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Early Oscar Observations

Academy Award season is here and on March 10, we will see who takes home the statues that will help cement their names amongst the legends of the industry. This year’s nominees are an eclectic mix, punctuated by the fact that a handful of films are nominated for multiple awards, making the races tighter and more intriguing than ever. 

At the forefront of this year’s ceremony is OPPENHEIMER. Nominated for 13 awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Cillian Murphy), Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Supporting Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Downey, Jr.) the riveting tale of the birth of the atomic bomb was one half of the “Barbenheimer” weekend that reignited the box-office. Not only did OPPENHEIMER and BARBIE win over audiences, but the Academy as well. BARBIE received eight nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ryan Gosling) and Best Supporting Actress (America Ferrara). It also lead to two of the biggest (and most unfortunate) surprises on nominations day, with neither Margot Robbie nor director Greta Gerwig being announced. Given that they were the two main driving forces behind a film that received eight nods, it’s beyond perplexing to me that neither got the recognition that they so richly deserved.  

Another big surprise was for the sheer volume of nominations for POOR THINGS.   Auteur director Yorgos Lanthimos’s unique spin on “Frankenstein” finds itself in the mix in 11 different categories. This includes Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress (Emma Stone). Last year, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE led the way with 11 nominations, so POOR THINGS is rare company. While it may be two behind OPPENHEIMER, it was far more than I could have possibly predicted.

Martin Scorsese’s searing three-hour epic KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON received double-digit nominations as well, which was not a surprise by any means. Vying for major awards such as Best Director, Best Actress (Lily Gladstone), Best Cinematography, and Best Picture, the devastating tale of the atrocities afflicted upon the Osage Nation would likely be the front runner in any other year. Given the competition it faces, however, at this time it is too difficult to gauge how it will fare on Oscar night. 

Of all the films that were nominated, I was most excited to see THE HOLDOVERS represented so well. Alexander Payne’s witty and endearing comedy is easily one of my favorite films of the year and boasts flawless performances that were rightfully recognized. As a grieving mother who works in the kitchen of an affluent private school, Da’Vine Randolph Joy (Best Supporting Actress) provided a breakthrough performance that was both powerful and heartbreaking. Then there’s the always incredible Paul Giamatti whose turn as the cantankerous professor Paul Hunham earned him a Best Actor nomination to go along with Golden Globe win. The race between Murphy and Giamatti is one of the most intriguing and exciting competitions of the night, with both richly deserving performers finally getting the recognition they have always deserved. 

What sets this year’s nominees apart from many in years past is how accessible these films are. POOR THINGS is not yet streaming, but KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, OPPENHEIMER, BARBIE, THE HOLDOVERS, MAESTRO, SOCIETY OF THE SNOW, PAST LIVES, and numerous others are available to watch at home right now. There were many times in years past where the nominated films, especially those in the performance, screenplay, and picture categories were only playing in theaters. Now, audiences have an opportunity to watch a majority of the nominees from the comfort of their homes prior to the ceremony, which is great for the industry. It’s hard to have an interest when you haven’t seen any of the nominees, but now, for those who are so inclined, there’s every chance to be well versed in most of the categories. This includes the shorts (documentary, live action, and animated) which are usually the least known out of them all, but can now be consumed and enjoyed prior to the show. Pair that with the fact that many of the nominees this year were amongst the most popular films of the year, and you have a ceremony that should prove to be appealing to both the casual movie fan and die-hard cinephiles alike.  

Brian Miller