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  • Pierce Budnyj

Oscar Predictions - 2024 (Part 1)

It’s that time of year, again - the Oscars! Admittedly, these days, no one seems to care enormously about the ceremony, aside from cinema-obsessed individuals (myself included) and the industry itself. However, that isn’t going to stop me from writing this article.

For the purposes of brevity, we shall only be focusing on the so-called ‘Big Eight’ categories - Best Picture, Best Director, the four acting categories and the two screenplay categories. The reason for this is that there hasn’t been a film that has won Best Picture without winning at least one of the other Big Eight since the 1940s. Most of the time, a film will win two of the Big Eight before going on to win Best Picture. This tends to be, in recent years, a combination of winning one of the screenplay awards or Best Director and one of the acting categories. Examples of this include 2021’s ‘CODA’ and 2016’s ‘Moonlight’ winning Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, and 2020’s ‘Nomadland’ winning Best Director and Best Actress. There are some exceptions to this rule of two, with 2015’s ‘Spotlight’ only winning Best Original Screenplay and 2017’s ‘The Shape Of Water’ only winning Best Director, although, in fairness, the latter won many below-the-line technical awards. There are even some examples of films only winning Best Picture with only one acting win, out of the Big Eight categories. These include ‘Gladiator’, which only won for Best Actor, and ‘Chicago’, which only won Best Supporting Actress - but those are over two decades ago, had many tech nominations alongside them, were in a completely different era of filmmaking, especially in terms of the star-system, and are unlikely to reoccur. It is even possible for a film to sweep over half of the Big Eight categories, as ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ achieved last year, winning six of the eight - all of those it was eligible for.

Therefore, rest assured that whatever wins Best Picture is likely to probably win at least one of the other categories.

I ought, also, to mention that I, unfortunately, have been rather tardy and am still yet to see many of these films. I somehow (and, perhaps, luckily) missed out on the Barbenheimer craze of the summer. In many ways, I actually prefer watching these movies at home and, if I can, out of the context of the Oscars so that I can appraise them as products of quality, rather than something designed to win an award. I do believe that my lack of watching a majority of these films shall make this far less biased.

I will also be splitting this up into four separate parts - inserting addendums at the start of some of these, in case my predictions alter in any way. The first part of these cover the supporting acting categories, the second part covers the two screenplay categories, the third part covers the lead acting categories and the fourth part will cover Best Picture and Best Director.

So, without further ado…

Best Supporting Actress

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

If you are even remotely following the Awards race, then you will already know that this award is Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s for the taking and it isn’t even close.

Randolph swept the critics’ awards circuit, winning nearly every single one she could, and has now gone on to win at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice and the BAFTAs. All of this is very surprising, given that Randolph was unknown to most audiences (and, realistically, still is to people who aren’t watching every movie that comes out), but I think it could be argued. This is also the category that critics and other organisations have thought to reward Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’, which has been nominated in several other categories at most of these establishments.

Of course, I have always thought that Randolph’s career had the potential to have an awards-worthy trajectory after her scene-stealing turn in 2019’s underseen ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ - and I was happy to see that she is being rewarded for her clear talents.

As for the other nominations: is a lack of quality why this race is, basically, already won?

Very probably.

Interestingly, at the critics’ awards, the actress with the second-most wins (still only six, compared to Randolph’s fifty-three) is the non-nominated Rachel McAdams for ‘Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.’ - a film which hasn’t had its critics’ circle success translate into the televised awards circuit.

Another performance that seemed quite close to getting in is from a film that I actually have seen - Julianne Moore in ‘May December’. Unfortunately, in spite of the film’s critical buzz and, in my opinion, high quality, it only managed to score itself a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

In terms of Randolph’s actual competitors, Emily Blunt might have seemed somewhat likely to win, in a similar capacity to Jamie Lee Curtis winning last year, where a well-regarded, well-known actress gets swept along to an Oscar due to the film’s overall popularity but, if it were to occur, it would seem like BAFTA would have been the place. Of course, there is still a chance that the Oppenheimer buzz leads to Blunt winning at the upcoming SAG Awards but this seems quite unlikely, especially with Blunt not campaigning as overtly as Curtis last year.

