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Tom's Column - April/May 24

This Year’s Oscars Were Boring (Probably), But Does That Matter? by Tom Beasley

I'm writing this about Oppenheimer's win for Best Picture at the Oscars. And I'm writing it a week before the actual ceremony. Of course, if Oppenheimer didn't win, then I look like an idiot and will probably have to abandon my film critic career immediately. But I'm more confident than I've been about the awards for the best part of a decade. Oppenheimer won – unless, of course, it didn't.

Part of the reason I'm so confident is that I've been watching Oppenheimer hoover up gongs for a very long time now. The “awards season” in Hollywood now spans months, starting with the Golden Globes on 7th January and running all the way through to the Oscars on 10th March. That's 63 days for Oppenheimer's procession to happen.

And it's not just the big, televised shows. You'll be familiar with the Globes and the BAFTAs, but there are also innumerable ceremonies for various critics groups all over the world – including the London Film Critics Circle, of which I'm a part. Then there are awards ceremonies for the various professions within Hollywood – the actors have one, the directors have one, and so on. With only a few exceptions, Oppenheimer has won the top prize at all of these events.

For someone like me, this is a disaster. I'm the sort of deeply tedious nerd who has a colour-coded spreadsheet of all of the winners of these various awards going back decades – seriously – in order to better predict the latest victor. That all feels a little pointless when something sweeps the board. And as a result, it's really boring. I'll be staying up to watch the Oscars and so I'll definitely have given a big yawn when Oppenheimer was announced as the winner at about 5am.

Christopher Nolan is a fascinating filmmaker, but there are only so many times I can hear him thank his family, his cast, and everyone who helped make his biopic of the atomic bomb pioneer possible. He's interesting, but not that interesting.

But unfortunately, I've had to conclude that this only matters to the smallest group of people. For most, Oppenheimer's victory is a triumph and a source of great excitement. With the best will in the world, the Oscars are somewhat pretentious and tend to honour the sort of films that almost nobody outside of the cinephile bubble would go to the cinema to see. There's nothing wrong with that, really, and I would urge anyone reading this to watch incredible recent winners like The Shape of Water, Parasite, and the bonkers multiverse epic Everything Everywhere All at Once. They're all available on streaming.

Oppenheimer, though, is different to those films. It made just shy of a billion dollars at the worldwide box office and was part of the summer's biggest cinema phenomenon thanks to the Barbenheimer double bill. In fact, Barbie was one of the two films to make more money than it did. Super Mario was the other, trivia fans! This three-hour historical drama got more bums in seats than any superhero movie or Disney blockbuster.

Ultimately, that's great for the Oscars. They honoured a film that millions of people saw and enjoyed, recognising a director who has been at the cutting edge of cinema for years. It's the sort of thing that might actually make the Oscars relevant in the face of declining TV audiences and a strike-ravaged movie industry.

It just makes my spreadsheet a bit dull. But then again, I probably didn't need any help with that.

© 2024 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist, Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and podcaster
now living in Coventry. He can be reached at