Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A guide to the Oscars’ 2024 Best Picture nominees

From Barbieland to the Alps, this year’s nominees prove that the Academy has range
Image from IMDb

With less than a month away from the 96th Academy Awards ceremony, time is running out to catch up on the nominees for the most coveted award in Hollywood. This year’s lineup for Best Picture is shockingly well-rounded, pitting breakthrough international films against ubiquitous domestic blockbusters. Here’s a look at the nominees, and the likelihood of their winning on Oscar night.

American Fiction

Writer/director Cord Jefferson’s satire follows a struggling novelist who aims to spice up his career by writing a novel that leans into outdated Black stereotypes, unwittingly creating a bestselling phenomenon. The film examines the ways that the media encourages BIPOC to conform to predetermined notions of their people. “American Fiction” is the perfect vehicle for underrated character actor Jeffrey Wright, receiving his first nomination for the lead role. Jefferson, a veteran of TV shows like “Watchmen” and “Station Eleven” is nominated for both producing and writing, making him one to look out for. The film has gained much acclaim from awards outlets, but it lacks the cultural presence of other nominees like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”

Anatomy of a Fall

French auteur Justine Triet’s sizzling courtroom drama is something of a surprise in this category. After France’s Oscar selection committee shut it out of the race for Best International Feature Film, “Anatomy” got its revenge, receiving five nominations. The film follows Sandra Huller (nominated for her role) as a woman defending her innocence concerning the fatal fall of her husband from their alpine home. Combining the salacious delight of a legal thriller with the probing insight of a marriage drama, “Anatomy of a Fall” is a total treat, loaded with twists and auteurist style. Though its chances of taking the top prize are slim up against juggernauts like “Oppenheimer,” the nomination is a sign that the Academy is taking its commitment to a more international outlook seriously.


Likely the most talked-about movie of the year (as well as the highest-grossing), Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” was guaranteed to be nominated for the major technical and creative categories, despite the snubs for both Gerwig as director and Margot Robbie as the titular character. Achieving the impossible, the film balances the cartoonishly feminine aesthetics of the doll brand with a more thoughtful look into what it means to be a woman. A win for “Barbie” would mean an appeal to the popular vote. It’s the third consecutive Gerwig-directed film to be nominated for the top prize and the one most likely to win. Chances are the juggernaut takes home many of the technical awards, being defined largely by its enchanting production design.

The Holdovers

Academy-favorite director Alexander Payne is back with a far less cynical film than the rest of his oeuvre. Nominated for five awards, the bittersweet dramedy follows Paul Giamatti as a cantankerous history teacher tasked with supervising a moody student who can’t go home for the holidays. If “The Holdovers” is to win only one award, it will be for Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s incredible supporting performance as the school’s cook in mourning. With sensitivity and unflinching reality, Randolph perfectly encapsulates the greatest strengths of the film as a whole. The sheer range of its appeal makes “The Holdovers” a very possible winner, though maybe not the zeitgeist-capturing phenomenon that other nominees serve as.

Killers of the Flower Moon

Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s take on the years-long genocide of the Osage people in 1920s Oklahoma is a masterwork, with a star-making performance by Lily Gladstone at its center. A three-and-a-half-hour epic, “Killers” is a loaded counterpoint to the typical patriotic epic that dominated the Oscars throughout the 20th century (see “Gone with the Wind,” “Dances with Wolves,” “Cimarron”). A win for the historical drama would prove to be one of the more radical statements from the Academy. Scorsese’s film is undeniably bleak, unflinchingly portraying the monstrosity of a white-led government, calling into question the under-examined past of our own relationship to the indigenous peoples of America. Given the 10 fruitless nominations of Scorsese’s last epic, “The Irishman,” there is no certainty that his latest will take home any awards. Of all the nominations, Gladstone is the most likely to win.


Bradley Cooper’s sophomore directing effort is classic Oscar fodder, telling the star-studded story of iconic composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein and his wife, Felicia Montealegre. What sets “Maestro” apart from most biopics is its stylistic clarity, as seen with Matthew Libatique’s Oscar-nominated cinematography. Cooper’s direction is remarkably dynamic, breathing life into a potentially drab rehashing of entertainment history. His much-discussed performance as the titular maestro is clearly a labor of love, both highly studied and unabashedly flamboyant at times. Carey Mulligan matches this energy beautifully. The film is a shoo-in for the makeup and hairstyling award, with two-time winner Kazu Hiro behind the seamless prosthetic transformations.


The other half of “Barbenheimer” is equally anomalous to Gerwig’s film. Writer/director Christopher Nolan achieved the impossible with “Oppenheimer,” making a three hours of period-accurate conversation into a blockbuster hit. The film is the fiercest competition to its fellow nominees, managing to check both typical Oscar checkboxes (it’s a biopic about American history made by a previously nominated filmmaker) as well as being an of-the-moment cultural touchstone. Lead actor Cillian Murphy has managed to win over both critics and online film fans with his incredibly dynamic performance and deadpan press junket performance. “Oppenheimer” is the one to beat.

Past Lives

Following the near-sweep of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” A24 is back with two nominees in the category. The first is Celine Song’s airy romantic drama, detailing the ebb and flow of a relationship between two childhood friends (Greta Lee and Teo Yoo). Song’s film wavers between somber reflection and ecstatic romantic chemistry. With only two nominations, it’s unlikely to be A24’s second consecutive Best Picture win, but the nomination is huge for producer Christine Vachon, a crucial voice in the New Queer Cinema movement and the head of independent production company Killer Films. 

Poor Things

A sex comedy, Frankenstein homage and coming-of-age story, “Poor Things” might be the strangest nominee this year. With 11 total nominations, it is the second most-nominated film of the year. It marks director Yorgos Lanthimos’ fourth and fifth nominations, for both producing and directing. Despite the major nominations, much of the film’s buzz surrounds Emma Stone in the lead role. Stone has already racked up several major awards, including a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Critics Choice Award. The idiosyncratic visuals make “Poor Things” a near-lock for the production design and costume design awards, but time will tell if Lanthimos has built enough good will in the industry to take the top prize.

The Zone of Interest

A24’s second nominee this year is Jonathan Glazer’s stark and harrowing drama about the Nazi family who lived next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival (essentially the second-place award), “The Zone of Interest” may look like typical Oscar bait, given its ties to World War II, but the film is far more experimental. Reminiscent of Glazer’s “Under the Skin” and “Birth,” the film eschews narrative in favor of an impressionistic approach, steeping the viewer in the banal evil of prosperity amidst a genocide. The film is unlikely to win Best Picture due to its unconventional form and horribly disquieting tone, but it is a singular experience.

Thomas Machacz can be reached at [email protected].

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