With the 2024 Academy Awards putting the 2023 calendar year under a microscope imminently, it’s time for Distortion Media to give its take on what should win each award, what should’ve been nominated for each award, and give an appreciation for each film that the Academy is assessing for Best Picture. With this, we’ll give a brief run through of each Best Picture nominee and where they’re streaming, while also doing a more direct overview of the other awards up for grabs. We’d also like to clarify that with the exception of Maestro, all of the Best Picture candidates are currently available in theaters. Without further adieu, let’s start with the award everybody’s looking forward to the most.

    2024 Academy Awards: Guide to Nominees, Favorites, and Snubs For Major Awards

    In a year dominated at the box office by the Barbenheimer spectacle, featured the biopic craze for at-home streaming releases, and carved out an avenue for more niche, macabre masterpieces such as Poor Things to lure in more people to the cinema. The action movies, notably films such as the latest installments of established franchises such as Indiana Jones, Mission Impossible, and John Wick felt as though they were cinematic events. Directors such as Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese added to their catalog with stories out of their element, such as a summer blockbuster based on the life of a physicist, or an FBI investigation of a murder sales man. Musicals captivated audiences as though we’d traveled back the 1960s, while Alex Payne delivered a love letter to the ’70s in a new holiday classic. To say that Hollywood had its most diverse selection of major films to choose from in 2023 is an understatement, as there was truly a movie-going opportunity for every taste. All of this is in-spite of a mid-to-late writers strike, the expansion of the streaming empire, and a loud minority of society vocally against the industry as a whole.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best Picture

    Past Lives focused on a man re-connecting with a childhood crush years later through the internet and traveling to Manhattan to meet her and her husband.

    Nominees: Oppenheimer (favorite), Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers, Poor Things, Barbie, Past Lives, American Fiction, Zone of Interest, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro.

    Oppenheimer: The odds on favorite to take home a majority of the awards this Oscar season is Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which is truly an outstanding achievement in film making. Making a JFK-style, three-hour biopic on a physicist ordinarily wouldn’t be a movie with such mass appeal that it accumulates over $1B at the box office. However, it feels as though this is the crown piece that Nolan’s been building to for 20 years. A tight and detailed script packs a punch with a deeper look into the lens of very broken and narcissistic characters, all in entirely different ways. The movie is more than just the making of a bomb at the heart of one the U.S. deepest military secrets, but an outlook and perspective on the people behind it. Very few films with such a focus on the technical aspect of awe-inspiring visuals and earth-shattering sounds compliment it with such a gripping narrative. The movie is perfectly paced despite the runtime asking quite a bit from the average person, and it never feels as though there’s a lull in the film. For those worried about re-watchability, don’t worry. For me, the first watch felt as though I was watching a master painter unleash onto his canvas, whereas the second watch presented even further detail that provoked some tangible thoughts within my mind. The standouts were Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr. in support, which we’ll get to, but Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, and a couple of other established actors all gave career performances. A true perfect storm in the making of a motion picture, and a true Best Picture in any era.
    Streaming: Peacock.

    Anatomy of a Fall: Justine Triet’s murder-mystery delivered a fascinating character study of a wife on trial that was brought to life through Sandra Huller’s acting brilliance. Huller’s spin on a clearly narcissistic and bitter wife on trial was not only compelling, it had cinephiles questioning whether or not the character murdered her husband throughout the entire trial. “Huller’s nuanced performance commands the viewers attention as the viewer is left to decipher whether the clearly manipulative and brilliant mystery writer is guilty or not, despite a strong alibi and incredible testimony,” I stated in a previous article for Distortion Media. “While the effects are visually stunning, the attention to detail is meticulous, and Justine Triet’s direction is shrewd, it’s what the film doesn’t give you that makes the film memorable.” Huller is up for Best Actress for the role, and theoretically could provide the upset of the year as a dark horse for her first Academy Award, despite stiff competition from Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter.
    Streaming on Hulu starting on March 22nd.

    The Holdovers: This is a film that felt like being under a blanket while sucking a candy cane near the fireplace. Its ’70s charm is evident the moment the custom Miramax logo makes its appearance before the film starts, yet Alex Payne knows throughout the entire film what he wants it to be. Is it a Best Picture winner? Probably not, seeing as it doesn’t do anything bold to change the Hollywood landscape. Yet, that doesn’t matter, because the Holdovers ended up being one of the most beloved films of the year. It’s charming, it’s funny, it finds the perfect juxtaposition between familiarity and brand new. The movie is exceptional, an immediate Christmas tradition. Da’Vine Randolph and Paul Giamatti shine alongside newcomer Dominic Sessa in Sessa’s film debut.
    Streaming: Peacock.

