Oscars 2024: A strong field with plenty of potential for upsets – though Barbie won’t be one of them

Amidst an exceptional field ‘Oppenheimer’ is set to triumph at the Oscars.

The deeply held reverence that exalts Hollywood as The Realm of Dreams sees no greater expression this Oscar season than with the nomination of Barbie for best picture.

As sweet a gesture of recognition as it is to the film’s phenomenal box office – $US1.446 billion, sure to be matched by its home release – it nonetheless deserves to be taken as seriously as all the bellyaching about how Greta Gerwig was not nominated for Best Director and how Margot Robbie was not nominated for best actress.

These heinous omissions were widely interpreted by triggered feminists everywhere as the work of the faceless men in charge of very patriarchy the film strained to satirize. Them bastards.

Somehow adding insult to injury was the Best Supporting Actor nomination for Ryan Gosling, whose performance received much praise for its humour and pushback against the film’s ardent man-bashing.

The griping proved emblematic of the highly selective nature that defines the broader discourse about gender and inequality, conveniently overlooking things that counter the confected outrage.

Keep smiling: Margot Robbie in ‘Barbie’.

To wit: American Ferrera has a best supporting nom for Barbie – no doubt for her widely clipped rant about how oppressed modern western women still are – and both Gerwig and Robbie, indeed, have been nominated as producers of a best film nominee.

Rather than carp, Barbie acolytes should be tickled pink by Oscar’s attention. The best picture nom might be a cosmic stretch – with the inexplicable Best Original Screenplay nom threatening to cause riots in writing rooms across the world should it win – but the noms for Best Production Design, Original Song (two nods) and Costumes hold some credit.

Seems there’s no pleasing some people.

Overall, it’s an exceptionally strong Oscars field this year, with plenty of scope for upsets.

Although the universally acclaimed Oppenheimer is clearly the favourite – sure to take Best Film, Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Actor (Cillian Murphy), Supporting Actor (Robert Downey Jr), Editing, Sound, Cinematography, Production Design – there are a lot of hot entries cooking on the threat board. (No apologies for the Dr Strangelove reference.)

Chief among these is the extraordinary Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest.

Sure to win Best International Feature, it also presents Jonathan Glazer as serious competition to Nolan for Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Sound. (So eerie are those horrific screams that bleed over scenes of domestic tranquility.)

Oscar has long loved underdogs, which puts the perfectly cast Paul Giamatti in strong Best Actor contention for his superb, understated performance in The Holdovers.

Bradley Cooper also offers stiff competition for his career-topping work in Maestro, with Jeffrey Wright coming up on the inside with his splendid two-faced work in American Fiction, an excellent satire about the hypocrisy of diversity policy in the literary world that is also up for Best Picture, Score and Best Supporting Actor for Sterling K Brown.

Emma Stone as a brain transplant recipient in ‘Poor Things’.

Breathing down Oppenheimer’s neck across most of its categories is the enthralling period phantasm of Poor Things.

Unlikely to challenge Oppy’s grip on Best Film, Yorgos Lanthimos could nonetheless pip Nolan as Best Director as well as claiming glory for Cinematography (great use of colour and monochrome) and Editing.

The hyper-real, wow factor-10 production design of Poor Things – along with its Costume Design and Hair/Make-up work – certainly puts the Barbie noms in their place.

Pleasing to the eye as Babs is, surely its look is essentially the result of pointing to the items in a Barbie catalogue – dolls, accessories, cars, houses, clothes, etc – and telling the crew “make movie versions of all this”. No disrespect intended. Just a theory.

The film also has a hard-earned grip on Best Actress for Emma Stone. She deserves a bg win over great work from Annette Bening for Nyad, Sandra Huller for Anatomy of a Fall, and Carey Mulligan for Maestro.

Yet the award will sadly go to Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moon.

This vastly overrated, overlong Apple TV movie from veteran Martin Scorsese shows how vulnerable Oscar still is to the winds of hype and political correctness. The Best Actress win will serve optics over quality, which is a major bummer.

The film’s other noms for director, picture, supporting actor (Robert De Niro, which he would dearly love to win just so he could let off another expletive-laden rant against Donald Trump), Cinematography (huh?) and Editing (what?) are mainly motivated by the respect Scorsese has earned for his peerless legacy of cinematic genius. But KOTFM still won’t win anything else. Please.

Elsewhere:

It’d be fun to see I’m Just Ken take Best Original Song for Barbie;

Stranger things in ‘The Boy and the Heron’.

The Boy and the Heron should take Best Animated Feature over worthy adversary Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and the very ordinary Elemental, the latest serving of mediocrity from the once-great Pixar.

Would love for Jodie Foster to take Best Supporting Actress for Nyad, even though it’s likely to go to Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her fine work in The Holdovers, pipping Emily Blunt for Oppy.

Still, so good to see her and Bening bounce off each other so well. If there was an Oscar for Best Duo they’d be a shoo-in.

A little bummed Past Lives didn’t crack more than notable noms for Film and Original Screenplay, but it shows, once again, how far and wide Oscar’s purview extends.

Well-nommed as it is, that Maestro couldn’t crack a Best Director nod for Cooper even though it’s up for best film – this frequent, long-standing anomaly must end – still feels like a bit of a cheat. Still, Cooper is up with Josh Singer for Best Original Screenplay, which it deserves.

The Oscars airs Monday at 10am on 7Plus