Universal’s Gamble Pays Off: Oppenheimer Leads Oscar Race

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One of the more interesting Oscar storylines is that “Oppenheimer” appears poised to dominate Sunday’s Academy Awards, validating Universal studio chief Donna Langley’s bet on the unconventional, three-hour-long period drama about the father of the atomic bomb. It’s a reminder that audiences still crave films that take them outside the assembly line of comic book adventures and into worlds that make them think, not just yawn.

The film, starring Matt Damon as Manhattan Project head Leslie Groves and Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, earned raves for its complex storytelling and use of history to entertain and educate. It has also rekindled interest in scientific discovery. “It shows people can be moved to tears by a film about science,” said Langley, who is also behind this year’s blockbuster “F9.”

Unlike the big-screen releases from the Marvel, James Bond, Jurassic Park, and Fast and Furious franchises, which are designed to deliver a quick thrill, the critically acclaimed Oppenheimer is meant to stay with audiences for weeks. That’s good news for movie theaters offering 70mm IMAX, 35mm, and Dolby Vision showings of the picture worldwide in addition to standard digital and 3D formats.

Nolan praised moviegoers for their support of the movie, which has already received Best Picture nods from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It is expected to nab several acting and directing nominations, including first-time Oscar nods for Nolan and stars Downey and Murphy. It is considered a frontrunner in the best original screenplay category and could also win for its cinematography, sound design, and Ludwig Goransson’s score.

It will face competition from Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Frankenstein riff, which both raked in Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award wins on Wednesday. But the movie proves as popular with voters as it is with audiences. In that case, it may mark the beginning of a return to more thoughtful and innovative projects that break the formulas of established franchises.

In part, Langley aggressively pursued the project for the chance to work with acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who had just severed his two-decade-long relationship with Warner Bros. Studios in a disagreement over the studio’s streaming video strategy. She pushed the film, even though many industry players viewed it as a risky venture with little chance of winning over voters. The gamble paid off, however, and Nolan may be the first helmer in years to take home multiple Academy Awards simultaneously.


Alex Blige is a bestselling author and expert on various topics. With over a decade of experience in the field, Alex has helped thousands of people achieve their goals and improve their lives. With a degree in computer science and a background in journalism, Alex brings a unique perspective to his work. He has written several blogs on topics ranging from mindfulness to productivity, and is a sought-after speaker and coach.

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