Books & the Arts / March 8, 2024

Who Will Win Big at the Oscars? 

A Nation reader from American Fiction to The Zone of Interest

The Nation
(American Fiction: Photo by Claire Folger / Orion Pictures; Barbie: Photo by Japp Buitendijk / Warner Bros; Oppenheimer: Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

The Oscars are upon us. It happensevery year, in fact. At The Nation we are often good at diagnosing the contradictions of capitalism, offering trenchant essays on new books, albums, and art exhibitions, and sometimes predicting the rise and fall of political regimes. When it comes to the Oscars, do we really know who will win take home a statue? No. But our critics—J. Hoberman, Tarpley Hitt, Beatrice Loayza, Jorge Cotte, Adolph Reed Jr., Mike Duncan, Erin Schwartz, Katha Pollitt, and Stephen Kearse—have written some very smart essays and reviews about the films up for nomination and that will help you make some educated guesses.


(Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Jorge Cotte: “Nolan neither indicts nor vindicates Oppenheimer. Instead, he stays in an intimate proximity to him, documenting his captivating, then horrible, achievements and his eventual downfall.”

Current Issue

Cover of April 2024 Issue

American Fiction

(Photo by Claire Folger / Orion Pictures)

Stephen Kearse: “Written and directed by Cord Jefferson, American Fiction loosely adapts Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure. But where Everett was concerned with literary culture and the plight of the Black author, Jefferson widens the story to address cultural production as a whole.”

Killers of the Flower Moon

A scene from “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
(Courtesy of AppleTV)

Jorge Cotte: “Scorsese has made a career of colorful epics. His 27th feature, a sweeping story painted on a grand Western canvas, is no different. Yet unlike the flat landscape of a traditional western, the horizon in this film is not the unbounded space of American freedom: This is a horizon hedged in by the upward sprays of oil and the stark verticality of oil rigs.”


Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in “Barbie.”
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Tarpley Hitt: “In making Barbie, Greta Gerwig…needed to tell a story about an icon that purposefully did not have one. Gerwig’s approach: to literalize Barbie’s malleability in almost every absurd way.”

Erin Schwartz:Barbie sets up philosophical questions that are more daunting than a film based on a children’s toy might need to drive its plot forward—it gives itself the particularly hard task, for example, of summarizing contemporary feminism without skewing corny or jargon-y, something it does with mixed success.”

Katha Pollitt: “The message of Barbie is that girls can be anything, but you still have to be gorgeous while you’re doing it. Even Weird Barbie, whose hair has been chopped off and whose face is covered with crayon scribbles, is adorable.”


Joaquin Phoenix in “Napoleon.”
(Apple TV+ / Columbia Pictures)

Mike Duncan: “To tell the story of the Age of Revolution, one must engage with its contradictions in one way or another. But Scott is not really interested in history.”

May December

Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry and Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo in “May December.”
(Photo by Francois Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix)

Beatrice Loayza: “Working from a screenplay by Samy Burch that resonates to an uncanny degree with Haynes’s enduring thematic obsessions, the director spins another tale of repression and desire, performance and spectatorship—this time anchored in the humdrum aftermath of a true-crime spectacle.”

The Zone of Interest

A scene from The Zone of Interest. (Courtesy of A24 Films)

J. Hoberman: “The critic Thomas Puhr compared Glazer’s earlier films to a lake ‘whose surface remains calm and untouched so that we can better see our reflections in it,’ and that may be most true with The Zone of Interest: It is a movie that prompts contemplation even as it inspires disgust.”


(Photo by David Lee / Netflix)

Adolph Reed Jr.: “Standard-issue Hollywood biopics perpetually fail to capture how movements are reproduced as mass projects, from the bottom up and top down, in a constantly improvised trajectory plotted in response to and in anticipation of layers of internal and external pressures.”

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

The Nation

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life, from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.

More from The Nation

Talking “Solidarity” With Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix

Talking “Solidarity” With Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix Talking “Solidarity” With Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix

A conversation with the activist and writers about their wide-ranging history of the politics of common good and togetherness.

Books & the Arts / Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

Bayley fights IYO SKY for the WWE Women's Championship during Night Two at Lincoln Financial Field on April 7, 2024, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Glorious Proletarian Theater of Pro Wrestling The Glorious Proletarian Theater of Pro Wrestling

An ode to one of the greatest working-class art forms of our time.

Kim Kelly

The Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Johns Hopkins University, 1965.

The Education Factory The Education Factory

By looking at the labor history of academia, you can see the roots of a crisis in higher education that has been decades in the making.

Books & the Arts / Erik Baker

Prisoners at a prison in Tel Mond, Israel, 2004.

Bringing a Seminal Palestinian Resistance Novel to the World Bringing a Seminal Palestinian Resistance Novel to the World

Talking with the translators of Wissam Rafeedie's The Trinity of Fundamentals, a book whose genesis is as extraordinary as its contents.

Q&A / Rayan El Amine

Pacita Abad Wove the Women of the World Together

Pacita Abad Wove the Women of the World Together Pacita Abad Wove the Women of the World Together

Her art integrated painting, quilting, and the assemblage of Indigenous practices from around the globe to forge solidarity.

Books & the Arts / Jasmine Liu

Kid Cudi in Las Vegas, 2024.

The Many Evolutions of Kid Cudi The Many Evolutions of Kid Cudi

In Insano, the rapper and hip-hop artist comes back down to earth.

Books & the Arts / Bijan Stephen