For free updates and exclusive new content Sign up

For free updates and exclusive new content sign up

An Oppenheimer Opportunity at the Oscars

A white woman with short windswept brown hair looking concerned and thoughtful, with white sheets pegged on a clothes line behind her

Back in March 1982, when celebrating his Best Original Screenplay win for Chariots of Fire, British screenwriter Colin Welland famously claimed, “The British are coming!” It was a fun reference to American revolutionary Paul Revere but largely an expression of pure euphoria. This year, however, it feels as though it might also be true. Several of the most nominated films at this year’s Academy Awards have British ties, and the frontrunner for Best Picture is one of them.

The most nominated film of the year is Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which is competing in a whopping 13 categories. The biopic of the man who created the atomic bomb wowed audiences last year with a nearly $1bn gross worldwide and impressed critics just as thoroughly. Nolan himself is no stranger to either success or acclaim, with films like Dunkirk under his belt, but the scale of this hit makes him a real contender for Best Director. It’s also a great leading man role for Irish actor Cillian Murphy (The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Peaky Blinders), who looks to be the frontrunner for Best Actor in a Leading Role. His co-star, Emily Blunt (The English, The Young Victoria) is nominated as Best Supporting Actress too, while Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes, Restoration) looks likely to take home Best Supporting Actor, having already carried off the same category at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. 

You may remember – who could forget? – that back on release Oppenheimer competed at the box-office with Barbie, which is nominated for eight awards. While Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots) won’t be taking home Best Actress, the film has a real shot at winning Production Design for Sarah Greenwood. She’s been nominated six times before, with nods for hits like Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and Darkest Hour. There’s also a glorious chance that “I’m Just Ken” could win Best Original Song for Mark Ronson (Amy), though it’s likely to be beaten by another Barbie song, “What Was I Made For?”.  



Another of the most nominated films is Poor Things, with 11 nominations. The film by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) stars Emma Stone as an artificially created child-woman who goes on wild adventures to learn about life. That is another film with an eye on Best Production Design for James Price (Paddington 2) and Shona Heath. It’s also possible that composer Jerskin Fendrix could take Best Score for the film – nominations that are all the more impressive when you realise that Heath and Fendrix made their feature debut on this movie. Let’s hope they can maintain this level of success on film number two; no pressure. 

The Costume Design category, where Poor Things’ Hannah Waddington (Lady Macbeth) is nominated, is a UK-dominated affair. Waddington, a first-time nominee but a BAFTA winner, is up against some giants of the profession. Jacqueline Durran is nominated this year for Barbie, and Durran is a two-time Oscar winner responsible for films like Atonement, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Cyrano. Janty Yates, nominated for Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, previously won the Oscar for Gladiator as well as making films like Kingdom of Heaven and All the Money in the World. Yates is nominated alongside David Crossman, who previously worked on the likes of 1917 and Mr. Turner. That category could be one of the closest battles of the night. 

Poor Things


Director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Under the Skin) is another of this year’s major contenders for the German-language, UK-produced drama The Zone of Interest. The Holocaust tale is a riveting look at the banality of evil, and Glazer is accordingly nominated as Best Director and for Best Adapted Screenplay, while the film is a serious contender in the Best Film Not in the English Language category. Another of its strongest chances comes in the Best Sound category, with Tarn Willers (Days of the Bagnold Summer) and Johnnie Burn (Ammonite, Under the Skin) leading the field there through awards season. 

Elsewhere, Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go, Promising Young Woman) will compete for Best Actress for Maestro while Bobi Wine: The People's President, the story of the popular Ugandan singer’s presidential campaign, is up for Best Documentary Feature. David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Spooks) stars in Best Live-Action Short nominee The After, about a man who loses his daughter in a violent attack. It’s the directorial debut of star photographer Misan Harriman and suggests yet another UK filmmaking talent in the making. 

And, as is usually the case, the British are over-represented in the Visual Effects category, with Neil Corbould (War Horse, Gravity) alone nominated three times for The Creator, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning and Napoleon. For the latter two films he’s nominated alongside Simone Coco, who previously worked on the likes of Chernobyl and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.  

Bobi Wine: The People's President

The After

We’ll find out the winners of course on March 10 as the Academy Awards are unveiled in Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. Will Oppenheimer – or the combined forces of Barbenheimer – sweep the night like they did the summer box-office? Can Poor Things pull off an upset? It’s all in the voters’ hands, but it’s gratifying to see so many UK productions recognised around the world.