Nathan Villasenor / Daily Nexus

Artsweek Editor and Nexus Awards Analyst Lauren Chiou’s predictions for the upcoming Academy Awards, which take place in Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on March 10.

Best Picture: “Oppenheimer”

“Oppenheimer” is the clear frontrunner for this category. The film follows the life of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his work on the atomic bomb. With career-best performances, expert direction, smart dialogue and stunning cinematography, “Oppenheimer” is a transformative experience, raising questions about humanity, power and ethics. It’s a three-hour immersive epic and a truly explosive feat.

“Oppenheimer” has dominated the awards season so far, winning big in all categories it has been nominated for. Its biggest competition is “Killers of the Flower Moon,” another historical thriller, and “The Holdovers,” a heartwarming drama. The cultural influence of “Barbie” might also lead to a potential upset, yet the comedic elements might dissuade voters. Out of all 10 nominees, no other film has the magnitude and impact that “Oppenheimer” possesses. 

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Best Picture rankings:

  1. “Oppenheimer”
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  3. “The Holdovers”
  4. “Barbie”
  5. “American Fiction”
  6. “Poor Things”
  7. “Anatomy of a Fall”
  8. “The Zone of Interest”
  9. “Maestro”
  10. “Past Lives”


Best Actor: Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”

The success of “Oppenheimer” would not have been possible without the career-defining performance of Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer. A frequent collaborator of director Christopher Nolan, Murphy had flown relatively under the radar, appearing in only supporting roles before taking on his first leading role in a Nolan film in 2023. “Oppenheimer” puts Murphy’s talents on full blast, expertly portraying the tortured genius grappling with the power of his mind and consequences of his actions. He makes the movie, fully immersing himself into the role to deliver the best performance of the year. 

Murphy has some tough competition — Paul Giamatti’s performance in “The Holdovers” won him the Critics Choice Award and Golden Globe Award. However, winning the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs), Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award and Golden Globe puts Murphy in a good position for the Academy Award. That, along with his talent and strong reputation in the film industry, cement him as the most likely candidate for the award.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Best Actor rankings:

  1. Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”
  2. Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”
  3. Jeffrey Wright, “American Fiction”
  4. Colman Domingo, “Rustin”
  5. Bradley Cooper, “Maestro”


Best Actress: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is a cinematic feat, largely due to Lily Gladstone’s career-making performance as Mollie Burkhart, a member of the Osage nation. She is captivating on-screen, managing to out-act film legends Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Despite her limited dialogue, Gladstone’s talents shine through in her facial expressions and physicality. She is silently powerful, commanding the audience’s attention and drawing them into the tragic story, making her the heart of the film. 

Gladstone is the first Native American woman to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, which would make her win historic. Her biggest competition is Emma Stone, who won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA for her role in “Poor Things.”

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Best Actress rankings:

  1. Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  2. Emma Stone, “Poor Things”
  3. Sandra Hüller, “Anatomy of a Fall”
  4. Carey Mulligan, “Maestro”
  5. Annette Bening, “Nyad”


Best Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”

Robert Downey Jr. is a household name — either known for being Marvel’s Iron Man, member of the 80’s “Brat Pack,” or frequent ‘90s tabloid subject. Yet, amidst the stardom and public attention, Downey Jr.’s talent has always been undeniable, something that is especially evident in his role as Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer.” The actor is practically unrecognizable — fully embodying the character and adding layers of nuance and complexity to what could have been a two-dimensional role. He’s cunning and deceptive in a performance that is scarily natural, a stark contrast from Downey Jr.’s real-life charisma and charm. 

Downey Jr.’s win would go beyond recognition for his performance as Strauss. It would also act as a testament to his illustrious, decade-spanning career and cultural impact. Winning the Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Critics Choice Awards, Downey Jr. has completely dominated this awards season. “Oppenheimer” marks his third Academy Award nomination, and will most likely be his first win. 