    Poor Things: Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2023 offering was among his weirdest in a filmography full of strange. Its weirdness possesses both charm and a sense of unease, leaving the audience with a questionable dichotomy that lasts in their memory upon exiting the theater. The film is Re-Animator meets The Odyssey. The film bursts with creativity with a color palette as original and imaginative as its script. With the highly energetic physical and emotional performances from Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, the film had a flair unlike expectation. The thing that stands out within the film, however, is how deeply the film explores its characters atrocities. While Ruffalo and Dafoe’s characters are both humorous and over the top in their own way, it’s evident that the film doesn’t hold back on its depictions on how awful they actually are, forcing a mood of discomfort the film needs for its message to come across to the extent it does.

    Barbie: It took me until the reveal of America Ferrera’s memories to truly comprehend the demographic of this movie, and I think that’s something that got a bit lost in translation in the marketing. However, I think the target demographic being who it was only aided Barbie in the story that it could tell. The joke to laugh ratio was impeccable, the heart of the story pumped throughout, its message strong, and Gosling and Robbie were charming. Even for a movie with a specific target demographic, there’s something to like for everybody. It also does a great job at making sure the moemnts where the film is meta doesn’t become overly campy, and its message within that doesn’t become overly pretentious. In most other years, this is likely a surefire Best Picture recipient.
    Streaming: MAX.

    Past Lives; Celine Song’s Past Lives fits right into cinema history as something timeless, almost as if it’s a spiritual successor to Brief Encounter, or the Before trilogy if Linklater had opted to not have Delpy and Hawke get together. Each generation has a subtle classic for die-hard moviegoers that reminds you of those people in your life that could have been the one if circumstances had been different, and then running into them later. Ships passing in the night is a universal human experience, so adding in elements of personal experience to shrewdly make the movie standout amidst its genre is a screenwriting masterclass. The beauty of Past Lives, however, is in the modern stance. The idea that it becomes easy to reconnect through social media, thus something we owe to ourselves, breathes fresh life into a tale as old as time, creating a new dichotomy between messages that conflate each other within the movie. It’s both great, yet at the same time, it’s impossible to find the same spark with the person you’ve idealized through a screen. It does a great job explaining the cultural meaning without fluffing out the film to do so through Song’s tremendous directorial chops in her debut, but the acting from Greta Lee, John Magaro, and Teo Yoo take it to the next level.
    Streaming: Paramout+ and Showtime.

    American Fiction: Jeff Wright’s in similar vein of Cillian Murphy and Paul Giamatti, as an actor who’s had a strong career in support and just needed his break as a leading man. With a strong ensemble cast that also included Sterling K. Brown, Leslie Uggams, and Issa Rae giving career performances, American Fiction took the late-period of Academy deadline by storm with its self-awareness and fresh take on many glaring societal conundrums in terms of representation within media. It has unapologetic character, a strong message, and sharp wit. The sense of seriousness that Wright brings to the role only enhances the humor found in the surrounding characters.
    American Fiction is not currently streaming, but can be rented VOD.

    Killers of the Flower Moon: You can’t have a Best Picture race without Martin Scorsese’s fingerprints all over the race. His latest is a departure from his normal style, but compliments the rest of his catalogue just fine. As America’s most beloved auteur looks to tell new stories in a modern world, he shares the stories of the Osage murders and its investigation. The cast is what really shines in Killers, however, more than the direction. It’s also clear that Scorsese was moved by the source material with how he portrayed the screen adaptation.
    Streaming: Apple TV.

    Zone of Interest: It’s hard to do something new in films about the Holocaust, yet Jonathan Glazer found a fascinating story to tell that haunts its audience. Glazer’s portrayal of the events surrounds somebody who works under Hitler as just another person working within the Nazi regime. Nothing overly exciting ensues because there’s nothing to be excited about in an event as disgusting as Germany in World War II. Simply showing the actions of the workers allows the evil to truly fester on screen, striking a nasty chord.

