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Predicting the top picks for the 96th Oscar Awards

With amazing films coming out the past year, the Wildcat Chronicle predicts which movies will win big at the Academy Awards this weekend.
The famous shining awards that will be presented to the winners on the night of the Oscars. (Photo courtesy of Prayitno via Wikimedia Commons).

Weeks have passed since the initial announcement for the 96th annual Oscar, with nominations going to 53 unique pieces of film this year. As the day approached, staffers compressed their predictions across 12 categories for the upcoming event. Of course, every movie that was nominated holds some value to someone, but the Chronicle is choosing the winners come March 10.

Categories:  Lead Actor l Lead Actress l Supporting Actor l Supporting Actress l Cinematography l Best Directing l Film Editing l Production Design l Adapted Screenplay l Original Screenplay l Best Picture 

Lead Actor: Cillian Murphy 

There is no 2023 without “Oppenheimer“, and there is no “Oppenheimer” without Cillian Murphy. His performance is one of the ages, the story of Julius Robert Oppenheimer splitting his actions and beliefs like the atom itself. With biopics the right actor/actress is really what makes or breaks the movies as the whole film revolves around whoever the biopic is about and with Murphy’s performance: he takes this role and runs with it. Viewers see every action and point he talks about with a sense of weight as to its importance as he runs the Manhattan Project. Every aspect of this film elevates his performance and a level of significance to it that makes it Oscar-winning. 

Cillian Murphy side by side with the real Julius Robert Oppenheimer (Photo Courtesy of AP News)

Lead Actress: Lily Gladstone 

For the nomination of Lily Gladstone and her historic performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon” there is another layer of importance for her win, as it would mark her as the first Native American to win an Oscar for best actress. Her performance, however, is easily what steals every scene she is in. For a movie with such big names such Leonardo Dicaprio and Robert De Niro, she manages to be the highlight of the movie and is perfectly able to convey the harsh suffering of the Osage Tribe during her screen time, all this with very little dialogue most of the time and yet still able to add such a impact that is much needed in this event in history. 

Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” (Photo Courtesy of Apple TV)

Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr. 

Robert Downey Jr., of course, does not need any sort of introduction, but despite his status, he manages to still surprise audiences with his performances and of course, his role in “Oppenheimer” is no exception, as he creates one of the most easily hateable characters in film. In a role that is not usual for RDJ’s typical performances, oftentimes being a comedic or hero role, Robert Downey goes against his comfort zone and delivers a performance that demonstrates the actor’s range. To not spoil the film for those who have not already seen it, his role as Strauss manages to deceive the audience perfectly, from a figure of importance initially, then towards the end of the film a person the audience despises. 

Robert Downey Jr. playing Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer” (Photo Courtesy by Universal Pictures)

Supporting Actress: Da’vine Joy Randolph 

The Holdovers” has a strong emotional appeal, and Da’vine Joy Randolph’s performance easily embodied that emotion and tone perfectly. Her approach as Mary Lamb the loving and caring cook for a boarding school is what makes all the difference in the movie. Alongside Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa, Randolph manages to be a middle ground to balance the three roles. Between a loud-mouth student and a strict supervisor, her role as a loving cook that brings the two back to Earth and on outings does a lot for the film. Not to spoil the finale, but through all, she has been through, viewers feel every emotion at a personal level right along with her, as if they know her personally. It is a role she plays that makes audiences sympathetic. 

Dominic Sessa, Da’vine Joy Randolph, and Paul Giamatti in “The Holdovers” (Photo Courtesy by Seacia Pavao/Focus Features)

Cinematography: “Killers of the Flower Moon”

John Wick 4” was robbed, and that is a fact.

With snubs aside, “Killers of the Flower Moon” deserves the cinematography award. Rodrigo Prieto and Martin Scorsese have collaborated from “The Wolf of Wall Street” onward, and it has been to great success. The whole film is filled with subtle tricks of Scorsese’s trademark style, slow motion, and whip pans included. But nowhere does it shine more than the scene where Hale burns his farm for insurance money. It just has to be seen to be understood.

Historical epics have also had the problem of length, and with this being three and a half hours long, one would expect the same, but with the film alongside the beautiful fluid shots, one barely feels the length. Every scene does something fun and or beautiful with the camera and manages to make the camera a character alongside the film with the way certain emotions have certain angles and shots, that align with the film perfectly.

Osage Tribe depicted in “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Photo Courtesy of Apple TV)

Best Directing – Christopher Nolan

Being the main voice and eyes for the direction of a movie means having a vision for it. Christopher Nolan had a clear vision for “Oppenheimer”, whether it was in the cinematography, portrayal of characters, score, editing, etc. He helped lead all aspects of this film that complement each other perfectly. Nolan does so well when it comes to immersion, and “Oppenheimer” is no exception. Millions of dollars and weeks of planning were used to Nolan’s full ability which has created one of the best movies in recent memory. Every aspect of the film had a person for that role, but Nolan was the one to help keep track of that vision, and that is what makes him deserving of the Oscar.

