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Awards Update: Final Oscar Nomination Predictions

January 21, 2024
By:
Hunter Friesen
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Welcome to an ongoing series where I cover the 2023/2024 awards season. On a regular basis, I will update my Oscar predictions, taking into account the new information that has been received since the last update. Full predictions in every category can be found on the Home and Awards page.


We’re finally here! After months of festivals, box office results, and precursor awards, it’s finally time to put the chips down on who will find themselves in the Academy’s good graces. I’ll admit, things have not been as chaotic as I thought. There haven’t been any major failures like The Son or Bardo, or any out-of-left-field contenders like CODA. I guess that’s a good problem to have when it comes to the prediction game, as convention garners a higher percentage of correct guesses.


This all leads me to my most important lesson of Oscar prognosticating: You have to go in with the mindset that you’re going to get 25% of your predictions wrong. The top score over at GoldDerby for last year’s nominations was around 80%. I like to go in with the same mindset I have for golf; which is not to make the most great shots, but to make the least bad ones. A gutsy shot tends to backfire more than it succeeds, which doesn’t bode well in a game where the margins are razor-thin. What does that mean here? It means not trying to overcomplicate things, and focusing your attention only on what’s needed. Go with the logical picks that favor the probabilities, and only go out on a limb for something you really feel is going to hit.


As a focus tool, I’ve devised each category into three levels of likelihood for a nomination: Locks, Safe, and Shaky. Here’s a breakdown of how those categories are defined:


  • Locks are virtually guaranteed to get a nomination. They’re more focused on winning the Oscar, with the nomination only being a formality. The only time you should spend on them is what it takes to write their names down on your predictions. Now, I say “virtually guaranteed” because some locks have been snubbed before. A recent example would be Denis Villeneuve not being nominated for Best Director for Dune. A lock being snubbed is cause for headlines and investigations, and that’s something you can’t predict.

  • Safes seem very likely to happen, and a snub would be a major talking point. They’ve hit pretty much every precursor they could, and have displayed support from the voting body. But there might be a hiccup in their campaign or a nagging feeling that there’s reason for doubt. Someone like Viola Davis in The Woman King fits this description. She was nominated at every precursor and is a titan in the industry. But the film just wasn’t landing in other categories, which led her to lose steam.

  • Shaky is where you find a group of people fighting for those spots. They’ve hit some places and missed others, or their work goes against what the branch tends to favor. They might also have legitimate reasons for being a surprise nomination or a not-so-surprising snub.


Something I’ve leaned away from in recent years is stats. There are just way too many variables at play: voter demographics, voter quantity, precursors influence, Academy rules, cultural sentiment, etc. It’s like debating if Magic Johnson or Steph Curry had a better NBA career. How can you compare two players who played in totally different eras and wildly different styles of play? Stats are helpful in some cases, but they should rarely be used as the primary justification for a prediction.


As a matter of transparency, I will not be predicting the three short categories: Live-Action Short, Animated Short, and Documentary Short. It’s a fool’s errand to try and provide analysis for a category where I’ve seen none of the contenders and has no precursors to guide the way. I’ll just be going with the GoldDerby consensus.


Without further ado, let’s get started!

 

BEST MOTION PICTURE

Locks

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Killers of the Flower Moon

  3. Barbie

  4. The Holdovers

  5. Poor Things

  6. Maestro

  7. Past Lives

  8. American Fiction

Safe

9. Anatomy of a Fall

10. The Zone of Interest


We’re going to start with some stat debunking right off the bat. The Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Oscars have never fully lined up 10/10. However, they have lined up perfectly in the past when the Academy had a sliding scale of 5-10 nominees. This seems to be the year when PGA and Oscar are in full agreement, which doesn’t come as a huge shock considering this has been the consensus ten for the better part of the season. Even if you're still hesitant to fully agree with PGA, there’s no logical switch you can make. The Color Purple should have made PGA and Golden Globes, Air has been hit-or-miss, and May December has been received cooly by the industry.

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Locks

  1. Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer)

  2. Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon)

Safe

      3. Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things)

Shaky

     4. Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest)

     5. Alexander Payne (The Holdovers)


The director’s branch of the Academy is only rivaled by the Documentary Feature branch in terms of being insular and having its own rules of who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s one of the few categories where you can semi-logically predict a snub for someone who has hit every precursor, or a surprise nomination for someone who hasn’t appeared anywhere else. Fortunately, we’re not going to either of those extremes thanks to BAFTA, which made an impact on every competitor. 


Greta Gerwig found herself out while Triet, Glazer, and Payne got in. Gerwig has been nominated everywhere, but one only has to look at Denis Villeneuve (Dune) and Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick) to know that this group does not appreciate populist work in mainstream blockbusters. I said you can’t predict a headline-grabbing snub, but this doesn’t quite reach those heights given the clear pattern of behavior displayed over the years. Payne is a branch favorite who is peaking at just the right time, so it makes sense to see him sneak his way into that final slot.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Locks

  1. The Holdovers (David Hemingson)

  2. Past Lives (Celine Song)

  3. Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet & Arthur Harari)

Shaky

4. Maestro (Bradley Cooper & Josh Singer)

5. May December (Samy Burch)


We’ve got three films vying for the final two slots: Air, Maestro, and May December. Maestro is a near-certain Best Picture nominee with support from several other branches. But even the film’s biggest fans (me included) will admit that the screenplay is one of its weaker elements. Regardless, I think it pulls a 1917 / Top Gun: Maverick and gets in based on its overall strength. The screenplay for May December has been seen as the film’s strongest aspect, and it’s shown just enough strength at various groups for me to have it in.

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Locks

  1. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan)

  2. Barbie (Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach)

  3. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese & Eric Roth)

  4. American Fiction (Cord Jefferson)

Safe

5. Poor Things (Tony McNamara)


This category has become a lot easier once Barbie was shifted over from Original Screenplay, with it looking likely to be an all-Best-Picture lineup. Poor Things is the only non-lock contender on account of it being the most likely to be swapped out for something like All of Us Strangers or The Zone of Interest. I’m not going to entertain that idea much more than I already have, though.

 

BEST LEAD ACTOR

Locks

  1. Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer)

  2. Paul Giamatti (The Holdovers)

  3. Bradley Cooper (Maestro)

Shaky

       4. Jeffrey Wright (American Fiction)

       5. Colman Domingo (Rustin)


We’ve had six contenders all year long, and now it’s finally time for one of them to go. A few weeks ago I would said that either Colman Domingo or Jeffrey Wright would get the boot, but now it seems Leonardo DiCaprio is the unlucky victim. His misses at both SAG and BAFTA were truly surprising, places where both Domingo and Wright excelled. DiCaprio could still make it in because of his star power, so we’ll continue to hold our breath in anticipation.

 

BEST LEAD ACTRESS

Locks

  1. Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon)

  2. Emma Stone (Poor Things)

  3. Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall)

  4. Carey Mulligan (Maestro)

Shaky

       5. Margot Robbie (Barbie)


It was between Greta Lee and Margot Robbie for that last slot. Lee put up a valiant effort all season, but she stumbled at both SAG and BAFTA, the latter miss being quite shocking considering the jury system. Robbie has gotten everywhere, defying what I thought would have been a repeat of Tom Cruise last year for Top Gun: Maverick.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Locks

  1. Robert Downey Jr. (Oppenheimer)

  2. Ryan Gosling (Barbie)

Safe

      3. Robert De Niro (Killers of the Flower Moon)

Shaky

     4. Mark Ruffalo (Poor Things)

5. Willem Dafoe (Poor Things)


This category has featured two nominees in the same film five of the past six years. Willem Dafoe has proved time and again that he’s one of the most beloved actors there is, and that SAG nomination was just what he needed to secure his chances. Unfortunately, that means critics’ favorite Charles Melton sees himself out of the picture, which didn’t seem possible a few weeks ago. But a miss at SAG and his inability to make the BAFTA longlist doesn’t bode too well for his chances.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Locks

  1. Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers)

  2. Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple)

  3. Emily Blunt (Oppenheimer)

Safe

      4. Jodie Foster (Nyad)

Shaky

      5. Penélope Cruz (Ferrari)


This is the Da’Vine Jor Randolph show, with the only question being who wants that final loser’s spot? It seems to be between Penélope Cruz, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike, and America Ferrera. It’s a tough choice to make, which is why I’m going for the SAG nominee in Cruz. She’s gotten in with less in prior years and is the major talking point in the otherwise forgettable Ferrari.

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Locks

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Killers of the Flower Moon

  3. Maestro

Safe

      4. Poor Things

Shaky

      5. The Zone of Interest


We’ve known this branch has a fetish for black-and-white for a while now. This is the year where it really shows as each of these predicted nominees features some moments without color. That also applies to the next closest possibility of El Conde, which slightly threw a wrench by getting that ASC nomination. The BAFTA domination of The Zone of Interest is what saved it, along with the fact that cinematographer Łukasz Żal has been twice nominated before for similar work.

 

BEST FILM EDITING

Locks

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Killers of the Flower Moon

Shaky

      3. Anatomy of a Fall

4. Barbie

5. The Holdovers


While it’s been almost universally praised all season, the one knock against Poor Things is its pacing (a typical complaint for Yorgos Lanthimos). That’s why it will probably be replaced by flashier and taut productions like Anatomy of a Fall and The Holdovers. I have Barbie in because it’s Barbie, so it wouldn’t be shocking to find itself snubbed. We won’t be getting the ACE nominations until the end of this week, so we’ll be flying a little blind.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Locks

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Killers of the Flower Moon

Safe

      3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

      4. Poor Things

Shaky

      5. The Boy and the Heron


This branch has moved away from namecheck nominations over the years, leaning a bit more into recognizing first-timers doing interesting work. That’s how Daniel Pemberton (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse) and Jerskin Fendrix (Poor Things) find themselves in. John Williams is a god in this category, so you can never count him out despite the poor reception to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. There’s enough support for the legendary Joe Hisaishi to get his first nomination, and The Boy and the Heron has been going strong all season long.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Locks

  1. What Was I Made For? (Barbie)

  2. I'm Just Ken (Barbie)

Safe

      3. Road to Freedom (Rustin)

Shaky

     4. It Never Went Away (American Symphony)

     5. The Fire Inside (Flamin' Hot)


There are three things this group loves: (1) Songs from musicals, (2) power ballads, and (3) Diane Warren. We’ve got all three of those here as long as you count “I’m Just Ken” as a musical number.

