Oscars 2024 predictions: winners, losers and where to watch

Poor Things, Oppenheimer ... Barbie? Who will win and who will miss out at the 96th Academy Awards this month?

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony is set to air next Monday, 11 March, at 10:00am AEDT. Australian nominees this year include Barbie producer Margot Robbie and Poor Things writer Tony McNamara.

Here our are predictions for who will win on the night, and our thoughts on who should have been nominated but wasn’t.

Best picture

  • American Fiction 
  • Anatomy of a Fall
  • Barbie
  • The Holdovers
  • Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Maestro
  • Oppenheimer
  • Past Lives
  • Poor Things
  • The Zone of Interest

Frontrunner: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer. Image: Universal Pictures.

At this stage, it’s difficult to imagine any of the other nine nominees challenging Christopher Nolan’s immense biographical drama Oppenheimer for Best Picture. With 13 nominations and a virtually complete sweep of major precursor awards, the near-billion-dollar-grossing film looks set to dominate Oscars proceedings.

Read: Oppenheimer, ScreenHub review: approaching the sublime

The films with the next most nominations – eleven and ten respectively – are Yorgos Lanthimos’ Frankensteinian Poor Things and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which harrowingly profiles the men who orchestrated the mass killings of members of the Osage Nation in the 1920s.

Another strong contender is Justine Triet’s legal drama Anatomy of a Fall, only the third film directed by a woman to ever be awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. Also nominated is the festival’s Grand Prix winner The Zone of Interest, the formally striking fourth film from director Jonathan Glazer.

Read: Poor Things, ScreenHub review: fabulous feminist odyssey

Impressively, two of this year’s nominees are from first-time feature filmmakers: Celine Song’s gentle romantic drama Past Lives and Cord Jefferson’s satirical dramedy American Fiction. The latter won the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival – since 2011, every film that has received this prize has gone on to be nominated for Best Picture.

Unfortunately, to date American Fiction hasn’t had an Australian cinema release and is only available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Rounding out the line-up is Greta Gerwig’s vibrant Barbie (which I will discuss in more detail below), Alexander Payne’s nostalgic and widely-embraced The Holdovers and Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born follow-up Maestro.

The films that missed out

As always, there are numerous very good films that, for whatever reason, weren’t included among this year’s nominees.

All Of Us Strangers. Image: Film4.

I was disappointed at the lack of acknowledgement for Andrew Haigh’s lovely All of Us Strangers. The same goes for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City – my favourite of his since 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, or perhaps even 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums.

Read: All of Us Strangers, ScreenHub review: a haunting lullaby

Critics loved Todd Haynes’ May December, and especially the revelatory performance of Riverdale’s Charles Melton, but the film only received a nomination for Samy Burch’s screenplay. Zac Efron’s career best work in Sean Durkin’s The Iron Claw also went unrecognised.

However, in the interest of celebrating the greatest films released in the past year – which, after all, is the Academy’s purported purpose – I want to draw particular attention to the two 2023 releases that moved me more than anything else I saw.

The first is Alice Rohrwacher’s ethereal La Chimera, in which the borders that separate the past from the present and the dead from the living are blurred. Starring Josh O’Connor as a sorrowful tombaroli (grave-robber), and set in 1980s Italy, the film completes an unofficial trilogy that also includes The Wonders (2014) and Happy as Lazzaro (2018). There’s a hopefulness and a gentle magic to La Chimera – it’s a very special work indeed.

La Chimera. Image: Tempesta.

The second film is Bertrand Bonello’s science fiction romance The Beast. Loosely based on a novella by Henry James, The Beast centres on Gabrielle (an excellent Léa Seydoux), who cannot escape the conviction that something awful is going to happen. Her ill-fated and sometimes terrifying love affair with Louis (George Mackay) unfolds over three distinct time periods: 1910, 2014 and 2044. It’s an ambitious and really quite breathtaking film.

La Chimera is being distributed by Palace films, and for anyone in Melbourne or Sydney, The Beast is screening this week as part of the Europa Europa festival.

Best director

  • Justine Triet – Anatomy of a Fall
  • Martin Scorsese – Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Christopher Nolan – Oppenheimer
  • Yorgos Lanthimos – Poor Things
  • Jonathan Glazer – The Zone of Interest

Frontrunner: Christopher Nolan – Oppenheimer

Eight-time Oscar nominee Christopher Nolan is strongly favoured to take home his first Best Director award.

On Greta Gerwig and female directors:

It would be difficult to overstate the phenomenal success that Greta Gerwig’s Barbie enjoyed last year. Ecstatically received by critics and audiences alike, it now stands as one of the highest grossing films of all time. Barbie garnered an impressive eight Oscar nominations, including recognition for Gerwig in Best Adapted Screenplay (alongside co-writer Noah Baumbach), and for star Margot Robbie, in the capacity of producer.

Read: Barbie, ScreenHub review: this will bust the block

In my view, the fact of these nominations alone makes the outrage over the perceived ‘snubbing’ of Gerwig and Robbie, wildly overblown. It’s really quite astonishing that Gerwig’s unprecedented achievement in directing her first three films as a solo filmmaker to Best Picture nominations has been treated as some kind of blow so crushing that even Hillary Clinton needs to offer up her sympathies.

Barbie. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Gerwig’s success is rare and remarkable. While validation from awards bodies is, of course, far from the be-all and end-all, a recent series of tweets from film critic Jourdain Searles puts into context just how truly uncommon it is for even the most highly regarded of women filmmakers to ever receive acknowledgement from the Oscars.

