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Cinema

What Will Win at the Oscars? AP’s Film Writers Set Their Predictions

Ahead of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, Associated Press Film Writers Jake Coyle and Lindsey Bahr share their predictions.

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

BAHR: It will be “ Oppenheimer.” It’s not just because it’s won alltheothermajorawards: This is a recognition that’s a long time coming for Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, who have been nominated for best picture twice before, for “Inception” and “Dunkirk,” but whose influence and impact on the industry and even the Oscars has extended far beyond a simple nomination tally (including leading a charge to save film). But perhaps it was worth the wait to get this moment with a film like “ Oppenheimer.”

COYLE: It’s “Oppenheimer” all the way, and the only question is how many awards it ultimately walks away with. (I’ll say eight.) But let’s hear it for one of the best best-picture fields in recent memory. There’s not really a clunker in the mix this year. The nominees run from epic to indie, blockbuster to arthouse. You’ve got more comedy than usual, too, including “Barbie” and her wicked twin, “Poor Things.”

BEST ACTRESS
Nominees: Annette Bening, “Nyad”; Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”; Sandra Hüller, “Anatomy of a Fall”; Carey Mulligan, “Maestro”; Emma Stone, “Poor Things.”

COYLE: On a night that should be kinda predictable, this is going to a nail-biter. Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) and Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) are seemingly in a dead heat, with odds-makers splitting them evenly. I’m going to give the edge to Gladstone, who’s coming off a big win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and has history riding on her potential victory. She would be the first Native American to win an Oscar, a prospect that “Saturday Night Live” joked has her fellow nominees saying, “Please don’t let us win.” Stone, though, is absurdly good in “Poor Things” and her chances can’t be dismissed. She won at the BAFTAs and international Oscar voters are increasingly tilting close races.

Lily Gladstone accepts the award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role for “Killers of the Flower Moon” during the 30th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

BAHR: You know it’s a tough year when the other three very accomplished and utterly committed performances aren’t even in the conversation. I want Gladstone to win, but something is telling me that Stone is going to be the one up that stage (and no, it’s not Searchlight or her publicists whispering in my ear).

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

BAHR: This is going to be one of the bigger hold your breath moments on Oscars night as we wait to hear if best actor goes to Paul Giamatti or Cillian Murphy. Neither have won this award before and both gave undeniably great and memorable performances, both of which involved copious drinking and different kinds of regret, but only one of which gave the actor the chance to melodically slur “Monet, Manet, Picasso” and then, well, fart. I do think that Murphy, who has not won any Oscars, caught the wave, however, and will get the trophy for his singularly internal portrayal of an impossibly complex giant.

COYLE: As much as we’d all like to see a knock-down, drag-it-out fight between Murphy and Giamatti — two famously nice guys and much-admired character actors getting a leading-man moment — that tete-a-tete just never materialized. Murphy won at both the SAGs and the BAFTAs, and I think the “Oppenheimer” headwinds are just too strong for Giamatti to pull it off.

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

COYLE: This race has been a lock for months, making Randolph all but certain to cruise to her first Academy Award. Out of the three pitch-perfect performances in Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” (the others being Giamatti and newcomer Dominic Sessa), the sensitivity of Randolph’s grieving mother has made her an Oscar shoo-in.

This image released by Apple TV+ shows Lily Gladstone, left, and director Martin Scorsese on the set of “Killers of the Flower Moon.” (Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV+ via AP)

BAHR: Indeed, and let’s hope that whoever is reading the winner card gets the pronunciation of her name correctly (unlike some others this season). Psst…it’s DAY-Vine.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”; Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”; Robert Downey Jr. “Oppenheimer”; Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”; Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things.”

BAHR: It’s just going to be an “Oppenheimer” night and we can all assume that Robert Downey Jr. will be the one bounding up to the stage to accept. The last time he was nominated was in 2008, for “Tropic Thunder,” and his win will not just be for playing the vindictive Lewis Strauss but, kind of like Jamie Lee Curtis last year, an overdue acknowledgement of his lifetime in entertainment. Plus, he gives good speech and I’m sure he’s saving the best for last.

