As we begin month number two in another year — wait, is that right? Are we already a month into 2024?! — I am getting geared up for my favorite time of the year: Oscar season!
Nominations for the 96th Academy Awards were announced Jan. 23 and we saw history made even before the first Oscar statue has been handed out.
A record number of LGBTQ+ characters are nominated in the four acting categories, a total of seven to be exact. Colman Domingo for “Rustin,” Annette Bening and Jodie Foster for “Nyad,” Sterling K. Brown for “American Fiction,” Bradley Cooper for “Maestro,” Sandra Hüller for “Anatomy of a Fall” and Emma Stone for “Poor Things.” Domingo and Foster’s nominations made this year’s Oscars the first time multiple LGBTQ+ performers were recognized for playing LGBTQ+ characters. Queer folks were still outpaced by straight actors playing us but it was a good year for visibility.
Several films entered the Oscar history books, including “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which not only got Martin Scorsese his 10th Best Director nomination — making him the most Oscar-nominated, living film director — but also got Lily Gladstone a nomination for Best Actress making them the first Native American to be nominated in that category. Justine Triet became only the eighth female filmmaker to earn a nomination for Best Director for her brilliant film “Anatomy of a Fall.” For the first time ever, three of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture were directed by female directors — “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Barbie” and “Past Lives” — and Emma Stone earned dual nominations for Best Actress and Best Picture for the film “Poor Things,” only the second time that a woman as been nominated for both for the same film.
With all this history being made, it was disheartening to see most of the Oscar conversation online focused on complaining about who got “snubbed,” specifically “Barbie’s” Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig who did not make the final five for Best Actress and Best Director, respectively. Many on social media said voters missed the point of the movie and that not recognizing both of these talented women was proving the point that Gerwig was making with “Barbie.”
There is a valid argument to be made that the Academy has ignored many fantastic movies featuring and made by women, people of color and LGBTQ+ filmmakers but the social media outcry for “Barbie” seems out of touch for a film that got eight Oscar nominations, including nominations for Robbie and Gerwig — Robbie for producing the film and Gerwig for writing its screenplay.
The complaining is made even worse when you look at how it is distracting from other women nominated for their part in bringing “Barbie” to the screen. Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer are nominated for Best Production Design, Jacqueline Durran is up for Best Costume Design, Billie Eilish has a nomination for Best Original Song and the one that I’m most excited about (I was a huge “Ugly Betty” fan) America Ferrera picked up her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. But instead of seeing article after article celebrating and lifting up a gifted actress who is a woman of color getting her first Oscar nomination, the internet was bombarded with calls of injustice for two white women who didn’t get nominated in the categories they wanted them in. It seems like a lot of fans of the “Barbie” movie missed the point of the “Barbie” movie.
I have also seen a lot of arguments about how “Barbie” deserved to be nominated for all the awards because it was the most successful movie of 2023 and it made over a billion dollars.
There have been 53 movies that have made over a billion dollars at the global box office and only nine have been nominated for Best Picture over the years. Only two of them went on the win: 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and 1997’s “Titanic.” Box office has never and will never be a determining factor for the best film of the year. If that was the case, we would have to walk through this world saying things like “the 2006 Best Picture winner ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.’”
The Oscars are subjective. For every movie you didn’t like, someone out there loved it and for every movie you love, there is someone who thinks it’s trash. As a lifetime watcher of the Oscars, the biggest takeaway each year for me is learning about amazing films I haven’t already seen. Yes, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were great movies that most of the world saw, but “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Poor Things” and “The Holdovers” were also great. The Oscars have put “The Zone of Interest,” “Past Lives” and many others on my radar.
Take my advice and spend a little less time this month yelling into the social media void and check out some of this year’s nominated films you haven’t seen yet.