Oscars 2024: Lily Gladstone and Emma Stone battle it out in the last remaining competitive major category

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Emma Stone in Poor Things is in the only major category to offer any chance of a surprise outcome at this year’s Oscars.
Emma Stone in Poor Things is in the only major category to offer any chance of a surprise outcome at this year’s Oscars. Credit: AP

With two weeks to go until the Oscars ceremony, a clear picture of the likely winners is firming up – and it looks like there’s only one race that’s still open.

The final significant precursor awards took place this weekend with the Screen Actors Guild annual ceremony and it should surprise no one that Oppenheimer was the big winner, taking out best ensemble (the SAG’s equivalent of best picture) as well as individual awards for Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr.

Murphy’s win puts him in front of his closest rival, Paul Giamatti whose performance in The Holdovers has garnered him accolades including a Golden Globe and Critics Choice.

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You know Murphy is in a competitive category when you consider Oppenheimer has this awards season been so dominant to the point of boring but its lead star wasn’t yet a lock for the Oscar. That’s evidence of the calibre of performances among the nominees.

But now that the softly spoken Irish actor has clinched the SAG, he is all but assured the win on Oscars night.

Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy won for Oppenheimer. Credit: BANG - Entertainment News

If Murphy’s fate was uncertain before this weekend, Downey Jr has had no such anxieties. His performance as Lewis Strauss, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s foil, has been collecting almost all the trophies, and delivering signature snark-filled acceptance speeches along the way.

A popular personality in the industry and previously twice Oscar-nominated (for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder) Downey’s inevitable Oscar victory on March 11 is, arguably, a career win.

Similarly, The Holdovers’ Da’Vine Joy Randolph added another win to her surely buckling trophy shelf in the supporting actress category. If anyone other than Randolph and Downey Jr wins in the supporting categories, it will be a massive upset.

Which leaves open the best actress category as a two-header between Emma Stone for Poor Things and Lily Gladstone for Killers of the Flower Moon. That there is still a question mark over a major category is a welcome reprieve. No one wants to watch an Oscars ceremony where every high-profile statue is a foregone conclusion.

Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone are in a tight race for the Best Actress Oscar.
Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone are in a tight race for the Best Actress Oscar. Credit: The Nightly

Gladstone won the SAG but Stone won the BAFTA. They both won a Golden Globe, where they competed in different categories.

A Gladstone win would be momentous. She would be the first Native American or Indigenous actor to win an acting Oscar.

And for a performance that voters will want to reward, perhaps as redress for a film about the Native American experience that was directed by a white filmmaker (Martin Scorsese) and was centred on a white character (Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest).

Stone is a formidable rival. Her film Poor Things is beloved and she is being acknowledged for a gung-ho comedic performance with a clear character arc. If Stone won, it would not be undeserving. And she already has an Oscar for La La Land.

As for the rest of it, the non-acting races, Oppenheimer is widely expected to win best picture and best director for Christopher Nolan and is competitive in adapted screenplay (against American Fiction and Barbie). It’s also the frontrunner in score, editing (usually aligned with best picture), sound and cinematography.

FILE - This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Margot Robbie in a scene from "Barbie." With the Friday, July 21, 2023, release of the "Barbie movie" starring Robbie, the color "Barbie Pink" has been thrown into the spotlight on social media and the world of fashion. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP, File)
Margot Robbie in a scene from cultural phenomenon Barbie. Credit: AP

The big story out of the Oscar nominations was that Barbie was “snubbed” despite picking up eight after it missed out on nods in directing and best actress. Margot Robbie’s jubilant film is expected to win in best song and could prevail in costumes and production but in the latter two categories, Poor Things is running a very close second.

It may be that Barbie, an absolute cultural phenomenon, will walk away with just the one Oscar, for best song – but it still has that $US1.44 billion global box office.

Beloved French film and five-time nominee Anatomy of a Fall is currently the frontrunner in best original screenplay, while Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse should win in animated feature. German-language British film The Zone of Interest will win in international feature and the Ukraine-set 20 Days in Mariupol is expected to win in documentary feature.

So, even with most of the below-the-line categories seemingly decided, thank god for Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone bringing a little intrigue to the Oscars.

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