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On the Oscars: Move Over Margot & Greta, There's More to be Mad About and Tons to Celebrate


 

The backlash following the Oscars nominations announcements have largely been focused on two women. Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig spearheaded an impossible project: bringing a “perfect” dream doll to life through the layered and practical nuances of womanhood. While Robbie led the pack of producers, which included Gerwig, communicating back and forth with Mattel and pushing them to give them the go on a project as ambitious as this, Gerwig took the creative lead along with husband and creative partner Noah Baumbach, crafting a script that rendered the impossible plausible. Why then, for these impossible achievements, have they not been recognized by the Academy? (Yes, I use impossible three times because it was that impossible. Okay, five times now.) What happened? What went wrong? Why should we not be angry of these *gasp* snubs?


Four-time nominees Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie. Here, they are pictured accepting the Golden Globe for Cinematic and Box Office Achievement for Barbie.


 

THE FACTS

 

Margot and Robbie were both recognized for doing the impossible, as producer and writer respectively in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories. These are both their fourth Oscar nominations.

 

 

PART I: THE DIRECTORS (AND WRITERS)

 

Sure, Gerwig deserved a second nomination for directing the film. I will admit that I think Barbie is her best yet, leagues ahead of Lady Bird and Little Women. The intentional use of pink to create a new world, the attention to detail to production and costume, the integration of the iconic soundtrack with key moments in the film are all ultimately responsibilities of the director. But as I mentioned in my nominations predictions, there were going to be snubs regardless of the final five nominees in this category. This year was filled with stellar writer-directors spanning a range of experiences: from veterans Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorcese to some relatively newer names in the mix such as Celine Song and Andrew Haigh. Meanwile, Gerwig, along with Justine Triet and Jonathan Glazer represent the pool in the middle, with enough notable features under their belt to be easily recognized by name. We witnessed impressively complex dramatic scripts transform into major blockbusters (Nolan’s Oppenheimer), incredibly weird scripts turn into even weirder films (Lanthimos’s Poor Things), as well as seemingly simple scripts with barely enough dialogue speak a thousand words through silence (Song’s Past Lives and Glazer’s The Zone of Interest).

 

In my eyes, Song and Haigh deserved directing nods for what they achieved in the films that they also wrote (more on this in my next piece… stay tuned). To me, it is incredibly exciting to have so many fantastic pieces to choose from… people are rushing back to the cinema to watch these Oscar-worthy films. Isn’t that the point of it all?

 


First-time nominee Justine Triet's Anatomy of a Fall was awarded the Pam D'Or,

which is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, in 2023.


Either way, I’m really happy for Triet. Her nominations are well-deserved. I am a little sad for Gerwig and even sadder for Song for their absence in these categories, but am happy that their screenplays and films were nominated in their respective categories. I am also selfishly happy that the two are not competing against each other for the screenplay awards (reminder: Barbie was deemed an adapted screenplay for no reason whatsoever), which gives original screenplay Past Lives a one-up on taking home at least one of the two statuettes it’s up for.

 

 

PART II: THE ACTRESSES

 

As most fail to recognize, the chaos on the internet regarding Robbie’s snub for Barbie is grounded in primarily two things: failing to celebrate the nominees and strides in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories and failing to recognize the competition in the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories (more on the second in Part III).

 

First-time nominee Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon.


The Best Actress Category nominated two actresses for the first time ever: Lily Gladstone, who was recognized for her flawless turn as Mollie, an Osage native in Killers of the Flower Moon, and Sandra Hüller, whose show-stopping performances in Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest (both international features are also in the running for Best Picture). Gladstone is the first Native American woman to be nominated for this category. It is sad that it took this long for this milestone to be achieved, but at the very least, perhaps we can appreciate the growth of the voting body of Academy that allowed for this to happen.

 

Sure, Robbie’s seemingly effortless Stereotypical Barbie is worthy of praise. But unfortunately for Robbie and fortunately for her contemporaries and contenders, actresses such as Gladstone and Past Lives’ Greta Lee are finally getting recognized for playing roles that they identify with.


Greta Lee in Past Lives.


Lee recently said during her acceptance speech for being honoured with the Breakout in Film award at the Unforgettable Gala, "After a whole career made from playing supporting characters who were supporting other people’s stories, I got to be the centre of my own story for the first time ever. As Nora Moon, I had the chance to be free of the heavy lifting that comes with having to constantly explain yourself, to constantly have to explain your own existence, and instead I got to do what I’ve watched my peers and my favourite artists get to do all the time. I got to play a regular person who’s just trying to understand what it means to be alive. And that’s the breakthrough.”