Directors that Searles’ highlights have never been nominated include: Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, 1994’s Little Women), Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), Claire Denis (Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, 35 Shots of Rum), Lucrecia Martel (La Ciénaga, The Headless Woman, Zama), Sally Potter (Orlando), Celine Sciamma (Girlhood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire), and the late Chantal Akerman, who’s staggering Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles topped the 2022 Sight and Sound poll of the Greatest Films of All Time.

Best actress

  • Annette Bening – Nyad
  • Lily Gladstone – Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Sandra Hüller – Anatomy of a Fall
  • Carey Mulligan – Maestro
  • Emma Stone – Poor Things

Frontrunner: Lily Gladstone – Killers of the Flower Moon

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon. Image: Apple TV+.

While Best Actress could go one of several ways, I’m backing Screen Actors Guild award winner Lily Gladstone, the first Native American woman to ever be nominated in this category.

Read: Killers of the Flower Moon, ScreenHub review: a masterclass in film

It has been lovely to see Gladstone receiving some well-deserved recognition this awards season – like many others, I’ve been a fan since Kelly Reichardt’s magnificent Certain Women (incidentally, Reichardt is another director who has never been nominated by the Oscars).

Spoiler: Emma Stone – Poor Things

Emma Stone, also nominated for producing Poor Things, brings a wonderfully strange yet balletic physicality to her performance. Having won the BAFTA, where Gladstone was surprisingly not nominated, Stone is certainly not to be counted out.

Poor Things. Image: Searchlight Pictures.

Another very strong performance in this category is that of Sandra Hüller in Anatomy of a Fall. Hüller, who also memorably appears in The Zone of Interest, was perhaps previously best known to an International audience for her role in Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann – a performance so precise it has been on my mind for approximately eight years.

Best actor

  • Bradley Cooper – Maestro
  • Colman Domingo – Rustin
  • Paul Giamatti – The Holdover
  • Cillian Murphy – Oppenheimer
  • Jeffrey Wright –American Fiction

Frontrunner: Cillian Murphy – Oppenheimer

As the lead of Best Picture frontrunner Oppenheimer and having won both the SAG award and the BAFTA, long-time Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy seems the likely Best Actor winner.

Spoiler: Paul Giamatti – The Holdovers

It’s been 20 years since Sideways, certainly one of the ‘dad movies’ of all time, but I still can’t believe that Paul Giamatti missed out on an Oscar nomination for his performance. Even if Giamatti falls short of the win this year, there’s something serendipitous in his finally receiving a Best Actor nomination for The Holdovers.

Best supporting actress

  • Emily Blunt – Oppenheimer
  • Danielle Brooks – The Color Purple
  • America Ferrera – Barbie
  • Jodie Foster – Nyad
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph – The Holdovers

Frontrunner: Da’Vine Joy Randolph – The Holdovers

Da’Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers. Image: Focus Features.

While the three central performances in The Holdovers are all pretty great, it is Da’Vine Joy Randolph who makes the most lasting impression. As Randolph has swept the major precursor awards in the Supporting Actress category, there is every reason to believe she will also be winning the Oscar.

Best supporting actor

  • Sterling K. Brown – American Fiction
  • Robert De Niro – Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Robert Downey Jr. – Oppenheimer
  • Ryan Gosling – Barbie
  • Mark Ruffalo – Poor Things

Frontrunner: Robert Downey Jr. – Oppenheimer

Robert Downey Jr. in Oppenheimer. Image: Universal Pictures.

Best supporting actor has one of my favourite line-ups this year, with performances ranging from Ryan Gosling and Mark Ruffalo with the funniest roles of their respective careers, to a masterful and truly chilling Robert De Niro. While Robert Downey Jr. may be the clear favourite for the win, I would be happy to see any of these performances rewarded.

Best original screenplay

  • Anatomy of a Fall – Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
  • The Holdovers – David Hemingson
  • Maestro – Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer
  • May December – Screenplay by Samy Burch; Story by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik
  • Past Lives – Celine Song

Frontrunner: Anatomy of a Fall

Anatomy of a Fall. Image: Madman Entertainment.

While this year’s Writers Guild Awards were delayed until April, the Golden Globes and BAFTAs have solidified Triet and Arthur Harari’s script for Anatomy of a Fall as the likely winner in Original Screenplay.

Read: Anatomy of a Fall, ScreenHub: a critique of anti-feminism

It’s a result that I would be pleased to see – the film is never less than engrossing, and I’ve found it has lingered in my mind in the six months since I saw it.

Spoiler: The Holdovers

It would be quite the upset, and I wouldn’t personally predict it, but there’s clearly a lot of affection for The Holdovers.

Best adapted screenplay

  • American Fiction – Cord Jefferson
  • Barbie – Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
  • Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan
  • Poor Things – Tony McNamara
  • The Zone of Interest – Jonathan Glazer

Frontrunner: American Fiction

American Fiction. Image: Orion Pictures.

Compared to Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay is significantly more difficult to call, but I’m giving the edge to BAFTA winner American Fiction.

The film’s thematic explorations and oscillating tone feel right in line with those of other recent winners in this category.

Spoiler: Barbie or Oppenheimer

There are relatively strong cases to be made for either Barbie or Oppenheimer taking home this award: possibly it will be seen as an opportunity to recognise Gerwig (and avoid further potential backlash), perhaps those who are voting for Oppenheimer elsewhere will simply choose to do so here as well. Ultimately this is just conjecture – I’ve read enough anonymous voter ballots to recognise I will never fully understand the thought process behind a lot of these Academy members’ decisions.

The 2024 Oscars ceremony will be broadcast live in Australia on Channel 7 and 7Plus from 10am AEDT on 11 March.