Shrouded in online outrage and opinion per usual, the 96th annual Academy Awards announced their nominees on January 23rd, and in celebration of the film, I wanted to give my picks for what I think will win and what I think should win for each category. As someone who has worked in the Hollywood film scene for the past few years, I’ve been able to see a majority of the films and shorts, so without further ado, let’s get started with the first category.

(That’s a big giant good looking man-eater)

2024 Oscar for Best Visual Effects
Godzilla: Minus One
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part One
The Creator

Who should win: Godzilla: Minus One

So many of these are excellent picks, and I think there is an argument to be made for all of these to be winners, but if it were me, I’d pick Godzilla: Minus One. The monster has never looked better or scarier and seamlessly fit into a story about family and life in post-WWII Japan and only added to the story’s emotional beats. In the US, computer-generated special effects have been seen as less than favorable in recent years thanks to artists being rushed and not paid as well, and while there is a conversation to be had about the pay for this type of work worldwide, including Japan, it was refreshing to see some CGI that captured the imagination and blew me away. 

Who will win: Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part One

I wouldn’t be sad to see this, but the Academy will always favor practical over computer-generated, and Tom Cruise seems to be one of the last people willing to create films that harken back to the days when everything was done practically, even when that comes at a higher cost than doing it digitally. While Dead Reckoning wasn’t the most well-received film in the franchise, it certainly continued to add to the Ethan Hunt saga with big stunt work and amazing moments on screen.

(What does it take to make the atomic bomb sound real?)

2024 Oscar for Best Sound
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
The Creator
The Zone of Interest

Who should win: Oppenheimer

While I could see Maestro winning the Best Sound award because the story is about a composer, I don’t think there were any films this year that pulled me in even further with their sound design beyond Oppenheimer. It’s a gripping story that’s enhanced by the sound on screen. Like with the previous category, there is something to be said for the sound that goes along with the practical effects of Dead Reckoning, but personally, I’d go with Oppie for the win.

Who will win: Oppenheimer

If I’m being honest, this is mostly just my gut feeling, but the film is up for several awards and may likely be the film to sweep the awards. It also might not, but of any film that could, I think Oppenheimer has the biggest chance to do so.

(Did she do it?)

2024 Oscar for Best Film Editing
The Holdovers
Anatomy of a Fall
Killers of the Flower Moon
Poor Things

Who should win: Anatomy of a Fall

A category that I think deserves more recognition, but that might just be me, someone who does a lot of video editing outside of writing. That said, there are several great films this year, both nominated and not, that had stellar editing. Of the nominees, I’d love to see Anatomy of a Fall win. I’ve never been much of a courtroom drama lover, but Anatomy of a Fall should be studied as the new bar to reach for this style of film or TV show. A personal favorite of the year and one I’ll be revisiting because it’s that good. I hope more people see this film off of the back of its nominations.

Who will win: Oppenheimer

The way this film is written and the way the Nolans like to craft their stories all just line up for Oppenheimer to garner a film editing award. Jennifer Lame cuts this piece together perfectly, and while Oppenheimer has a long run time, I don’t know if I’d cut anything from it.

(In her Barbie World)

2024 Oscar for Best Production Design
Killers of the Flower Moon
Poor Things

Who should win: Barbie

While I wouldn’t be upset to see Poor Things take the cake here, I think it might have the ability to pick up some awards in other categories. This feels like one of Barbie’s strongest categories, and as someone who can visualize the sets from Barbie every time I think of the film, it feels like a foregone conclusion that Barbie is winning.

Who will win: Barbie

Barbie harkens back to the golden age of Warner Brothers and Bugsy Berkeley musicals. The plastic doll toy sets, along with the traveling 2-dimensional sets, and the big dance number on a brightly colored canvas. All of these moments stand out as part of Barbie’s charm and act as a character for the film itself. Hollywood loves it when movies acknowledge Hollywood and its past. Barbie does just that!

