Film reviews and more since 2009

My Predictions for the 96th Academy Awards

By: Steve Pulaski

I was in a sorry, cynical mood ahead of last year’s Academy Awards. It might’ve been a strange way to start off a piece handicapping the annual awards show, but at the end of the day, could you blame me? The previous year’s ceremony (the 94th Academy Awards) was defined by Will Smith’s slap heard around the world coupled with the disastrous decision not to broadcast the winners of eight categories.

Low and behold, last year’s ceremony was a fun one. It was swiftly paced, the winners of every category were broadcast, and a great movie won Best Picture. While I commented last year how awards shows have fallen out of favor with audiences (largely since the pandemic), I do sense a little more palpable excitement for this year’s Oscars than in years past.

For one, “#Oscars” has been trending quite frequently in the weeks leading up to the show, which is a promising sign. Furthermore, I think the abundance of “popular” movies, such as Barbie and Oppenheimer, meriting nominations might assure more eyeballs on this year’s ceremony than in recent past. I’ll be curious to see what the final figures are, although streaming TV has made these numbers more nebulous all around.

Per usual, I have my predictions. Feel free to follow along or use them to win your Oscar pool. For bragging purposes, here are my records for predicting the Academy Awards over the last five years:

90th Academy Awards – 18-6
91st Academy Awards – 11-13
92nd Academy Awards – 17-7
93rd Academy Awards – 15-8
94th Academy Awards – 19-4
95th Academy Awards – 17-6

Without further adieu, here is my annual attempt at a 23-0 record at handicapping the Oscars!

Predicted winners will be in bold.

Best Picture (click on the titles of the films for my respective review):

American Fiction,” Ben LeClair, Nikos Karamigios, Cord Jefferson and Jermaine Johnson, producers

Anatomy of a Fall,” Marie-Ange Luciani and David Thion, producers

Barbie,” David Heyman, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Robbie Brenner, producers

The Holdovers,” Mark Johnson, producer

Killers of the Flower Moon,” Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Martin Scorsese and Daniel Lupi, producers

“Maestro,” Bradley Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Fred Berner, Amy Durning and Kristie Macosko Krieger, producers

Oppenheimer,” Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan, producers

Past Lives,” David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler, producers

Poor Things,” Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe, Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone, producers

“The Zone of Interest,” James Wilson, producer

If you thought Everything Everywhere All At Once was a heavy chalk last year, Oppenheimer appears to be the heaviest chalk in at least the last 10 years. All signs point to it winning the top award. Oh, how I’d love for The Holdovers to take it home this year, but I won’t complain if one of the best historical epics of this, or any other, year takes it home.

 

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”

With that, expect Christopher Nolan to win Best Director too. Here’s a fun trivia question: how many Best Director Oscar nominations has Nolan received over the years? The answer is merely two, if you include his nomination for Oppenheimer. The other was for Dunkirk, which he didn’t win. It looks like he’ll change that come Sunday, although Yorgos Lanthimos would get my vote for the exceptional Poor Things.

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Bradley Cooper — “Maestro”

Colman Domingo — “Rustin”

Paul Giamatti — “The Holdovers”

Cillian Murphy — “Oppenheimer”

Jeffrey Wright — “American Fiction”

There seemed to be some early steam for Paul Giamatti upsetting the heavily favored Cillian Murphy for Best Actor when the nominations were first announced. Alas, Oscar-handicapping is not all that dissimilar to the NFL Draft. Analysts and fans start second-guessing themselves over the long and largely quiet weeks leading up to the event, only for the chalk to remain the chalk. Cillian Murphy is incredible, turning in a tour-de-force performance of a complicated man that will almost certainly win him his first Oscar too.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Annette Bening — “Nyad”

Lily Gladstone — “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Sandra Hüller — “Anatomy of a Fall”

Carey Mulligan — “Maestro”

Emma Stone — “Poor Things”

Of the five major categories, Best Actress is the one on which I’m the least certain this year. I’m going with my initial hunch of Lily Gladstone, a feeling I had since I emerged somewhat impressed yet underwhelmed by Killers of the Flower Moon. That being said, Emma Stone could be the sneaky upset. 