At one stage, it seemed like Danielle Brooks was going to be Randolph’s strongest challenger, with many pundits predicting ‘The Color Purple’ to be a major awards player but, above-the-line, this is its only nomination. The writing was probably on the wall with that film, after an underwhelming box office followed by not even breaking through at the Golden Globes - an organisation that tends to be more likely to reward musicals. It even nominated ‘In The Heights’ and ‘Cyrano’ for Best Musical or Comedy in 2021, which were far less buzzy titles and less prestigious than The Color Purple.

A Jodie Foster win, at one point, seemed plausible, due to her surprising Golden Globe win in 2021 for ‘The Mauritian’, which perhaps alluded to an interest in giving her a third Oscar. Of course, this did not translate, but many thought it possible that Foster could win here, if she started her momentum with winning at the Golden Globes.

That didn’t happen.

Of course, she could win at SAG but, even if she did, I think it’s still very unlikely to actually translate into an Oscar win.

Foster is also not helped by being in a similar spot to Danielle Brooks, where her film does not have many other nominations aside from Best Actress for ‘Annette Benning’, whereas Barbie, The Holdovers and Oppenheimer are three of the most-awarded films from this year.

Lastly, there is America Ferrara, who’s nomination here is something of an anomaly in terms of Barbie’s general awards performance. On the whole it underperformed, failing to score nominations for both Robbie and Gerwig, but - miraculously - America Ferrara got in with a memorable, stirring monologue that defines the themes of the movie. Or, so I’m told (remember, I haven’t seen any of these!).

It is plausible that a backlash to the Barbie snubs could occur, not unlike the backlash to Ben Affleck failing to nab a Best Director nomination for ‘Argo’, which could propel Ferrara’s performance into having a chance of winning. Still, it’s extremely unlikely - but marginally more likely than the others winning.

Ranking of winning chances:

1. Da’Vine Joy Randolph - ‘The Holdovers’ (a lock, if ever there was one...) (99.5%)

2. America Ferrara - ‘Barbie’ (0.2%)

3. Emily Blunt - ‘Oppenheimer’ (0.1%)

4. Jodie Foster - ‘Nyad’ (0.1%)

5. Danielle Brooks - ‘The Color Purple’ (0.1%)

Best Supporting Actor

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

Similarly to the last category, Downey Jr.’s victory here seems somewhat inevitable. His turn in Oppenheimer has been the talk of the town since the film came out in July. He (supposedly) has the performance, he’s a well-regarded movie-star type of actor (something that’s becoming a novelty) and has a good narrative - a bit of a comeback after the financial and critical failure of 2020’s ‘Dolittle’ and a return to being in ‘cinema’, rather than ‘theme park rides’ - Scorsese’s words, not mine. It also helps that his film was a box office juggernaut and (SPOILER ALERT) the frontrunner for Best Picture.

Having said that, it is kind of surprising that Downey Jr. has, more or less, swept the televised awards - having won the same trio of awards as Randolph.

A month ago, this kind of winning streak seemed unlikely and, of course, the SAG Awards have the chance to cause a major upset. But it seems quite unlikely that anyone has a chance to beat Downey Jr., even though he is up against far more convincing fellow nominees than Randolph.

When the critics’ circuit started handing out awards, it seemed as though Ryan Gosling and Charles Melton were on an even keel to Downey Jr., but Melton didn’t even end up getting nominated even though, prior to the televised awards being handed out, he had actually won the most critics’ awards.

