The 2024 Oscar nominations are here, and the big headline is Barbie’s mere 8 nominations. It’s been a heavyweight contender all awards season, but after their near shutout at the Golden Globes, I’m not sure we should be surprised that, in the end, Barbie “only” logged 8 nominations. I’m using quotes because those 8 nominations are substantial, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (where Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach will lose to Christopher Nolan), two song nominations, including one for “I’m Just Ken”, and two acting nominations, one each for Ryan Gosling and America Ferrera in the supporting categories.
America comes through as the surprise nomination for Barbie, she was not a sure thing but made a great case for herself at the Critics Choice Awards, giving a stirring speech about the power of a “pink and pretty” film for, by, and about women becoming the biggest film of 2023, just as nominations were closing. The power of a good speech is realized in her nomination this morning. Which does not mean she’s not deserving! It’s just that there is a direct line from her speech at the CCAs to her nomination today. She made the case for why her performance matters, and it paid off with an Oscar nomination.
But Barbie had some significant misses, too. For one—Greta Gerwig was not nominated for Best Director. Instead, the directors—remember that Oscar nominations are done by the branch, so directors nominate directors, etc—went for French director Justine Triet and Jonathan Glazer was a surprise inclusion for The Zone of Interest. Again, not that these are undeserving inclusions—Zone is one of the most haunting films I’ve ever seen—but it sort of feels like…the Academy went for the “serious” lady film over the “funny” lady film with Anatomy of a Fall. Similarly, Emma Stone is a double nominee for both producing and starring in Poor Things, where Margot Robbie was left out of Best Actress. Nominating Ryan Gosling but passing over Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie for individual distinctions sort of proves the point of Barbie, no?
I’ve mentioned the comedy bias before, and it is real, and this is it in effect. If given the chance to NOT acknowledge Barbie, the Academy took it, missing the film in directing, lead acting, and editing (cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto is nominated for Killers of the Flower Moon, a double nomination was always unlikely). I guarantee if we still had a field of 5 Best Picture nominees, Barbie would be out. That it still earned 8 nominations in spite of the comedy bias is kind of incredible, because the Golden Globes had me halfway convinced we were in for a nomination morning shocker. Instead, it’s more a nomination morning disappointment. As is, we must now prepare for an awards night disappointment, too, as it is very likely Barbie could walk away with only one Oscar, if any, for one of its original songs.
Instead, it’s Oppenheimer, as expected, leading the pack with 13 nominations, followed by Poor Things with 11, Barbie and Killers of the Flower Moon with 8 apiece, including a Best Actress nomination for Lily Gladstone—the reaction to her nomination was easily the loudest and most enthusiastic during the announcement broadcast—Maestro with 7, and Anatomy of a Fall, The Holdovers, The Zone of Interest, and American Fiction with 5 each.
Overall, I’m not (very) mad at these nominations (I might die mad about Barbie, I’ll see how I feel after another month). It’s mostly what I expected, heavy on Oppenheimer and Poor Things, both of which banked a lot of tech/craft nominations, plus multiple acting nominations. Anatomy of a Fall made a strong showing, and The Zone of Interest is a pleasant surprise, given how f-cking depressing it is, but these are well deserved nominations. And it’s great to see Colman Domingo nominated for Best Actor, and Sterling K. Brown made it into Best Supporting Actor for American Fiction, another welcome inclusion.
It's a bummer that queer films didn’t make a stronger showing than f-cking Nyad, which garnered 2 nominations, one each for Jodie Foster and Annette Bening, yet All of Us Strangers got shutout. That’s Netflix’s trophy machine in action, getting a thoroughly mediocre biopic about a suss subject—professional swimmers are out here questioning Diana Nyad’s achievements—two nominations for widely admired actors. It’s like John Williams getting a Best Original Score nomination for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Is it his best work? No, but he's a legend and that’s a legendary theme, OF COURSE he got nominated (again the Academy choosing literally anything other than Barbie wherever they can).
The Academy might be the first group of people to greet “Hi Barbie” less than enthusiastically. Eight nominations including one for Best Picture is not nothing, but the notable exclusions of Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie—the creative powerhouses behind the film—in individual categories is notable, nonetheless. It’s clear this is not a film the Academy wanted to take seriously, but it is so undeniably well made they HAD to consider it, but given any other option, they took the out. Barbie is a film the Academy could not ignore, but clearly, not one they want to make the main topic of discussion. Now, we brace for Oscar night, and the inevitable Oppenheimer domination. Unless The Holdovers, the closest thing to a comedy after Barbie, can come up with an Oscar night surprise of its own.
View the full list of nominees here.