 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Sterling K. Brown — “American Fiction”

Robert De Niro – “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Robert Downey Jr. — “Oppenheimer”

Ryan Gosling — “Barbie”

Mark Ruffalo — “Poor Things”

While I think Robert Downey Jr. will win, I must say, he’s not my favorite performance in this category by a long-shot. Sterling K. Brown was unpredictable and dynamic as an aloof and estranged brother in American Fiction. Between that and Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., he’s become one of my favorite actors to watch. Mark Ruffalo’s performance in Poor Things is one of the funniest of the year, and Ryan Gosling’s turn as Ken will live on for years to come.

 

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Emily Blunt — “Oppenheimer”

Danielle Brooks — “The Color Purple”

America Ferrera – “Barbie”

Jodie Foster — “Nyad”

Da’Vine Joy Randolph — “The Holdovers”

I said it to my girlfriend, Catherine, after we saw The Holdovers and I’ll gladly say it again. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is deservedly winning Best Supporting Actress this year. That being said, please don’t ignore Danielle Brooks in The Color Purple. She steps into the same role that won Oprah Winfrey an Oscar in 1986, and breeds a newfound sense of humanity and redemption into the character. She’s excellent.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

“American Fiction,” written for the screen by Cord Jefferson

“Barbie,” written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach

“Oppenheimer,” written for the screen by Christopher Nolan

“Poor Things,” screenplay by Tony McNamara

“The Zone of Interest,” written by Jonathan Glazer

Best Original Screenplay:

“Anatomy of a Fall,” screenplay by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari

“The Holdovers,” written by David Hemingson

“Maestro,” written by Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer

“May December,” screenplay by Samy Burch; story by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik

“Past Lives,” written by Celine Song

Many pundits and experts are pegging Anatomy of a Fall for this one. I want to see The Holdovers take it, and believe there’s at least an outside chance. Consider this my big “heart over head” pick of the year. The look you see on Paul Giamatti’s face in the photo above will likely be the look on my face when I end up wrong.

 

Best Cinematography:

“El Conde” – Edward Lachman

“Killers of the Flower Moon” – Rodrigo Prieto

“Maestro” – Matthew Libatique

“Oppenheimer” – Hoyte van Hoytema

“Poor Things” – Robbie Ryan

Hoyte van Hoytema is a living legend in the film world, and his work in Oppenheimer is sublime. If it were up to me, however, I’d give it to Robbie Ryan. I’ve simply never seen so many different (fictionalized) settings as striking, varied, and as intensely rendered on the big screen as I have in Poor Things.

 

Best Original Song:

“The Fire Inside” from “Flamin’ Hot,” music and lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie,” music and lyric by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt

“It Never Went Away” from “American Symphony,” music and lyric by Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson

“Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon,” music and lyric by Scott George

“What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie,” music and lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell

Having played the Billie Eilish song “What Was I Made For?” at least once a day on my morning radio show for the last seven-or-so months, I’d say that it’s a safe pick to win Best Original Song.

Best Costume Design:

“Barbie” – Jacqueline Durran

“Killers of the Flower Moon” – Jacqueline West

“Napoleon” – Janty Yates and Dave Crossman

“Oppenheimer” – Ellen Mirojnick

“Poor Things” – Holly Waddington

 

Best Sound:

“The Creator,” Ian Voigt, Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic

“Maestro,” Steven A. Morrow, Richard King, Jason Ruder, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” Chris Munro, James H. Mather, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor

“Oppenheimer,” Willie Burton, Richard King, Gary A. Rizzo and Kevin O’Connell

“The Zone of Interest,” Tarn Willers and Johnnie Burn

 

Best Original Score:

