Sunday is the 96th annual Academy Awards. Big names like Oppenheimer and Killers of the Flower Moon are up for honors this year. For Georgians, there are a couple categories to watch as movies and actors from the Peach State are up for nominations. 



Pamela Kirkland: The Oscars are upon us this weekend. So what kind of Georgia representation might we see? Joining me now to talk about some winner predictions and the films is Stephen Brown. Stephen is chief film critic for Silver Screen Capture. You can find him at Stephen, thank you so much for joining me on Morning Edition.

Stephen Brown: Hello, Pamela.

Pamela Kirkland: Stephen, with the Oscars just around the corner, tell me about some of your predictions for some of the bigger categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress. What are you looking for this weekend?

Stephen Brown: Well, I know a lot of people talked this year about Oppenheimer versus Barbie, and I think the winner's going to be pretty obvious come Oscar night that Oppenheimer is likely the kind of movie that wins Oscars.

(Sound from Oppenheimer)

It will likely win Best Picture. There's a big chance for Cillian Murphy to win Best Actor for playing [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, and for Christopher Nolan to win director for directing Oppenheimer. But then it gets a little trickier with a lot of other contests, such as Best Actress, which is definitely going to be a nail biter.

Pamela Kirkland: Tell us a little bit about some of the nominees in that category.

Stephen Brown: Sure. So Best Actress is going to be a battle of what they say 'the stones.' It's Emma Stone versus Lily Gladstone. So Emma Stone plays a woman who's just coming into being. She's been reanimated by kind of a Frankenstein character, and she's just learning about the world. And Emma Stone, who has won an award before for La La Land, is up for her second chance to win Best Actress. However, Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon gives a movie-anchoring performance. A lot of people describe it as the soul of the movie for the Osage Nation. And so a lot of people are really going for her. They both won in a lot of the precursor contests, so it'll be really interesting to see which of them battles it out to win the top prize at the Oscars.

Pamela Kirkland: Talk to me about Best Actor. Who are some of the guys that we are going to see up against each other on Sunday night?

Stephen Brown: Absolutely. So there's definitely some great candidates there. When the — when the season started off, a lot of people thought that Bradley Cooper was going to be the frontrunner for Maestro, playing Leonard Bernstein. It turns out that his Academy chances have faded a little bit because Cillian Murphy has been so acclaimed in Oppenheimer, but there are some people nipping at his heels as well. Paul Giamatti is in The Holdovers, and in that he plays a really cranky teacher who is taking care of the kids that are left over at a prep school in the '70s during Christmas. They don't have a place to go home to and sort of one of those kind of Dead Poets Society type performances. People really like Paul Giamatti. He'd won some awards before. And then there's Jeffrey Wright, who is in American Fiction, and in that he plays a novelist — a Black novelist — who is not successful with his books until he writes under a pseudonym. And he writes something that's sort of, playing to the lowest common denominator. And the literati go crazy and all sorts of things. He's embarrassed by the book he's written, and all of a sudden everybody's going crazy over it. And Jeffrey Wright is one of those performers that's been around forever, really well-liked. And then Colman Domingo, who has actually a lot of connections on the stage here in Georgia, is up for Rustin, playing a real-life character and — MLK's event planner, if you will, for the major march and speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave. It is an outstanding performance. In a different year. I think it would win, but I definitely think the best actor would go to Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer.

Pamela Kirkland: Usually we would be talking about all of the different films that either had Georgia locations or some kind of Georgia connection. It seems like we don't have a bunch of those this year. 

Stephen Brown: Sure. Yeah, we're definitely used to a lot of our movies being made here in Georgia. This year, there aren't quite as many that are up for Oscars. There are two that I can think of: In the visual effects category, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is up. James Gunn has made a lot of his movies in Georgia, including that one, and so that has a chance to win. And then Danielle Brooks, who has some Georgia and South Carolina connections, is up for The Color Purple. 

(Sound from The Color Purple)

That movie had a lot of Oscar chances early on, but I think some think that it came out a little too late in the year. A lot of movies get momentum at festivals, and Color Purple just came out of Christmas and sort of, trickled out a little bit late in the year. But Danielle Brooks is a powerhouse in it. I do think she is also going to lose, because in The Holdovers, Da'Vine Joy Randolph is definitely the lead candidate to win Best Supporting Actress versus Danielle Brooks.

Pamela Kirkland: Not a great year for the Peach State in terms of our prospects. But that's OK; there's always next year.

Stephen Brown: Any year that celebrates the movies is great for Georgia, as well. But, right, there is not a a really obvious Georgia connection this year.

Pamela Kirkland: Tell me a little bit about the ceremony this year. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting. There was a lot of talk — you mentioned Barbie earlier — of the lack of nominations there for director Greta Gerwig; for Margot Robbie, Best Actress. Talk a little bit about the controversy surrounding the Oscars this year.

Stephen Brown: Sure. So what a lot of people don't know is the Oscars in each category are voted on by the people in that guild in that category. So a lot of times the Best Director candidates, they're voted for by a lot of other people who are directors, and sometimes they have a little bit of a 'snob factor' about what makes a perfect directed movie. I happen to think that Greta Gerwig should have been in that Best Director circle, for sure. I even have the ones I would have knocked out to put her in. But sometimes they don't give comedies, they don't give movies that are based on intellectual property — like a Barbie doll or a comic book character — as much love in that kind of a category. She is in the screenplay category with her husband, Noah Baumbach. They wrote Barbie together. Unfortunately, I think Barbie is going to be maybe only winning one. I think it might win a song win, and it may be all, but I'm sure that the Oscars will milk Barbie for all that it's worth because it was so popular this year.

(Sound from Barbie) 

Stephen Brown: We'll be seeing Ryan Gosling sing "I'm Just Ken," Billie Eilish sing "What Was I Made For?" But you mentioned Jimmy Kimmel. He's kind of a do-no-wrong host. He usually can be pretty unflappable in this situation. And one of the cool things that they're doing this year, they're bringing back something they did years ago, where five previous winners in the acting categories are going to bestow the new person and invite them into the club. So that should be pretty exciting. As well as the music performances, it's also starting an hour early. So, in addition to being Daylight Savings Weekend, you're also having the show start an hour early, so you don't want to miss a thing.

Pamela Kirkland: Well, I can't promise I'll be watching on Sunday night because I have such an early bedtime. But Stephen Brown, chief film critic for Silver Screen, thank you so much for coming on GPB's Morning Edition to break this all down for us.

Stephen Brown: Well, fabulous. Thank you so much for talking today.