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Oscars ’24 Predictions: Who Will (And Should) Win?

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Staff Writer Anwesh Banerjee, predicts the winners for the 2024 Oscars from a pool of nominees that promise to give one of the most compelling editions of the award ceremony in recent years.

Excitement and spirits are at an all-time high as cinephiles and awards-race fanatics prepare themselves for what promises to be one of the most rewarding Academy Award ceremonies in recent years. Despite being postponed in the wake of the SWG and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which pushed the entire American film industry into a temporary shut-down with A-list celebrities taking to the picket lines, the 96th Academy Awards has all the ingredients to be one of the best editions of the award ceremony, in its almost century-long history. 

While the announcement of Jimmy Kimmel returning as host was met with a collective global groan, the Academy has managed to boost spectator spirits after announcing the return of a much-loved nominee introduction format — last seen in the 82nd Academy Awards. With an entire slate of exciting past acting winners scheduled to introduce this year’s acting nominees, followed with the promise of a live performance of “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling (who is nominated for Best Original Song and Supporting Actor), this year’s ceremony finally looks like the Academy’s comeback — in terms of justifying it’s three hour plus run-time in a world that is increasingly opting for streaming services as opposed to live television broadcasting. But beyond the promise of what looks like a pretty promising show, there’s also the excitement of potential wins. 

The Best Actress category, despite obvious snubs (cough cough, Margot Robbie), is one of the strongest categories seen in recent years, with every nominee deserving of a win for their own unique reasons. There is the possibility of an auteur like Christopher Nolan, finally being awarded for his decades of directorial brilliance and mainstream actors like Robert Downey Jr. finally proving their mettle as serious character actors. While last-minute predictions abound on social media polls, there is also the anticipation of acceptance speeches which are expected to address a wide range of issues – from the SAG-AFTRA strike to the war in Gaza to long-overdue artistic recognitions (here’s looking at you Nolan) to historic wins (just give Gladstone the Oscar). 

As we brace ourselves for the event this Sunday, here’s a final rundown of the potential winners for the most contested categories at this year’s ceremony – along with a few Roar favourites for every category as well! 

Best Picture 
Most Likely to Win: Oppenheimer
Should Win: Zone of Interest 
Roar Pick: Past Lives 

With Golden Globe, Critics Choice and BAFTA award for Best Picture, along with a PGA and SAG-AFTRA win for Best Drama Ensemble, Christopher Nolan’s latest magnum opus is all set to nab the biggest award of the night. With its stunning cinematography, parallel narrative strands and complexly delivered performances, Oppenheimer has all the qualities of an ideal Best Picture winner. Its nuanced delivery of the tortured life of the Father of the Atomic Bomb also assumes special relevance in today’s global political climate. But if relevance alone was a criteria to go by then Jonathan Glazer’s definitive masterpiece Zone Of Interest, which began the year with a whopping Grand Prix win at the Cannes Film Festival, is the only pick to go ahead with. With a sound design that needs to be studied critically in film schools across the globe and a cinematography that is as chilling as it is a gutting, this absurdly quiet, stone-cold drama needs to be awarded for its magnificent dissection of public apathy and complicity to one of the greatest genocides in the history of mankind.

The political and technical brilliance of both Nolan and Glazer’s work notwithstanding and the possibility of a surprise win from Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall not completely ruled out, our pick for this category most definitely is Celine Song’s debut feature Past Lives. Featuring a stunning, and eventually shattering performance by Greta Lee, this film since its runaway success at Sundance early last year, has been canonised for its universally resonant tale of belonging and lost love in a world so fraught with tension that it barely has time for smaller things like love and forgiveness. Irrespective of the Academy’s verdict this Sunday, Song’s Past Lives is sure to go down in history as one of the most crushing meditations on modern day love. 

Best Director 
Most Likely to Win: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer  
Should Win: Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall 
Roar Pick: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer  

The Academy has a notorious history of overlooking competent female directors across its century long history. With Kathryn Bigelow being crowned as the first woman to take home this honour way back in 2009, this category has since then only managed to award two female auteurs – Chloe Zhao for her lyrical Nomadland (2020)and Jane Campion for her blistering takedown of masculinity in The Power of The Dog (2021). While much is left to be desired from the voters of this category (fan favourites like Sofia Coppola and Greta Gerwig still await their win sadly) Justine Triet has rightfully been nominated this year for the sheer stone-cold brilliance she brings to her narration of a tale as emotionally violent as Anatomy of a Fall.

But while her brilliance remains undeniable, this year finally seems to be the one where Christopher Nolan takes home his Oscar statuette. Sweeping every award this season, Nolan’s mastery over the craft has been repeatedly proved through a wide array of films that include masterpieces like Inception (2010) and Dunkirk (2017). Even though he is up against giants like Scorcese and mavericks like Lanthimos and Glazer, Nolan’s win in this category will be a long overdue recognition of decades-long artistic brilliance. 

Best Actor 
Most Likely to Win: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer 
Should Win: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer 
Roar Pick: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer 

With blue eyes that look like a bottomless ghostly void and a lanky build that only seems to add to his character’s transition from prodigal scientist to tortured creator, Cillian Murphy’s performance is a career-best turn that most actors can only dream of. Although he is up against stalwarts like the absolutely delightful Paul Giamatti – who has won the Critic’s Choice and Golden Globe for his heart-warming performance in The Holdovers – Murphy’s win in this category seems like a foregone conclusion and any upset in this category is going to bring an immense amount of criticism the Academy’s way. 

