The Winners and Losers of the 2024 Oscars

The 2024 Academy Awards are in the books, which means we’ve finally reached the end of awards season. (That sound you hear is countless pop culture bloggers breathing a collective sigh of relief.) While there weren’t too many surprises during the show, the Oscars did what it does best: celebrate some of the best movies of the year, while giving a generational filmmaker his worthy coronation on Hollywood’s biggest night. Below, we break down the biggest winners and losers from Sunday’s festivities.

Winner: The Oscars

The Academy may not want to consider itself to be in crisis mode, but the Oscars haven’t been in the best place lately: the ratings continue to be in a freefall, and the most memorable moments of the past decade happen to involve an infamous Best Picture envelope mishap and Will Smith slapping Chris Rock in the face. But even though most of the awards on Sunday night had predictable outcomes, the Oscars managed to be something the ceremony has sorely lacked: fun.

Ryan Gosling blew the roof off the Dolby Theatre with his lively rendition of “I’m Just Ken”; a naked John Cena realized we can see him (more on that shortly); the acting categories tried something different by having former Oscar winners give stirring tributes to each nominee. These moments and more contributed to the Oscars accomplishing what it should strive to do each year: celebrating the power of cinema with humor and heart.

Winner: The Christopher Nolan Victory Lap

Sometimes, the Oscars take a while to anoint an artist with a long-overdue statuette. After delivering masterpieces like Raging Bull and Goodfellas, it took until The Departed for Martin Scorsese to finally win an Oscar; Leonardo DiCaprio, meanwhile, had to eat raw bison liver in The Revenant to receive the Oscar he had long been craving. In that spirit, the 2024 Academy Awards will forever be known as the Christopher Nolan Oscars, with Oppenheimer taking home seven awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. But what’s so thrilling about Nolan’s coronation on the Oscars stage is that it’s a result of what may be the best film of the director’s distinguished career: a three-hour biopic that captivated moviegoers around the world and nearly made a billion dollars in the process.

Also exciting: Nolan is 53, which, in filmmaking terms—health permitting—means he’s got decades ahead of him to outdo what he achieved in Oppenheimer. Perhaps this won’t be the last time we see Nolan going on stage to accept an Oscar or two; we live in a twilight world, after all.

Loser: Barbie

For anyone who felt like Barbie was already dismissed by the Academy, which failed to nominate Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie for Best Director and Best Actress, respectively, the Oscars did little to dispel that notion. Despite being up for eight nominations, Barbie only managed a single win for Best Original Song, courtesy of Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s “What Was I Made For?” (One bit of good news: by winning, the 22-year-old Eilish became the youngest person in history to win two Oscars.)

While Barbie was an outsider for Best Picture, it stood a much better chance of making some headway for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. In each of these categories, though, Barbie lost out to Poor Things, which, as many people have noted, feels like a bizarro version of Barbie itself by way of Frankenstein’s Monster. It was a night to forget for Barbie, but that should be of little consequence. After all, Barbie was the highest-grossing movie of 2023: to paraphrase its Oscar-winning song, that’s what it was made for.

Loser, Somehow: Killers of the Flower Moon

Martin Scorsese has a long and storied history at the Oscars, and unfortunately, he’s often been on the losing end of things: both Gangs of New York and The Irishman had the honor of being nominated for 10 Oscars—and the ignominy of winning zero of them. Now, sadly, we can add Killers of the Flower Moon to that list, and like Scorsese’s previous epics, it deserved much better.

There are two categories, in particular, where Killers of the Flower Moon should feel hard done by. For one, there was a time when Lily Gladstone seemed like a lock to win Best Actress: not only was her portrayal of Mollie Burkhart the soul of the film, but she would’ve become the first Native American to win an acting Oscar. Alas, the award went to Poor Things star Emma Stone, who looks like she’s living out the second season of The Curse in real time. And while Ludwig Göransson was widely tapped to win Best Original Score for his work in Oppenheimer, spare a thought for the late Robbie Robertson, whose music made a memorable imprint on Killers of the Flower Moon. All told, Scorsese’s latest masterpiece deserved better from the Academy; here’s hoping he has more luck with his adaptation of The Wager.

Winner: Cord Jefferson

In the past five years alone, American Fiction writer-director Cord Jefferson has put together an impressive body of work, writing episodes of The Good Place, Station Eleven, and HBO’s Watchmen miniseries, the latter of which won him an Emmy. (He was also a consultant on Succession, which just so happens to be one of the best shows of its era.) Now, Jefferson can add a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar to his resume—in his directorial debut, no less—punctuated by a charming acceptance speech imploring Hollywood to make more $20 million dollar movies instead of hedging all their bets on one $200 million dollar blockbuster.

Also, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Jefferson became the first person to win an Oscar who used to be an editor at Gawker (RIP). It’s been a brutal few months in digital media; Cord’s Oscar win is a win for journos everywhere.

Winner: John Cena’s … Bits

To commemorate(?) the 50th anniversary of the time a streaker ran across the stage during the 46th Academy Awards, John Cena briefly appeared naked on stage to present Best Costume Design. Poor Things ended up winning the Oscar, but that’s not what viewers are going to remember. Yes, that was a former (and still shredded) WWE star actually waltzing on stage with just an envelope covering his crotch. There’s a universe in which this bit about Cena’s, ahem, bits, failed spectacularly, but if Dave Bautista is the WWE-turned-actor GOAT, Cena is far and away the funniest performer who started out in professional wrestling. The fact that this moment didn’t fall flat is a testament to Cena’s gifts for physical comedy. (Also, shoutout to that quick wardrobe change.) Hollywood, keep putting John Cena in comedies—just make them better than Ricky Stanicky.

Impossible to Categorize: Al Pacino Announcing Best Picture

The Academy brought out some legends of cinema throughout the evening—none other than Steven Spielberg handed Nolan his Best Director Oscar—but the ceremony saved the best for last. Al Pacino was on hand to present Best Picture, and he was rightly given a standing ovation by the attendees when he came on stage. Even among A-listers, the living legend who starred in The Godfather trilogy, Serpico, Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Scent of a Woman, and so many more classics is in a league of his own.

But as has been proven throughout his iconic career, Pacino also marches to the beat of his own drum: you never know what he’s going to do, or how he’s going to enunciate a line of dialogue. (“She’s got a GREAT ASS” lives in my head rent-free.) And after all the anticipation for the final award of the night, Best Picture, my guy anticlimactically opened the envelope, looked inside, and said, “My eyes see Oppenheimer?”

Yes, Al Pacino turned his Best Picture announcement into a question with all the energy or someone who was brought on stage without any advance warning. Give him an Oscar for this performance, and let him announce every category next year.

Loser: Messi’s Haters

For anyone who watched Anatomy of a Fall, the true star of the film is Messi, the family dog who was integral to the plot—all the way down to the final verdict in the courtroom. Messi genuinely delivered what might be the best performance a dog has ever given on-screen, and he was given the A-list treatment throughout awards season, giving “interviews” on red carpets and appearing at official Oscars functions. Incredibly, some awards strategists were pissed about Messi stealing the limelight in the lead-up to the Oscars, fearing that this good boy would sway Academy members to give their vote to Anatomy of a Fall, and there were even reports that he wouldn’t be allowed to attend the ceremony. Well, suck it, haters: not only was Messi in attendance, he was applauding during the show and peed on Matt Damon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Is Messi the reason that Anatomy of a Fall ended up winning Best Original Screenplay? Who’s to say, but between the dog and the soccer player he’s named after, it’s safe to say that America has Messi Fever.

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