A still from "Oppenheimer"

Who Will Win the Oscar? Associated Press Critics Share Predictions for 96th Academy Awards

Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle READ TIME: 10 MIN.

Ahead of the 96th Academy Awards on March 10, Associated Press Film Writers Jake Coyle and Lindsey Bahr share their predictions.

Best Picture

Nominees: "American Fiction"; "Anatomy of a Fall"; "Barbie"; "The Holdovers"; "Killers of the Flower Moon"; "Maestro"; "Oppenheimer"; "Past Lives"; "Poor Things"; "The Zone of Interest."

BAHR: It will be " Oppenheimer." It's not just because it's won alltheothermajorawards: This is a recognition that's a long time coming for Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, who have been nominated for best picture twice before, for "Inception" and "Dunkirk," but whose influence and impact on the industry and even the Oscars has extended far beyond a simple nomination tally (including leading a charge to save film). But perhaps it was worth the wait to get this moment with a film like " Oppenheimer."

COYLE: It's "Oppenheimer" all the way, and the only question is how many awards it ultimately walks away with. (I'll say eight.) But let's hear it for one of the best best-picture fields in recent memory. There's not really a clunker in the mix this year. The nominees run from epic to indie, blockbuster to arthouse. You've got more comedy than usual, too, including "Barbie" and her wicked twin, "Poor Things."

Lily Gladstone ("Killers of the Flower Moon")

Best Actress

Nominees: Annette Bening, "Nyad"; Lily Gladstone, "Killers of the Flower Moon"; Sandra Hüller, "Anatomy of a Fall"; Carey Mulligan, "Maestro"; Emma Stone, "Poor Things."

COYLE: On a night that should be kinda predictable, this is going to a nail-biter. Lily Gladstone ("Killers of the Flower Moon") and Emma Stone ("Poor Things") are seemingly in a dead heat, with odds-makers splitting them evenly. I'm going to give the edge to Gladstone, who's coming off a big win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and has history riding on her potential victory. She would be the first Native American to win an Oscar, a prospect that "Saturday Night Live" joked has her fellow nominees saying, "Please don't let us win." Stone, though, is absurdly good in "Poor Things" and her chances can't be dismissed. She won at the BAFTAs and international Oscar voters are increasingly tilting close races.

BAHR: You know it's a tough year when the other three very accomplished and utterly committed performances aren't even in the conversation. I want Gladstone to win, but something is telling me that Stone is going to be the one up that stage (and no, it's not Searchlight or her publicists whispering in my ear).

Cilian Murphy ("Oppenheimer")

Best Actor

Nominees: Bradley Cooper, "Maestro"; Colman Domingo, "Rustin"; Paul Giamatti, "The Holdovers"; Cillian Murphy, "Oppenheimer"; Jeffrey Wright, "American Fiction."

BAHR: This is going to be one of the bigger hold your breath moments on Oscars night as we wait to hear if best actor goes to Paul Giamatti or Cillian Murphy. Neither have won this award before and both gave undeniably great and memorable performances, both of which involved copious drinking and different kinds of regret, but only one of which gave the actor the chance to melodically slur "Monet, Manet, Picasso" and then, well, fart. I do think that Murphy, who has not won any Oscars, caught the wave, however, and will get the trophy for his singularly internal portrayal of an impossibly complex giant.

COYLE: As much as we'd all like to see a knock-down, drag-it-out fight between Murphy and Giamatti – two famously nice guys and much-admired character actors getting a leading-man moment – that tete-a-tete just never materialized. Murphy won at both the SAGs and the BAFTAs, and I think the "Oppenheimer" headwinds are just too strong for Giamatti to pull it off.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph, ("The Holdovers")

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Emily Blunt, "Oppenheimer"; Danielle Brooks, "The Color Purple"; America Ferrera, "Barbie"; Jodie Foster, "Nyad"; Da'Vine Joy Randolph, "The Holdovers."

COYLE: This race has been a lock for months, making Randolph all but certain to cruise to her first Academy Award. Out of the three pitch-perfect performances in Alexander Payne's "The Holdovers" (the others being Giamatti and newcomer Dominic Sessa), the sensitivity of Randolph's grieving mother has made her an Oscar shoo-in.

BAHR: Indeed, and let's hope that whoever is reading the winner card gets the pronunciation of her name correctly (unlike some others this season). Psst...it's DAY-Vine.

by Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle

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