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Pruett’s 2024 Oscars Predictions, printable ballot

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Kaitlyn Close

The Academy Awards are scheduled to return for their 96th ceremony on Sunday, March 10. Welcome to your 2024 guide to Hollywood’s biggest night. Print a ballot, make your picks and play against Pruett. Strap in, because it’s officially Oscars season. 

 

Best Supporting Actor

Who should win: Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”

Who will win: Robert Downey Jr., “Oppenheimer”

Robert Downey Jr. is a hotly-tipped favorite to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Lewis Strauss in Christopher Nolan’s atomic awards juggernaut, “Oppenheimer.” He’s swept most of the precursor ceremonies, including the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. He’s also a beloved and renowned movie star at the peak of his fame, and with two other Oscar nominations to his name, the Academy seems poised to reward Downey for his contributions to the film industry. Downey’s performance as Strauss is a strong one. But he’s far from the best part of that film. Instead, the Academy would be better off honoring someone who was the best part of theirs.

 Sterling K. Brown is electric as Cliff Ellison in the Jeffrey Wright-led satire “American Fiction.” Brown portrays Wright’s character’s brother, a gay man struggling with addiction and acceptance by his family, with charisma and earnestness. In a film very much about the present moment, Brown turns in a timeless performance.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Who should win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

Who will win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s performance in “The Holdovers” is the surest lock for Oscars’ gold at this ceremony. Randolph has won virtually every supporting actress award she’s been nominated for, and for good reason. Her turn as a grieving mother and cafeteria steward in “The Holdovers” is bombastic and subtle. She plays witty, devastated and warm, and manages to wring emotion out of every scene she’s in. There’s a particular wordless moment where Randolph’s character is standing above a dresser that is nearly impossible not to tear up during. It’s easy to imagine her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress will evoke the same reaction.

 

Best Animated Feature

What should win: “The Boy and the Heron”

What will win: “The Boy and the Heron” or “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Perhaps the most hotly contested race this year is between two of the best films of 2023. One film competing for the top prize in the Best Animated Feature category is “The Boy and the Heron,” the fantastic and potentially final adventure from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki, of Studio Ghibli fame. It’s up against “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” a marvel of animation itself and the sequel to the Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

While “Across the Spider-Verse” is a brilliant assemblage of character, heart and animated innovation, it’s hard to argue against the power of Miyazaki’s hand-drawn majesty. “Across the Spider-Verse” is also only the second chapter in a planned trilogy, and ends on a tremendous cliffhanger. Its sequel will likely be competing in this category next year, leaving Academy voters the opportunity to further reward the multiversal Spider-Man saga. Miyazaki, meanwhile, is a fleeting treasure, and his film is a perfect encapsulation of what makes him so special as a filmmaker. It’s animated gold, and deserves a little golden man to show for it.

Kaitlyn Close

Best Documentary Feature

What should win: “20 Days in Mariupol”

What will win: “20 Days in Mariupol”

The most devastating portrayal of war in a film last year was not Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” or even the United Kingdom’s “The Zone of Interest.” It was the documentary feature “20 Days in Mariupol,” filmed in the Ukrainian city by director Mstyslav Chernov and his team at the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The images that the journalists capture are heartbreaking and unbelievable depictions of cruelty and carnage. The invasion rages on two years later with little to show for it but more death and devastation. It’s impossible to imagine what the people of Ukraine or Chernov and his team must have been feeling during those first three weeks, but “20 Days in Mariupol” does its best to try and make the viewer comprehend the incomprehensible. It’s unmissable to see and impossible to stomach. It’s the definition of the power documentary filmmaking can wield.

 

Best International Feature

What should win: “The Zone of Interest”

What will win: “The Zone of Interest”

Jonathan Glazer’s Auschwitz drama “The Zone of Interest” is a peculiarity in terms of typical Oscars fare. Largely devoid of plot, the film uses experimental camera techniques and an incredible soundscape to depict the plainness of the evil lived and breathed every day by the commander of Auschwitz and his family. The film managed to crack the 10 nominations for Best Picture, indicating its heavyweight status in the Best International Feature category, and its must-see arthouse filmmaking. Nothing about it is an easy watch, but it’s easy to commend Glazer for his bold depiction of the lack of humanity in what is perhaps humanity’s greatest sin.

