Barbie’s Oscar Hopes Crushed! Award Season Shocker Revealed!

Last July, an otherwise regular weekend was transformed into a cinematic spectacle as two movies, “Barbie” directed by Greta Gerwig and “Oppenheimer” by Christopher Nolan, were released simultaneously. This occurrence, dubbed as the Barbenheimer phenomenon, was the talk of the town and seemed to set a colorful, explosive tone for the forthcoming awards season.

Yet, the duo didn’t receive equal recognition. “Oppenheimer” bagged 13 Oscar nominations, while “Barbie” secured just eight.

At Sunday’s ceremony, the stunt teams of both films were honored. Ryan Gosling from “Barbie” and Emily Blunt from “Oppenheimer”, both nominated for their supporting roles, humorously addressed the competition.

“Glad that we can finally lay the Barbenheimer feud to rest,” Gosling quipped to Blunt on stage.

Blunt responded just as humorously, “Indeed, it’s like Ken and Kitty, leaving all the commotion in the dust. Given how the award season has been, it wasn’t quite a contest. So, let’s just drop it.”

Gosling, imitating his movie character’s wit, retorted, “But, I think I know why they named it Barbenheimer and not Oppenbarbie. You guys are at the tail end because you piggybacked on ‘Barbie’s’ success all summer.”

Humor often contains a kernel of truth. In the end, Barbie clinched one of its eight nominations — original song. “Oppenheimer” bagged seven of its 13, including best picture, lead actor for Cillian Murphy, and director for Christopher Nolan — his first victory.

The sole award for “Barbie” was carried home by “What Was I Made For?,” a song by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell.

“This award is for the song and movie that moved me. A shout out to everyone who was touched by this movie and its brilliance,” Eilish said while receiving the award.

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However, the accolades weren’t as plentiful as many anticipated for such a critically acclaimed, record-breaking blockbuster.

Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University’s film school, admitted, “I did not foresee ‘Barbie’ falling so far behind so early in the race. Usually, it takes longer. There’s always room for surprises.”

The film, with Margot Robbie as the legendary blonde doll, was a savior for the summer box office, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year with $636 million in North America and $1.4 billion globally to date. The impressive earnings were accompanied by intense hype, amplified by numerous marketing collaborations and Robbie’s stunning press-tour outfits, inspired by the doll’s iconic looks over the years.

After months in a Barbie frenzy, the academy rewarded the film with a respectable eight Oscar nominations, including best picture. Gosling, as Ken, and America Ferrera as Gloria, a frustrated working mom whose human complexities trigger a crisis in Barbie’s world, were nominated in supporting categories. “I’m Just Ken” and “What Was I Made For?” were nominated for original song. The film also received nominations for costume and production design, and screenplay, by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach.

However, the chatter on nomination morning was dominated by what “Barbie” didn’t get nominated for. Gerwig was overlooked for directing, and Robbie, the lead star and executive producer, wasn’t nominated for lead actress. Many noted these oversights reflected the same issues the film highlighted in the wider culture.

“The popular vote is never a sure thing for the establishment,” said Galloway. “The establishment has always been cautious about them. Spielberg’s early movies, ‘Jaws,’ ‘Close Encounters,’ ‘E.T,’ were they his best works? Not in my opinion, but they didn’t win awards. ‘Star Wars,’ which has influenced more of my students than any other film, wasn’t even a serious contender for best picture. There’s always been a bit of a clash. The establishment never recognized the avant-garde.”

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Undoubtedly, “Oppenheimer,” a unique blend of box office clout and prestige, was a tough competitor. It grossed almost $1 billion worldwide and had all the elements of an Oscar favorite: a well-respected director, intellectually challenging content, a serious tone, and a star-studded cast including Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., and Blunt.

Plus, it came into Sunday’s event with a slew of awards, including wins from the predictive trifecta of the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America, and the Producers Guild of America, not to mention the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. In contrast, “Barbie” didn’t win at these major awards.

The performance of “Barbie” at the Oscars, or lack thereof, underscores the academy’s ongoing challenge to align its members’ voting preferences with the tastes of moviegoers and awards show viewers.

As film studios have increasingly focused on blockbusters and franchises, the Oscar nominations have similarly highlighted indie and foreign films. The pandemic accentuated this trend, with lesser-known best picture winners “CODA” and “Nomadland” mainly distributed via streaming services. Consequently, many believe that the absence of nominees and winners like the box office titan “Titanic,” which won best picture and 11 other Academy Awards during the most-watched telecast in 1998, has contributed to the Oscars’ dwindling viewership.

In 2018, the academy even contemplated creating a “popular film” category to include blockbuster-type movies in the broadcast but quickly discarded the idea. This year, the Golden Globes introduced such a category.

Its inaugural winner? “Barbie.”

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