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Espada y Escudo

Espada y Escudo

The Student News Site of Vel Phillips Memorial

What Should Win and What Will Win At This Year’s Oscars


The 2024 Academy Awards are this month on the 23rd. Though it seems like every year the Oscars lose a smidge more credibility in the public eye, as an annoying movie fan I still feel obligated to put in my 2 cents on the proceedings. This past year provided a plethora of fantastic films, from staggering historical biopics to a host of exciting animated films to record-shattering blockbusters. With all of the great movies released and nominated at this year’s Oscars, there’s likely a number 1 pick for everybody. In this article, I’ll be going through mine, as well as the movies I believe the Oscars will pick for the win based on their (often questionable) past choices. I’ll only be covering the primary categories/the ones where I’ve seen most of the nomineees, so if you wanted to hear my opinions on the animated short films of 2023, you may be disappointed. 


Best Actor 

– My Pick: Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy

– The Academy’s Pick: Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy

While the year has been a fantastic one for male performances, there are few that will be remembered in the years to come quite like Cillian Murphy as the titular man in Oppenheimer. The entire film rests on the complexities and contradictions of the man Murphy portrays, with the screenplay reportedly being written mostly from a first person perspective. That’s an enormous amount of work for an actor to shoulder, and yet Murphy carries that weight with impressive nuance and depth. He’s my personal pick, and based on other awards’ ceremony’s acclaim for his performance and the Oscar’s love for biopics, he’s likely the Academy’s too. 

Best Supporting Actor

– My Pick: Poor Things, Mark Ruffalo

– The Academy’s Pick: Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr.

There is no world where RDJ does not take home the award for Oppenheimer this year: he’s an actor in a historical film smothered in transformative makeup doing A Voice, with the added bonus of it being essentially a return to “serious” films for the longtime MCU actor. He’s won the award in every other major award show— he’s going to win this one, and deservingly so. However, I can’t help but confess my love for the other “serious” MCU alum performance this year, which could not be on the more opposite end of the spectrum to RDJ’s. Mark Ruffalo’s performance in Poor Things is gloriously cartoonish, playing an archetypal roguish womanizer with the level of commitment and energy most actors would strive to invest a fraction of in a more serious role. Most importantly, he’s just so, so funny, a high bar of praise when competing with the likes of Ryan Gosling as Ken. Perhaps RDJ gave the “better” performance, but Ruffalo’s was the one I could’ve kept watching for at least 2 hours longer.

Best Actress

– My Pick: Killers of the Flower Moon, Lily Gladstone

– The Academy’s Pick: Poor Things, Emma Stone

Out of every performance nominated, few did so much with so (proportionally) little screen time as Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon, 100% earning her nomination as a “Lead” actress and commanding the screen every minute she was present. Her role as Molly is certainly a difficult one to portray well on paper: she has to convincingly appear both like a woman grieving the deaths of her family and tribe and like someone who’d fall in love with one of the killers. That’s a balance which would be all too easy to fumble, but Gladstone executes the role with astounding empathy and emotional power. Molly feels human in every gesture, from the early scenes of burdened smiles shared between her sisters or Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earnest to the wails of mourning and terror she lets loose in the second half. Even when she’s reduced to playing out being sickly and bed ridden in the second half, Gladstone still manages to deliver her scenes with surprising nuance and believability. Just based off the other awards shows and the Academy’s love for *Big* performances, Emma Stone is the likely winner, but Lily Gladstone has to take it for me.

Best Supporting Actress

– My Pick: The Holdovers, Da’Vine Joy Randolph

– The Academy’s Pick: Barbie, America Ferrara

There’s a lot of buzz around America Ferrara’s nomination in this category, notably in the context of her getting nominated while Margot Robbie got snubbed, but no matter how good or not Ferrara’s performance is, she would stand no chance in any year for me against Da’Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers. Randolph is the emotional lynchpin of the entire film, playing a mother grieving her son’s death in Vietnam with as much nuance and personality as the role deserves. Her performance is a necessary anchor to the film, both to balance out the masculine repression of the other two clears and to provide a clear warmth at the center of the otherwise very, very cold film. 