    Maestro: I hate to be yet another person to write home about how this doesn’t belong, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. Bradley Cooper’s weird method acting and his even more peculiar press tour made this seem even more like an Oscar-fodder vanity project than it already was, but the film is fairly straightforward and trite. There’s a zero percent chance this wins. For a Leonard Bernstein biopic, it’s incredible that I still know the exact same amount about Leonard Bernstein as I did before I pressed play on Maestro, which is about as scathing an indictment one can give. Carey Mulligan is sensational as always, however.

    Thoughts: If you haven’t already figured it out, the order of the list is how I’d rank the films up for Best Picture. Oppenheimer, Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers, Poor Things, and Barbie are all Best Picture worthy candidates. Past Lives and American Fiction are strong candidates. Killers, Zone, and Maestro are the movies I wouldn’t personally nominate.

    For Killers, I feel as though there’s too much exposition that could’ve been left at the drawing board. That’s usually something I don’t normally take out of a Scorsese picture, yet the pacing on it made it feel as long as its runtime. Not to mention, the half-hour period in the third act where DiCaprio’s character gets arrested and testifies only amplifies the lack of tension felt throughout. For Zone, I feel as though the film could have benefitted from being even bolder in its approach, as the one note plotline creates moments of monotony. For Maestro, well, that’s been covered.

    With that being said, I try not to take away films without discussing what I’d replace them with. While A24 certainly did a tremendous job promoting Past Lives and Zone in their Oscar submission process, the lack of any award movement for The Iron Claw is a bit disappointing. A few timeline descrepancies aside, the story that they told through the perspective of Kevin Von Erich was extraordinarily moving. In a film diving into the complexities of grief, fatherhood, brotherhood, life, pressure, and suicide, the movie did a wonderful job at still maintaining how captivating the Von Erich’s are. With the success of the film, I also hope for more professional wrestling biopics as pro wrestling is inherently theater, and the performing arts aspects create the feeling of a live movie. I’d replace Maestro with May December as the Netflix nominee, though I think Netflix had a far stronger submission push for Maestro. The film I’m surprised wasn’t nominated for anything is Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, which seemed to have Academy Awards written all over it. It wouldn’t be the strongest of the nominees, but it has everything the Academy looks for and is a lot of fun to boot.

    At the end of the day, though, the nominees don’t matter too much. Oppenheimer has the buzz, the box office drawing power, the cultural impact, the fresh story, and the incredible technical prowess that the Academy looks for. Any other picture winning would be amongst the biggest surprises in Oscar history.

    Projected Winner: Oppenheimer.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best Actor

    Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham in The Holdovers.

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

    With the exception of Bradley Cooper for Maestro, whose odd press tour for the nomination has overshadowed his performance, the Best Actor running is a field full of career thespians who have waited for leading roles up to this point. Paul Giamatti and Cillain Murphy are the front runners after the directors of their pictures specifically wrote the movie with them in mind, having previously worked with them extensively.

    Giamatti’s Paul Hunham is as bitter and complicated as he finds the world. But as the by-the-book and harsh Hunham mellows out over the holiday, he learns about the world, friendship, and life. However, the strict character portrayed by Giamatti is only redeemable because of the level of both sophistication and comedic element that Giamatti brings to the role with how his vocal variety matches his physical intensity. On the contrary, Murphy’s J. Robert Oppenheimer provides just as physical and emotional a performance in a more subtle manner as the laid back physicist is brought to level through the mannerisms of Murphy. Murphy delves through one of the more complicated men in history, showing both pride and regret in a way that commands the attention of the viewer. In a race that’s gone back-and-forth this award season, it seems to be between these two industry veterans vying for their first Academy Award honor. It’s essentially between what the Academy values more: a biopic of a character that’s laid out for Murphy, or a blank canvas that Giamatti painted. On the surface, it’s debatable that it’s exceedingly more difficult to create your own character when another actor has their role laid out for them. However, the more-nuanced look is to realize that Murphy had to bring justice to a real-life, tangible person that’s not at all who he is while Giamatti had the freedom to put himself into the character’s shoes. Regardless, both actors are more than deserving of celebration.

