As the Awards Train Chugs on, Momentum Is the Key to Winning Oscars

In the Oscar race, momentum is a law of physics you can’t ignore. “Oppenheimer” has it. In his Best Director acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards on Sunday, writer-director Christopher Nolan thanked the critics for their help “with convincing mainstream audiences that a film about quantum physics can be worth the time.” Universal’s “Oppenheimer” took home eight prizes (read the full Critics Choice winners list here) including Picture, Ensemble, and Supporting Actor (Robert Downey, Jr.), but didn’t sweep the table: Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who won the Globes award in the drama category, lost to “The Holdovers” (Focus Features) comedy Globes winner Paul Giamatti, whose costar Da’Vine Joy Randolph yet again took home Supporting Actress. And rookie auteur Cord Jefferson took Adapted Screenplay for MGM/Amazon’s family comedy/satire “American Fiction,” its only win.

Comedies did well on Sunday. Comedy Globes winner Emma Stone (Searchlight’s “Poor Things”) also repeated at the CCAs over drama Globes winner Lily Gladstone, resplendent in blue, who sat with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio at the AppleTV+ “Killers of the Flower Moon” table. “Killers” went home empty-handed, as well as dramatic Netflix entries “May December,” “Maestro,” and “Rustin.”

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SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: Host Chelsea Handler speaks during the 29th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 14, 2024 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
OPPENHEIMER, Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, 2023. © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

And the CCAs belatedly decided to rectify their omission of Best Comedy in the live CW show by bringing “Barbie” auteur Greta Gerwig and producer-star Margot Robbie up to the stage. While making the movie, said Gerwig, “I laughed so hard every day I ruined almost every take…Thank you to Mattel for letting us take their beloved icon and make it so unhinged. And thank you to Warner Bros. for standing behind us every step of the way. And thank you to Noah Baumbach because we just wanted to make each other laugh and this movie made the world laugh too.”

Best Young Actor winner Dominic Sessa and Best Actor winner Paul Giamatti chow down at the Critics Choice Awards.

Also steady as they go is Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” which won Best Foreign Language Film. While it was not submitted by France for International Feature, the Neon film could land Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Actress (Sandra Hüller) slots on Oscar nominations morning January 23.

There’s plenty of road ahead. Murphy still has a chance to win SAG and likely will have an edge at the BAFTAs. Gladstone could return to the winner’s circle with SAG and BAFTA as well. But Giamatti and Stone have wind in their sails now. They have earned plenty of love over the years. Giamatti’s hidebound professor is heartfelt and touching, while Murphy’s brainiac physicist, which marks a high degree of difficulty, is less emotive. “It’s a good story about people connecting in divisive times,” said Giamatti of “The Holdovers.”

Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr. and Susan Downey at the Critics Choice Awards.

As the evening wound down, a hungry Emily Blunt, unaware of Giamatti’s viral In-N-Out Burger moment after the Globes, planned to take her husband John Krasinski and the Downeys to the hamburger joint. It would be Robert’s first time. “I trust her,” he said.

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