Best Cinematography

– My Pick: Poor Things, Robbie Ryan

– The Academy’s Pick: Oppenheimer, Hoyte Van Hoytema

Ironically, it’s my two least favorite movies here that I think are also the best looking (Poor Things and Maestro). Admittedly, I haven’t seen El Conde, so I could swipe either that “Best Looking” or “Least Favorite” title when I do, but for now, my personal pick will have to be Poor Things. Few films are as colorful or inventive in their visual style, either in this year or in the decade prior to it, and few films especially just look as good doing it. Poor Things demonstrates both a mastery of lighting and fantastical compositions, aided by one of the most creative uses of digital backgrounds I’ve seen since the technique was adopted. However, since the Oscars hate color and anything obviously digital, this award will likely go to Oppenheimer, whose shallow focus period-realist style conforms to the Oscars’ preferences much more. 

Best Director

– My Pick: Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese

– The Academy’s Pick: Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan

I’ve seen every nominee in this category and yet this was easily the hardest choice to make, with every director, from the established figures like Nolan to less prolific yet no less deserving surprises like Triet, bringing something vital and captivating to their respective films. That being said, Scorsese’s work on Killers of the Flower Moon would win in my book most any year, being both characteristically controlled and brilliant and somehow groundbreaking for the 81 year old auteur. As far as the Academy’s pick, while I’d say it’s anybody’s game in this category, Oppenheimer has already sweeped the other major award shows in this category, and after 2 decades of directing films, I’ve got a feeling the Academy is ready to hand Nolan a win. 

Best Editing

– My Pick: Oppenheimer, Jennifer Lame

– The Academy’s Pick: Oppenheimer, Jennifer Lame

Once again, Killers of the Flower Moon and Oppenheimer remain as the standouts, with both taking titanic runtimes and managing to make them feel not only engaging but fully necessary in their scale. But nothing can beat Oppenheimer here for me; it’s a film that works solely off of its edit, expertly crosscutting between time periods and vital moments with an ease and intentionality that is necessary to both the experience and ideas of the film. It also has the flashiest editing out of the bunch, so based on the ceremony’s history, it’s also the most likely to take home the award.

Best Picture

— My Pick: Killers of the Flower Moon

— The Academy’s Pick: Oppenheimer

I’ve talked at length in this article and others about my love for Killers of the Flower Moon, so I feel weird spouting its praises as the best of the year again here, as much as it deserves it— so I won’t! Instead, I want to comment on how fantastic so many of the nominees are this year: though I haven’t selected them for near as many wins, I feel the need to highlight Poor Things, Past Lives, The Holdovers, Anatomy of a Fall, and The Zone of Interest, which are all incredible, diverse, brilliant pieces of cinema that offer something special to the Best Picture pool this year. Even the ones I like less, such as Maestro or American Fiction, still feel well made, and are a definite cut above the low-tier nominees of previous years. Meanwhile, Barbie and  Oppenheimer’s success at both the box office and at awards show an exciting progression for both the type of films that get popular among general audiences and the recognition of these popular films as equal art by awards show, and as much as I do think Barbie is a fantastically crafted piece of pop-art, it’s Oppenheimer that I think will take home the ultimate award on March 10th based on previous awards shows and the Oscars overpowering love for biopics.

Best Adapted Screenplay

— My Pick: Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos

— The Academy’s Pick: Barbie, Greta Gerwig and Noah Bambauch

This is another category where it’s anybody’s game for me; the screenplays aren’t the standout aspect of any of these nominees for me, which makes it difficult for me to decide. In the end, I have to hand it to Poor Things as my personal pick. 

Best Original Screenplay

– My Pick: May December, Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik

– The Academy’s Pick: Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari

The fact that this is May December’s only nomination is a crime equal to the snubbing of Nope way back at the 2023 Academy Awards, but if it had to be any category (aside from Supporting Actor for Charles Melton), I’m glad it was this. May December’s script is a masterfully knotty piece of writing, incorporating melodrama and deeply uncomfortable ideas in a way that is never overplayed whilst never shying away from the horrifying facts at its center. It’s a balancing act of tone that is made all the more impressive by the fact that it is writers Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik’s first feature length credit (aside from a Road Runner movie Warner Bros threw in the trash in 2022, yet another cinematic crime equal to the snubbing of Charles Melton). Overall, May December is the obvious choice for me, which is why the Oscars will likely give the award to Anatomy of a Fall.

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Max Knight, Opinions Editor
Max Knight is a junior and has been writing articles for Sword & Shield since his sophomore year. He loves writing pieces of all kinds and, as the Opinions editor at Sword & Shield this year, he hopes to provide engaging and entertaining articles on topics both big and small. When not in school, Max loves movies, both watching and making them, playing games, and hanging out with friends.
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