by Rob DiCristino
1. Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Annette Bening, Nyad
Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall
Greta Lee, Past Lives
Carey Mulligan, Maestro
Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla
Gladstone is the odds-on favorite here (and she is, make no mistake, great), but I’m pulling for Hüller’s nuanced and enigmatic turn as a bestselling author accused of murdering her estranged husband in Justine Triet’s masterful courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Fall. Hüller’s character (also named Sandra) is on trial for a lot more than just one death, it turns out, enduring elaborate assaults from a swaggering prosecutor (Antoine Reinartz), the simmering doubts of her eleven-year-old son (Milo Machado-Graner), and the scrutiny of an unforgiving public who believes one of her pulpy thriller novels has finally come to life. Hüller is so dynamic that we almost forget to question — or in the end, even care — whether or not she is guilty.
Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Jennifer Lawrence, No Hard Feelings
Natalie Portman, May December
Alma Pöysti, Fallen Leaves
Margot Robbie, Barbie
Emma Stone, Poor Things
Emma Stone gives the year’s best performance of any kind as Bella, the raunchy Bride of Frankenstein who embarks on a journey of self-discovery in Yorgos Lanthmos’ instant classic, Poor Things. Beginning as a hapless corpse with the (literal) mind of a newborn and graduating all the way to erudite Scholar of Medicine and Feminist Revenge, Bella runs the gamut of emotional expression, all of them rendered with expert precision — and surprising warmth — by a fearless actor willing to die (and be reborn) for her art. It’s the kind of performance that demands multiple viewings to truly appreciate (I’m on my third as of this writing), one that will endure long after the rest are forgotten.
Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Leonardo DiCaprio, Killers of the Flower Moon
Colman Domingo, Rustin
Barry Keoghan, Saltburn
Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer
Andrew Scott, All of Us Strangers
Andrew Scott mounts the strongest challenge in this category, giving a bruised and beautiful performance in Andrew Haigh’s romantic fantasy All of Us Strangers, but any one wide-angle close-up on Cillian Murphy’s embattled Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s eponymous biopic is a better special effect than anything Marvel Studios has produced in years. Though not nearly as showy as DiCaprio’s presumed front-runner — Oppenheimer’s voice barely rises above room temperature during any of the film’s 181 minutes— Murphy’s eerie stillness conveys an unrelenting inner boil, a restlessness of spirit that builds to a chaotic explosion (pun absolutely intended) of punishing grief and existential remorse.
Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Timothée Chalamet, Wonka
Matt Damon, Air
Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers
Joaquin Phoenix, Beau Is Afraid
Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction
This is easily the weakest category of the bunch, with most of the actors delivering solid-but-safe performances that largely fail to teach us anything new about them as creatives. With that criteria in mind, I’m going with Cage’s neurotic Paul Matthews in Krisoffer Borgli’s black comedy, Dream Scenario. As an unassuming college professor who suddenly finds himself an object of international fame — and eventual scorn — Cage continues his eccentric career’s third act with a Kaufman-esque turn just as layered and interesting as anything in Mandy, Pig, or Colour out of Space. Cage, often unfairly defined by his ability to go big, seems to delight in the passivity of this character, one trying his best to mince around the margins while the world insists on making him its unwilling protagonist.
Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture
Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
Jodie Foster, Nyad
Julianne Moore, May December
Rosamund Pike, Saltburn
Da'Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers
I came close to giving this to Rosamund Pike, who hits three-pointers all over Emerald Fennell’s dreadfully ill-conceived Saltburn, but there’s no denying a perfect synthesis between actor and filmmaker. That’s the case in May December, the camp drama (Yes, Twitter, May December is campy; this is a compliment) that reunites Moore with frequent collaborator Todd Haynes. Two decades after her affair with a young boy (played as an adult by Charles Melton, whom we’ll discuss more in a minute) made her a tabloid mainstay, Gracie’s (Moore) chronic self-delusion comes to the fore as Natalie Portman’s actress Elizabeth prepares a portrayal in the film of her life. May December is primarily about performance, the ways we perform feelings (and perform performing them), and Moore is at the top of her game.
Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture
Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon
Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer
Ryan Gosling, Barbie
Charles Melton, May December
Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things
There’s a Mark Ruffalo beat in Poor Things that makes me laugh harder than anything else this year (hint: It’s during the cruise sequence), but May December puts Riverdale’s Charles Melton in a nigh-impossible position: Play an adult trapped since childhood in an abusive relationship that he lacked the emotional maturity to begin in the first place. Melton has to be kind and charming — there’s a boyishness to him that can’t help but shine through — but also believable in his newfound strength and eventual resolve. He’s all that and more, playing foil to his female co-stars’ gauzy idiosyncrasies and later succumbing to and overcoming them in unexpected ways. There’s no better scene this year than the one he shares with Charlie (Gabriel Chung), the eerily-identical son on whom he tries to impart some fatherly advice.
Best Director - Motion Picture
Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Greta Gerwig, Barbie
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things
Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon
Celine Song, Past Lives
Poor Things is the Yorgos Lanthimos movie for folks who have been lukewarm on the Greek auteur, every bit as surreal as The Lobster or Dogtooth with even more licentious charm than The Favourite. The key difference is the unassailable delight with which he brings Alasdair Gray’s novel to the screen, a deft synthesis of production design (by Shona Heath and James Price), costuming (by Holly Waddington), and art direction (led by Renato Cseh and Judit Csak) that fulfills promises made by Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton in days of cinema past. Robbie Ryan’s fishbowl cinematography is better deployed here than in The Favourite, as well, further demonstrating how pitch-perfect Lanthimos is for this material. If a director’s job is to manage a crew and convey a tone, then there’s no greater achievement this year.
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Barbie, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Poor Things, Tony McNamara
Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan
Killers of the Flower Moon, Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese
Past Lives, Celine Song
Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
Poor Things feels like the easy choice for someone who adores loquacious perverts as much as I do, but I’ve come to appreciate the achievement of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer after reading Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s 2005 source text, American Prometheus. It’s a sprawling, totemic door-stopper that must have felt impossible to adapt for the screen, but Nolan manages to streamline its complicated web of characters and events without losing any of its essential thematic structure. His choice not to simplify things with composite characters — instead relying on the audience’s familiarity with actors like Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh to keep them from getting overwhelmed by names and faces — is even more impressive, yet another testament to the scope of both his confidence and of his achievement.
Best Motion Picture - Animated
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
I’m not nearly astute enough a Hayao Miyazaki scholar to properly articulate the wealth of cinematic treasure that is The Boy and The Heron, the long-gestating (and supposedly final) project from the legendary animation maestro. I’ve learned enough about the rhythms of the universe, however, that I can appreciate the gorgeous elegy on creativity and legacy that lives at its heart. There’s an easy autobiographical connection to be made between Miyazaki and 12-year-old Mahito (voiced by Soma Santoki in Japanese and Luca Padovan in the English dub), whose background as the child of a WWII-era (era) airplane engineering magnate matches the director’s own. But when a journey into wonderland leads to a meeting with his mystical Granduncle (Shohei Hino/Mark Hamill), we discover a deeper and more enlightening connection than we could have ever imagined.
Best Motion Picture - Non-English Language
Anatomy of a Fall
Society of the Snow
The Zone of Interest
This was my most difficult choice, as each nominee has at least one element that makes it worthy of consideration (The Zone of Interest and Past Lives do it with their loglines alone). I ultimately went with my heart, choosing Aki Kaurismaki’s understated tragi-comedic romance Fallen Leaves because it’s simply the most charismatic and doggedly optimistic of the bunch. There’s a singular beauty to middle-aged love stories, those that not only refuse to sand off their protagonists’ rough edges but weaponize them in order to underline the immense risks we take by falling in love (it is, as Olivia Rodrigo recently reminded us, “fucking embarrassing as hell”). Kaurismaki may favor a more droll and ironic approach than Ms. Roderigo, but he gets the point across just the same.
Best Motion Picture - Drama
Anatomy of a Fall
Killers of the Flower Moon
The Zone of Interest
One of the fun things about belonging to critics’ groups is watching awards campaigns develop over the course of the season. Though Killers of the Flower Moon has gained some recent momentum in the Best Picture category, my money is still on Christopher Nolan’s perfect marriage of spectacle, emotion, and intellect, a film that somehow still hasn’t been properly digested by the #Barbenheiming public at large. It may be easy to dismiss Oppenheimer as business as usual for Nolan, yet another bombastic marvel with an elliptical pace that explores a confusing science fiction concept and eventually kills off a prominent female character. There’s a bit of that in Oppenheimer (sorry, Flo), but it might also be the most human, accessible, and crowd-pleasing film of Nolan’s career. Here’s hoping the film’s impressive home video release will increase awareness and earn it the accolades it so richly deserves.
Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
It may be too raunchy and absurd to qualify as a crowd-pleaser, but Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things gets my vote for film of the year (spoilers for my top ten list in a few weeks). It’s one of those films that feels like it was made just for me, a wide-eyed fable that mixes balletic dialogue with a brusque, honest outlook on the essential horrors of existence that nevertheless manages to feel regal and buoyant at the same time. Bella’s patchwork construction doesn’t make her an outcast; on the contrary, it makes her a champion for all humanity: We are all misshapen, half-formed Frankensteins in need of a moral education. “It is the goal of all to progress,” says Bella, “to grow.” The more time we spend with Poor Things, the clearer that need for growth will become. Lucky for us, we have Bella to lead the way.