And the Oscar Goes to…

How will our Irish stars fare come Oscar night?

By Brian Bowe

It was only last year when Ireland was the talk of tinseltown. Banshees of Inisherin and An Cailín Ciúin breezed through awards season, picking up statuettes here and there – Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon won at the BAFTAs while Colin Farrell took home his second Golden Globe. Come Oscar night, however, both teams left empty-handed. Gutted. Thankfully the story didn’t end there. There were two Irish Oscar wins with Best Live-Action Short going to An Irish Goodbye and Dubliner Richard Baneham winning his second Academy Award for visual effects, for his work on James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Will he win on March 10th ?

With all due respect, 2023 was a freak year! Ireland’s film industry was popping off. You couldn’t escape the think-pieces claiming the year to be a renaissance for Irish cinema.  Even President Michael D Higgins – who, as the Minister of Arts in 1993, re-established The Irish Film Board (now Screen Ireland) – came out to praise “a remarkable year for the Irish film industry as a testament to the hard work of so many people over recent decades.” 2024 could hardly compete with that. Or could it?

It seemed to happen slowly, and then all at once. First, the Cillian Murphy-led Oppenheimer landed, topping expectations and crushing the box office. Then Saltburn took over the internet and its star, Dubliner Barry Keoghan, was nominated for a Golden Globe. And then, just recently, a double-whammy!: Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things (Co-produced by Irish production company Element Pictures) and All of Us Strangers (starring homemade heartthrobs Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal) arrived in cinemas to tremendous critical acclaim.

Smaller productions, too, are faring well. In December it was announced that three Irish short films from Screen Ireland’s flagship short film schemes had been longlisted for the Academy Awards. These include Sinéad O’Loughlin’s tense and well-crafted Lamb; Two for the Road, which picked up the Best Short Drama and Best Cinematography at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh; and Jessica Patterson’s award winning animated short, Worry World. It seems Ireland has a knack for the short form – even before An Irish Goodbye’s historic win, three short films from Ireland had won the Oscar for Best Short Film: Six Shooter by Martin McDonagh (2005), The Shore by Terry George (2011) and Stutterer by Benjamin Cleary (2015).

Poor Things, another Irish production, star Emma Stone

The most talked-about category during this year’s awards season thus far has been for Best Lead Actor, which started out as a two-horse race: Murphy’s internal and intense performance as Robert J. Oppenheimer going head-to-head with Bradley Cooper’s expert Leonard Bernstein impression in Maestro. Murphy reigned supreme early on, picking up awards Palm Springs and the Golden Globes, leaving Cooper sat in the audience much to the delight of Twitter’s finest meme creators. But then the unthinkable happened. Long considered the category’s dark horse, Paul Giamatti has now overtaken Cooper as Murphy’s main competition after he won at the Critics Choice Awards this past January for his wonderful – though, comfortably curmudgeonly – turn in The Holdovers. I’d still favour our Cork man for the BAFTA, but the Oscars are proving hard to predict.

Giammati’s win wasn’t the only surprise to occur during the Critics Choice Awards. Lily Gladstone, whose stunning performance in Martin Scorese’s near-perfect Killers of the Flower Moon was predicted to sweep awards season, lost out to Emma Stone, who previously won at this year’s Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical for a career-best performance in the aforementioned Irish produced picture, Poor Things.

Hopes are high, too, for Shadow of Beirut, an Irish documentary which has been selected by IFTA as Ireland’s entry for the 2024 Oscars. Told primarily in Arabic, the film is co-directed by Stephen Gerard Kelly and Garry Keane and released here in December to critical acclaim. Screen Ireland (who financed the film) describe it as “a cinematic portrait of modern-day Lebanon as seen through the eyes of four families living in the impoverished Sabra and Shatila neighbourhoods of the city, the scene of an infamous massacre in 1982.”

The nominations are set to be announced January 23, and while nothing is definite, we have a fair idea of who will make the cut. So, on with the show:

Best Animated Feature

Disney took a tumble in 2023, with their big hitters Wish and Elemental falling short of expectations. Many consider Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse to take home the Oscar, with its daring and mind-boggling visuals. But legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, at age 82, just released what many consider to be his final film, The Boy and the Heron, and, well, if that doesn’t win, I’ll be shocked.

Should win: The Boy and the Heron

Will win: The Boy and the Heron

Best Supporting Actress

This year’s selection boasts a serious amount of talent. Familiar faces include Emily Blunt, Jodie Foster and Penélope Cruz. Though not predicted to even be nominated, I think Jullianne Moore’s performance in May December did more than enough to earn herself Academy consideration. However, the winner already seems decided based on how the previous awards shows have gone. It will take a lot to knock The Holdovers’ Da’Vine Joy Randolph off her stride.

Should win: Jullianne Moore

Will win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph

Lily Gladstone, Brian’s tip to win best actress. (Image courtesy IMDb)
Best Supporting Actor

Much like the Best Supporting Actress category, we all know how this is likely to turn out, though I appreciate those still rallying for a Ryan Gosling win for his energetic and adorable turn as Ken, in last year’s mega hit, Barbie. Personally, I think Robert DeNiro’s performance in Killers of the Flower Moon is deserving of his third Oscar win. However, Oppenheimer is predicted to sweep at this year’s ceremony, and this category is just the beginning. 

Should win: Robert DeNiro

Will win: Robert Downey Jr.

Best Actress

This is where things will get tricky. Sure, few will cheer on Carey Mulligan for her understated performance in Maestro – though, when acting off Bradley Cooper, it’s impossible to be anything other than understated. As mentioned before, this year’s race is down to Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone. And while I think Gladstone is the beating heart of Killers of the Flower Moon, Stone is electrifying and carries her film all the way. The only rub is that Poor Things, packed with nudity and four-letter words, is not an Oscar-friendly film.

Should win: Emma Stone

Will win: Lily Gladstone

Best Actor
The Holdovers star and Murphy’s
stiffest competition, Paul Giamatti

Oh boy! This is the big one. Look, I’m biased, but I think Murphy deserves it. I also think Leonardo DiCaprio deserves a shout, too, but that ain’t happening. Maestro has barely got off the starting grid yet, so Cooper’s chances are slim. It really is just Murphy vs. Giamatti at this stage, and unless that changes, I can see the Academy falling for Giamatti; not just because he puts in a strong performance in The Holdovers, but because he’s one of those character actors whose been working hard in the fringes of Hollywood for decades and now seems like a good time to celebrate him. 

Should win: Cillian Murphy

Will win: Paul Giamatti 

Best Director 

Christopher Nolan’s time has come. The English director has made some of the biggest films of the last two decades, with the likes of The Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar delighting movie fans in need of a blockbuster with brains. He’s been picking up Best Director throughout awards season, and it’s hard to think that anything will change by the time the Oscars roll around. 

Should win: Martin Scorsese

Will win: Christopher Nolan

Best Picture

And so continues the reign of Oppenheimer. Killers of the Flower Moon (A much better film, if you ask me) has a chance, but the momentum isn’t there. Much like 2022’s winner, Coda, The Holdovers is a big, sweet crowd pleaser, but sweet enough to spoil Oppenheimer’s chances? I think not.

Should win: Killers of the Flower Moon

Will win: Oppenheimer.