    The dark horse for the award is Colman Domingo of Rustin. A surprise nominee for the award, Domingo’s gentle vulnerability explodes off the screen while adding an element to Bayard Rustin worthy of role of one of America’s finest activists. Domingo’s charisma carried an otherwise by-the-numbers biopic. This isn’t to say that Jeffrey Wright or wouldn’t be a worthy Oscar winner, but the other three were on a different level in 2023. As for Bradley Cooper, his overacting to a mediocre script he wrote for himself provided what felt like an inauthentic and insincere satirical distortion of a man he was supposed to be honoring in his role. The glamor of his movie and direction took over for an Oscar committee that likely is trying to make up for the A Star Is Born defeat.

    Thoughts: I’d probably take out Wright and Cooper. I think Zach Efro As fon is too glaring an omission for anybody who saw his portrayal of Kevin Von Erich. His conscientious effort to not only get into ’80s wrestling shape, but look like a seasoned veteran is a testament to how serious he took his role. Beyond what was by far the most physically daunting leading role of 2023, Efron evoked emotion better than he had ever done previously. His emotional roller coaster is vital to the film material having full effect, and this is probably my most unfortunate snub of award season. I’m not sure I’d have him win if he were up for it, but he deserved a shout. Other snubs include Michael Jordan for his stellar reprisal of Adonis Creed in Creed III, Ryunosuke Kamiki in Godzilla Minus One, Christian Friedel in The Zone of Interest.

    Projected Winner: Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, with a strong push from Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best Actress

    Emma Stone is Bella Baxter in Poor Things.

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

    Emma Stone gave her most immersive and brave performance yet as Bella Baxter in Lanthimos’ Poor Things. With the Golden Globe and BAFTA already secured this award season, Stone enters the race as the odds on favorite to take home her second Academy Award, having previously won in 2017 for La La Land. There’s a tightrope of delicacy that Stone had to balance with such a complex, nuanced, and dangerously flawed character of a re-animated woman searching for liberation under chaotic circumstances. The way that Stone carries herself physically throughout as her characters brain rapidly develops is as if she morphs through five different character phases in a short span, portraying many different characters as one character. Her believability in such an unbelievable role makes her performance as Baxter arguably the best piece of acting of the decade thus far.

    Her primary competition this award season, though, did edge out Stone for the SAG award. Lily Gladstone of Killers of the Flower Moon fame has a contingency in the Oscar running. Her subtle performance as Mollie carried the Best Picture nominee. There’s a dichotomy in the way that she balances serenity and fortitude as the character battles real hardship throughout the film.

    My issue with going against Emma Stone here, while I do think Stone had a more fleshed out character that required more substance, is that Emma Stone is actually the lead actress. This isn’t to take away from how good Gladstone was in her role, but it was unquestionably a supporting role. Gladstone is on the screen for 27.29% of the movie. That’s not a supporting role, and there’s been on-going debate this Oscar season about whether or not Ryan Gosling was co-lead in Barbie. However, the argument against Gosling is that he was only on-screen for less than 30% of the movie, even if the story hinges on Ken’s story arc. Gosling’s share of screen time doesn’t constitute a leading role, nor does Gladstone in Killers, especially as the focus is on Leonardo DiCaprio. This is moreso a major flaw in the submission process of the Academy, one of a couple that’ll come up in this article, but Gladstone’s role shouldn’t necessarily be eligible for Best Actress when she isn’t even in two thirds of the film and isn’t even one of the top two names on the billing.

    Thoughts: The other dark horse candidate for the award is Sandra Huller, as mentioned in Anatomy’s brief overview during the Best Picture synopsis. However, Annette Bening’s role in Nyad was a strong performance that had been understated before the Academy Award nomination. The American Beauty alum has been up for Academy Awards five times now and has yet to win, but it doesn’t seem likely that she’s taking it home. Carey Mulligan was excellent as co-lead in Maestro, but I don’t feel as though it’s Oscar worthy. Natalie Portman for May December, Fantasia Barrino for The Color Purple, Leonie Benesch for The Teacher’s Lounge, and Greta Lee in Past Lives all gave more memorable, standout leading performances in more daunting roles. Of course, one can’t go without mentioning such an egregious Margot Robbie snub for giving a career performance as Barbie while also being the most recognizable actress on the planet. My pick is Emma Stone, but Huller or Gladstone wouldn’t exactly be stunning.

    Projected Winner: Emma Stone as Bella Baxter.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor

    Ryan Gosling is in search of his first Oscar for the role of Ken in Barbie.

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

    A race of with three leading men trying to win their first Oscar against one of the most celebrated Oscar winners of all-time, the Best Supporting Actor is likely to be awarded to either Ryan Gosling, Mark Ruffalo, or Robert Downey Jr., with Downey as the primary frontrunner.