 

Best Original Screenplay

What should win: “Past Lives”

What will win: “Anatomy of a Fall”

Historically, Best Original Screenplay is home to the cool kids of the Oscars race. Past winners may share a Best Picture trophy at the end of the night, but more often than not, risk-taking films like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Juno,” “Her,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Get Out” are honored for their interesting and challenging writing. “Anatomy of a Fall” certainly falls under that categorization for its ambiguous depiction of a marriage torn apart inside the French court system. Its success in the awards race so far indicates Oscar voters are likely to honor its impressive blend of multiple languages and legal politics. However, another polylingual script that deserves as much attention is Celine Song’s screenplay for “Past Lives.”

The gentle romance of missed opportunities and national identities is a gorgeous exploration of what it means to love another person, and its blend of English, Korean and the space in-between is a powerful reminder of Song’s playwright background. The theater of “Past Lives” unfolds with grace and gravity, and should win Oscars’ gold for it.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

What should win: “Barbie”

What will win: “American Fiction”

“American Fiction” is everything the Academy might want from an adapted screenplay. It takes a two-decade old novel and transforms it into a film that feels ripped straight out of the present day. Cord Jefferson is a first-time feature film writer and director that could hugely benefit from the laurels of a Best Adapted Screenplay win. However, it’s competing against a film that defined U.S. culture for months. Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s script for “Barbie” is equal parts hilarious and moving, and its quotability permeated the public consciousness immediately upon its release. That sort of impact is hard to ignore, and considering the film’s removal from consideration in Best Original Screenplay, it should be honored for its originality in adaptation.

 

Best Director

Who should win: Christopher Nolan

Who will win: Christopher Nolan

Nolan is going to win this award. “Oppenheimer” is the awards season darling, and Nolan has been a celebrated director for years. His name is synonymous in households worldwide for blockbuster entertainment, as well as creative and original big-budget storytelling. His direction of “Oppenheimer” is pitch perfect: coiled, charged and explosive. After years of telling stories that capture the imagination of millions, Nolan has finally earned a little gold man for his big bomb man story.

 

Best Actress

Who should win: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Who will win: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is an amazing feat of filmmaking, and Lily Gladstone is a huge reason why. It’s been a tight race between her and Emma Stone, whose performance in “Poor Things” has been universally celebrated. However, in an awards season that “Killers of the Flower Moon” has largely been shut out of, Gladstone has been a constant presence, and her awards speeches have been emblematic of her singular empathy and grace. An Oscar for Gladstone would be the first Oscar for a Native American actor, a fact Gladstone alluded to in her similarly-historic win at the Golden Globes.

“This is for every little rez kid, every little urban kid, every little Native kid out there who has a dream, who is seeing themselves represented and our stories told by ourselves in our own words,” Gladstone said during her acceptance speech.

Gladstone’s performance as Mollie Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon” is the definition of a story told in a way only she could tell it.

 

Best Actor

Who should win: Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”

Who will win: Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”

Part of the “Oppenheimer” steamroller has been for Cillian Murphy’s turn as J. Robert Oppenheimer in the film. Murphy is a regular Nolan presence, appearing in six of his films to date. However, “Oppenheimer” is the first time he’s been the starring performer under the director, and the wild success Murphy’s had with the part makes it a wonder he hasn’t been the center of Nolan’s attention before. Murphy is deserving of a Best Actor win, and after his victory at the SAG awards, he should be a lock for the trophy. However, another major Hollywood presence in this year’s category is soft-spoken character actor Paul Giamatti, nominated for his performance in “The Holdovers.”

Though beloved in the industry, “The Holdovers” is only Giamatti’s second Oscar nod, and his first for Best Actor. If the Academy is seeking to spread the wealth among films other than “Oppenheimer” Sunday night, Giamatti would be a great place to start.

 

Best Picture

What should win: “Killers of the Flower Moon”

What will win: “Oppenheimer”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” versus “Oppenheimer.” One three-hour historical epic versus another. “Oppenheimer” has it in the bag, with the precursor awards to prove it. But if this critic has anything to say about the matter, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is 2023’s best picture, even if “Oppenheimer” is the 2024 Oscars’ Best Picture.

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About the Contributors
Pruett Norris, Multimedia Editor
Pruett Norris (he/him) is a senior double majoring in English with a concentration in Film Studies and Electronic Media/Broadcasting. This is his second year with The Appalachian.
Kaitlyn Close, Graphics Editor
Kaitlyn Close (she/her) is a senior Graphic Design major and Digital Marketing minor. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
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