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'Oppenheimer' wins Oscar for best picture

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
Universal Pictures
Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer opened last year as part of a pitched battle of the titans, but on Oscar night, it reigned supreme. Capping off a night in which it won seven awards, Christopher Nolan's historical drama about the development of the atomic bomb won best picture. It beat out not only its box-office frenemy Barbie but a strong field of contenders, including Alexander Payne's The Holdovers, Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon (which won nothing all night), and Yorgos Lanthimos' experimental Poor Things.

Nolan has an interesting history with the best picture trophy. His films Inception and Dunkirk were both nominated, but neither won. The lack of a nomination for a Nolan film, The Dark Knight, was part of what drove the expansion of the best picture category from five nominees to now as many as 10, which happened back in 2009. It seemed back then like Nolan might one day win best picture for a great popcorn blockbuster, but what ultimately came through for him is a piece of high-class history — not unlike The King's Speech, which beat Inception for best picture in the second year of the expanded field.

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Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.