2024 Oscars see string of historic firsts and achievements

The 2024 Oscars clocked up a number of historic firsts and achievements – as well as missing a couple of opportunities to break new ground.

Topping the bill was British filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who ended his 22-year wait for an Academy Award.

Nolan was first nominated back in 2002, for best original screenplay for Memento, and again in 2011 in the same category for Inception, but on both occasions he came away empty-handed.

In 2018 he was nominated for best director for Dunkirk, but once more walked away with nothing.

96th Academy Awards – Show
Christopher Nolan accepts the award for best director for Oppenheimer (Chris Pizzello/AP)

This year he finally triumphed, being named best director for Oppenheimer.

Nolan’s film was responsible for two more Oscar firsts.

Cillian Murphy, who played the title role of J Robert Oppenheimer – the American physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb – was named best actor, the first Irish winner of this award.

Robert Downey Jr also picked up his first Oscar when he won best supporting actor for his role in the film as Lewis Strauss.

Downey Jr had been waiting for an Academy Award for even longer than Nolan, having received his first acting nomination in 1993 for Chaplin.

96th Academy Awards – Press Room
Robert Downey Jr celebrates winning the Oscar for best supporting actor, for his role in the film Oppenheimer (Jordan Strauss/AP)

Nolan’s fellow British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer helped make history when his movie The Zone of Interest became the first UK production to win the Oscar for best international feature.

The film, set in and around the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War, features dialogue that is mostly in German and Polish which made it eligible for the award.

Another moment of history came when 20 Days in Mariupol was named best documentary feature, marking the first Oscar to be won by Ukraine.

The film, directed by Mstyslav Chernov, follows the story of people living under siege in the city of Mariupol during the first weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the spring of 2022.

96th Academy Awards – Show
Mstyslav Chernov (centre) accepts the Oscar for best documentary feature film for 20 Days in Mariupol (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Japanese fantasy film The Boy and the Heron was named best animated feature, becoming only the second non-English-language production to win this award since the category was added to the Oscars in 2002.

The film was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who came out of retirement to make the movie and was also responsible for the other non-English-language film to win the Oscar for best animated feature, Spirited Away in 2003.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph was the only non-white winner in any of the acting categories, taking best supporting actress for her role in The Holdovers.

Her success bolsters the reputation of the category for being the most diverse of all the acting Oscars with nine of the winners in the past 20 years coming from an ethnic minority background.

96th Academy Awards – Press Room
Da’Vine Joy Randolph with her Oscar for best supporting actress, which she won for her role in The Holdovers (Jordan Strauss/AP)

One milestone that was not reached during this year’s ceremony came with the award for best editing, where Thelma Schoonmaker stood a chance of becoming the first person to win it four times.

Schoonmaker had been nominated for Killers of the Flower Moon, having won previously for Raging Bull in 1981, The Aviator in 2005 and The Departed in 2007 – all directed by her long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese.

But the Oscar this year instead went to fellow American editor Jennifer Lame, for her work on Oppenheimer.

It was also a night of bad luck for perennial Oscar hopeful Diane Warren, who has now notched up a total of 15 nominations and zero wins for best original song.

The Fire Inside from the film Flamin’ Hot, lost out to What Was I Made For? from Barbie, written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell.

(PA Graphics)

Overall, Oppenheimer walked away with seven Oscars, comfortably ahead of Poor Things (four wins) and The Zone of Interest (two).

Oppenheimer had received a total of 13 nominations and had it won in all of these categories, it would have set a new record for the most wins by a single film, beating the previous record of 11, held jointly by Ben-Hur (in 1960), Titanic (1998) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2004).