    Ken’s character as a narcissist that wrestles with reality is a fascinating character study because he doesn’t start out that way, nor does he end that way, and as he finds his own purpose he becomes a flawed character that does some problematic things, but isn’t inherently irredeemable. All of this works as well as it does because of a potent performance from Ryan Gosling, one of Hollywood’s most-beloved superstars looking for his first Oscar win in his third nomination. “You’re on your own,” Gosling has said about the role. “This is the hardest part I’ll ever play. How do you play a 70-year-old crotchless doll? There’s no research you can do for that, nobody you can shadow, no documents you can watch, no books written about Ken.” When reflecting upon the Best Actor nominees, I credited Murphy for being able to play somebody else and understand their mannerisms, while I credited Giamatti for being able to mold a character to himself. The frontrunners, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, were able to do the same thing in their roles. The weirdest juxtaposition for a performance in 2023 has to be Gosling’s performance because he couldn’t do either of those things. Gosling couldn’t play Ryan Gosling, he had to play Ken, and within Ken, he had understand a character that’s never been shown to anybody in a way that’s respectful of the intellectual property it’s based on. Gosling, whose range as a performer has never been put into question, had yet another movie-stealing part because of the work he put in. His performance is both horizontal and vertical, it’s emotional, it’s funny, it’s a presentation of humanity in a non-human role. Downey Jr. probably did a better job at conveying the desecration of a fragile man’s ego, while Ruffalo probably did a better job at playing an over-the-top, colorfully charming narcissist, but Gosling excelled at both while creating the most memorable musical number in the year of the musical revival. Is the award Gosling’s for the taking? No. But perhaps it should be.

    Alas, it’ll most likely be Downey Jr.’s time to shine. It’s been 31 years and a hard road to the Oscar since Downey’s first nomination for Chaplin in 1993. Yet, as Hollywood’s most reliable and persevering leading man, one could make the case he’s Hollywood’s ‘iron man.’ A selection here would be just as much a celebration of an incredible and unlikely career as it is a celebration of his portrayal of Lewis Strauss, in which he flips a switch in the third act of Oppenheimer in an explosive way. The moment Strauss knows he’s dead in the water, the stark (no Ironman pun intended this time) disposition change explores the psychological torture of Strauss, enrapturing audiences in what’s probably the standout scene of 2023 cinema. For a man who has gotten comfortable in heroics, his departure to pure evil laying beneath the surface was a true treat, and enough so to make him a clear Academy winner.

    The most likely to upset Downey Jr. is Ruffalo, as his Poor Things role adds vibrancy to his treachery. Ruffalo himself has characterized the role as “a refined vaudevillian,” adding an over-the-top artistic flare to his script. The character begins as a completely unremarkable person and finishes as insane and detestable as can be. That being said, Ruffalo makes you hang onto every word on the journey of the change. In a peculiar turn of events, Ruffalo’s undeniable charm provided comfort as his character made you uncomfortable. In his first act of his career he was the second-billing of a romcom typecast, in the second act of his career he was the background role in a cultural phenomenon, and now in his third act, he’s begun an era where he can transform into anything put in front of him. Ruffalo’s acting chops were solidified with Poor Things, and he may get rewarded for such.

    All five Best Supporting Actor nominees come from Best Picture movies. While Robert DeNiro is up for his eighth Oscar try as an actor (nine overall), it’s the least likely he’s ever been to take one home. Sterling K. Brown from American Fiction also doesn’t stand much of a chance, but as a journeyman actor that primarily works in television, Brown’s fragile portrayal of the insecure Clifford Ellison was one of the most fun spots of 2023.

    Thoughts: This is a three person race between Downey Jr., Gosling, and Ruffalo, while Brown is more than worthy a selection. DeNiro’s is probably more reputation driven than anything else. Notable snubs who would’ve been strong replacements include Jeremy Allan White for his role of Kerry Von Erich, Dave Bautista in Knock at the Cabin, and Willem Dafoe in Poor Things. Charles Melton is ultimately the biggest snub, as his haunting portrayal of a man who gave his youth to support his abuser in May December left critics and audiences in awe during his breakthrough movie.

    Projected Winner: Robert Downey Jr., just beating out competition from Ryan Gosling and Mark Ruffalo.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress

    Da’Vine Joy Randolph in the Holdovers.