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Best Supporting Actor rankings:

  1. Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”
  2. Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”
  3. Robert De Niro, “Killers of a Flower Moon”
  4. Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”
  5. Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things”


Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

Da’Vine Joy Randolph has no competition. Randolph in “The Holdovers” is simply spectacular. Her performance as school chef and grieving mother Mary Lamb is a marvel. Randolph is a force on-screen, perfectly balancing the comedic and dramatic elements of the script to bring her character to life. She has some of the funniest lines in the film along with the saddest, demonstrating her impressive range as an actress and performer. Her powerful delivery and delicate silences complement each other beautifully, capturing the hearts of audiences and critics alike. 

Most other predictions for Best Supporting Actress have Randolph as the winner, and for a good reason. Randolph has won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Critics Choice Award, blowing any competition out of the water and cementing herself as the clear winner of the Academy Award.

Courtesy of Focus Features

Best Supporting Actress rankings:

  1. Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”
  2. Emily Blunt, “Oppenheimer”
  3. America Ferrera, “Barbie”
  4. Danielle Brooks, “The Color Purple”
  5. Jodie Foster, “Nyad”


Best Director: Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”

Christopher Nolan is considered to be one of the most prominent directors of the 21st century, known for his critically acclaimed filmography of motion pictures and indie films alike. “Oppenheimer” is arguably Nolan’s magnum opus, a three-hour epic biopic on the father of the atomic bomb. It’s an amalgamation of Nolan’s expertise: He smoothly navigates the history and gives it an almost psychological edge, dissecting and examining the moral repercussions and ethical toll it has on the tortured scientist.

Nolan is yet to win an Academy Award. Garnering eight nominations throughout the course of his career for Best Directing, Picture, Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay, Nolan still has not managed to bring home a win. With “Oppenheimer” expected to be the greatest winner at this year’s ceremony, Nolan is not only the safe choice, but the best choice to finally take home the Best Director statue. He faces tough competition — Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” also received critical acclaim. However, it is impossible to deny the greatness of “Oppenheimer,” and it is only right to recognize the man behind the biggest movie of the year.

Courtesy of Melinda Sue Gordon / Universal Pictures

Best Director rankings:

  1. Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”
  2. Martin Scorsese, “Killers of a Flower Moon”
  3. Yorgos Lanthimos, “Poor Things”
  4. Justine Triet, “Anatomy of a Fall”
  5. Jonathan Glazer, “The Zone of Interest”


Best Original Screenplay: “Anatomy of a Fall”

Justine Triet and Arthur Harari deliver a courtroom thriller centered around a unique crime: the mysterious death of a husband and father, his wife being the main suspect and the only witness being their blind son. Yet, the film goes beyond a simple guilty/not guilty verdict. In the process of dissecting the crime, Triet and Harari’s screenplay attempts to dissect human behavior as well. Not only does the film explore the toll of death, but it also analyzes responses to trauma, tragedy and, most notably, failure. 

“Anatomy of a Fall” has emerged as an awards season favorite, a surprisingly prominent contender for the categories it has been nominated for. While it faces tough competition in the Best Picture and Best Director races, Triet and Harari can be expected to take home the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. 

Courtesy of NEON

Best Original Screenplay rankings:

  1. “Anatomy of a Fall” — Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
  2. “Past Lives” — Celine Song
  3. “The Holdovers” — David Hemingson
  4. “May December” — Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik
  5. “Maestro” — Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer


Best Adapted Screenplay: “American Fiction”

“American Fiction” boasts a powerful script and a strong message. Its satirical tone and nuanced critique about the intersection of race and writing raises important questions about the commercialization of identity. The nuance of Cord Jefferon’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s novel “Erasure” might speak to fellow writers in the Academy, which gives “American Fiction” a substantial edge in the category.

“American Fiction” is not the expected winner. Up against giants like “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie,” the adapted screenplay category is one of the most competitive ones at this year’s ceremony. Yet the Academy Awards have a history of favoring unique screenplays over popular ones in this category, with films like “Jojo Rabbit,” “Women Talking” and “BlacKkKlansman” all winning in the past. “American Fiction” benefits from this pattern.

