The Oscars: Who’ll Win, Who Should Win, and Who’s Overdue

Will win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”
Should win: Danielle Brooks, “The Color Purple”
Should’ve been nominated: Hong Chau, “Showing Up”


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sterling K. Brown, “American Fiction”
Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Robert Downey, Jr., “Oppenheimer”
Ryan Gosling, “Barbie”
Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things”

Everything is coming together beautifully for Robert Downey, Jr., a three-time Oscar nominee and longtime Hollywood survivor who, after wisecracking his way through one tediously lucrative Marvel blowout after another, tore into the role of “Oppenheimer” ’s resident Salieri with an almost rapacious hunger, but also with burnished wit and measured control. He’ll win handily, beating out, among others, a worthy first-timer—Sterling K. Brown, quite touching as a recently uncloseted gay man in “American Fiction”—and a two-time Oscar-winning veteran, Robert De Niro, whose underappreciated work in “Killers of the Flower Moon” was rightly hailed by the Slate editor Sam Adams as a masterly demonstration of “the congeniality of evil.”

I’d have expected Ryan Gosling to fare better for his very funny feat of plasticine self-satire in “Barbie.” But, as Ken-type characters go, I do prefer Duncan Wedderburn, the über-horny Victorian-era Snidely Whiplash played by Mark Ruffalo in “Poor Things.” This is, remarkably, Ruffalo’s fourth time at bat, following his previous Best Supporting Actor nominations for “The Kids Are All Right” (2010), “Foxcatcher” (2014), and “Spotlight” (2015). Voters, take note: he’s due.

Will win: Robert Downey, Jr., “Oppenheimer”
Should win: Mark Ruffalo, “Poor Things”
Should’ve been nominated: Milo Machado-Graner, “Anatomy of a Fall”


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, “Anatomy of a Fall”
David Hemingson, “The Holdovers”
Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer, “Maestro”
Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik, “May December”
Celine Song, “Past Lives”

Four terrific screenplays, plus “The Holdovers,” which, nonetheless, stands a decent chance of winning. Still, I suspect that “Anatomy of a Fall” will prevail in this category, powered in part by an expertly run campaign as well as genuine enthusiasm for the movie itself. The legal, structural, and psychological intricacies of Triet and Harari’s marital whodunnit speak impressively enough for themselves; the fact that their movie is in no small part about the petty jealousies and treacherous minds of writers surely won’t hurt.

Will win: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, “Anatomy of a Fall”
Should win: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari, “Anatomy of a Fall”
Should’ve been nominated: Cristian Mungiu, “R.M.N.”


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Cord Jefferson, “American Fiction”
Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, “Barbie”
Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”
Tony McNamara, “Poor Things”
Jonathan Glazer, “The Zone of Interest”

Leaving aside the debate over whether a script inspired by a world-famous toy line should count as original or adapted, I could imagine voters honoring “Barbie” here, out of genuine respect for its abundant wit and imagination, but also out of sympathy for Greta Gerwig after her omission from the Best Director race. The safe money is still on “American Fiction,” for roughly the same writer-flattering reasons that I think “Anatomy of a Fall” is going to win Best Original Screenplay. Christopher Nolan’s incisive streamlining of an authoritative biography in “Oppenheimer” would be a far worthier choice, as would Tony McNamara’s deft recalibration of perspective and fiendishly funny way with dialogue in “Poor Things.” The winner should be “The Zone of Interest,” which, in distilling the chilled essence of Martin Amis’s novel, paring away characters, subplots, dialogue, and distractions, demonstrates an art that I wish more filmmakers had the confidence to attempt: adaptation by subtraction.

Will win: Cord Jefferson, “American Fiction”
Should win: Jonathan Glazer, “The Zone of Interest”
Should’ve been nominated: Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch, “The Eight Mountains”


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“The Boy and the Heron”
“Elemental”
“Nimona”
“Robot Dreams”
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Who’d have thought that “Spider-Man” vs. “Heron-Boy” would be such a nail-biter? The two films have divided most of the animation spoils this season, and either one would be a strong choice, even if neither offers the thrill of revelation. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018), the first film in the still-unfolding “Spider-Verse” trilogy, won this Oscar five years ago; Hayao Miyazaki, who directed “The Boy and the Heron,” won it twenty-one years ago for his masterly “Spirited Away” (2001).

For now, the momentum would appear to lie with “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” which recently clinched the Producers Guild of America’s animation award, and a victory for its ingenious storytelling and dazzlingly inventive visual style would certainly get no complaint from me. But there is no more lionized figure in modern animation than Miyazaki, and although the octogenarian master has long been in the habit of announcing and deferring his retirement, his many fans the world over have grown accustomed to greeting each new film as if it were his last. It’ll be close, but the chance for voters to honor Miyazaki at least one more time for “The Boy and the Heron,” an entrancing work of fantasy with the undeniable weight of a valediction, may prove too difficult to resist.

Will win: “The Boy and the Heron”
Should win: “The Boy and the Heron”
Should’ve been nominated: “Suzume”


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President”
“The Eternal Memory”
“Four Daughters”
“To Kill a Tiger”
“20 Days in Mariupol”

There may be no greater evidence of the Academy’s growing internationalism than the fact that not a single American story cracked the Best Documentary Feature category, a result that has drawn predictable and tiresome indignation in some quarters. No matter; this is a sterling list of nominees, and one from which I’m harder-pressed than usual to single out a personal favorite. The pursuit of justice propels both “To Kill a Tiger,” a patient and moving account of a groundbreaking rape trial in rural India, and “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” a sweeping portrait of a Ugandan pop star’s attempt to unseat a corrupt Presidential regime. “The Eternal Memory,” which chronicles the steadfast devotion of a Chilean couple grappling with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, is the most quietly intimate of the nominees; “Four Daughters,” which deploys interviews, reënactments, and metafictional framing elements to unravel a Tunisian family’s tragedy, is the most formally inventive. The winner will be “20 Days in Mariupol,” a dispatch from the early days of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and one that, as the conflict enters its second year, feels no less viscerally and morally urgent now.

Will win: “20 Days in Mariupol”
Should win: “20 Days in Mariupol”
Should’ve been nominated: “De Humani Corporis Fabrica”


BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

“Io Capitano”
“Perfect Days”
“Society of the Snow”
“The Teachers’ Lounge”
“The Zone of Interest”

Some extra-diligent voters will give their due consideration to the captivating migrant odyssey of “Io Capitano,” the whimsical toilet crawl of “Perfect Days,” the gruelling survival drama of “Society of the Snow,” and the expertly crafted pedagogical puzzles of “The Teachers’ Lounge.” No matter: “The Zone of Interest,” will win, as the occasional lone Best Picture nominee in this race always has (see also: “Life Is Beautiful,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Amour,” “Roma,” “Parasite,” and “Drive My Car”). That scenario might have been complicated had France submitted “Anatomy of a Fall,” which, on the strength of its widespread Academy support, almost certainly would have been nominated here as well.

Will win: “The Zone of Interest”
Should win: “The Zone of Interest”
Should’ve been nominated: “Tótem” ♦

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