Best Actress 
Most Likely to Win: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon
Should Win: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon 
Roar Pick: Emma Stone, Poor Things  

If I was in charge of running the show, I would make sure that this was the last category that was announced at this year’s ceremony. The Academy made the grave mistake of trying out a similar format in 2021, when it announced the Best Actor award last in its cabaret-like ceremony. While most anticipated Chadwick Boseman to win the award posthumously for his performance in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), the award eventually went to Anthony Hopkins for his career-best, heart-shattering performance in Florian Zeller’s The Father (2020). Hopkins, who wasn’t even present at the ceremony owing to Covid restrictions was unable to deliver an acceptance speech leading to the ceremony ending on a deeply underwhelming note. But this year things are different.

Easily the meatiest and toughest band of nominations that this category has seen in years, this year’s Best Actress race is a super close call between Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone. If Lily wins, which she most likely will, she will become the first woman of Native American origin to win this award, making for a historic decision on the part of the Academy, opening the door for cultural possibilities, and setting the stage for what promises to be one of the most iconic acceptance speeches of the ceremony. If Stone (our personal pick for the sheer tightrope she toes in a performance that could have easily veered into the territory of caricature) by a close margin beats Gladstone to the game, she will be bagging her second acting statuette (previously having won in the same category for her phenomenal performance in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land).

And while it is extremely difficult to choose between either of these two power-house, career defining performances, one must also take cognisance of the other nominees in this category. From Anette Bening’s fifth nomination and physically demanding and emotionally grounded turn in Nyad to Carey Mulligan’s devastating turn in Maestro to Sandra Huller’s deliciously ambiguous performance in Anatomy of a Fall – this year the Academy should ideally dole out five Best Actress awards. For the sheer force of artistic brilliance that the women in this category have brought to their roles – which will definitely go down in history as some of the best in cinematic history. 

Best Supporting Actor 
Most Likely to Win: Robert Downey Jr. , Oppenheimer 
Should Win: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer 
Roar Pick: Charles Melton, May December 

Robert Downey Jr. in Nolan’s Oppenheimer will go down in history as one of the finest enactments of evil on celluloid. With a finely calibrated performance that reveals its truest intentions in the final act of the film, Downey Jr. makes you buy his lie – and for the most part of the film, you believe him. As someone who has spent decades headlining one of cinema’s biggest franchises, it is time cinephiles across the world woke up to this man’s craft as a performer. And while undoubtedly this is his year our pick for this category is most definitely Charles Melton’s grossly overlooked and blasphemously snubbed performance in May December. An early career role of this immense complexity and darkness is hard to chance upon, and Melton is thrillingly convincing in his portrayal of a man broken by years of living a lie – while holding his own screen space against giants like Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. We wish only more people had seen Todd Haynes’ pitch-black comedy to appreciate the brilliance of a performance this raw, earnest and vulnerable. 

Best Supporting Actress
Most Likely to Win: Da’Vine Joy Rudolph, The Holdovers   
Should Win: Da’Vine Joy Rudolph, The Holdovers   
Roar Pick: Da’Vine Joy Rudolph, The Holdovers   

Da’Vine Joy Rudolph in Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. That’s it. That’s all from our end. 

(In case you need more convincing: she is pretty much the beating heart of this comedy drama and her portrayal of raw, unprocessed grief is one that needs to be studied and awarded for years to come)

Best Original Screenplay
Most Likely to Win: Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari  
Should Win: Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari  
Roar Pick: Past Lives, Celine Song 

Altars need to be built, churches need to be erected and elaborate rituals need to be performed around Justine Triet and Arthur Harrari’s screenplay. From an opening sequence that is the stuff of sheer cinematic brilliance (don’t even get us started on the film’s use of digetic and non-digetic sound) to its never-wordy yet deeply gritty portrayal of a marriage long over – this screenplay is the real driving force behind the lingering impact of the film.

But knowing the Academy’s tendency to split awards between its strongest contenders, in the very likely event of Anatomy of a Fall bagging a surprise Best Picture win over Oppenheimer, the Academy might choose to vote for the screenplay of Past Lives in this category. The indie sensation of the year, Celine Song’s film never falls into its generic trappings. Instead of wordy monologues that continue for pages, Song’s screenplay lends a beautiful lyricism to the core narrative, which only serves to further elevate the film and increase its lasting impact upon the audience. And for that, in any other year, this award would have surely gone to Song. 

Best Adapted Screenplay 
Most Likely to Win: American Fiction, Cord Jefferson 
Should Win: Barbie, Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach  
Roar Pick: Barbie, Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach  

Percival Everett famously said that the only reason behind his green-lighting of American Fiction, which is based on his novel Erasure, was because of Cord Jefferson’s screenplay which Everett claimed got the core idea of compexly structured and layered novel. Jefferson’s screenplay most definitely does a brilliant job of adapting its source material and rendering it into an equal parts moving and biting satire of the publishing sector in America and has been the awards season favourite in this category so far. But despite its many, many narrative flaws, if one was to truly award writers for the sheer leap of faith their imagination can take, then this award is Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s for the taking. Their two and a half hour long rip-roaring, yet deeply moving tale of a doll that has captured human imagination for close to a century now is flawed but nothing short of ambitiously imaginative. And in a world where writing choices are increasingly informed by algorithmic insights, such a bold creative output needs to be recognised institutionally. 

What do you think of our predictions? Do you agree with us? Write to us, and let us know! 

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