After ‘Oppenheimer’ Dominates the Oscar Nominations, Can Anything Stop Christopher Nolan’s Epic?

“Oppenheimer” has surged ahead of its competition, potentially becoming one of the most dominant Oscar winners since “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), which garnered eight statuettes. Looking at the state of the race post-nominations, the Universal Pictures’ blockbuster could make an even bigger impact.

Christopher Nolan’s historical drama about the father of the Atomic bomb leads the tally with 13, making it the 11th movie to reach such a gargantuan Oscars nomination count. Six of the previous 10 films scored best picture wins, including classics like “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “Forrest Gump” (1994), and “The Shape of Water” (2017). The four that lost are “Mary Poppins” (1964), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966), “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), none of which were heavily favored to triumph in their respective years. But that’s probably not the fate of “Oppenheimer,” particularly after its victories at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards ceremonies.

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And lets consider the other “Oppen-homies.” Robert Downey Jr. is in the pole position to be named best supporting actor for his portrayal of the slimy bureaucrat Lewis Strauss. After winning the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe, and with two previous nominations for “Chaplin” (1992) and “Tropic Thunder” (2008), he’s clearly the favorite However, it isn’t entirely sealed for him yet, as Mark Ruffalo’s inclusion for “Poor Things” is intriguing. With four nominations to his name, including “The Kids Are All Right” (2010), “Foxcatcher” (2014), and “Spotlight” (2015), Ruffalo, a beloved veteran, could create an “Iron Man” vs. “Hulk” acting race. But Ruffalo’s candidacy could be hurt after he was overlooked for SAG and BAFTA nominations. Only two people in the modern era have won Oscars without being recognized by those groups – Marcia Gay Harden for “Pollock” (2000) and Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018).

On paper, Yorgos Lanthimos’ sci-fi fantasy comedy “Poor Things” appears to be the most formidable challenger to Nolan’s frontrunning epic. It scored 11 nominations, including two for Emma Stone as a producer and leading actress. She is only the second woman to achieve this feat after Frances McDormand for “Nomadland” (2020), who won in both categories. A close competition is anticipated between Stone and “Killers of the Flower Moon” star Lily Gladstone, the first Native American nominee ever in the category.

“Killers” and “Poor Things” could find themselves virtually shut-out if they lose the actress prize. And while Scorsese is now the most nominated living filmmaker in history, he’s had a spotty track record of converting those nominations into wins. Two of his films, “The Irishman” (2019) and “Gangs of New York” (2002), went home empty-handed during their respective years despite racking up lots of nods. Then there’s “Poor Things.” If it fails to win in any category, it would tie “The Color Purple” (1985) and “The Turning Point” (1977) as the movie with the most Oscar losses.


The morning’s biggest shocker was probably that “Barbie” creator Greta Gerwig and her star Margot Robbie were overlooked in the best director and actress races. However, both received individual nominations, with Gerwig getting recognized in the adapted screenplay category and Robbie in best picture as a producer. The movie’s screenplay once seemed like it could bring Gerwig her first statue, but with “American Fiction” winning the Critics Choice Award and “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things” performing strongly, that may not come to pass. We could be looking at a situation that’s reminiscent of “A Star is Born,” which underperformed on Oscar night and only managed to win an original song award. This could bode well for Billie Eilish and Finneas, who are nominated for “What Was I Made For?”

Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” received five significant nominations, and the French courtroom drama is a strong contender for best original screenplay, alongside Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” and Celine Song’s “Past Lives.” I’m keeping a close eye on best actress nominee Sandra Huller, who stands a solid chance at winning BAFTA, to emerge as a possible dark horse.

“Holdovers” star Da’Vine Joy Randolph has emerged as the darling of the season, winning the most precursor awards. Her co-star, Paul Giamatti, will be a formidable challenger for best actor after winning the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe for lead comedy actor. With only one previous nomination for “Cinderella Man” (2005), Giamatti, at 56, commands great respect and support from his peers, positioning the veteran actor for a potential win at the Dolby Theatre. However, he faces competition from Cillian Murphy from “Oppenheimer” and Bradley Cooper from “Maestro,” both of whom give transformative performances that could be impossible to ignore.


Cooper enters the ceremony as an 12-time nominee, but he has yet to nab the prize. It’s also the second time he’s directed himself to an acting nomination, having previously accomplished this feat with “A Star is Born.” He now joins a select group of individuals who have directed themselves to an acting nomination more than once. The others are Laurence Olivier, Warren Beatty, and Clint Eastwood — pretty heady company.

Amazon MGM’s satirical comedy “American Fiction” received an impressive five nominations, including double nominations for writer and producer Cord Jefferson, the only person of color to receive multiple mentions this year. Unfortunately, Jefferson missed out on a directing nomination, but his two stars, Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown, received lead and supporting nominations for their acclaimed performances.

Other tidbits worth pointing out:

Despite Netflix leading with 18 nominations for studios, A24 is the only one to secure two of the 10 slots for best picture, a notable achievement given the indie nature of both their films (“The Zone of Interest” and “Past Lives”).

Danielle Brooks became the first person to be the sole nominee for a musical performance for her work in “The Color Purple,” which fell short in other categories. Nonetheless, it is a well-deserved recognition for the Broadway star. Also it’s worth noting that Latino actors were recognized — Colman Domingo for “Rustin” and America Ferrera for “Barbie.”

And what’s going on with the Documentary Branch? Both “American Symphony” and “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” two of the most beloved non-fiction films of the year, were overlooked. Their omissions are right up there with the snubs of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Apollo 11.”

Here’s my initial gut-check about the ultimate winners list:

Best Picture: “Oppenheimer”

Directing: Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer”

Actor: Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”

Actress: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr, “Oppenheimer”

Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”

Original Screenplay: “Anatomy of a Fall”

Adapted Screenplay: “American Fiction”

Animated Feature: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Production Design: “Barbie”

Cinematography: “Oppenheimer”

Costume Design: “Barbie”

Film Editing: “Oppenheimer”

Makeup and Hairstyling: “Maestro”

Sound: “Oppenheimer”

Visual Effects: “The Creator”

Original Score: “Oppenheimer”

Original Song: “Barbie” – “What Was I Made For?”

Documentary Feature: “20 Days in Mariupol”

International Feature: “The Zone of Interest”

Animated Short: “Letter to a Pig”

Documentary Short: “The Last Repair Shop”

Live Action Short: “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”

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