2024 Oscar for Best Original Score
Poor Things
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
American Fiction
Killers of the Flower Moon

Who should win: Poor Things

I think the average person might look at this list and say that John Williams deserves one last Oscar statue for his recurring Indiana Jones theme, and as someone who purchased that song for my flip phone ringtone in the mid-2000s, I’ve got to think that the Indy has run it’s course and there were other scores this year more worthy. In my opinion, I think the most fun I had with a score this year was with Poor Things, and it gets my vote as to what should win.

Who will win: Killers of the Flower Moon

I think this category is up in the air, but I’d argue it’s between Killers of the Flower Moon and Oppenheimer, and while I think Oppenheimer has the better sound design, the score for Scorsese’s latest film feels like the one that will walk away with the statue. Robbie Robertson also gets a posthumous nomination, which adds to the idea that this film will win. Not to say that someone’s death automatically makes them the frontrunner, but it would be a great way to celebrate his long career in music, from playing guitar with Bob Dylan all the way up to his composition for Scorsese.

(It’s the only Flamin’ Hot nomination. Let it surprise us.)

2024 Oscar for Best Original Song
“I’m Just Ken,” Barbie
“It Never Went Away,” American Symphony
“The Fire Inside,” Flamin’ Hot
“Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People), Killers of the Flower Moon
“What Was I Made For?”, Barbie

Who should win: “The Fire Inside”, Flamin’ Hot

This might seem like a weird pick, but hear me out. Dianne Warren has had over a dozen Oscar nominations in her career, mostly for films that don’t fit the Oscar nominations, like Flamin’ Hot. I think it should be her time to win. It would be a big upset, but I think it would make for a really great moment. For an awards show looking to bring back an audience and add some unpredictability to the show, this could be a good move, but likely won’t happen.

Who will win: “What was I made for?”, Barbie

I don’t think the Oscars will pull the move that the Golden Globe awards did and give the Oscar to “I’m Just Ken,” although I’d love to see Ryan Gosling’s reaction once again. It feels like Billie Eilish, who will no doubt give one of the best performances of the night, will also take home another award.

(Gotta love Willem Dafoe for pulling this off!)

2024 Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Society of the Snow
Poor Things

Who should win: Poor Things

Nothing was more creative than Poor Things this year when it comes to makeup and hairstyle, and because of that, I think this is the best chance Poor Things has to take home an Oscar statue. Last year, the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling also took home most of the awards, including Best Picture. I don’t see that happening again.

Who will win: Poor Things

While Maestro and Oppenheimer have a chance to take this, I think Poor Things is the runaway favorite for this category, and this might even be its only win of the night.

2024 Oscar for Best Costume Design
Poor Things
Killers of the Flower Moon

Who should win: Barbie

Like the production design, Barbie’s costuming was stellar and continued as Margot Robbie made her way onto carpets or press junkets wearing outfits that paid homage to a variety of classic Barbie dolls. The costuming for the film became part of the marketing for Barbie and stands out as amongst the greatest costumes of the year.

Who will win: Barbie

It’s a strong category, and if Barbie wasn’t a part of it, I could see either Oppenheimer or Napoleon taking this category, but Barbie’s best attributes are in how it looks. For those who loved or hated the story, you can’t deny how good the film looks and the costuming is a major part of that appeal.

2024 Oscar for Best Cinematography
El Conde
Poor Things
Killers of the Flower Moon

Who should win: Poor Things

I’m a sucker for weird camera shots and Dutch angles. While Barbie takes advantage of its production design, Poor Things adds to its production with interesting camera choices. For me, the weirder, the better, although that’s not always the choice made at the Oscars.

Who will win: Oppenheimer

I’m unfamiliar with El Conde, but my guess is that Oppenheimer’s narrative structure only helps with the cinematography, and therefore I see Oppie taking another one home here. If not, Killers of the Flower Moon could take it as well, but more than likely, I think this is a win for Oppenheimer.

(The Barber of Little Rock deserves your attention)

2024 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film
Island in Between
Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó
The ABCs of Book Banning
The Barber of Little Rock
The Last Repair Shop

Who should win: The Barber of Little Rock

Having not seen everything here, I have to say that The Barber of Little Rock’s story about an African-American barber helping his community try to gain wealth in a struggling economy touches on ideas many of us are facing. There is definitely a reason to predict some of the others that also feel relevant in today’s political and social climate, but I think The Barber of Little Rock edges out the rest as something much more universal and powerful.

