collage by Auveen Dezgaran

Oscars 2024: Predictions

Who Will Win & The Adam Lambert Effect

By auveen dezgaran


The 96th annual Oscars are right around the corner, with a whole new repertoire of movies hoping for wins. The Academy’s taste has historically favored a more traditional take on cinema (male-directed, dramatic, epic-leaning, period pieces); this year, that trend continues as the Oppenheimer team leads the pack with 13 nominations. However, despite the plethora of accolades the project is predicted to pick up, every year comes with other contenders that—although they do not receive the top trophies of the evening—use their nominations as momentum to propel their future careers.

We call this the Adam Lambert effect. In 2009, contestant Adam Lambert soared through Season 8 of Fox’s singing competition show American Idol with flying colors, delivering hit after hit and excelling in all performance and technical areas. From the judges’ enthusiastic feedback and the viewers’ votes, Lambert was a shoe-in to win the season. But perhaps the mainstream American TV audience at that time was not ready for an eccentric, gay artist to take the prize, instead anointing indie-folk singer Kris Allen as the show’s winner—objectively the “safer” choice. Despite not being the technical winner, Lambert has since taken the role of “runner-up” and used it as momentum to catapult himself into stardom. He toured worldwide with Queen, released three studio albums that peaked inside the top five of the Billboard 200 chart, and even performed at the Oscars in 2019. Lambert's (and Allen’s) career proves the argument in question: is it actually beneficial to not win and use the runner-up title to set off a budding future?

Best Actor

Who Will Win: Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer)

Cillian Murphy’s both glitzy and nuanced performance carries the weight of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer story. Murphy leads the film as the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer, the founding father of the atomic bomb. Murphy is also quite literally the face of Oppenheimer, as so much of the story is told through extreme close-ups of his hollow and haunting facial expressions. The actor has taken home the prizes at all the major precursor awards (SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe) leading up to this big Oscar night, and with all the buzz surrounding Oppenheimer’s other potential winnings, Murphy is the leading man for this prize.


The Adam Lambert Effect: Rustin’s star, Colman Domingo

Colman Domingo’s first Academy Award nomination goes for his performance this year in Rustin, the story of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. The film was released exclusively on Netflix with the Obama’s production company, Higher Ground Films, serving as the lead producers on the project—a factor that likely aided Domingo in securing a nomination. Despite the film perhaps not being as widely viewed as some of the other nominated features, Domingo is widely known (and adored) for consistently capital-W Working. His most recent roles include standout performances in The Color Purple, Euphoria, Fear the Walking Dead, and Drive-Away Dolls. Domingo’s nomination serves as a catalyst for even more exposure and recognition for his already flourishing career. I am certain he will be back at the Oscars for another nomination in the near future.


Best Actress

Who Will Win: Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon)

Lily Gladstone’s powerful performance in Martin Scorsese’s 3.5-hour epic western crime drama has been met with the utmost praise from the start of this awards season. Gladstone serves as the highlight of the film and has also been campaigned as its winning force and face. The controversy the film has faced for its central story revolving around Leonardo DiCaprio’s character instead of centering the perspective of a Native woman has likely further highlighted Gladstone’s performance as the underlying heartbeat of the film. This win would also bring a historic moment to The Academy’s telecast as Gladstone would be the first Native American actor to win Best Actress. Gladstone most recently won the SAG Award for Best Actress, which is a similar voting body to The Academy’s Actors branch, making it a notable precursor for who is likely to take home the prize.

Killers of the Flower Moon

The Adam Lambert Effect: Anatomy of a Fall’s Sandra Hüller

Sandra Hüller’s grounded and robust performance in the French film Anatomy of a Fall, a suspenseful forensic drama, landed her a deserved nomination as well as infinite potential for a future win. Hüller, primarily known for her work in the German film industry, has now received name recognition in the U.S. for her portrayal of a mother suspected of her husband’s murder with an incredibly blistering performance. In addition to Anatomy of a Fall, Hüller’s work in Best Picture-nominated The Zone of Interest generated even more praise and recognition for her. After performing as the female lead in two Best Picture-nominated films within the same year, Hüller’s stardom is sure to grow—as well as her future nominations.

Anatomy of a Fall

Best Director

Who Will Win: Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer)

Nolan has won every Best Director precursor award (BAFTA, Golden Globe, Directors Guild) this season, making him the frontrunner for the Best Director win. With Oppenheimer’s buzzworthy performances and its excellence in the technical achievement categories, the world of the film—created under Nolan’s vision—dominates overall achievement in performance, storytelling, and craftsmanship. Previous winners have tended toward large and technically savvy films in a similar vein to Oppenheimer. Nolan winning Best Director and Oppenheimer being the frontrunner to win Best Picture would follow last year's trend of the Daniels taking home both top prizes for Everything Everywhere All at Once. Nolan is also a veteran nominee, racking up eight nominations for Best Picture and Screenplay throughout the years. An Academy favorite, a box-office success, and likely a big winner on March 10th.

Christopher Nolan

The Adam Lambert Effect: The Zone of Interest director, Jonathan Glazer

Glazer’s work on this haunting Holocaust drama has brought him newfound recognition and acclaim from viewers and peers alike. The film ominously displays the day-to-day domestic life of a German family living beside the concentration camps, led by the father who is commandant of Auschwitz. Glazer generates such a palpably tense and harrowing experience of a film that even Steven Speilberg has deemed it “the best Holocaust movie since [Schindler’s List].” Despite not serving as the frontrunner in his category, Glazer’s standout artistry is sure to make him a powerful force in the years to come.

Jonathan Glazer

Best Picture

Who Will Win: Oppenheimer

Ever since it was awarded the Best Picture: Drama prize at the Golden Globes, Oppenheimer has been the consistent frontrunner for the biggest award of the night. It has been an Oscars trend that films nominated for a plethora of technical awards (sound, lighting, cinematography, etc.) have a higher chance of taking home Best Picture, such as Everything Everywhere All at Once, Birdman, Parasite, and Shape of Water. Declaring itself as the most nominated film of the night (13!), Oppenheimer is set to succeed.


Adam Lambert Effect: Barbie

How can a film rise to fame and fortune after it’s already been released and reviewed? If there are any artists able to ride the momentum of buzz, it would be Margot Robbie, Greta Gerwig, and the Barbie team. The film has already succeeded, reaching over a billion at the global box office and becoming one of the highest grossing Best Picture nominations of all time. And all the buzz surrounding Gerwig’s snub in the Best Director category and Robbie’s snub in the Best Actress category has only garnered the film more support. The likelihood of developing Barbie into a franchise or cinematic universe seems to be higher than that of any other nominated films, especially with Robbie and Gerwig’s ambition and skyrocketing celebrity status. Despite awards season culminating on Sunday, I believe Barbie’s success as well as Robbie and Gerwig’s spotlights will continue to prosper, both for their impact on the zeitgeist and for inspiring audiences to go to the movies again in the wake of a pandemic.


With Oppenheimer set as the clear frontrunner of the evening—both in the major categories and technical categories—the telecast will likely lean into the Academy's taste of awarding a traditionally constructed film with standout technical achievements. When looking back on his American Idol journey, Adam Lambert recounted, “You’re playing a game. And people have to like what you’re doing.” This sentiment is equivalent to all the campaigning that goes behind securing a nomination and, if “the game” is played properly, even executing a win.

On Lifetime’s hit 2011 reality show Dance Moms, head coach Abby Lee Miller notoriously states, “Second is the first to lose;” however, as Adam Lambert and history have proven, maybe the runner-up is actually the biggest winner. Time will tell. And so will the Academy.

Adam Lambert