Courtesy of Claire Folger / Orion Releasing

Best Adapted Screenplay rankings:

  1. “American Fiction” — Cord Jefferson
  2. “Oppenheimer” — Christopher Nolan
  3. “Barbie” — Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
  4. “Poor Things” — Tony McNamara
  5. “The Zone of Interest” — Jonathan Glazer


Best Animated Feature: “The Boy and the Heron”

Hayao Miyazaki delivers a breathtaking tale of self-discovery in “The Boy and the Heron.” It has all the qualities of the famed Japanese director’s past work, with a poignant screenplay, stunning animation and a beautiful soundtrack. Yet the film manages to surpass Miyazaki’s previous films through its powerful themes of destruction and recovery. It is a truly stunning addition to Miyazaki’s filmography, cementing itself as one of his best works. 

However, Best Animated Feature is still a toss-up — “The Boy and the Heron” faces a notable challenge being against “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the second installment of Marvel’s Spider-Verse universe. The first film won Best Animated Feature back in 2018, and the series has been praised for its unique animation and creative screenplays. It is unclear which way voters will sway, making the category one of the most exciting of this year’s ceremony.

Courtesy of GKIDS Films

Best Animated Feature rankings:

  1. “The Boy and the Heron”
  2. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
  3. “Nimona”
  4. “Robot Dreams”
  5. “Elemental”


Best International Feature Film: “The Zone of Interest”

“The Zone of Interest” is the universal favorite to win Best International Feature. A tense historical drama about a Nazi commandant trying to build a dream life next to the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 1940s. Its uncomfortable premise and unique perspective makes it unlike any other Holocaust film, earning it praise from critics and being the United Kingdom’s official entry for the International Feature category. 

The film has garnered a total of five nominations for this year (such as Best Picture and Best Director), which speaks to its prominence and likelihood of taking home one of those awards. Spain’s survival drama “Society of the Snow” is next in line to win.

Courtesy of A24

Best International Feature Film rankings:

  1. “The Zone of Interest” — United Kingdom
  2. “Society of the Snow” — Spain
  3. “The Teachers’ Lounge” — Germany
  4. “Io Capitano” — Italy
  5. “Perfect Days” — Japan


Best Documentary Feature: “20 Days in Mariupol”

“20 Days in Mariupol” follows the lives of Ukrainian journalists trapped in Mariupol during the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and their struggle to document the war while under siege. The uncensored depiction of war, along with the topical nature of the documentary, speak to the ongoing devastation and intensity overseas. It was named as one of the National Board of Review’s top five documentaries in 2023, along with winning the BAFTA, Critics Choice and Producers Guild Award.

Courtesy of Film Forum

Best Documentary Feature rankings:

  1. “20 Days in Mariupol” — Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner and Raney Aronson-Rath
  2. “The Eternal Memory” — Maite Alberdi
  3. “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” -— Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp and John Battsek
  4. “To Kill a Tiger” — Nisha Pahuja, Cornelia Principe and David Oppenheim
  5. “Four Daughters” — Kaouther Ben Hania and Nadim Cheikhrouha


Best Film Editing: “Oppenheimer”

  1. “Oppenheimer” — Jennifer Lame
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon” — Thelma Schoonmaker
  3. “Anatomy of a Fall” — Laurent Sénéchal
  4. “Poor Things” — Yorgos Mavropsaridis
  5. “The Holdovers” — Kevin Tent


Best Costume Design: “Poor Things”

  1. “Poor Things” — Holly Waddington
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon” — Jacqueline West
  3. “Barbie” — Jacqueline Durran
  4. “Oppenheimer” — Ellen Mirojnick
  5. “Napoleon” — Janty Yates and Dave Crossman


Best Makeup and Hairstyling: “Maestro”

