Oscar Experts Typing: Who will prevail in the Battle of the Stones (and other tight races)?

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Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, on the eve of Sunday’s Oscars, we debate the closest categories and ponder last-second changes.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! We’ve reached the end of the long road. The Oscars are Sunday night, and there are still a handful of categories that vex me. I’m terribly vexed. You’ll be unsurprised to know I already switched to “The Creator” in Best Visual Effects with deep apologies to Godzilla and Rocket Raccoon. I just kept looking at the previous winners in that category — especially “Inception,” “Interstellar,” “Ex Machina,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Tenet,” and “Dune” — “The Creator” feels right. I’m also almost ready to split Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. When we did our “final” picks this week, we both ended up picking “Poor Things” over “Barbie” in those categories due, in part, to the fact that “Poor Things” won both awards at BAFTA and “Barbie” feels like it has died on the vine. And yet! I can’t shake the feeling that “Barbie” will win Best Costume Design. Certainly, in recent years, films like “Poor Things” — with its great gowns, beautiful gowns — usually triumph in Best Costume Design, except when there is a huge blockbuster with multiple other nominations in the mix (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Panther,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”). When it comes to costumes, I’m also partial to memorable fits — and “Barbie” has many, not just the pink coveralls and pretty paisley palazzo paints but the “I Am Kenough” hoodie that spawned a hundred swag packages. I haven’t switched yet, but I could see going off “Poor Things” there. I’ve buried the lede here because the category everyone wants to talk about is Best Actress. Emma Stone vs. Lily Gladstone remains the last competitive acting race and we’re both on Gladstone now following her SAG Award win. I’m not super confident, if only because I don’t know how much the international members of the academy care for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” But as Bong Joon Ho once said, the Oscars are “very local” and the hometown hero this season is Gladstone. Hollywood seemingly wants her to win and maybe that’s enough to overcome Stone’s presumed support overseas. Have I lost it? Don’t answer that.

joyceeng: I cannot believe you’re copying me. How rude. I’ll probably stick with “Poor Things” in both design categories instead of trying to figure out a split, but a split either way would make sense. I’d argue that the “Poor Things” costumes are more intricate and elaborate even if, as you surmised the other day, voters are probably not clocking how Bella’s evolution is mirrored in her style evolution. Another thing that might hurt “Barbie” is that while the fashions are fun and fab and the whole point of Barbie dolls is to play dress-up — I had a not one but two hatboxes of clothes for my Barbies — the costumes are, for the most part, contemporary, and the Oscars have a bias against contemporary designs. Love the “I Am Kenough” hoodie! But it’s still a hoodie! “Barbie” won the Costume Design Guild Award in sci-fi/fantasy (“Poor Things” won period), but its costumes aren’t sci-fi/fantasy the way that “Black Panther’s” are, you know? But they could easily give nine-time nominee Jacqueline Durran a third Oscar over first-time nominee Holly Waddington. I have no idea what to do in Best Actress. It is funny, though, how we all keep saying the race is a nail-biter (and I do think it is) while Gladstone has extended her lead over Stone in the odds day by day. If you were just tracking that with no context, you’d think this is a done deal for her. And I’m sure if she wins, there will be a lot of, “Duh! It was always gonna be her, you idiots.” By virtue of her victory, Gladstone has the most support among SAG-AFTRA voters, but that doesn’t mean Stone has no support among them, and most of that voting body is not in the academy. If it were just the acting branch voting for the acting winners, I’d feel more confident about going with Gladstone, but since it’s everyone, we have to take into account, like, 8,500 people from the 16 other branches. They could be majority Team Gladstone too — I dunno! The lack of passion for “Flower Moon” is also not exclusive to international voters. It’s not like the film won a ton of guilds. The Oscars also snubbed it in the same two above-the-line categories as BAFTA did. Based on the data we have, “Poor Things” is the stronger film and sometimes that makes the difference in close or anarchic races. That being said, we all thought “Elvis” was stronger than “The Whale” last year, but it laid an egg. I don’t think “Poor Things” will go 0-11, but I’m sure some people are predicting that. “Flower Moon” is Gladstone or bust. I’ve seen the common refrain — and I’m sure you have too — that Gladstone will win because surely voters won’t let another Marty epic go 0-10, and reader, lemme tell you: that’s not a thing. The 10,000 voters are not all in a room collectively deciding to throw a bone to someone, just like how they’re all not in a room collectively deciding to snub Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie. These are the same people who had no problem letting five Best Picture nominees go home empty-handed last year — something they didn’t collectively decide to do either. It just happened after the votes were tabulated. We’ve typed so many words without mentioning Sandra Hüller. She is in two Best Picture nominees, which could help her out, but I don’t see her higher than third. I’d love for her to be the first SAG snubbee to win Best Actress though.

