We break down the 2024 Oscar nominations : Pop Culture Happy Hour This year's Oscar nominations were announced today and Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer leads the field with 13 nominations. Other leading nominees include Poor Things, Killers Of The Flower Moon, and Barbie. We run down the nominees in the major categories and talk about some of the surprising snubs.

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We break down the 2024 Oscar nominations

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:

This year's Oscar nominations have been announced, and "Oppenheimer" leads the field. Christopher Nolan's film received a whopping 13 nominations.

GLEN WELDON, HOST:

Other leading nominees include "Poor Things," "Killers Of The Flower Moon" and "Barbie," and there were a few surprising snubs in major categories. I'm Glen Weldon.

THOMPSON: And I'm Stephen Thompson. Today, we are talking about this year's Oscar nominations on NPR's POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THOMPSON: Here with us is our fellow co-host, Aisha Harris. Hey, Aisha.

AISHA HARRIS, HOST:

Hey, Stephen.

THOMPSON: It is a pleasure to have you. So this episode is just going to cover the nominees in the very top categories. We're not going to get to everything here. We'll cover the Oscars much more in the coming weeks. And of course, we'll bring you our predictions in an episode that'll run closer to the ceremony in March. So let's do this. Glen and I are going to run down the nominees for best picture. First up, "American Fiction," the very funny, delightful directorial debut of Cord Jefferson about a Black author who grudgingly writes a novel filled with antiquated stereotypes.

WELDON: Next up, "Anatomy Of A Fall," directed by Justine Triet. This French drama follows a wife who becomes the chief suspect when her husband is found dead and rifts in their marriage are exposed.

THOMPSON: "Barbie."

WELDON: Yay.

THOMPSON: Director Greta Gerwig crafts an extremely self-aware vision of Barbie, with commentary on the patriarchy and the unreasonable expectations placed on women in society.

WELDON: "The Holdovers." Alexander Payne's surprisingly warm film about a curmudgeonly boarding school professor who must look after students during Christmas break and forms a bond with one kid who is a huge pain in the butt.

THOMPSON: "Killers Of The Flower Moon." Based on a true story, director Martin Scorsese's epic film tracks the suspicious murders of members of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma after they find oil under their tribal land.

WELDON: Next up, "Maestro." An old Hollywood style biopic about the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Directed and co-written and starring Bradley Cooper.

THOMPSON: "Oppenheimer." Christopher Nolan's film about the brilliant physicist who oversaw the construction of the first atomic bomb at a secret military base in the New Mexico desert.

WELDON: "Past Lives." Celine Song's...

HARRIS: Yay.

WELDON: ...Haunting film about a woman, played by Greta Lee, who reconnects with her childhood sweetheart and tries to understand both the path she took and the paths she didn't.

THOMPSON: "Poor Things."

WELDON: Yay.

THOMPSON: Director Yorgos Lanthimos' dark comedy about a young woman in Victorian London who was found and experimented upon by a twisted scientist.

WELDON: And Finally, "The Zone Of Interest." Jonathan Glazer's film about the commandant of Auschwitz, as well as his wife and children who live in an idyllic house and garden next to the concentration camp.

THOMPSON: That is quite a far-ranging field of films. Aisha Harris, what do you think?

HARRIS: No surprises here. I think this was more or less how a lot of places were predicting this, including GoldDerby. Honestly, like, when you think about the past year, these are the movies that you were frequently seeing on the awards circuit already. You know, you've got your big blockbusters, you've got "Barbie," "Oppenheimer," of course, but then you've also got the movies that I think have managed to gain a following or get a lot of word of mouth buzz, including something like "The Holdovers."

WELDON: Sure.

HARRIS: Over the holidays, it seems like that was a movie that a lot of people finally got a chance to check out and were really digging. So not surprised. And I think this is kind of a, as you said, a wide-ranging selection of films from the past year.

WELDON: Yeah. And that's what the Oscars are about, right? I mean, I'm going to be the - take my usual role as the doe-eyed Pollyanna and...

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: ...Say that the reason the Oscars exist is not to declare what's the best film of the year or what's the best performance. That's what they say they're doing, but they're...

HARRIS: Yeah.

WELDON: ...Not, 'cause best art is not a thing. Never has been. What they can do is recognize achievement, which is similar, I grant you. But to me, what they're really about is the good work they can do in directing the conversation towards films and performances that need the boost. They are, at the end of the day, the films industry's marketing tool for itself. What makes it different is that they're ostensibly driven by good intentions, not market intentions, solely. So more people are going to see coverage of and cultural conversation around films that didn't benefit from the whole Barbenheimer juggernaut this year that haven't raked in, you know, billions of dollars. I love to see "American Fiction," "The Holdovers," "Past Lives," "Poor Things" and "The Zone Of Interest" on this list because it means that those films are going to get more attention. And that's what this is about.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I think what jumped out at me about this field, and I've seen all 10 films, is they are all good. I'm not necessarily a big "Maestro" guy. "Maestro" left me a little cold, but it is an extremely well-made film.

WELDON: Sure.

THOMPSON: You have films across different genres, different tones. The fact that you have a field that includes "Poor Things," which is a truly wild, very, very, very black comedy up against a much quieter romance like "Past Lives" versus a giant IP blockbuster like "Barbie" that still goes deeper, "American Fiction," which I just absolutely loved and which is so, so funny. This is a very strong field. And I think if you are somebody who is tempted to try to do, like, the full Oscars prep of trying to see as many nominees as possible and trying to see all the best picture nominees, even though now that means 10 films, this is a good year to do that.

WELDON: Absolutely.

THOMPSON: There are years when this field is really laden with a lot of imitation-based historical dramas. There's not as much of that this year. I think this is a really strong field.

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: All right. Next up, actress in a leading role. I'm going to run down the nominees - Annette Bening for "Nyad." Bening plays Diana Nyad, who swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. Lily Gladstone for "Killers Of The Flower Moon." Gladstone plays Mollie Burkhart, a member of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma. Sandra Huller for "Anatomy Of A Fall." Huller plays Sandra, a woman who comes under suspicion when her husband is found dead. Carey Mulligan for "Maestro." Mulligan plays Felicia Montealegre, the wife of composer Leonard Bernstein. And Emma Stone for "Poor Things." Stone plays Bella, a young woman found nearly lifeless and then experimented on by a twisted surgeon. Biggest exclusion here, probably Margot Robbie for "Barbie," but Greta Lee could have been nominated for "Past Lives." There were a lot of strong contenders in this field. Give me your thoughts on the people who did make the cut.

HARRIS: Yeah. I mean, I really am surprised about Margot Robbie not getting in here. I think Greta Lee was a little bit more on the bubble there, but it seems as though, you know, Annette Bening maybe kind of took that. "Nyad" is a movie that has kind of been in the background of the awards season. But I don't know how many people have actually seen it or even know it exists. It's kind of giving Glenn Close vibes or, you know, like...

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: ...Where it's like, you haven't won yet. You are a respected actress. And I think this is that kind of nomination. But I'm just still in shock about Margot Robbie. I'm kind of sad about that.

WELDON: I'm sad about it. I'm not in shock about it. Because the Oscars hate comedy. This is genre bias. And this also explains the Greta Gerwig snub. This is a great performance. She was never going to win for it because the Oscars take themselves entirely too seriously, even in a good year like this one where the Best Picture nominees are, you know, things - stuff I agree with, they're still - they still hate comedy.

HARRIS: I mean, I think there is a nomination we'll talk about soon that kind of flies in the face of that, but OK.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

WELDON: Yeah. There is one. You're right.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I'm disappointed in Margot Robbie's exclusion. I think it speaks to how effortless she makes that performance seem when that is not an effortless performance, when there is a lot of work being done and a lot of nuance there. It's good to see Lily Gladstone in this category. She was certainly...

HARRIS: Yes.

THOMPSON: ...Expected to be nominated for "Killers Of The Flower Moon." She is the first Native American acting nominee. She's the first actor in this category to hail from land now occupied by the United States. And, you know, that is certainly - that is an epic performance in a very, very long and epic movie. But she certainly does good work there. I don't have a lot of - I don't necessarily have a lot of complaints here, except that there were just other performances that I would have loved to have seen honored here. I love that Greta Lee performance in "Past Lives." You probably could have put together a whole field of worthy nominees from people who didn't get nominations here. Let's move on to actor in a leading role.

