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Hilltop Views

OPINION: My predictions for the 96th Oscar’s ceremony

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Gabrielle Caumon / Hilltop Views
Oscars nominees symbols – try to guess which drawing corresponds with which movie!

The Oscars awards generally leave me frustrated more than anything, whether it is in the nominations or the final decision awards. So this year, I decided to pick my own winners. If you are wondering, yes, I watched all of these movies, and I can tell you that there are a lot of great ones this year. 

Best picture 

This year was a tricky tough decision for Best Picture given the list of nominated films. However, one movie particularly stands out: “Oppenheimer” by Christopher Nolan. Not only for the incredible directing but also for the quality of the cast, the well-written script and the strong composition of the shots. Bonus points for the powerful visuals and sounds that plunge you into the story. Even though this movie is three hours long, which often tends to narrow the audience, you don’t feel the time go by. “Oppenheimer” is simply stunning. It is a somber masterpiece that has made its mark in the film industry

Directing 

I have to recognize Christopher Nolan for his amazing “Oppenheimer” approach. In this movie, Nolan immerses us in the construction process of the most destructive weapon on Earth. For me, Nolan particularly differentiated himself in his powerful directing choices. The choice I am directly thinking about is when Nolan decided to not show the A-Bomb dropping over Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Instead, he has us witness the Trinity test that showcases the capabilities of the bomb. It gives us insight of the horror inflicted on those targeted people. It is a bold choice, leaving the ultimate collision being based on the viewer’s imagination and prior knowledge. Another brilliant choice occurs in the scene that happens soon after the dropping of the bombs: Oppenheimer is talking in front of a bunch of people and starts realizing the destructive impact of his creation and its victims through oppressive stomping and bright light. 

Actress leading role

Lily Gladstone as Mollie in “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a more than deserved winner, without an ounce of doubt. She has such charisma on screen. Gladstone is a particularly intimidating figure because she conveys so much through her eyes. Indeed, she manages to express her wide range of emotions through them — whether it is disgust, confidence, fear or despair. Her face, however, stays so stoic that it is breathtaking. I hate to say this, but in comparison to Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, she looks so natural. It’s powerful, but not excessive. I don’t even have the words to describe Gladstone’s stunning performance, but I do know that it is a must-see.

Actor leading role

I had a very hard time choosing between the outstanding performances of Paul Giamatti in “The Holdovers” and Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer. Even though Giamatti did an amazing job portraying the cruel and old-fashioned teacher that everybody’s had at least one in their life, the award goes to Murphy. The Father of the Bomb is such a complex character to relate to — especially with the atrocity and the heavy burden of lost life that is attached to him — but Murphy seems to have understood it, and his performance is spectacular. While he appears charismatic on screen, Murphy still manages to bring a certain vulnerability and color to his character while retaining Oppenheimer’s awareness of the horror behind the massive weapon he has created.

Original screenplay

“The Holdovers” must be the winner. As it is a heartwarming comedy, I thought this movie was simply genuine. As everybody knows, there is not a good movie without a great script, and director Alexander Payne got it. The story is brand new, and the dialogue is not overbearing, letting the actors lean into their emotions. It has more than a two hour run-time, but it is such a sweet, real piece that goes by in a flash. I particularly enjoy how this movie highlights the personality and evolution of its characters, making the spectator feel close to them. Payne’s finesse of writing lets us discover them deeper, inside and outside of the school environment. The development of Paul Hunham and Angus’ character’s relationship is fascinating, as they grow together throughout the movie. 

Adapted screenplay

For this category, my choice goes to “American Fiction.” Director Cord Jefferson’s writing is brilliant and purposeful; he is not scared of showcasing the representation of Black people in America from absurd white people’s perceptions. This movie is even more exciting, as Jefferson pushes the absurdity above and beyond until the end, combining dark humor with genuine moments to create an uplifted piece that says it all. The character of Monk is especially well-written, presenting an exasperated black writer who simply wants people to face their stereotypical racial beliefs, as you may guess, in vain.  

Actress supporting 

This award goes to Danielle Brooks and her stunning performance as Sofia in “The Color Purple.” The story is set in 1909 during segregation in the United States. For me, Brooks made her victory inevitable when her character Sofia — a strong, dynamic woman who knows what she wants and doesn’t let anyone get in her way — stands up to a prominent white couple. She ends up being beaten in front of her family and imprisoned: her decency taken with her. I admire Brooks’ ability to embody both the intensity and the light-heartedness that a character of this caliber requires. Brooks makes us bear witness to Sofia’s horrific situation through her striking eyes, which express so much. 

Actor supporting

For me, Robert Downey Jr. in “Oppenheimer” gets it hands down. Since I mainly know him from the “Avengers” franchise as the iconic Iron Man, I didn’t know what to expect — but I have to say that his performance blew me away. I would even consider his role as Lewis Strauss to be his greatest work. Downey perfectly manages the portrayal of a selfish and hateful man. As the movie goes on, you understand that he is scared for his status and feels threatened by Oppenheimer more than anything else. Far from a superhero, this role was a great opportunity for Downey to showcase his acting abilities and remind people that he has the skill to be a dramatic actor as well. Through his portrayal of this discreet and vicious character, Downey stole the spotlight without even trying to. 

International Feature Film 

“The Zone of Interest,” written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, is the movie that caught my attention the most in this category. It is an absorbing masterpiece that will leave you in awe at the end. I was extremely surprised and disappointed to not see this movie nominated in the cinematography category. “The Zone of Interest” is a bold movie and visually beautiful. It takes place in the family of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss, who lives on the other side of the extermination camp. My cinematic experience was insane. 

“The Zone of Interest” is very disturbing as Glazer never lets us see anything except the garden backyard’s wall as the only visual representation of the camp. Everything is in the noises. What is terrible in this movie is the fact that you acclimate to the gunshot sounds, the whistle of the train that brings more Jewish people to the camp or the shouts of the officers — they merely become white noise throughout the viewing. I think not seeing what is actually happening behind this wall is a powerful directing choice. I would even consider it worse than giving us the answer directly. Since we know exactly what is happening behind this wall historically, Glazer lets the spectator’s imagination run free on the horror. The acting of Sandra Hüller as Hedwig Höss is brilliant. Hüller embodies the insensitive wife of the Auschwitz commandant, who desperately wants to build a “dream life,” even though she lives on the other side of death; her apathy is terrifying. Her performance will put chills down your spine. 

Cinematography

I would have not chosen any of the nominees for the cinematography section. I think “Past Lives” and “The Zone of Interest” were much more interesting aesthetically, but since I have to pick a movie in the list, I think “Oppenheimer” is the most beautiful one. Hoyte van Hoytema and Nolan know what they are doing, and it is perceptible in the shooting. The close shots on Oppenheimer’s face are amazing. The audience members feel like intruders, watching his piercing blue eyes gape open, being threatened by his own creation. The time spent and the details inside the explosions are remarkable and remind the spectator about the complexity of creation and all the different components. I really enjoyed how the movie progresses by representing Lewis Strauss’s version of the story in black and white and Oppenhiemer’s in colors. 

Costume

This award definitely goes to “Poor Things.” In this movie, every article of clothing is an intricate work of art that is enjoyable to watch as they all have their uniqueness. Bella Baxter’s extravagant, colorful outfits are fascinating to analyze, as we realize that each change of colors in her clothes represents a discovery she makes in her life. For instance, we first meet Bella in a full-blue attire as she is considered a toddler. As soon as she starts exploring the world and gets out of her house, Bella starts wearing yellow, showing a shift in her development, and in this case, curiosity. Similarly, Bella wears pink for her first time drinking alcohol — and this motif goes on throughout the movie. Costume Designer Holly Waddington deserves her flowers for her phenomenal work in “Poor Things.” 

Makeup & Hairstyle 

Hats off to the “Society of the Snow” makeup team. The movie features the infamous 1972 Uruguayan rugby team plane crash and how they survived through the extreme cold conditions and being excluded from the world. The makeup is simply outstanding: painfully executed,you can feel every wound in your own skin while watching. It goes beyond the surface with an extraordinary precision of details — the result is remarkable. I haven’t seen makeup so visually affective in a long time. It is so good that I would recommend putting on mittens and a scarf covering your nose during the movie.

Overall, choosing winners for the 96th Oscars Ceremony seems challenging, as practically all the movies deserve their nominations. As you saw in my prediction, one of the movies distinguishes itself and I would not be surprised to see it win all the categories that I attributed to it. “Oppenheimer” seems to be 2024’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” 

The Oscars Ceremony will be held on March 10 in the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Watch live on ABC or the next day on Hulu. 

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About the Contributor
Gabrielle Caumon, Staff Writer
Gabrielle Caumon is a junior from Paris, France, who is pursuing a major in the BFA Acting program and a minor in Journalism. This is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and her first as a Staff Writer. She loves writing for the Life & Arts section, and is excited to branch out and try out other genres.

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