Oscars 2024

Five things to watch out for at Sunday’s Oscars. Image: Valerie MACON / AFP

And the Oscar goes to: FIVE things to watch

Will “Oppenheimer” make Oscars history? Who will win the closely contested best actress race? Here are five things to watch out for on Sunday.

Oscars 2024

Five things to watch out for at Sunday’s Oscars. Image: Valerie MACON / AFP

Will “Oppenheimer” make Oscars history? Who will win the closely contested best actress race? And could Martin Scorsese go home empty-handed again?

Variety awards editor Clayton Davis suggests five things to watch out for this Sunday at the 96th Academy Awards:

‘Oppenheimer’ record-breaker?

There is no doubt Christopher Nolan’s atomic blockbuster “Oppenheimer” will win multiple Oscars. But how many?

Even a “really conservative” eight would be the most for a film since “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009, explained Davis.

The record of 11 is probably just out of reach. But 10 – achievable if it wins close races like best actor and best adapted screenplay – would put it tied with “West Side Story” (1961).

After years of small, indie hits taking best picture, “Oppenheimer” would be the highest-grossing winner since “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” in 2004, and the third-highest of all time (also behind “Titanic”).

It seems certain to be the top grossing film in history to win Oscars for its actors, in Robert Downey jnr and – potentially – Cillian Murphy.

And it would be only the second film to win best picture produced by a married couple – Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas – after “Driving Miss Daisy.”

‘Barbie’ avalanche

While not likely to win more than a couple of Oscars, “Barbie” will be omnipresent throughout Sunday’s gala.

Both Billie Eilish and Ryan Gosling are set to perform Oscar-nominated songs from the movie, and host Jimmy Kimmel is certain to pepper his opening monologue with jokes about the smash hit comedy.

“I can’t imagine an entire evening that doesn’t reference ‘Barbie’ multiple, if not hundreds of times,” joked Davis.

Expect quips about the so-called “snubs” for Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, who were not nominated for directing and starring in the year’s highest-grossing film, and many references to all things pink.

“It’s going to be an avalanche of Barbie content. That might annoy a couple people,” said Davis.

Best actress nail-biter

No major race is harder to predict than best actress, where Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone are neck-and-neck among the pundits’ picks.

Davis is calling it for “Killers of the Flower Moon” star Gladstone, but admits his answer changes “at different moments.”

As the first Native American actor to win, Gladstone would provide the gala with a historic moment, though some voters don’t see her as the true “lead” of a film in which Leonardo DiCaprio dominates the three-and-a-half hours of screen time.

Stone’s performance in Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’s “Poor Things” is popular among the Academy’s “international vote” – but could suffer if some of that bloc splinters off for Sandra Hueller, of French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall.”

“This is where it comes down to math,” said Davis.

Scorsese’s losses

Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest living directors, is hardly short of accolades.

But if Gladstone loses, “Killers” will likely become the third of Scorsese’s movies to enter an Oscars with a whopping 10 nominations, and yet leave empty-handed.

Scorsese suffered the same with “The Irishman” and “Gangs of New York.”

“It’s like ‘first world problems,’ to have 30 Oscar nominations and you didn’t win any of them,” joked Davis. “But that is a lot.”

America, America

As usual, the list of Oscars presenters is a who’s who of Hollywood.

At a press conference this week, organisers revealed that five previous winners of each acting category will take to the stage to introduce the five nominees this year.

That could mean Jennifer Lawrence introducing Emma Stone, Matthew McConaughey announcing Paul Giamatti, and Tim Robbins praising Robert Downey jnr.

It is an approach borrowed from the 2009 Oscars, and brings a “lovely connection and that human interaction,” said this year’s showrunner Raj Kapoor.

The combination Davis is most hoping for?

“Rita Moreno is a presenter. And putting two and two together, there’s no reason why she doesn’t introduce America Ferrera’s nomination for ‘Barbie’ and say ‘America, America!'”

“I’m gonna cry. I’m gonna be in tears. And I can’t wait.”

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse