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What Was I Snubbed For? ‘Barbie’ Landing Eight Noms Is Still an Oscar Miracle

What should we make of the “Barbie” blowup?

After the candy-coated phenom debuted last summer to glowing reviews and box office glory, it seemed like a certifiable Oscar juggernaut. Last week as the Academy Award nominations were unveiled, “Barbie” scored a perfectly respectable eight nominations. However, voters overlooked director Greta Gerwig and lead actress Margot Robbie in their respective categories, sparking a social media backlash that threatens to overshadow the awards. It’s disappointing that Gerwig and Robbie’s outstanding work didn’t make the cut, but some perspective is important here. If you’ve only been getting your Oscar analysis from TikTok and X, you’d be forgiven for thinking “Barbie” was completely shut out.

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Clearly that wasn’t the case. On one hand, I get the outrage. Female filmmakers still face an uphill climb when it comes to getting jobs and recognition. After all, only eight women have ever been nominated for best director in the 96 years the Oscars have been around. But let’s not forget that in landing those eight nominations, Gerwig, Robbie and Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, had to overcome other hurdles. You see, Academy voters don’t tend to honor comedies, and they often view blockbuster commercial success as a demerit instead of a virtue.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Despite its $1.4 billion global earnings, “Barbie,” the highest-grossing comedy ever, faced the same fate as other beloved but unrecognized titles like “Home Alone” and “Ghostbusters.” Indeed, none of the very funny movies on Box Office Mojo’s list of the 100 highest-grossing films was nominated for best picture and director. The last mega-grossing comedy to accomplish that feat was 1982’s “Tootsie,” which earned a best film nod, along with one for director Sydney Pollack. It would lose both prizes to “Gandhi,” no one’s idea of a funny movie.

Being the year’s top-grosser also doesn’t guarantee Academy recognition. Over the past 25 years, directors of the highest-grossing movies received nominations only three times: Steven Spielberg for “Saving Private Ryan,” Peter Jackson for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and James Cameron for “Avatar.” Only “Return of the King” took home best picture and best director.

Moreover, Gerwig and Robbie did receive individual noms for adapted screenplay (Gerwig wrote the script with Noah Baumbach) and best picture (Robbie is a producer), honors their “Barbenheimer” competitor Christopher Nolan didn’t receive when “The Dark Knight” was shut out of the top prizes despite being the biggest hit of 2008.

BARBIE, from left: America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Margot Robbie, 2023. © Warner Bos. / Courtesy Everett Collection
BARBIE, from left: America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Margot Robbie, 2023. © Warner Bos. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Prior to creating Barbieland, Gerwig was a respected actor known for her roles in “20th Century Women” and “Frances Ha.” She’s brilliantly navigated the transition to director, a career change that the Academy’s directors branch doesn’t always endorse. While there have been success stories like Kevin Costner with “Dances With Wolves,” others — like Ben Affleck (“Argo”), Sean Penn (“Into the Wild”) and Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born” and “Maestro”) — have been passed over when they moved behind the camera. “Argo” won best picture, but Affleck wasn’t nominated for his direction.

Despite those precedents, “Barbie” performed well in terms of Oscar nominations. Two of its stars, Ryan Gosling and America Ferrera, received nods, and many of the crafts people who brought the popular doll to life on-screen were recognized. And ignored in the fury over Gerwig and Robbie’s snubs is that Ferrera is the year’s only Latina acting nominee (maybe that should inspire some social media fury?). Plus, the movie is up for best picture, alongside “Oppenheimer,” “Poor Things,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and other worthy contenders.

So, get angry that Gerwig’s witty directing didn’t get the love it deserved. Be pissed that Robbie’s boisterous performance was shunted aside in favor of more obviously award-bait turns. But let’s remember that “Barbie” still received eight more nominations than other female-driven masterwork, like “A Thousand and One,” “Origin” and “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Their oversight shouldn’t be obscured by the “Barbie” outrage.

This week’s winner picks are below.

Best Picture:
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan

Directing:
Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures)

Actor:
Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers” (Focus Features)

Actress:
Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films)

Supporting Actor:
Robert Downey Jr, “Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures)

Supporting Actress:
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers” (Focus Features)

Original Screenplay:
“Anatomy of a Fall” (Neon) — Justine Triet, Arthur Harari

Adapted Screenplay:
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Christopher Nolan

Animated Feature:
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures) — Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Amy Pascal

Production Design:
“Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures) — Shona Heath, James Price, Szusza Mihalek

Cinematography:
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Hoyte van Hoytema

Costume Design:
“Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures) — Holly Waddington

Film Editing:
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Jennifer Lame

Makeup and Hairstyling:
“Maestro” (Netflix) — Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou and Lori McCoy-Bell

Sound:
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Willie Burton, Richard King, Gary A. Rizzo and Kevin O’Connell

Visual Effects:
“The Creator” (20th Century Studios) — Jay Cooper, Ian Comley, Andrew Roberts and Neil Corbould

Original Score:
“Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures) — Ludwig Göransson

Original Song:
“Barbie” – “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell

Documentary Feature:
“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS) — Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner and Raney Aronson-Rath

International Feature:
“The Zone of Interest” (A24) — United Kingdom

Animated Short:
“Letter to a Pig” (Miyu Distribution) — Tal Kantor and Amit R. Gicelter

Documentary Short:
“The Last Repair Shop” (L.A. Times Studios/Searchlight Pictures) — Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers

Live Action Short:
“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” (Netflix) — Wes Anderson and Steven Rales

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