After the debacle of Jo Koy’s appalling, worst-ever hosting of this year’s Golden Globes ceremony, the organizers of the Academy Awards are probably patting themselves on the back in the knowledge that they’ve successfully hired safe-pair-of-hands Jimmy Kimmel for this year’s ceremony. Yes, alas, because his joke-nemesis Matt Damon features in this year’s dead-cert winner Oppenheimer, there will be the public continuation of the smuggest and least amusing fake feud in contemporary life, but at least Kimmel won’t offend anyone, knows how to deliver a carefully scripted punchline and can be relied upon to keep things moving at a lick. He may not be Billy Crystal, but he’s not David Letterman or James Franco either, and so the evening of March 10 is awaited with a decent level of anticipation by Hollywood.
And what of the nominations? Well, as expected, Oppenheimer has dominated, with a mighty thirteen potential awards to be won on the night. Most of them are, as expected, in the technical categories, but Christopher Nolan, Robert Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy should all be wearing their best tuxedos and getting ready to polish off their most heartfelt and sincere speeches of thanks, given their front-runner status in their categories. (Although watch out for Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers, a veteran actor who represents Murphy’s stiffest competition.) Barbie has rather flagged of late, and this relative lack of momentum is shown up in unforgiving fashion, with a comparatively light eight nominations, including no recognition for its director Greta Gerwig (who does, however, get an adapted screenplay nod) or its star Margot Robbie, although its scene-stealer Ryan Gosling is in there, along with his show-stopping number “I’m Just Ken,” which should, if there is any justice, win Best Song.
Otherwise, it’s a very predictable bunch of nominations, with a few minor surprises tucked in there. The Netflix drama Nyad secured nods for two much-loved actresses, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster. And though there have been whispers that Bradley Cooper was not going to find the recognition he deserves for his superb Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro, he has been nominated for acting, producing and writing — although not, alas, for directing, in a competitive field that instead found room for The Zone of Interest’s Jonathan Glazer and Anatomy of a Fall’s Justine Triet.
As with the Golden Globes, it’s a cerebral, sensible series of acknowledgements that some seriously good films were made last year, including Poor Things, Killers of the Flower Moon and American Fiction, all of which have deservedly found themselves put forward for Best Picture. In fact, it’s hard to remember when there was such a good clutch of intelligent, adult-oriented films being recognized; no Avatar: The Way of Water nonsense here.
After several years in which the Academy seemed to have been sidetracked into tokenism and awarding obscure films that few had bothered seeing with the top honors, it is a welcome return to form. Will it be enough to bring an increasingly maligned ceremony back into public recognition? Perhaps — although if anyone does a Will Smith, the chances increase tenfold. But otherwise, it looks like being Oppenheimer’s year, and few would bet against the destroyer of worlds cleaning up in a few weeks’ time.