A Christian Primer to the 2024 Oscar Nominations
Hollywood awards shows may not have the prestige or public appeal they once held, but they continue to be important cultural touchstones. The Academy Awards (or Oscars) remain the premier entertainment awards. Recently, the nominees were revealed for the 2024 awards. As always, much of the chatter around the award nominations has involved who was “snubbed” or who should win, but the nominations have also sparked larger cultural discussions surrounding issues of diversity, representation, religion, and the role of art.
Here at The Collision, we didn’t review all the films nominated for the 2024 Academy Awards. Some films, such as Poor Things or Holdovers, were missed for one reason or another. But we reviewed many of the films that will be featured at the Oscars, exploring them both for their artistic merit and for the thematic and worldview implications of their stories. The list below is not exhaustive, but it is a primer on the films in contention for the awards, with links to our reviews.
Oppenheimer (13 nominations: best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best director, adapted screenplay, original score, cinematography, costume design, film editing, sound, production design, makeup and hairstyling).
The latest smash hit from director Christopher Nolan is poised to make history with an impressive 13 nominations, giving it the opportunity to become the most awarded film ever at the Academy Awards. The critically acclaimed film was a box office success, earning more than 950 million at the box office, but it became a hot-button topic among Christians due to several scenes featuring nudity and sex. In our review, we concluded that Oppenheimer was “A masterfully constructed story that is both harrowing and entertaining, but unfortunately also comes with one substantial caveat.”
Barbie (8 nominations: best picture, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, adapted screenplay, costume design, production design, original song).
The other half of the viral “Barbenheimer” craze, Barbie was arguably the Hollywood success story of the year. Based on the iconic but controversial doll, the movie was the #1 film at both the domestic and worldwide box office. The breakout hit also proved to be divisive, finding itself at the center of the “culture war” due to its themes of feminism and toxic masculinity. Despite being one of the most recognized films by the Academy, the movie has once against sparked heated discourse due to the fact that neither director Greta Gerwig or star Margot Robbie received individual nominations for best director or best lead actress, respectively. At the Collision, our review was not entirely favorable toward the divisive film: “Despite a fun aesthetic and some commendable ambition, Barbie is a joyless slog that lacks the fun or subversiveness to elevate its story to something beyond a heavy-handed sermon.”
Killers of the Flower Moon (10 nominations: best picture, best actress, best supporting actor, best director, original score, cinematography, costume design, film editing, production design, original song).
The latest film from legendary Hollywood director Martin Scorsese may not have had much widespread success in theaters, but its artistic merit has made it one of the most nominated films of the year. The somber drama with a mammoth 3.5-hour runtime lacked the appeal of a blockbuster, but it delivered an appropriately unsettling exploration of injustice, greed, and human depravity. We concluded, “While not always easy to watch, legendary director Martin Scorsese has delivered a masterfully crafted, relentlessly grim, and thematically challenging exploration of greed and the destructive wages of sin.”
Maestro (7 nominations: best picture, best actor, best actress, original screenplay, cinematography, sound, makeup and hairstyling).
Bradley Cooper continues his ascent from comedic actor to Academy darling by pulling double-duty as both the director and star in this Leonard Bernstein biopic. The Netflix original film about one of America’s greatest composers is well crafted and worthy of the acclaim, but some of the subject matter—including an emphasis on Bernstein’s homosexuality—may be noteworthy for Christians. In our review, we concluded, “Beautifully shot and elevated by some dynamic acting, Maestro is a compelling but complicated film.”
The Boy and the Heron (1 nomination: animated feature film).
From the creative mind of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and the acclaimed Studio Ghibli, the anime film may not be the most accessible movie for many North American audiences. We evaluated the film, which may be the last of Miyazaki’s celebrated career, by asserting, “Despite a surrealist and disjointed narrative, The Boy and the Heron is a visually beautiful and thematically rich meditation on the reality of life and death.” The film was released in North America both as a Japanese-language film with English subtitles and as an English-dubbed version featuring an all-star cast of voices.
Elemental (1 nomination: animated feature film).
Much has been said about the current state of Disney and Pixar. There is no question that the once-invincible Hollywood empire is hurting, plagued by a string of critical and commercial failures. Part of this downward spiral has been the result of a growing sense of distrust from its core family audience due to the inclusion of LGBTQ plotlines and other problematic elements. In many ways, Elemental was a necessary return to form for the studio. While not recapturing the magic of the excellent early Pixar films, the movie overcame an initial modest box office opening to put up decent numbers due to positive word of mouth. From our review, “A charming, beautifully crafted tale containing enough classic elements to remind audiences why they fell in love with Pixar and a few of the problematic tendencies that have recently strained that relationship.”
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (1 nomination: animated feature film).
Arguably no film in recent memory has had a more profound impact on its genre than the “Spider-Verse” films. The superb, highly stylized visuals have been mimicked by many other animated films since the first film’s debut, but none have been able to match the series’ explosive inventiveness. Beyond the delightful visuals, Across the Spider-Verse is also an engaging movie and one of the best comic book stories (animated or live-action) in recent years.
The Creator (2 nominations: sound, visual effects).
The sci-fi film with an unexpectedly positive portrayal of AI saw director Gareth Edwards return to the camera for the first time since directing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016. While a budget of 80 million makes it hard to classify this movie as an “indie” film, its throwback filmmaking approach, emphasis on practical effects, and original story made it a refreshing counterbalance to the CGI-heavy, high spectacle franchise movies and sequels that have become standard fare in Hollywood in recent years.
Godzilla Minus One (1 nomination: visual effects).
Despite arriving with relatively little hype or promotion, the movie was a surprise box-office hit due to glowing critical reviews and great word of mouth. Despite having just a fraction of the budget of most blockbuster movies, the film looks excellent and is worthy of the nomination for best visual effects. Beyond the visuals, the Japanese-language film also has an emotional story and uplifting themes about the value of life. The movie earned one of The Collision’s most positive reviews, as we concluded, “A complete triumph that balances exciting spectacle with emotional stakes and human drama, Godzilla Minus One is a monster movie done right.”
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2 nominations: visual effects, sound).
The latest Tom Cruise-led spy thriller lived up to the hype with a series of death-defying stunts and action set pieces. While the plot may not have been as compelling as previous entries in the Mission Impossible series, Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie delivered on their promise of providing an experience of heart-racing cinematic spectacle, and their efforts are being appropriately rewarded with two Oscar nominations.
Napoleon (2 nominations: production design, costume design).
Director Ridley Scott’s period piece epic was maligned for its historical inaccuracies and an unfocused script. Despite these flaws, most critics agree that the film looks fantastic. Despite presumably striving for more critical acclaim, it is fitting that the film is being nominated in two visual categories. Even so, with a repetitive plot and several unnecessary sex scenes, viewers may question whether the impressive visuals are worth the effort.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (1 nomination: original score).
Dial of Destiny is likely the last time Harrison Ford (age 81) will appear as the iconic fedora wearing, whip-cracking archeologist. The film ultimately sent the hero into the sunset on a disappointing note, failing to resonate with viewers or critics. Nevertheless, the film is noteworthy for perhaps being the final appearance of another Hollywood legend. Composer John Williams is arguably the greatest of all time, and at 91 years old, this film may be his swan song. With the nomination for best original score, John Williams remains the most nominated individual in Academy Awards history.