“American Fiction” – Laura Karpman

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” John Williams

“Killers of the Flower Moon” – Robbie Robertson

“Oppenheimer” – Ludwig Göransson

“Poor Things” – Jerskin Fendrix

Best Live Action Short Film:

“The After,” Misan Harriman and Nicky Bentham

“Invincible,” Vincent René-Lortie and Samuel Caron

“Knight of Fortune,” Lasse Lyskjær Noer and Christian Norlyk

“Red, White and Blue,” Nazrin Choudhury and Sara McFarlane

“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” Wes Anderson and Steven Rales

 

Best Animated Short Film:

“Letter to a Pig,” Tal Kantor and Amit R. Gicelter

“Ninety-Five Senses,” Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess

“Our Uniform,” Yegane Moghaddam

“Pachyderme,” Stéphanie Clément and Marc Rius

“War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko,” Dave Mullins and Brad Booker

 

Best Documentary Feature Film:

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp and John Battsek

“The Eternal Memory”

“Four Daughters,” Kaouther Ben Hania and Nadim Cheikhrouha

“To Kill a Tiger,” Nisha Pahuja, Cornelia Principe and David Oppenheim

“20 Days in Mariupol,” Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner and Raney Aronson-Rath

 

Best Documentary Short Film:

“The ABCs of Book Banning,” Sheila Nevins and Trish Adlesic

“The Barber of Little Rock,” John Hoffman and Christine Turner

“Island in Between,” S. Leo Chiang and Jean Tsien

“The Last Repair Shop,” Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers

“Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó,” Sean Wang and Sam Davis

 

Best International Feature Film:

“Io Capitano” (Italy)

“Perfect Days” (Japan)

“Society of the Snow” (Spain)

“The Teachers’ Lounge” (Germany)

“The Zone of Interest” (United Kingdom)

My long-time pro-tip for Best International Film: if a film is nominated for both Best Picture and Best International Film, you have your answer as to what film will win the latter category. However, I’m as shocked as you that Anatomy of a Fall was shutout of this category.

Best Animated Feature Film:

“The Boy and the Heron,” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

“Elemental,” Peter Sohn and Denise Ream

“Nimona,” Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, Karen Ryan and Julie Zackary

“Robot Dreams,” Pablo Berger, Ibon Cormenzana, Ignasi Estapé and Sandra Tapia Díaz

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Amy Pascal

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

“Golda,” Karen Hartley Thomas, Suzi Battersby and Ashra Kelly-Blue

“Maestro,” Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou and Lori McCoy-Bell

“Oppenheimer,” Luisa Abel

“Poor Things,” Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier and Josh Weston

“Society of the Snow,” Ana López-Puigcerver, David Martí and Montse Ribé

 

Best Production Design:

“Barbie,” production design: Sarah Greenwood; set decoration: Katie Spencer

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” production design: Jack Fisk; set decoration: Adam Willis

“Napoleon,” production design: Arthur Max; set decoration: Elli Griff

“Oppenheimer,” production design: Ruth De Jong; set decoration: Claire Kaufman

“Poor Things,” production design: James Price and Shona Heath; set decoration: Zsuzsa Mihalek

Best Film Editing:

“Anatomy of a Fall” – Laurent Sénéchal

“The Holdovers” – Kevin Tent

“Killers of the Flower Moon” – Thelma Schoonmaker

“Oppenheimer” – Jennifer Lame

“Poor Things” – Yorgos Mavropsaridis

 

Best Visual Effects:

“The Creator,” Jay Cooper, Ian Comley, Andrew Roberts and Neil Corbould

“Godzilla Minus One,” Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” Stephane Ceretti, Alexis Wajsbrot, Guy Williams and Theo Bialek

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” Alex Wuttke, Simone Coco, Jeff Sutherland and Neil Corbould

“Napoleon,” Charley Henley, Luc-Ewen Martin-Fenouillet, Simone Coco and Neil Corbould

I’ll have my girlfriend by my side and my Chartreuse liqueur in hand on Sunday, March 10th. Here’s to a fun and honorable Oscar Sunday!

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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