Out of all the nominees, Robert DeNiro is the most unlikely to actually win the award. DeNiro’s chances of getting nominated seemed very high after the film’s release, with many predicting him to outright win Supporting Actor. After all, many regard DeNiro as one of the finest actors of not just his generation but of all time - and him winning a third Oscar was seen as beyond justified. It also helped that DeNiro appeared to have something of a comeback narrative, this performance being seen as a return-to-form after many of his starring roles of late being in weak comedies riffing off his portrayals in ‘Analyze This’ and ‘Meet The Parents’, as well as many of his more recent prestige movie performances being somewhat underwhelming and him standing out less than other actors in ensembles. The latter point was especially notable in 2019’s ‘The Irishman’, where it was almost universally agreed that both Joe Pesci and Al Pacino outshone him with their character being more befitting of their acting styles than DeNiro’s mafia goon was.

DeNiro’s narrative ended up being dwarfed by showier performances by actors who are closer to the prime of their careers than he is and, initially, DeNiro struggled to do well at the critics’ circle awards. But he ended up rebounding by getting nominated at all the televised awards - an honour only shared by Downey Jr. and Gosling. Unfortunately for DeNiro, ‘Killers Of The Flower Moon’’s general underperformance, suggested by its lack of nominations in Best Actor and Adapted Screenplay, make his win exceptionally unlikely.

Some suggested that Mark Ruffalo might have a chance of winning. With his nomination for ‘Poor Things’, he is on his fourth Oscar nomination and has still never won. Many thought this might be the chance to finally reward him. Perhaps, if Ruffalo had been nominated in another year, this would have been his time to win, but his appeal as an actor who hasn’t won an Oscar yet is dwarfed by Ryan Gosling and Robert Downey Jr. - bigger stars who are often touted as being amongst the better actors of their generation. This is compounded by Gosling playing a vaguely similar character to Ruffalo, as well as Emma Stone being the performer in ‘Poor Things’ who has received the most attention. A similar spot to DeNiro, in that he is very, very, very unlikely to win.

Sterling K. Brown, not so long ago, was not considered as being enormously likely to secure a nomination for his work in ‘American Fiction’. However, he beat the odds and competition, including actors like Willem Dafoe, to get in here and, without even seeing the film, I’m not surprised he got nominated. Brown has always been a very good actor, with, in my opinion, an Oscar nomination-worthy turn in ‘Waves’ being the apex of his movie career up until this point. What’s notable about Brown is just how much the guy is campaigning - it’s really pretty impressive. He himself admitted recently that he believes himself unlikely to win, which I’d realistically agree with but, with ‘American Fiction’ spiking in hype as it slowly opens worldwide, I think he’s got a better shot to win this than Ruffalo or DeNiro, who seem to have already surpassed the point at which they were most likely to win.

Ryan Gosling, another early front-runner, could, I believe, still steal this, but it’s looking less and less likely every day. His portrayal as Ken in Barbie has been the film’s most talked about aspect, with the song he sings, ‘I’m Just Ken’, entering the public consciousness in a way that nothing else from any other film this year has outside of Barry Keoghan’s bath-water drinking and naked dancing ways in ‘Saltburn’. One could argue that some of his so-called ‘meme-ability’ could have played against his chances at winning in the televised awards - straight-comedy portrayals rarely actually win Oscars, unless the category is pretty vacant. The potential to win with this kind of performance has also dwindled over time. The closest Oscar-winning performance that I can conjure up to compare Gosling with is Kevin Kline’s manic performance in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ - and that was in 1988 - although, I will point out, that, much like Gosling, Kline did not win any televised precursor award other than the Oscars... That doesn’t make it all that likely.

I’d say Gosling’s last chance to potentially cause an upset at the Oscars would have to be the upcoming (at the time of writing) SAG Awards. If he wins there, which in itself is unlikely, then he’s in with a chance of beating Downey Jr. - he could gain some momentum that could lead to a win for himself.

Ranking of winning chances:

1. Robert Downey Jr. - ‘Oppenheimer’ (85%)

2. Ryan Gosling - ‘Barbie’ (14%)

3. Sterling K. Brown - ‘American Fiction’ (0.8%)

4. Mark Ruffalo - ‘Poor Things’ (0.1%)

5. Robert DeNiro - ‘Killers Of The Flower Moon’ (0.1%)


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