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

    As I left the theater from Oppenheimer, I particularly remember thinking to myself “Emily Blunt finally has her Oscar.” She did…until Da’Vine Joy Randolph worked her magic over the holidays in The Holdovers. This is nothing against Blunt’s awesome performance as a bitter and vindictive wife who still carries herself with poise and class, but Randolph’s outing as a grieving mother throwing herself into her work to keep herself from moving on evoked as much pathos as any acting performance I’ve ever seen. There’s a deepness entrenched in Randolph’s performance that’s unmatched in the 2023 field. The innate power within her performance choices carried the rest of the film, even as Giamatti and Dominic Sessa stood out alongside of her. The Mary Lamb had to do the hardest thing that any person has to do: move on after the loss of a child, and every step of the way the audience felt as if they were going through the process right beside Mary. That, my friends, is the power of the performance as Randolph jumped off the screen.

    That’s a hard pill to swallow for Blunt’s career performance, another on a long-list of scintillating Jodie Foster cuts, Danielle Brooks moving performance in the remake of the Color Purple, or America Ferrera’s biggest motion picture to date. All three, especially Ferrera due to an excellent and meaningful monologue, gave their all in performances that enhanced movies beyond their ceiling.

    Thoughts: Not to sound like a broken record, but the biggest snub is the Iron Claw’s Maura Tierney. The role was a bit understated, but the way Tierney pulled herself together for the first funeral compared to the way she couldn’t bear it at the final funeral was certainly a choice that worked impeccably. Be that is it may, I’m not quite sure if I’d replace any of the nominees or that Tierney would even be one of the stronger nominees if I were to do so. This award is pretty straightforward.

    Projected Winner: Da’Vine Joy Randolph in a landslide.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best International Feature

    A still from The Teacher’s Lounge, Germany’s submission for the award.

    Nominees: The Teachers Lounge, The Zone of Interest, Society in the Snow, Io Capitano, Perfect Days.

    Approximately a month ago, I broke down the archaic submission process for this award, explaining how an international feature can be up for Best Picture, but not Best International Feature. With Anatomy of a Fall’s glaring omission being the primary story of the award, you can read my full thoughts on it here.

    With that out of the way, Leonie Benesch’s performance in The Teachers Lounge made it, in my opinion, the strongest of the international features up for the award. Her rivetting portrayal as Carla Nowak sparked just enough conflict to make a two hour film with social commentary on the modern school system a can’t miss movie experience. A movie that explores the hardships of being a parent of a student, a teacher in the system, and the student itself, it’s one with a strong message that ponders thought while providing an entertainment value above most movies with shrewd direction and a terrific cast.

    However, with The Zone of Interest being the only nominated film for this award up for Best Picture, the winner is a bit telegraphed. Zone is a worthy winner, though, as Jonathan Glazer not only had a technical vision carried out to perfection, but managed to tell weave a story about the pure evil of the Holocaust in ways that hadn’t been previously done.

    The other nominees such as Society in the Snow and Io Capitano struggled to gain traction despite strong critic scores due to poor distribution. As Io Capitano’s limited theatrical release came toward the end of the Oscar period and Society in the Snow was hidden buried on a top heavy streaming platform, they never quite got off the ground with the cinephile community. Wim Wenders Perfect Days, however, hasn’t exactly had those issues. The minimalists utopia has a loud demographic vying for Japanese’s victory.

    Thoughts: The biggest snub here is The Taste of Things, as it was the biggest snub amidst the submitted films. A hardcore food porn film finding heart and a strong story? Rare. However, one can’t help but lament the exclusion of a Best Picture nominee or Godzilla Minus One, the latter of which was likely the best blockbuster produced in Japan in a very long time. Other interesting foreign films to check out despite missing out on the nomination include Afire, The Boy and the Heron, and The Abyss.

    Projected Winner: The Zone of Interest.

    2024 Academy Awards: Best Animated Feature

    Robot Dreams.

    Nominees: Robot Dreams, Across the Spider-verse, The Boy and the Heron, Nimona, Elemental.

    The one major category without a frontrunner, Best Animated Feature is somehow a toss-up between four films in what was a strong year for animation. Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams, Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, Sony’s Across The Spider-Verse and PIXAR’s Elemental were all visually stunning with heartfelt stories.