I'm going to run down the nominees. Bradley Cooper for "Maestro" - Cooper plays the American composer Leonard Bernstein. Colman Domingo for "Rustin" - Domingo plays Bayard Rustin, an openly gay Black civil rights leader who dedicated his life to a quest for racial equality. Paul Giamatti for "The Holdovers" - Giamatti plays Paul Hunham, a prickly boarding school professor who forms an unexpected bond with a student over Christmas break. Cillian Murphy for "Oppenheimer" - Murphy plays the real-life physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw construction of the first atom bomb. And Jeffrey Wright for "American Fiction" - Wright plays Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, an author who is disillusioned with the publishing industry and its expectations of Black fiction. What do you guys think of this field? Glen, I'm going to start with you.

WELDON: Love seeing Jeffrey Wright here - he deserves this spotlight. He deserves this leading man status. Cillian Murphy's first nomination. That's great. Don't call it a snub. Leo's fine. Leo DiCaprio - a, quote-unquote, "snub" for "Killers Of The Flower Moon." That guy - he's got plenty.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

WELDON: He'll be fine. I like this list.

HARRIS: This category does make me smile. I mean, sure, Bradley Cooper, of course - he was going to get in there.

THOMPSON: He's very good.

WELDON: (Laughter).

HARRIS: OK.

WELDON: Well, listen to the episode, Stephen, because - yeah.

HARRIS: You know, I - yes, Jeffrey Wright. I have my issues with "American Fiction." I liked it overall, but I - just some narrative choices that I wasn't crazy about. But I think that...

WELDON: I'm with you.

HARRIS: ...But I think Jeffrey Wright has been that sort of working man's actor for so many years now. And for him to finally sort of get this moment - and I think even though the movie itself has its flaws, I think this is one of the best performances he's ever given that I've seen. And, you know, Colman Domingo for "Rustin" - I think that's sort of a product of how hard Netflix was campaigning that movie.

WELDON: Sure.

HARRIS: It's a fine movie. It's the kind of movie that you put on, like, if you're in high school - you're teaching high school, and you want to teach about the civil rights movement, you might put that on, like, and show it to the class. It's that kind of movie. It's not like groundbreaking in any way. But he is very good in that. So I'm also very happy for Colman Domingo because he's another actor who has come so far. And it's great to see him here.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I mean, that's the thing. Whatever you think of "Rustin," the film, I love Colman Domingo, the actor. I'm always excited when I see him on screen. He always elevates whatever project he's acting in. So I'm just delighted to see the actor represented in this category. I really like this field. And I agree with you, I think, about Leonardo DiCaprio. I think, A, he'll be fine and, B, I'm not necessarily sure this is his best performance. I like this film a lot, but I found this performance a little one note, and I think it's fine to say it's merely the sixth best actor (laughter) in this year in film.

Moving on to actress in a supporting role, Emily Blunt for "Oppenheimer." Blunt plays Kitty Oppenheimer, the wife of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Danielle Brooks for "The Color Purple" - Brooks plays Sofia. She also portrayed the character in the Broadway stage musical. America Ferrera for "Barbie" - Ferrera plays Gloria, a disillusioned employee of Mattel who still believes in the magic of Barbies. Jodie Foster for "Nyad" - Foster plays Bonnie Stoll, a close friend of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, played by Annette Bening. And Da'Vine Joy Randolph for "The Holdovers" - Randolph plays Mary, a boarding school cook who is grappling with the recent death of her son. Got to think America Ferrera as a little bit of a surprise in this field?

HARRIS: I think so. But maybe not because I feel like in the last few weeks there did seem to be sort of a push for her. Look, Glen, I know you've defended the monologue.

WELDON: I have.

HARRIS: I still don't think it works, and I still...

WELDON: Understood.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

HARRIS: I love America Ferrera, but I don't feel as though she was given that much to do in the movie. That's why it's a surprise to me. Emily Blunt is also kind of a surprise for me, because I also feel like she wasn't very much to do there. This whole category...

THOMPSON: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...Is actually kind of...