Who will win: The Last Repair Shop

Also, a film of importance, shedding light on the need to repair things more than just tossing them away, the economics involved in that work, and children getting musical educations, The Last Repair Shop could be short that holds social power while also focusing on a quirky side of the story. This short also has some great cinematography and editing choices that I think help it earn its win.

(Wes Anderson loves recreating Roald Dahl stories like Henry Sugar)

2024 Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film
Knight of Fortune
Red, White and Blue
The After
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Who should win: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Of everything here, the one with the most publicity as well as the only one I’ve personally seen, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, is the Wes Anderson adaptation of a Roald Dahl story. Since Asteroid City didn’t get nominated in any category, which blows my mind as I would have thought it to at least get a production nomination, I can see Anderson picking up the Oscar statue here. I would have preferred an Asteroid City win somewhere on the show, but I guess I’ll take Anderson’s second-best production of the year as something worth celebrating.

Who will win: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Often, and unfortunately, the voting group who hands out the awards doesn’t watch everything, and sometimes you feel it in categories like this. The short with the most exposure sometimes gets the award simply based on that, and this seems like the category where that happens, although it’s worth the award.

(Letter to a Pig just feels raw and unfiltered)

2024 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film
Letter to a Pig
Ninety-Five Senses
Our Uniform
War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko

Who should win: Letter to a Pig

As somewhat of a historian and expert in the realm of animation, working over on YouTube as Modern Mouse, I’m really amazed at the direction animation has gone in the last few years. We are no longer in a time where everything looks like Pixar; instead, there are a variety of styles being featured in both animation categories. Here, I think the one that stands out the most and pushes boundaries is Letter to a Pig. It’s a horrific and challenging look at how a pig saved a man from the Holocaust. It’s the kind of short you don’t forget seeing. It’s rough around the edges in its animation, but it pairs well with the story being told.

Who will win: War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko

It seems like any celebrity involvement tends to garner victories in the animated short category. At least that’s what happened a few years back with Kobe Bryant & animator Glen Keane. I predict we see that here as well. The animation style isn’t unfamiliar. It features the same look we’ve been seeing in shorts like Paperman and Feast and some recent feature films like The Mitchells vs the Machines.

(Zone of Interest or Zone of Sadness am I right?)

2024 Oscar for Best International Feature Film
Io Capitano, Italy
Perfect Days, Japan
Society of the Snow, Spain
The Teacher’s Lounge, Germany
The Zone of Interest, United Kingdom

Who should win: The Zone of Interest

There is a lot of great press behind it, as well as it being featured as part of the Best Picture lineup; The Zone of Interest is a story about Nazi Germany and living next door to a camp. It’s an intriguing film that has all of the winning ingredients for an Oscar win. Many of my critic peers have deemed it an important watch, and I have to agree.

Who will win: The Zone of Interest

If an international film is also up for a Best Picture award, then it historically wins this category. I don’t see anything different happening here.

2024 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film
20 Days in Mariupol
Bobi Wine: The People’s President
Four Daughters
The Eternal Memory
To Kill a Tiger

Who should win: 20 Days in Mariupol

Unfortunately, this is the category I know the least about personally, but I’ve only heard amazing things about 20 Days in Mariupol, which takes us to Ukraine, where journalists were trapped. It seems relevant and important with the creators putting their lives on the line. It’s my pick to win here.

Who will win: 20 Days in Mariupol

As the category I know the least about, I’m going with 20 Days of Mariupol for the win as it seems to be a critical fave.

(I have nothing quirky to say. Spider-Verse is just great)

2024 Oscar for Best Animated Feature
Robot Dreams
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Boy and the Heron

Who should win: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

As someone into animation and its history, this is usually my favorite category of the night, and without a Disney feature in the mix, it opens up the category for a fun film like Robot Dreams to enter, a film I saw recently, but this category really only has two potential winners in my book. Can Sony win with another Spider-Verse film, or will Hayao Miyazaki take home another trophy for The Boy and the Heron? What I think impressed me the most was the insanity and maximalism of Spider-Man: Across the Universe. It’s just incredible to see on screen and consistently surprises the audience throughout its run time.