    Robot Dreams finds its strength in its surrealism, as the lack of dialogue never feels as though it doesn’t engage the viewer or become a hindrance to the story being conveyed. As I said in a previous review of the flick, “…the story is surprisingly poignant. The ending is something that’ll likely stick with me and provoke a ton of thought, but it’s a great perspective on those friendships that your life revolves around at one phase in your life that eventually evaporates leaving bittersweet memories.” It’s a fun period piece that tugs on its heart strings, but the 2-D animation being as vibrant a palette as it is, its accuracy to ’80s Manhattan as a backdrop, and the sound quality is among the best of the year.

    Across the Spider-verse took visual animation to another level though, bursting to the brim into the imagination of folks in cinemas everywhere. The sheer volume of dream-like sequences from a plethora of different artists is unfathomable, but the ability to weave so many people’s vision into a coherent story is a filmmaking accomplishment. Its story was relatively easy to follow compared to most intricate multiverse films while also not sacrificing quality. The voice acting was up-to-par with many households names. This absolutely warranted be a strong contender for the award.

    The Boy and the Heron is the third picture of the big three. The film is as Miyazaki as Miyazaki can get, as the backward thinking of life ponders its thoughts on griefs. The ruminative story is only amplified by a provocative score, vivid color scheme, and remarkable symbolism. It isn’t one of Miyazaki’s best pictures, but even Miyazaki’s worst is better than most filmmakers best.

    Nimona and Elemental both have outside shots. Both movies provided great messages with strong animations. Nimona’s heartfelt story normalizes a lot of representation by acting like there isn’t anything to normalize, finding a crucial key in modern media relations. Elemental’s unique look at elements does a tremendous job at teaching children about the world and its natural condition as a backdrop to a fun romance, providing natural conflict due to chemistry.

    Thoughts: I honestly could see any of the five taking it because of the lack of mainstream support for any singular film within the context of an award race. That being said, Spider-verse being a societal happening gives it a huge edge over other films, especially since arguably the best movie being Robot Dreams has yet to be theatrically released stateside.

    Projected Winner: Across The Spider-verse.

    Other 2024 Academy Awards:

    Cillian Murphy with Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan.

    With the other awards, most will be dominated by the Best Picture films. primarily Oppenheimer. After a long and distinguished career that includes blockbusters the caliber of Inception, Interstellar, The Dark Knight trilogy, and Memento, Christopher Nolan seems to have finally locked in his Oscar. Part of what’s so strong about Oppenheimer is its production value, which also seemingly locks in sound design, production design, and cinematogaphy. Oppenheimer is truly his magnum opus spectacle.

    But with Killers on the outside looking in among films with ample nominees relative to winners, I’d expect Killers to win for the score. Barbie likely brings home the Academy Award for best original song, though which song it brings it home for remains to be seen. With Gosling performing “I’m Just Ken,” I’d look at Billie Eilish to get the seal of approval. Best Visual Effects seems to be between Godzilla Minus One and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning.

    How To Watch The 2024 Academy Awards

    The Oscars are set to air at 7 EST Sunday night on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel is set to host yet again, while presenters include many former Academy winners such as Tim Robbins (2004 Best Supporting Actor, Mystic River), Steven Spielberg (1994 and 1999 Best Director, Schindlers List and Saving Private Ryan), Jessica Lange (1982 Best Supporting Actress, Tootsie, 1994 Best Actress, Blue Sky), Rita Moreno (1961 Best Supporting Actress, West Side Story), and many more.

    • Our final predictions among feature films:
      • Best Picture: Oppenheimer.
      • Best Actor: Cillian Murphy.
      • Best Actress: Emma Stone.
      • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Robert Downey Jr.
      • Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Da’Vine Joy Randolph.
      • Best Director: Christopher Nolan.
      • Best International Feature: The Zone of Interest.
      • Best Animated Feature: Across the Spider-verse.
      • Best Original Song: “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish.
      • Best Makeup: Poor Things.
      • Best Original Score: Killers of the Flower Moon.
      • Best Sound Design: Oppenheimer.
      • Best Visual Effects: Godzilla Minus One.
      • Best Costume Design: Barbie.
      • Best Film Editing: Oppenheimer.
      • Best Production Design: Oppenheimer.
      • Best Original Screenplay: Anatomy of a Fall.
      • Best Adapted Screenplay: Oppenheimer.

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