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Christopher Rosen: We’re doing the 1980s for our Oscars Playback miniseries this summer and so I’m old enough to remember when Martin Scorsese was such an Oscar pariah that he couldn’t even win Best Director over Robert Redford and his all-time classic output was routinely snubbed and ignored by the academy. Now, we’re supposed to believe they love Marty so much that they won’t “let” another one of his movies go 0-fer? I have such doubts! If Gladstone wins, I don’t even think it’ll have anything to do with Scorsese in the 30,000-foot view of things: we’ve said repeatedly that she’s a host unto herself and that remains true. I also don’t think “Poor Things” will get shut out: production design feels very likely even if it lost in costumes, and I don’t think we can say it’s out of it in the makeup and hairstyling race either. We both wavered on that category before landing on “Maestro,” the ostensible favorite all season. There are certainly reasons “Maestro” won’t win — I’m not sure if you know this, but the movie is not widely embraced! — but I think the makeup work is masterful and Kazu Hiro has already won here twice before, and Netflix did a great job reminding potential voters that he was responsible for the seamless transformation. We don’t need to go into great detail about the shorts categories either, but we both are straying from the odds there as well with “The Last Repair Shop,” “War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko” and “Red, White and Blue.” I’ve seen many pundits sticking with the presumed favorite for doc short, “The ABCs of Book Banning,” due to its timely nature and the fact that it was directed by legendary producer and executive Shelia Nevins. She turns 85 next month and this is her first individual Oscar nomination. We know the full academy likely isn’t voting for the shorts — many voters will simply abstain — but does her stature in the industry maybe push “ABCs” over the top?

joyceeng: Maybe, but I’m not even sure how many are aware of this outside of her immediate peers. I also feel like if voters do their due diligence and watch the shorts to vote — which, like you said, not all of them do — they’re invested in making an informed decision and would vote primarily for the one they like the most. I wouldn’t be surprised if some don’t watch and just vote for Nevins because of her name and legacy, but it’s not the same as Wes Anderson being the big apple in a bag of oranges in live action short. We both switched to “Red, White and Blue,” but what if “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar” just wins this? Are we overthinking this? I can also see the other three nominees taking it as well as they’re all ~ emotional ~. I guess I’ll be the first to utter “Oppenheimer” here. So, “Oppenheimer.” We have it collecting eight statuettes — the consensus — but is eight enough? Oppiehaters would say that’s more than enough, but Best Adapted Screenplay remains a possibility. “American Fiction” is the expected champ after taking Critics Choice, BAFTA (a surprise) and the USC Scripter prizes. But when I close my eyes like young Oppie in bed, I can picture Christopher Nolan pulling a hat trick and winning for his script too. This is also the first time these nominees will face off against “Barbie” in adapted. I don’t think “Barbie” would win, but how does its presence affect the race? Could it siphon some votes from fellow social satire “American Fiction”?

SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Who has the edge in that nail-biting Best Actress race?

Christopher Rosen: I don’t think “Barbie” is a threat to siphon votes per se, but I do think it’s very easy to imagine Nolan just winning screenplay. When they love a movie, they love a movie. The only reason I’ve stuck with “American Fiction” is that they also seemingly love that movie too. It’s been a fun season with some great movies as the nominees. So I’ll leave off here with a huzzah and a sad salute to Messi, who was apparently barred from attending the Oscars by some no-fun executives who were threatened by his cuteness. Good dog!

joyceeng: His cuteness and his acting prowess. Your fave human actor could never. Imagine being jealous of a dog though. Deeply unserious. This is why this is all silly and no one should live and die by the Oscars. But we know that no matter who wins on Sunday, Messi is the top dog.

PREDICTthe 2024 Oscar winners by March 10

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