Could ‘Oppenheimer’ Finally Win Christopher Nolan, Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. Oscars? – Variety

By Clayton Davis
Senior Awards Editor
Oppenheimer” has burst into the Oscar race.
With the earnest and urgent cultural fabric of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the philosophical measure of “The Tree of Life,” writer, director and producer Christopher Nolan‘s chronicle of the creation of the most destructive weapon ever used stands as the most ambitious and vital piece of filmmaking of his career. Adapted from the book “American Prometheus” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, “Oppenheimer” tells the complicated and morally fraught story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer who led the effort to develop the atomic bomb.
Nolan and his stellar ensemble of actors have amassed 27 Oscar nominations collectively throughout their careers. One of those who surprisingly hasn’t nabbed one is Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the titular scientist. With dry wit and womanizing charm that effectively makes him the scientific version of Michael Fassbender in “Shame,” Murphy is an effective vehicle to lead the viewer through reams of scientific terminology. In addition, his tour-de-force performance, which is sure to be in real consideration for best actor, is best displayed when showcasing the emotional toll such a creation can have on a person. Lead actors from competitive best picture players, especially from biopics, have been consistently recognized over the past few decades in Oscar history (see Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Imitation Game” or Christian Bale for “American Hustle”). Murphy could find his time has come after decades of memorable turns in “28 Days Later” (2002) and “Breakfast on Pluto” (2006).

“Iron Man” himself, Robert Downey Jr., is afforded the best material to chew on of the supporting players as Lewis Strauss, one of the founding commissioners of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and a hostile figure to Oppenheimer following the hydrogen bomb development. A two-time nominee for “Chaplin” (1992) and “Tropic Thunder” (2008), the role and awards pathway could mimic Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991) and its supporting actor nominee Tommy Lee Jones who played Clay Shaw. Only one actor from a Nolan movie has ever won and been nominated for Oscar recognition, Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight,” coincidentally beating RDJ for “Thunder.” Very early in the awards race, only Robert DeNiro from Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” seems to be considered a viable contender after the film debuted at Cannes.
In what has been a consistent criticism of Nolan’s oeuvre, the women in “Oppenheimer” are given very little agency to the central narrative. Oscar nominee Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) is arguably one of the most exciting actors in Hollywood, and she is relegated to a brief storyline about her emotional instability in her mere minutes of screen time as Oppenheimer’s girlfriend and later mistress Jean Tatlock, a re-engineered Marion Cotillard from “Inception.”

Emily Blunt, who has been overdue for her first Oscar nom after multiple snubs for “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), “A Quiet Place” (2018) and “Mary Poppins Returns” (2018), plays Kitty, Oppenheimer’s alcoholic wife, who is sufficiently depressed so as to ask a family friend to take their baby for a while. However, during a critical cross-examination scene, Nolan offers Blunt the opportunity to showcase the skill and biting line deliveries she’s displayed throughout her career. With a smirk and swag, Blunt may finally be able to snag her first nom for supporting actress, especially in a film that is an across-the-board contender.
Nolan himself has received five Oscar nominations during his career — “Memento” (2001) in original screenplay, “Inception” (2010) for original screenplay and best picture and “Dunkirk” (2017) for directing and picture. His second directing nom is well within arm’s reach in what I would call the most “un-Nolan” movie he’s ever made. Box office and strong reviews will only help Universal’s quest to get one of the leading filmmakers of the 21st century his first statuette (it would also help keep him happy to make more movies with them in the future). One noteworthy point: An “Oscar hat-trick” of winning picture, director and screenplay has only been achieved nine times, most recently by the Daniels for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
The technical artists will also be highly competitive in their respective races, notably production design (Ruth De Jong, Claire Kaufman), cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema), costumes (Ellen Mirojnick), editing (Jennifer Lame), sound (Richard King, Michael W. Mitchell, Kevin O’Connell, Gary A. Rizzo) and original score (Ludwig Göransson).
Of all the movies screened up to this point this year, Nolan’s movie is one of two films that could have all the key ingredients to win the Academy Awards’ most coveted prize. It’ll be a colossal guild player (watch out for the SAG ensemble), and the regional critics could make it a darling during the precursor season. The ongoing strikes could have a ripple effect on films that are dropping in the later months, since their teams won’t be able to promote them in the same way as earlier titles.
“Barbenheimer” may be an internet sensation, but only one resonates with Oscar voters, and it’s the one without pink. It’s okay; the pink one will make all the bucks.
Of Nolan’s 11 previous movies, only three have been shut out of the Academy Awards — his debut “Following” (1998), “Insomnia” (2002) and “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012).
Check out the latest Oscar predictions on Variety Awards Circuit.
The Business of Entertainment







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *