Now that final voting is over, the 96th Oscars telecast will broadcast on Sunday, March 10 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.

The State of the Race

Per usual, big-budget projects carry the marketing and awareness advantage on the road to the Oscars. Look at two summer flicks, Christopher Nolan’s hard-hitting biopic “Oppenheimer,” (Universal), whose stars Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and Robert Downey, Jr. are chasing Oscars, and Greta Gerwig’s pastel-pink Mattel extravaganza “Barbie” (Warner Bros.), starring producer Margot Robbie and Supporting Actor nominee Ryan Gosling. Both films have accrued critical raves and elevated coverage as their studios avoided selling the films (and turning off mainstream audiences) via festival cred. So far, “Oppenheimer” looks hard to beat as it picks up key awards (Globes, CCAs, DGA, BAFTAS, SAG, PGA) and 13 Oscar nominations on the road to an inevitable win for Best Picture.

As it happens, this year, the Oscars’ top 10 Best Picture candidates line up with those of the PGA. If anyone thought there was a movie to disrupt “Oppenheimer”‘s win, they can stop now.

The other Best Picture contenders will have to settle for other awards along the way. A24, which hoped for back-to-back Oscar winners after “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was pushing critical and box-office breakout “Past Lives,” from Korean-American playwright-turned-director Celine Song, about a married New York writer (Greta Lee) who reunites with her Korean childhood sweetheart (Teo Yoo). The film passed $10 million at the domestic box office, a feat that is difficult to achieve these days. Song, Lee, and Yoo have been making the rounds, along with their producers, Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Pamela Kofler, who have never earned a Best Picture nomination before. “Past Lives” earned Best Picture and Original Screenplay nominations, and won the Best First-Time Director DGA and the Indie Spirits for Best Feature and Director.

Greta Lee as Norah, smiling in the back of a cab on her way to New York City, in "Past Lives"
“Past Lives” Jon Pack/Twenty Years Rights/A24

Cannes propelled A24’s German-language “The Zone of Interest,” a dark holocaust movie starring German actress Sandra Hüller (Oscar-nominated international feature “Toni Erdmann”), to a festival grand prize for British auteur Jonathan Glazer, who accepted three BAFTA awards. Hüller also scored raves for French director Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or, European Film and Cesar Awards, and BAFTA winner, the courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall” (Neon), which is half English, half French. Both films earned five Oscar nominations.

While “Fall” was not submitted by France as the country’s Best International Feature Film Oscar contender, the UK submitted “The Zone of Interest,” which is favored to win. In any case, the increasingly international Academy voters could respond to both films in other categories, as they did with “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Worst Person in the World,” “Parasite,” and “Drive My Car.” “Fall” could pick up Original Screenplay, while “Zone” could win Sound.

Cannes also pushed “The Departed” Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese into the race with his western gangster epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple TV+), starring Best Actor winners Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), Robert De Niro (“The Godfather Part II” and “Raging Bull”), and rising breakout Lily Gladstone. De Niro and Gladstone scored nominations. The three-and-a-half-hour opus may have peaked too soon, as the BAFTAs left Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Gladstone out of the running, revealing weakness among the international block of voters.

As always, biopics are competitive in the Oscar fray. “Maestro” (Netflix) played the Venice and New York Film festivals, but until after the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes were resolved, producer-director-writer-star Bradley Cooper couldn’t promote the movie. In his second feature, he plays charismatic New York conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, who smokes constantly and ages over three decades. He and fellow acting nominee Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s wife, Felicia Montealegre, made up for lost time on the promo circuit. The movie scored seven Oscar nominations but no BAFTA wins. Two-time Oscar-winner Kazu Hiro’s Makeup and Hairstyling could prove the film’s only win.

On the fiction side, Oscar perennial Alexander Payne’s Christmas comedy “The Holdovers” (Focus), which reunites him with his “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti, played well with audiences in Telluride and Toronto and built up momentum as a box-office hit ($43 million worldwide). Giamatti won the Comedy Actor Globe as well as Best Actor at the CCAs, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph has swept every Supporting Actress award so far, and could prove the film’s only Oscar win, if David Hemingson does not prevail in Original Screenplay. Payne landed a DGA and BAFTA nomination, but no Oscar directing slot; the three-hander did not make it to SAG Ensemble.

Winning the Golden Lion in Venice was Yorgos Lanthimos’ (“The Favourite”) fantastical coming-of-age tale “Poor Things” (Searchlight). The sexy comedy wowed Venice and Telluride audiences and critics ahead of its pushed-back December release. Since then the movie has grossed more than $100 million worldwide. The movie took home the Comedy Golden Globe, and Emma Stone won Comedy Actress, the CCA and BAFTA awards for Best Actress, but lost to Lily Gladstone at SAG. But while “Poor Things” earned 11 BAFTA nods and five wins, it did not score a SAG Ensemble nomination.

Jeffrey Wright stars as Thelonious "Monk" Ellison in writer/director Cord Jefferson’s 


An Orion Pictures Release

Photo credit: Claire Folger

© 2023 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.
“American Fiction”Claire Folger/Orion Releasing LLC

Winning the coveted — and often predictive of a Best Picture nomination — People’s Choice Award at Toronto was “American Fiction” (Orion/Amazon MGM), TV writer and rookie director Cord Jefferson’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s satiric novel “Erasure,” starring Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown. They both landed SAG and Oscar nominations; the film also scored an Ensemble slot, and won Adapted Screenplay at the CCAs and BAFTAs.

Nominees are listed in order of likelihood to win.

“Poor Things”
“The Holdovers”
American Fiction”
“The Zone of Interest”
“Anatomy of a Fall”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Past Lives”

Leave a comment