Who will win: The Boy and the Heron

Hayao Miyazaki says he has more animated stories to tell, but at the age of 83, and with his last film coming out 10 years prior to The Boy and the Heron, I don’t know if we will see another masterpiece film from Japan’s greatest animated director. In any other year, I’d say this is easily a Spider-Man victory, but as Miyazaki winds down his career, I see the academy honoring him with an Oscar for one of his greatest films and for a long-lasting, great, historic career in animation.

2024 Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Past Lives
The Holdovers
Anatomy of a Fall
May December

Who should win: Past Lives

There was no film that made me feel such complex emotions while watching it. I sat in the theater, shed tears, and smiled. I saw myself in the small cast of characters who were all written to perfection. Celine Song didn’t receive a nomination for best director for her debut film, so I could see her winning here for Original Screenplay, although I think there is another possibility.

Who will win: Anatomy of a Fall

Redefining the courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Fall is one of the best-written films of the year and, for my money, seems to be the favorite in this category. I wouldn’t mind a win for Past Lives or even The Holdovers, which I loved dearly, but I think the courtroom will make its case for the win.

(One of the best social commentary films in years)

2024 Oscar for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
American Fiction
The Zone of Interest
Poor Things

Who should win: American Fiction

There is no film from this year that did a better job of creating laughs while also critiquing our current social climate, and doing so in a way that didn’t pander to one side of the political aisle or the other. Jeffrey Wright delivers in the lead, and the writing for him is top-notch fun.

Who will win: Barbie

Greta Gerwig didn’t get a Best Director nomination, leading me to believe she may pick up the win here for Adapted Screenplay along with her partner-in-crime, Noah Baumbach. Barbie’s script, while not the thing that stands out the most initially, is the thing that lingers with audiences long after viewing the film. America Ferrera’s monologue in the film is one of the top writing performances of the year.

(Da’Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers)

2024 Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
America Ferrera, Barbie
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer
Jodie Foster, Nyad

Who should win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

I knew going into The Holdovers that it would be a notable film for Paul Giamatti’s performance, but I was blindsided by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who not only stepped up to be seen on the same level as her fantastic male counterpart in the film, but she also had some of the most touching and memorable moments of the film. I felt for her, I loved her, I will forever cherish her performance.

Who will win: America Ferrera, Barbie

I’m not absolutely sure about this one since there is some stiff competition all around, but the monologue she delivers in Barbie’s 3rd act is one of the most memorable pieces of cinema this year.

(Mark Ruffalo in Poor Things)

2024 Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things
Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon
Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer
Ryan Gosling, Barbie
Sterling K. Brown, American Fiction

Who should win: Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Mark Ruffalo has been teetering on the edge of greatness for years and continues to deliver amazing work, whether he’s playing an eccentric weirdo in Poor Things or The Hulk for the MCU. His performance opposite Emma Stone elevates Poor Things as one of the weirdest, most fun times at the theater this past year.

Who will win: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

He’s been to the Academy Awards before, and he’s been nominated, but RDJ has never won the big one. With wins at both the Critic’s Choice and Golden Globe awards for his role in Oppenheimer, I think the veteran actor has a clear advantage with momentum to win his first Academy Award.

(Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon)

2024 Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening, Nyad
Carey Mulligan, Maestro
Emma Stone, Poor Things
Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall

Who should win: Lily Gladstone

So much discourse happened immediately after nominations were announced, with many wondering why Margot Robbie wasn’t nominated for her role as Barbie, but I think that undermines the brilliance of all 5 women nominated in this category, especially Lily Gladstone, who had to act across from both Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio and stole the show as one of the best actors of the year regardless of gender.

Who will win: Lily Gladstone

A win for Lily Gladstone would add another major moment to the Oscars this year, but if it doesn’t go to her, I could see Annette Bening finally receiving an award after a long and fantastic career, however Lily Gladstone really seems like the no brainer pick. I’d be shocked if anyone else wins.

(Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers)

2024 Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Colman Domingo, Rustin
Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers
Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer
Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction

Who should win: Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers

It feels like out of nowhere; The Holdovers won over an audience looking for good old-fashioned filmmaking that relies more on character and dialogue than anything else. It’s an exploration of what it means to be human and connect with other people. Giamatti’s career has been full of human exploration, and although many may think of him as a comedic performer, his turn in The Holdovers delivers a punch of mixed emotions and growth. Truly a stellar feat and one I didn’t see coming until the end of 2023.

Who will win: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

I do think that Giamatti has a sliver of a chance here, but the 3-hour epic Cillian Murphy delivers in the lead of Oppenheimer is Nolan’s filmmaking at its best, and Murphy not only keeps up with Nolan, he really becomes J. Robert Oppenheimer, to the point where I can’t see anyone else ever playing the man in any other film. This is an exciting year for the Best Actor category as it doesn’t feel like the usual suspects are up for nominations, besides Bradley Cooper, but I don’t see him taking anything home this year.

(Scorsese talking with Lily Gladstone on set for Killers of the Flower Moon)

2024 Oscar for Best Directing
Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer
Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest
Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

Who should win: Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

Every time Scorsese drops a 3-hour film, everyone complains about how long movies are, but then we all watch it and recognize that Marty was right to create such a long narrative because his stories need that development. With such a sensitive story, he was right to give it the time it needed to play out. While this could go to Christopher Nolan, it would be great to see Scorsese take this one home since Oppenheimer earned so many award nominations and I’m predicting it to sweep many of the categories.

Who will win: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

The writing, the creative ideas, the cinematography, the acting. It all comes from how great Nolan is as a director and how patient and willing he is to turn his vision into reality. Oppenheimer had a buzz from the get-go, so it had a lot to live up to, and it certainly delivered one of the greatest opening weekends in recent history while also delivering a film worthy of how many nominations it has received. Like many Nolan movies, Oppenheimer isn’t for everyone, but there’s no denying how technically good Christopher Nolan is at the art of making movies.

(She’s an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture…we’re just Ken)

2024 Oscar for Best Picture
American Fiction
Anatomy of a Fall
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Past Lives
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

What should win: Barbie

Nothing has felt more like a cultural event than Barbie. The marketing team did a fantastic job building up this film, and while I think it mostly delivered on that marketing, people will continue to remember this film for it’s message of equality, but also because of its production design, costuming, performances, and Ryan Gosling being absolutely the weirdest little Ken. Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie produced something really unique in the 21st century. It’s a throwback to the golden age of Hollywood filmmaking but with a message suited for current times and beyond. The kind of message you want from a movie about Barbie. Greta is a student of film and I think the Academy loves seeing that.

What will win: Oppenheimer

This could go both ways, but I’d be surprised if the film of the year isn’t Barbie, Oppenheimer, or Killers of the Flower Moon. Anything beyond those three would be shocking, but I think Nolan’s film about World War II and the creator of the atomic bomb gives a lot of what the Academy loves. Yes they like pandering to Hollywood, which Barbie does, but they also love historical fiction that feels important. Oppenheimer feels important. Is it actually important? Maybe, but that’s not the point.

There’s every major category for Oscars night. This year is actually quite exciting as it feels like Hollywood is transitioning in many ways. Streaming has added a lot of wrinkles to the old studio system, but a transition in what audiences are looking for seems to be occurring as well. Large franchise films like those from Harry Potter or Marvel seem to no longer be the preference for moviegoers. Instead, audiences are turning to auteur filmmakers with interesting and unique styles. It’ll be interesting to see if the Academy and the larger film-going audience line up their interests.

We’ll see what happens on March 10th, 2024, when the Academy Awards go live on ABC.

Until then, send me your Oscar picks on X (Twitter), Instagram, or TikTok, where you can find me @ModernMouseJosh. I’ll likely be having cocktails and live tweeting (I refuse to call it posting) from my couch on awards night.

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