Nolan discussing a scene with Cillian Murphy (Photo Courtesy by Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures)

Film Editing: “Oppenheimer”

Editing is Jennifer Lame’s award for “Oppenheimer”. For a movie that is three hours long, both general audiences and critics were fully engaged to the point where the runtime was not even felt. That is not even mentioning the micro-details that make the whole thing work: young Oppenheimer’s visions of subatomic particles interspersed throughout the first act; the “Can You Hear the Music” montage; or the rapid-fire cuts of the Trinity Test. It is an astounding work, one where the film seems fluid and makes the movie length not even a problem to many. Lame’s usage of cutting audio, enhancing emotion, using the right scene, and so much more shows she is able to convey the weight the movie puts on the viewer and the intensity of the film tries to portray to the viewer. 

J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphey) watching the Trinity test (Photo Courtesy by Universal Pictures)

Production Design: “Barbie”

In a year of large-scale production in film with movies such as “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon”, “Barbie” manages to still be the front runner for this award just for the pure detail they manage to bring. Whereas “Killers” and “Oppenheimer” manage to show audiences the scale of the setting, “Barbie” just seemingly plunks the audience into the world of Barbie Land. It is a refreshing take for audience members with its bright pink houses, and surreal it really manages to make the production shine for the crew who managed to make a doll world work on the big screen. It may not be as large-scale or difficult as other movies this year, but it is the most memorable and enjoyable that elevates the film heavily. 

Margot Robbie dancing in a scene of “Barbie” (Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers)

Adapted Screenplay: “Oppenheimer”

Once again, “Oppenheimer” takes this category. Condensing a 721-page biography into a three-hour biopic is no easy task, but Nolan pulled it off.  The stylistic, frenetic dialog channels classics like “The Social Network” and “12 Angry Men” do not let up for a second. The final act ingeniously dissolves the first two, portraying a completely different side to both Oppenheimer and his creation, as well as Lewis Strauss. Taken from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s own autobiography “The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer”, the screenplay manages to perfectly able to combine the entertainment film brings but intact the words written by Oppenheimer himself, perfectly implementing literature and film to create three-hour thriller. 

Oppenheimer walking after court for security clearance in the Manhattan Project (Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Original Screenplay – “May December”

A trapeze act between funny and tragic, May December is one of the year’s strangest comedies. Without giving away everything, it manages to satirize Hollywood, actors, and tabloids, without losing sight of the crushing event the whole story is based on. It is a task that could fail in the hands of many, but manages to work perfectly here. To interpret a real life event into a piece is one thing, but to bring something new that compliments the event is what really enhances this piece. Instead of movie of a actual event, we see a blend of new & old that lets the audience understand more of the film, something that “May December” does simply fascinating with this unique script. 

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in “May December” (Photo Courtesy of Netflix)

Best Picture: “Oppenheimer”

In a year with so many great movies across genres of comedy, romance, historical fiction, drama, etc., there is bound to be disagreement about what is the “best” picture this year, but surely this award can only go towards “Oppenheimer”, and for good reason. To have some the best casting, directing, editing, music, and story means one thing, but to have them all blend together to create a three-hour thriller, full of tension and purpose, is another.

There are certain movies where one leaves the theater and already feels like the film will be talked about for a while, and that is where “Oppenheimer” falls with its significance. For a movie to perfectly embody the work and weight of a considerable event in American history from both the scientific viewpoint and that of the American government says a lot as to what this film manages to do. None of the three hours of this movie was wasted.

Seven nominations this year, and one can expect Best Picture to be among the movie’s awards won.

Oppenheimer Official Poster (Photo Courtesy by Universal Pictures)

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About the Contributors
Sebastian Alarcon
Sebastian Alarcon, Multimedia Content Creator
Sebastian Alarcon is a senior at WCCHS and a first-year journalism student. Formerly, he was a dedicated soccer player for 14 years. Sebastian is a very sociable, friendly, and charismatic individual who loves connecting with others. Currently, Sebastian works at Sonny Acres and is also in the process of deciding which college to attend out of state. When he is not studying or working, he plays tennis and does some boxing on the side. In his free time, Sebastian likes to listen to music for example rap, and Spanish rock, and also watch movies.
Eshan Amir
Eshan Amir, Senior Reporter
Eshan Amir is a senior who partakes in watching movies, filmmaking, and photography in his free time. He strives to accomplish his best at West Chicago Community High School and acknowledges that WEGO provides a great space to meet new people and prosper social skills. After school, he plans to pursue a career in film making or the law industry. He is currently drafting a screenplay, learning the basics of criminal law, and intends on taking journalism to get better at communicating and listening to people.
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  • ryMar 5, 2024 at 11:33 am

    although I understand the hype behind Oppenheimer, I think “The Holdovers” deserves the Oscar for Best Picture