the win.

Best Achievement In Film Editing

Film editing is really hard to judge because the best editing goes unnoticed. With that said, leave it to a Christopher Nolan film to challenge the status quo. The way “Oppenheimer” makes the act of watching men sit and talk for three hours into something engaging is unparalleled. By telling the story out of order, it puts the film in a constant state of question and answer, giving the it a constant rush of forward momentum and providing tension to what should be dull scenes. The way “Oppenheimer” uses editing to enhance the storytelling is why it should win in this category.

Best Achievement in Production Design

While “Oppenheimer” does get some props for filming at our very own Kerckhoff, the film didn’t feature any outstanding set design or use of location. The same can be said for “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Poor Things.” In contrast, Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” absolutely nailed the look and feel of revolutionary France. Every location, from the streets of Paris to the Pyramids of Egypt, gives the film a sense of grandeur and importance.

With that said, “Barbie” also did an excellent job by bringing decades’ worth of iconic Mattel play-sets to life. From the re-creation of Barbie’s Dream House to her pink convertible, the film adapts what once were small pieces of plastic into a practical environment. The ability of “Barbie” to adapt the familiar in such a new and vibrant way offers the film an edge in this category.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

While “Oppenheimer” is an incredible film, a bunch of men in lab coats and dark suits is not the most interesting costume choice. With the exception of Emma Stone’s impractically puffy dresses, “Poor Things” features a lot of the same costume elements people can find in an episode of any British drama series. “Killers of the Flower Moon” has a lot of drab suits but does pay incredible attention to detail when it comes to adapting the traditional wear of the Osage people to the big screen. One of the best things about “Napoleon” is its costuming. Every article of clothing, from the French peasants to the Russian generals, adds so much to the visual language of the film. Napoleon’s uniform is incredible and creates such an iconic silhouette for the character.

Sadly for “Napoleon,” when it comes to playing dress up, no one can beat “Barbie.” The way the film adapted decades of toy clothes into practical outfits is an outstanding accomplishment in itself. Every dress, cowboy hat and mink fur coat is brought to life with such care and love for the brand.

Best Sound

This is a tough one. The sound design that went into creating the Nomad space station from “The Creator” alone is award-worthy. Every time its targeting system whirs to life, the audience’s stomach drops. “Oppenheimer” has a very similar situation. The way it captured a nuclear explosion in such a visceral and authentic way is unmatched.

However, despite those unforgettable moments, Cooper’s “Maestro” will more than likely win this category. As bad as this movie is, and it is bad, the scenes of Leonard Bernstein conducting are mesmerizing. The way the film manages to capture the nuanced chaos of a live orchestra is simply artful. “Maestro” is a movie about a guy who makes sound and the sound is the best aspect of this film.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

John Williams is the greatest film composer of all time, but why was he nominated for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny?” His work on the franchise 40 years ago was definitely Oscar-worthy, but this was just more of the same, yet somehow less memorable. The score for “Poor Things” is unlike anything else. Its piercing string lines and flute trills give it an unsettling sense of anxiety. Every song is different from the last and incredibly fresh and new. But it might just be too unique and different to win over the academy.

This is simply just “Oppenheimer’s” year at the Oscars. Ludwig Göransson delivers a whirling ambient soundscape of a score. It is woven into the texture of each scene beautifully. The songs are constructed in a way to be these never-ending climaxes that do not resolve until their final second, much like the film itself is built. This expert communication between the film and score is why “Oppenheimer” wins this category.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

All but one of the nominees are simply songs that happen to be in Oscar-nominated movies. They could be completely removed and the story would still play and feel the same. Therefore, “What Was I Made For” by singer/songwriter Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas from “Barbie” deserves the win. “What Was I Made For” is such a beautiful expression about finding one’s purpose. This song elevates the emotional climax of the film by adding a serious sense of sadness and emotional complexity to an overall goofy movie. The way the song enhances the film, instead of just being in it, is why “What Was I Made For” deserves to win best original song.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

While it is always heartwarming to see a Marvel Cinematic Universe cameo at the Oscars, audiences know it will never win. “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” is an outstanding film that nobody saw and the visual effects were nothing special. “Napoleon” has no shot and will be a complete disservice to the remaining two nominees if it does win. As happy as kaiju fans are to see “Godzilla: Minus One” receive love from the academy, it is hard to see them giving a blockbuster the win.

“The Creator” should take this category in its sleep. This movie didn’t do a lot of things right; it did almost everything wrong actually, but the visuals were not one of them. Every shot and special effect in this film is perfect and visually stunning. “The Creator” also delivered this unmatched visual triumph on a budget of only $80 million. This is a mere fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on big Hollywood blockbusters with very questionable CGI. “The Creator” created a cinematic visual experience like no other, which is why it should win best visual effects.

Best Animated Feature Film

With the Best Animated Feature Film category no longer being the “let’s just give it to Pixar” award, “Elemental” stands no chance. “Nimona,” is creative in its story, world-building and character animation, but the fact that it is a straight-to-Netflix animated film prevented it from getting the word of mouth and prestige of a theatrical release.

The award for Best Animated Feature Film is a race between two animated Oscar darlings. “The Boy and the Heron” is another masterpiece from the award-winning Studio Ghibli, but “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” takes the cake. This is one of the best films of 2023 and far surpasses its predecessor, which won the category in 2019. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” reinvented the relationship between animation, character and storytelling. It also pushed the boundaries of what animation and animators are capable of, with some sequences taking four years to animate. Since this film redefined the animated landscape, it deserves this Oscar.

These are our predictions for the 2024 Oscars. To find out the winners, tune in to ABC on March 10.

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