COYLE: Honestly, what a strong group of nominees. Downey will win his first Oscar, which no one would say he doesn’t deserve (though I would have handed it to him for “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”). De Niro, almost half a century after winning this award for a little movie called “The Godfather, Part II,” is back again, doing his best work in years. Brown, who gives “American Fiction” such a jolt, is as good as anyone working today. Ruffalo, great in everything, should someday soon get the “overdue Oscar” treatment Downey is receiving this year. And Gosling might be our best comic actor. He’s going to lose but only because his Ken is TOO good.

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

COYLE: : I feel like there’s someone missing here? Yes, this is the site of the most talked-about snub, for “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig. Gosling may still be shrieking in horror, but the hubbub has mostly subsided. (Still, Gerwig should have been nominated.) Either way, this is Nolan’s award, for sure. It will be his first directing Oscar, a belated coronation for one of Hollywood’s most respected auteurs. To see how seldom these chances can be, you need look no further than fellow-nominee Scorsese. He’s only won it once. (Cue Gosling shriek.)

BAHR: It’s such a great group, even so. And Nolan will surely be walking to the engraving station with this trophy in hand as well.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Nominees: “Bobi Wine: The People’s President”; “The Eternal Memory”; “Four Daughters”; “To Kill a Tiger”; “20 Days in Mariupol.”

BAHR: It’s a bit funny to talk about a film made by your colleagues, but it’s not hard when it’s something as great as Mstyslav Chernov’s “ 20 Days in Mariupol ” which is both an incredible documentary and the clear frontrunner in the category. It’s already won a BAFTA and a DGA. It missed the PGA to a film that wasn’t nominated for an Oscar (“American Symphony”). It is difficult to watch, but that’s the point: This is a film that bears witness to the horrible things you might want to look away from — urgent, timely and already an essential historical document of an atrocity that is ongoing.

COYLE: This awards season has been marked by the almost total absence of on-stage mention of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. The great exception to that is the sober reportage contained within “20 Days in Mariupol,” which harrowingly documents the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It should be noted, too, that this award a year ago went to “Navalny,” the intimate portrait of the recently deceased Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
Nominees: “Io Capitano,” Italy; “Perfect Days,” Japan; “Society of the Snow,” Spain; “The Teachers’ Lounge,” Germany; “The Zone of Interest,” United Kingdom.

COYLE: This is sure to go to “The Zone of Interest,” Jonathan Glazer’s chilling and formally masterful Holocaust drama. It’s a best-picture nominee, which speaks to the academy’s high regard for the movie. My favorite film of 2023 – the sublime Finnish film “Fallen Leaves,” which was shortlisted – would have been my pick, though. Or Wim Wenders’ radiant “Perfect Days,” easily the best film about a Tokyo toilet cleaner you’ll ever see.

BAHR: This is always the cruelest category, in which all of international cinema is whittled down to five nominees. Why not 10 here as well? And, you’re right, when an international film also gets a best picture nomination you can usually safely bet that it’ll win this award at the very least. But even an Oscar seems too small for something like Glazer’s triumph. To quote a friend: “’The Zone of Interest’ feels more like a museum piece than a work of entertainment.”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees: “The Boy and the Heron”; “Elemental”; “Nimona”; “Robot Dreams”; “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

BAHR: Unlike many years in the animated feature category, most of these films are richly deserving of the recognition. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse” is probably the favorite, but because the first one already won the prize I’m going with Hayao Miyazaki’s “ The Boy and the Heron.” Miyazaki does have two Oscars, a competitive one for “Spirited Away” and a honorary trophy from the academy’s Board of Governors. Still, whether this is his last film or not (he keeps teasing), it would be one of those can’t miss moments especially since he wasn’t there to accept the award for “Spirited Away” on the 2003 telecast (his way of protesting the Iraq War).

COYLE: This comes down to either “The Boy and the Heron” or “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” I love them both, but I’m going to go with the “Spider-Verse” sequel. It triumphed at the Annie Awards, a strong precursor, and blew the doors off what sequels usually stand for in Hollywood. The 2018 original also won this award, so a victory for “Across the Spider-Verse” would be the first time the first two movies in a franchise won best animated film.

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By LINDSEY BAHR and JAKE COYLE AP Film Writers

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