 

Lee did not get nominated by the Academy or the BAFTAs. She was able to snag nominations for the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice nonetheless. She has had a fantastic year, with a more prominent role in the third instalment of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and a notable role in Oscar-nominated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, but naturally it is only in Past Lives that she gets to embody and tell the story of a person and woman who looks and feels like herself... at the centre of it all. She says, “And now that I’ve seen and now that I know what it’s like, it might be really hard to go back. I don’t want that for myself and I don’t want that for any of you. I think it’s time now for us to be at the centre of our own stories and on our own terms.”

 

Thus, what is most hurtful to me, as someone who spent more time at the movies than in India in 2023, is the nation-wide obsession in the US with pitting talented women against talented women, at the expense of talented women of colour. This might not have been intentional, but it is really unfortunate how some other notable wins, most notably Gladstone’s and America Ferrera’s first-ever nominations—which are also significant for the communities they represent—and first-time nominations for Danielle Brooks and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, are overlooked and forgotten in the conversation due to the “snub” of three-time Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie, who earned her fourth nomination for producing this year as well. If it is feminism that you are after, ask yourself if your feminism includes women of colour.


First-time nominee Danielle Brooks in The Color Purple.

 

Meanwhile, Emily Blunt snagged her first Oscar nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category while Jodie Foster returned for her fifth nomination after already having won twice.

But only for the fifth time in its 96-year history, this category boasts a majority women of colour in the running for the Oscar (following 2023 with Angela Bassett, Hong Chau, and Stephanie Hsu, 2017 with Naomie Harris, Octavia Spencer, and winner Viola Davis, 2009 with Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, and winner Penélope Cruz, and 2007 with Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, and winner Jennifer Hudson). This year, we have first-time nominees Da’Vine Joy Randolph for The Holdovers, America Ferrera for Barbie, as well as Danielle Brooks for The Color Purple, who pulled an Ariana DeBose for being nominated for playing a role that was also nominated in a previous iteration of the same film. (In 2021, DeBose took home the award for playing Anita in West Side Story, a role Rita Moreno also won for sixty years prior.) Brooks is nominated for playing Sofia, previously portrayed by Oprah Winfrey in 1985.

 

So ask yourself again… what are you really mad about?

 

 

PART III: THE ACTORS

 

Alongside the outbreak over Robbie and Gerwig, of course, is the reciting of the plot of Barbie and how everybody missed the point of the movie and nominated the man that supported the women in the film.

 

(QUICK INTERLUDE!) THE FACTS: PART TWO

 

First-time nominee America Ferrera in Barbie.


1. America Ferrera is a woman, plays a role that is central to the plot of the film, and got nominated for her performance.

2. The Actress category nominations have no correlation to the Actor category nominations.

3. Acting nominations have nothing to do with the plot of the film. They, however, have everything to do with the performance of the actors.

 

If you are reading this, you probably watched Barbie, and you will probably admit that Ryan Gosling was also an integral aspect of the film, and his nomination recognizes his performance as beach boy Ken, a role that was written for the perfect white boy he is, a role—I’ll say it—he was born to play. This does not discount Robbie’s performance as Stereotypical Barbie, but—and these two things can be true—there was more room for Gosling in the Best Supporting Actor category than there was for Robbie in Best Actress category.

 

Yes, I am aware of the contradictions between my takes on Gosling’s nomination and my thoughts on Lee’s snub in their respective categories with regard to the roles they play in their films this year. Which is why that’s the perfect place to pivot to the one celebration and the two most notable snubs in the Best Supporting Actor category: Sterling K. Brown snags his first-ever Oscar nomination for his role Cliff in American Fiction; and the stiff competition prevent May December’s Charles Melton and Anatomy of a Fall’s Milo Machado Graner from making the cut this year. In a normal year for film, these younger actors would have more easily secured a nomination for their nuanced performances. But, and I know I keep saying it, this is no normal year for film. This category is too crowded with now three-time nominees Gosling and Robert Downey Jr., now four-time nominee Mark Ruffalo, and now nine-time nominee and two-time Oscar winner Robert de Niro.

 

First-time nominee Sterling K. Brown in American Fiction.


As for Best Actor, I have some more to say about Domingo's historic nomination in my next piece, and my predictions met for all the other nominees. So let’s just not get started with Leonardo DiCaprio’s “snub,” please.


 

Speaking of my predictions...

 

Here's the damage:

[CATEGORY: Oscar Nominations Matched/Number of Predictions Made]


BEST PICTURE: 10/10

BEST DIRECTOR: 5/5

BEST ACTRESS: 4/5

BEST ACTOR: 4/5

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: 4/5

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: 3/5

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: 4/5

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 4/5

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE: 1/2

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: 4/5

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: 2/2

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: 3/5

BEST SOUND: 2/5

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: 2/3

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: 4/5

BEST EDITING: 4/5

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: 3/5

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: 4/5

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: 4/5

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