 

BEST SOUND

Locks

  1. Oppenheimer

  2. Maestro

  3. Killers of the Flower Moon

Safe

      4. Ferrari

      5. The Zone of Interest


The Zone of Interest features some of the most ingenious uses of sound ever. Will it be able to complete in a category historically dominated by huge blockbusters? Its performance at BAFTA and a few guilds illustrates that it has the juice. Racing films are also catnip to this branch, so it makes sense to hear Ferrari mentioned come nomination morning.

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Locks

  1. Barbie

  2. Poor Things

  3. Killers of the Flower Moon

Safe

      4. Oppenheimer

      5. Napoleon


My faith in Wes Anderson films was crushed once The French Dispatch found itself shockingly blanked in the relatively weaker 2021 race. Asteroid City hasn’t performed well enough to make me change my mind, which is why Napoleon is taking that final slot.

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Locks

  1. Barbie

  2. Poor Things

Safe

      3. Killers of the Flower Moon

4. Napoleon

Shaky

     5. Oppenheimer


The top four contenders have received nominations from CCA, BAFTA, and the Costume Designers Guild. That leaves one spot left, which I’m thinking goes to Oppenheimer solely on its sheer strength. But there’s also eight-time nominee (and two-time winner) Jacqueline Durran for Barbie and recent winner Mark Bridges with Maestro. I’ve predicted Oppenheimer to get in at every other craft category, so I’m sticking to my guns and going all in.

 

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Locks

  1. Maestro

  2. Poor Things

  3. Oppenheimer

Safe

      4. Golda

      5. Society of the Snow


You just have to look at the poster for Golda to know that it’s going to get nominated in this category. Each of the top four contenders features some use of old-age makeup, which is the ultimate catnip for this branch.

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Safe

  1. The Creator

  2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Shaky

      3. Poor Things

      4. Society of the Snow

      5. Godzilla Minus One


This category has experienced some major fluctuation over the past few months with Dune: Part Two vacating the race and Oppenheimer being left off the long list. We have no clear locks because of it, although The Creator and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 seem pretty close to that status. Poor Things will have the benefit of being a Best Picture nominee, Society of the Snow features one of the most incredible plane crash sequences ever put to film, and Godzilla Minus One accomplished a monumental task on a shoestring budget (just don’t ask questions about why the budget was so low). But we’ve also got Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Napoleon with just as compelling reasons to be in, so it stands to reason that I won’t go 5/5 here.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Locks

  1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

  2. The Boy and the Heron

Safe

      3. Elemental

      4. Nimona

Shaky

      5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem


Netflix has become just as powerful as Disney at getting nominations in this category. That power and the love for Aardman should have been enough for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget to be shoo-in here, but the heat on that campaign has been nonexistent. Nimona has been a steady player all season long, and TMNT showed strength recently when it was nominated by the PGA.

 

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

Locks

  1. The Zone of Interest (United Kingdom)

  2. Society of the Snow (Spain)

Safe

      3. The Taste of Things (France)

      4. Fallen Leaves (Finland)

Shaky

      5. Tótem (Mexico)


Mexico’s Tótem has been the little indie that could all season, sort of similar to The Quiet Girl last year. It was mentioned at the Gothams, Indie Spirits, NBR, and placed as a runner-up at LAFCA. That groundswell of passion is just what a film needs in this category. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Germany’s The Teacher’s Lounge or Japan’s Perfect Days got in instead.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Safe

  1. 20 Days in Mariupol

  2. Four Daughters

Shaky

      3. Beyond Utopia

      4. American Symphony

5. Bobi Wine: The People's President


There is no such thing as a lock in this category. No amount of precursors, box office success, or critical acclaim guarantees a nomination, and any snub should not come as a surprise. This branch is allergic to celebrity biopics, meaning only one of either American Symphony or Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie will likely get in. American Symphony got a PGA nomination over Still, which is about the only justification I can use to avoid a coin flip. While I’m content with going ⅘ in every other category, I’d let out a sigh of relief if I go ⅗ here.

 

NOMINATION TOTALS

  1. Oppenheimer (13)

  2. Poor Things (12)

  3. Killers of the Flower Moon (11)

  4. Barbie (9)

  5. Maestro (7)

  6. The Holdovers (6)

  7. The Zone of Interest (5)

  8. Anatomy of a Fall (4)

  9. American Fiction (3)

  10. Society of the Snow (3)

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