THOMPSON: This is an odd category. This was an odd field to begin with, even when it was...

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: ...A larger field of possibility.

HARRIS: The only ones here who actually make sense to me are Danielle Brooks and Da'Vine Joy Randolph. It's interesting because, like, Jodie Foster, for again, "Nyad" - it's like, all right, I guess we're going to have to watch this movie to prep for our conversation later about...

THOMPSON: (Laughter) It's on Netflix. It's not going to be hard to catch up with.

HARRIS: No, I know, I know.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

WELDON: But you're right, Aisha. The one that really puzzles me here is Emily Blunt. Well, look, she's a great performer. She'll get another shot. This was not one of five performances to single out...

HARRIS: No, no.

WELDON: ...This year. I mean, here she's playing the wife of a troubled genius. Heard of it before? And look, she does attempt to transcend it, but the script keeps forcing her into what is essentially, like, the rom-com sassy best friend role, only - there are a couple scenes that play like she's in a rom-com saying to the main character, go to him, except in this case, the him is the bomb.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

WELDON: That's the entirety of the role. Not her fault, but there were so many other performances that...

HARRIS: Yeah.

WELDON: ...You know. I don't like saying, deserve that slot, but Anne Hathaway in "Eileen," Patti LuPone in "Beau Is Afraid" - I put Sandra Huller in "The Zone Of Interest" here, even though "The Zone Of Interest" is doing well...

THOMPSON: Yeah.

WELDON: ...Got a lot of nominations. All of those films could have used the time in the Oscars spotlight that is now taken up by "Oppenheimer," a film that did not need more time in the spotlight.

THOMPSON: (Laughter) And I'm intrigued - you didn't even mention Penelope Cruz in "Ferrari," who I think was predicted to actually make this cut.

WELDON: Yeah, she was.

THOMPSON: So that kind of makes this field that much more surprising. I mean, I think "Oppenheimer" was the rising tide that lifted a lot of boats. I'm never going to complain about good things happening to Emily Blunt, a performer I really, really admire...

WELDON: Yeah.

THOMPSON: ...And think is great.

HARRIS: Oh, for sure.

THOMPSON: I guess if nothing else, it speaks to her abilities that she managed to get nominated for a kind of a nothing role. But there we go. All right. Actor in a supporting role - I'm going to run them down. Sterling K. Brown for "American Fiction" - Brown plays Cliff, the estranged brother of writer Thelonious "Monk" Ellison. Robert De Niro for "Killers Of The Flower Moon" - De Niro plays William Hale, a corrupt, wealthy man who manipulates the Osage tribe for their wealth. Robert Downey Jr. for "Oppenheimer" - Downey plays Lewis Strauss, who becomes a political nemesis of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Ryan Gosling for "Barbie" - Gosling plays a naive Ken whose main job is beach. When he discovers the patriarchy, he goes off the rails, embarking on a quest for justice for all Kens. And Mark Ruffalo for "Poor Things" - Ruffalo plays Duncan Wedderburn, a hilariously sleazy lawyer who runs away with protagonist Bella. What do you all think of this field? Glen, I'm going to start with you. It sounds like you have thoughts.

WELDON: Yeah. OK. So the Gosling and the Ruffalo nominations kind of go against what I said about the Oscars hating comedy.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

WELDON: But I mean, they're not going to win. It's going to be Downey Jr. because he's got all the buzz behind him.

HARRIS: But that doesn't matter. They still got nominated, though.

WELDON: Yeah, still got nominated - I guess you're right. I guess you're right. And certainly the Ruffalo performance is one of my favorites of the year because it's - he's just such a goofball. Look, Sterling K. Brown has been pelted with Emmys. He stands to get pelted with Oscars. I don't think this is his year, but I'm glad to see him here.

HARRIS: Yeah, I think this is - Robert Downey Jr. for this is similar to Jamie Lee Curtis last year winning. It just - it feels like...

WELDON: Yeah. It's a walk.

HARRIS: ...This was kind of a shoo-in for him to get nominated. So I'm not surprised to see him here. But yeah, I'm happy to see Ryan Gosling in here. And I think Mark Ruffalo - he certainly goes for the rafters with this person. So...

THOMPSON: He goes for it (laughter).

WELDON: Yep.

HARRIS: ...I'm - this - that didn't surprise me. It's a very showy role. And I don't mean that in a pejorative way. I actually liked that performance a lot.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I liked that performance too. He really, really goes big. And it's not a typically Mark Ruffalo performance. It's not a performance I've seen from him a million times. Sometimes that comes into play where you feel like you've seen a performer give the same performance over and over again across multiple movies. This is a different Mark Ruffalo performance than I was used to. Speaking of "Poor Things," Willem Dafoe did get left out.

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: I actually would have liked to have seen both of those performance make this particular field...

HARRIS: Me too.

THOMPSON: ...But I can't really argue with anybody here. Downey was always going to get this nomination, and it's a good, if very typical Oscar performance.

WELDON: Sure.

THOMPSON: ...And delighted to see Gosling and Ruffalo and Brown. Moving on to best directing - Justine Triet for "Anatomy Of A Fall," Martin Scorsese for "Killers Of The Flower Moon," Christopher Nolan for "Oppenheimer," Yorgos Lanthimos for "Poor Things" and Jonathan Glazer for "The Zone Of Interest." I don't actually like to use the word snubs, but clear disappointment for Greta Gerwig, who a lot of people were expecting to be nominated here.

HARRIS: Yeah. Look, I know this isn't the way these things - it's not so clear cut because of the way voting works, but it sure does seem like there can only be room for one woman at a time in this category. And look, I'm very happy to see Justine Triet in here. I loved...

THOMPSON: Yeah.

HARRIS: ..."Anatomy Of A Fall." I got to say, I'm just, like, really disappointed that Greta Gerwig is not here. I don't know who I would take out of this category. I feel like for me, "Zone Of Interest" kind of left me a little bit cold by the end of it. And I think that movie is more - for me, the power lies more in the sound design than it does in the actual direction. But you know what? At least Greta got other nominations. So...

THOMPSON: Right.

HARRIS: ...It is what it is, as they say.

WELDON: Yeah, and let's point out that France really rolled the dice and lost by not submitting "Anatomy Of A Fall" for best international feature. They submitted another film called "The Taste Of Things." That got shut out of the international feature category. The reason they did it was because of things like this. They were hoping to get best picture, and it did, and a director nod, which it did, and a best actress nomination, which it did, and an original screenplay nod, which it did. Now, you could argue that "Anatomy Of A Fall" has a better chance of winning international feature than it does for any of the categories it's nominated in. It's probably not going to take home best picture. But it's a fascinating calculus that they did there.

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: Yeah, and I think there was - there have certainly been murmurings that there were politics involved as well. The whole way they do international feature by having each country submit its own kind of sub-nominee before - like, for consideration, is a little bit of a wonky system. And it tends to lead to results like this, where a film no one has ever heard of gets submitted instead of the film that would have been...

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: ...A potential frontrunner. That's...

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: ...A little sad to see. But, you know, yeah, I don't have too many arguments with this field. I think I agree with you all in general about "The Zone Of Interest." I think it's an extremely well-made film that maybe would have been just as effective, if not more as a short.

HARRIS: Yeah.

THOMPSON: But, you know, I can't argue with the fact that it's an extremely well-made film, a well-directed film. I just wanted to see Greta Gerwig make this cut.

WELDON: They're two very different films.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

HARRIS: Indeed.

THOMPSON: Bless the Oscars' collective beating heart for compelling us to compare these two.

HARRIS: (Laughter) Exactly.

THOMPSON: I love comparing like with not-like.

WELDON: Yup.

THOMPSON: All right, well, we want to know what you think about the 2024 Oscar nominations. Find us at facebook.com/pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Aisha Harris, Glen Weldon, thanks so much for being here.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WELDON: Thank you.

THOMPSON: We want to take a moment to thank our POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR Plus subscribers. We appreciate you so much for showing your support of NPR. If you haven't signed up yet and want to show your support and listen to this show without any sponsor breaks, head over to plus.npr.org/happyhour or visit the link in our show notes.

This episode was produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Mike Katzif and Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Stephen Thompson, and we will see you all tomorrow.

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