‘Oppenheimer’ dominates Oscars; Christopher Nolan wins best director as biopic collects 7 Academy Awards


“Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s portrait of the father of the atomic bomb, won best picture Sunday at the 96th Academy Awards, along with six other awards.

The movie dominated the night, earning honors for best director (Nolan), best actor (Cillian Murphy), best supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr.), best cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema), best film editing (Jennifer Lame) and best original score (Ludwig Göransson).

“Movies are just a little bit over 100 years old,” Nolan said in his best director acceptance speech. “Imagine being there 100 years into painting or theater. We don’t know where this incredible journey is going from here. But to know that you think that I’m a meaningful part of it means the world to me.”

“Oppenheimer,” a critical darling and box-office smash, went into this year’s Oscars as a clear-cut front-runner, with 13 nods. It previously took home best picture trophies from the 81st Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America. (The movie was distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of NBC News’ parent company, NBCUniversal.)

Cillian Murphy is J. Robert Oppenheimer in "Oppenheimer."
Cillian Murphy is J. Robert Oppenheimer in “Oppenheimer.”Universal Pictures

The triumph of “Oppenheimer” cements Nolan’s status as one of the premier filmmakers in contemporary Hollywood. He was already a brand name among cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike, cultivating an international following with the “Dark Knight” trilogy (2005-12), “Inception” (2010) and “Dunkirk” (2017).

“Oppenheimer” conquered a best picture field that included Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” the other half of the summertime phenomenon “Barbenheimer.” The two blockbusters helped revitalize theatrical moviegoing in the streaming era, collecting a combined $2.4 billion worldwide; “Oppenheimer” made up more than $957 million of that global haul.

Nolan’s three-hour epic is the most commercially successful best picture winner since Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” released in 2003. In recent years, the film academy’s voters have handed the best picture prize to comparatively small-scale projects such as “CODA,” “Nomadland,” “Moonlight” and “Spotlight.”

This year’s other best picture contenders were Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction,” Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” Celine Song’s “Past Lives,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” and Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest.”

Cillian Murphy is J. Robert Oppenheimer in "Oppenheimer"
Cillian Murphy is J. Robert Oppenheimer in “Oppenheimer.”Universal Pictures

“Oppenheimer” revolves around J. Robert Oppenheimer’s development of the atomic bomb during World War II. The film also chronicles Oppenheimer’s tense relationship with bureaucrat Lewis Strauss (Downey), who engineered a push to remove Oppenheimer’s postwar security clearance during the McCarthy era.

Nolan wrote the script, adapting it from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” written by the historians Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. The film, like the book, depicts the physicist as a scientific genius who later felt deeply conflicted about his destructive invention.

The movie’s sprawling ensemble cast includes Emily Blunt (in an Oscar-nominated supporting role), Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Benny Safdie, Jason Clarke, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh. (The cast was recognized with the top honors at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.)

The other top winners at the 96th Oscars included Emma Stone, who picked up the best actress trophy for “Poor Things,” and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who scored best supporting actress for “The Holdovers.”



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