  1. “Maestro” — Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou and Lori McCoy-Bell
  2. “Poor Things” — Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier and Josh Weston
  3. “Oppenheimer” — Luisa Abel
  4. “Society of the Snow” — Ana López-Puigcerver, David Martí and Montse Ribé
  5. “Golda” — Karen Hartley Thomas, Suzi Battersby and Ashra Kelly-Blue


Best Production Design: “Barbie”

  1. “Barbie” — Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  2. “Poor Things” — Production Design: James Price and Shona Heath; Set Decoration: Zsuzsa Mihalek
  3. “Oppenheimer” — Production Design: Ruth De Jong; Set Decoration: Claire Kaufman
  4. “Killers of the Flower Moon” — Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Adam Willis
  5. “Napoleon” — Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Elli Griff


Best Cinematography: “Oppenheimer”

  1. “Oppenheimer” — Hoyte van Hoytema
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon” — Rodrigo Prieto
  3. “Poor Things” — Robbie Ryan
  4. “Maestro” — Matthew Libatique
  5. “El Conde” — Edward Lachman


Best Sound: “Oppenheimer”

  1. “Oppenheimer” — Willie Burton, Richard King, Gary A. Rizzo and Kevin O’Connell
  2. “Maestro” — Steven A. Morrow, Richard King, Jason Ruder, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic
  3. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” — Chris Munro, James H. Mather, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor
  4. “The Creator” — Ian Voigt, Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic
  5. “The Zone of Interest” — Tarn Willers and Johnnie Burn


Best Visual Effects: “Godzilla Minus One”

  1. “Godzilla Minus One” — Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima
  2. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — Stephane Ceretti, Alexis Wajsbrot, Guy Williams and Theo Bialek
  3. “The Creator” — Jay Cooper, Ian Comley, Andrew Roberts and Neil Corbould
  4. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” — Alex Wuttke, Simone Coco, Jeff Sutherland and Neil Corbould
  5. “Napoleon” — Charley Henley, Luc-Ewen Martin-Fenouillet, Simone Coco and Neil Corbould


Best Original Song: “What was I made for?” from “Barbie,” Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell

  1. “What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie” — Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
  2. “Wahzhazhe (A Song for my People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon” — Scott George
  3. “I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie” — Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt
  4. “It Never Went Away” from “American Symphony” — Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson
  5. “The Fire Inside” from “Flamin’ Hot” — Diane Warren


Best Music (Original Score): “Oppenheimer”

  1. “Oppenheimer” — Ludwig Göransson
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon” — Robbie Robertson
  3. “Poor Things” — Jerskin Fendrix
  4. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” — John Williams
  5. “American Fiction” — Laura Karpman


Best Animated Short Film: “War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko”

  1. “War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko” — Dave Mullins and Brad Booker
  2. “Letter to a Pig” — Tal Kantor and Amit R. Gicelter
  3. “Ninety-Five Senses” — Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess
  4. “Pachyderme” — Stéphanie Clément and Marc Rius
  5. “Our Uniform” — Yegane Moghaddam


Best Live Action Short: “Red, White and Blue”

  1. “Red, White and Blue” — Nazrin Choudhury and Sara McFarlane
  2. “The After” — Misan Harriman and Nicky Bentham
  3. “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” — Wes Anderson and Steven Rales
  4. “Knight of Fortune” — Lasse Lyskjær Noer and Christian Norlyk
  5. “Invincible” — Vincent René-Lortie and Samuel Caron


Best Documentary Short: “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó” 

  1. “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó” — Sean Wang and Sam Davis
  2. “The ABCs of Book Banning” — Sheila Nevins and Trish Adlesic
  3. “The Barber of Little Rock” — John Hoffman and Christine Turner
  4. “Island in Between” — S. Leo Chiang and Jean Tsien
  5. “The Last Repair Shop” — Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers


Full list of nominees: 

This appeared in the March 7 printed version of the Daily Nexus.