Big Cinema Strikes Back

‘Oppenheimer’ Reigns at Oscars With Seven Wins, Including Best Picture and Director: Full Winners List
The 2024 Oscar winners are being revealed, with ‘Oppenheimer’ taking home 7 awards.

No big surprises in this year's Academy Awards.1 Still, I think it was a good thing for both the show and the industry that one film stood above the others and that it was great, a true showcase for cinema, and did massively well at the box office.2

For Nolan, the honors came after a tangled history with the Oscars – he was nominated seven previous times, including for directing “Dunkirk,” as well as for his work on movies like “Memento” and “Inception.” But the Academy snubbed his biggest hit, “The Dark Knight” for best picture and director, an omission that provoked outrage and prompted the organization to increase the number of films nominated for best of the year from five to ten. Finally given an Oscar of his own, Nolan, who has been a passionate advocate for the big screen experience, paid tribute to the art form he loves.

Again, this was entirely expected, but the Academy doesn't always get this right – in fact, it often does not. I'll once again point out the fact that Stanley Kubrick, inarguably one of the greatest directors of all time and arguably the greatest, never won an Oscar for his main craft.3

Speaking of the 'Best Picture' expansion, I continue to believe it was a mistake which overall dilutes the nominees. I know the 'Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film' award was lampooned (and quickly killed off) before it even became reality, but it was just framed poorly. It shouldn't be for popularity or whatever – that popularity is often just a byproduct of what it should be for: cinematic achievement. In other words, big, cinematic movies. The kind you need too see in theaters. The kind the entire industry should be embracing following the success of Oppenheimer and more recently, Dune. Hollywood should want more such films and as such, should reward such films!

There would potentially be years where the same film wins both awards, and this past year is probably a great example with Oppenheimer.4 But all too often in recent years, 'Best Picture' has gone to a smaller, arthouse film. That's fine and great, but I think you need to reward both kinds of movie-making.

Anyway, I liked Nolan's framing in his speech:

“Movies are just a little bit over 100 years old,” he said. “I would imagine being 100 years into painting or theater. We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here, but to know that you think that I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

I have one thought of where it's going which I doubt Nolan (or Dune director Denis Villeneuve) will like too much. But it's just a new way to augment (no pun intended) the cinematic experience. I like that Nolan at least acknowledged that no one knows where the art form is going to go from here. Just as is always the case with art. It evolves.

1 A minor one with Emma Stone's win (her second) over Lily Gladstone. Mainly a surprise in that Killers of the Flower Moon was completely shut out. 0/10!

2 Yes, of course thanks to large assist from Barbie – the coupling of which should go down as one of the stranger moments in box office, if not cinematic history.

3 He was nominated a total of 13 times -- 4 times for directing: Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon. But the only Oscar he ever won was for ‘Best Visual Effects’ for 2001.

4 Might Dune: Part 2 have won both in next year's awards? It's certainly the front-runner right now! And there will be a large push to give Villeneuve the Best Director Oscars in a very similar vein to his good friend Christopher Nolan.