Who Will Win Versus Who Should Win

“Oppenheimer” leads this year’s nominations with 13 nods and is considered a favorite to win best director, actor, and picture. And it’s all but guaranteed that Robert Downey Jr. will walk away with the best supporting actor statue for his rousing and complicated turn as Lewis Strauss. The actor has already won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award. For Downey Jr., who spent the last decade in the shadow of Iron Man, this is a defining performance that will be loved for years. 

But, more importantly, it’s a career comeback after years of working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a caricature of himself — Downey himself admitted that “Oppenheimer” reminded him how to act. This is the actor’s third Oscar nom, and it’s high time he gets to take the statue home … but he’s not the right Robert for the win — at least this year.

Robert De Niro morphed into a quiet, understated monster in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” casually delivering a performance that stands toe to toe with the likes of Travis Bickle (“Taxi Driver) and Neil McCauley (“Heat”). As a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he elicits a myriad of emotions that all lead to sheer terror, displaying the worst of what humanity can become if it’s so compelled by greed and hatred. It’s a terrifying (and far from flashy) performance that takes the epic to new heights. At the age of 80, De Niro is still killing it — confirming that he’s one of the best actors American cinema has ever produced. 

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