By Ruth Cawley

Fame and good fortune were bestowed upon many Irish stars and filmmakers this year at the 96th Academy Awards which took place on March 10th 2024, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. This event honoured numerous films released in 2023 and marked the talents of the people behind them.

Oppenheimer was undeniably one of the biggest cinematic successes last year. The magnetic performance of Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer earned him an Oscar nomination and in March, he took home the Academy Award for Actor in a Leading Role. This is Murphy’s first Academy Award and hopefully, one of many to come. Murphy was lauded for his portrayal of a complex historical figure in a relatable manner. An Irish Independent reviewer adds insights into the performance through a religious lens: ‘Pale and gaunt, cast in shadows, Cillian Murphy (well cast and never better) is an agonised figure, his suffering central to an ambitious and multilayered film that portrays him as both sinner and saint.’

Murphy’s achievement is especially notable for Irish actors, being the first Irish-born actor to win Best Actor at the Oscars. While he is overall the fourth Irish person to receive an acting Oscar, he is the only winner who was actually born in the country of Ireland. It is an inspiration to all Irish actors out there.

As expected, due to its worldwide success, Oppenheimer won seven of its thirteen Academy Awards. Robert Downey Jr. claimed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor due to his masterful portrayal of Lewis Strauss. Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan received Best Director and also won Best Picture alongside Emma Thomas and Charles Roven.

A multitude of other Irish talents were nominated for different acting categories in The Academy Awards 2024. Among them were Andrew Scott in All of Us Strangers, Barry Keoghan in Saltburn, Pierce Brosnan in The Last Rifleman, and Barry Ward in That They May Face the Rising Sun.

Element Pictures, a film company based in Dublin, also earned high praise at the Oscars for producing the film, Poor Things. This comedic and complex picture stars Emma Stone as the reanimated Bella Baxter, exploring her whirlwind continental adventures and lessons about life. When a woman is liberated from pre-existing biases that plagued her original adult life, a new and improved Bella Baxter experiences the world in brighter colour and, at times, harsher realities that help her find her place in life. Out of its eleven nominations, Poor Things celebrated four winning awards: Emma Stone’s second Best Actress Oscar, Best Production Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Costume Design. Element Pictures certainly triumphed at the 96th Academy Awards by producing one of the most funny, insightful, and well-rounded films of the year.

Ireland’s leading ladies also had their time to shine this year. The Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) announced the Irish Academy Awards 2024 nominations across twenty-eight categories in Film & Drama and Television. Many red carpet regulars are among the favourites for Lead Actress in Film including Jessie Buckley in Fingernails, Saoirse Ronan in Foe, Agnes O’Casey in Lies We Tell, Eve Hewson in Flora and Son, Geraldine McAlinden in Verdigris, and Bríd Brennan in My Sailor, My Love. While the IFTA holds the Irish equivalent of the Academy Awards, they have assembled an expert panel of judges from around the world and award the talented Irish individuals behind screen entertainment.

The 21st Anniversary IFTA Awards Ceremony will commence on Saturday, April 20th at the Dublin Royal Convention Centre. This year’s host is broadcaster Baz Ashmawy. The event is set to be a notable event for the recognition of Irish storytellers and their contributions to the screen industry.

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