Oppenheimer dominates Oscars, with no big surprises

Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer has ended this year’s film awards season as it began, dominating the major categories and far out-performing the other half of the Barbenheimer juggernaut, Barbie, which came out top at the box office.

Oppenheimer ended the night with 7 Oscars to 4 for Poor Things, 2 for The Zone of Interest with Barbie – alongside a number of other films – on 1.

The host, Jimmy Kimmel, was so keen to make sure there wouldn’t be a repeat of the La La Land/Moonlight mix-up that he asked for the previous award envelope to be ripped up before Al Pacino came on and underwhelming revealed Oppenheimer to be the Best Picture winner, without anyone initially realising that’s what he’d done.

Nolan himself took his first directing Oscar with his lead actor Cillian Murphy achieving the same feat as the film took the top prize of the night. Sticking to form, Murphy’s co-star Robert Downey Jr was name the best supporting actor on the night.

The best supporting actress honours went to Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her portrayal of a bereaved boarding school cook in The Holdovers – the only award of the night for Alexander Payne’s future Christmas favourite.

The only acting prize that ever felt it could stray from the predictions was Best Actress, after the Screen Actors Guild picked the Native American star of The Killers of the Flower Moon, Lily Gladstone, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences picked the favourite, Emma Stone for Poor Things – which also picked up three of the technical awards, for costumes, hair & make-up and production design.

As is often the case, the Academy used the screenplay awards to spread the honours to some of the smaller films, with Oppenheimer, Barbie and Poor Things all being beaten to the Best Adapted Screenplay prize by American Fiction, while Anatomy of a Fall took the prize for the Best Original Screenplay.

The other adapted screenplay nominee, The Zone of Interest, took two Oscars. The German-language depiction of life for the family living next-door to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp was honoured for its sound, as screams and gunshots are heard, casually over the garden well. It was also named the best international film – the first time this award has gone to a UK film; its director Jonathan Glazer gave the most political speech of the night, saying he refuted that his Jewishness and the Holocaust were being “hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many people.” The conflict between Israel and Hamas also prompted the wearing of some lapel badges, with artists including Mark Ruffalo and Billie Eilish wearing red pins, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, while the founder of Marvel Entertainment wore a yellow ribbon, calling for Hamas to release their remaining hostages.

The other political moment of the night came with the award for best feature documentary; the director of the winning film, 20 Days in Mariupol, said that unlike most other winners, he wished he had never had to make the film – about Russia’s destruction of his city.

The other three technical prizes went to Oppenheimer; collecting his Oscar for cinematography, Hoyte Van Hoytema praised celluloid as a medium, in an industry that’s almost entirely gone digital. Nolan’s fractured timeline earned an editing Oscar and it also picked up the award for the best original score.

The original song category was the only award of the night to go to the biggest box-office hit of the year, Barbie, as singer Billie Eilish and her co-writer brother Finneas O’Connell followed up on their Oscar for the No Time To Die Bond theme with What Was I Made For? But one of the highlights of the awards ceremony was the performance of another nominee in the same category for the same film, as Ryan Gosling, in a sparkling pink suit, dazzled the audience with his rendition of I’m Just Ken – complete with an unexpected guitar solo from Slash.

Perhaps the only moment of the show to upstage this was when the wrestler and actor John Cena came out to present an award, explaining the importance of costumes – wearing nothing but a pair of sandals.

With the film industry still reeling from the Covid lockdowns and cinema closures, production problems were compounded by last year’s strikes by actors and writers, so a full Oscar season passing with little controversy provides a solid basis for a resumption of business as usual. No shocks. No shame. But probably with such a predictable set of winners, it was not a night that will have gone down well with the bookies.

And to sweep up the full list of winners:

Best picture

  • Winner: Oppenheimer

Best actress

  • Winner: Emma Stone – Poor Things

Best actor

  • Winner: Cillian Murphy – Oppenheimer

Best supporting actress

  • Winner: Da’Vine Joy Randolph – The Holdovers

Best supporting actor

  • Winner: Robert Downey Jr – Oppenheimer

Best director

  • Winner: Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan

Best original song

  • What Was I Made For? – Barbie (Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell)

Best original score

  • Winner: Oppenheimer

Best adapted screenplay

  • Winner: American Fiction

Best original screenplay

  • Winner: Anatomy of a Fall

Best international feature

  • Winner: The Zone of Interest

Best animated feature

  • Winner: The Boy and the Heron

Best documentary feature

  • Winner: 20 Days in Mariupol

Best cinematography

  • Winner: Oppenheimer

Best sound

  • Winner: The Zone of Interest

Best film editing

  • Winner: Oppenheimer

Best visual effects

  • Winner: Godzilla Minus One

Best costume design

  • Winner: Poor Things

Best production design

  • Winner: Poor Things

Best make-up and hairstyling

  • Winner: Poor Things

Best animated short

  • Winner: War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko

Best documentary short

  • Winner: The Last Repair Shop

Best live action short

  • Winner: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar