Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, popularly known as the Oscars, has had a notorious track record for snubbing well-deserved performances and movies. So much so that every cinephile has their own list of deserving films and performances who do not made the cut. As a cinema lover myself, I will always be mad about Forrest Gump winning over a revelation like The Shawshank Redemption in 1994. Or the fact that The Princess Bride (1987) was given a mid-nod of Best Original Song, despite being one of the most well-made, well-acted and well-shot fantasy adventure comedy film I have ever seen—a genre mash-up that only a visionary like Rob Reiner can achieve. Which is why when the 2024 Oscar nominations rolled around, it wasn't surprising that one of the major snubs of this year went to Greta Gerwig (for directing) and Margot Robber (For acting) for the globally-loved Barbie.
More than gender politics
The discourse around Greta being snubbed multiple times when she has thought-provoking films like Lady Bird and Little Women under her belt is more than her being a woman. It's about stories. Eminem's 8 Mile, while it won a Best Original Song, was largely ignored despite being an excellent film about an up-and-coming rapper. It's the story. Or it's the fact that The King's Speech, an well-deserving nominee, won over searing stories about the human condition, like Black Swan and 127 Hours. It's the story. Because the 2024 nominations list has three women directors to have their film on the list, Past Lives by Celine Song, Barbie by Greta Gerwig and Anatomy of a Fall by Justine Triet. Yet just one, well-deserved, Best Director spot for Justine; it goes to show that the world built and brought to life by Greta or Celine aren't worthy of a nomination.
The Academy is known to play things safe, rarely pushing the boundaries and have an almost pretentious viewpoint on what makes it to the nominations list. While this years nominations are one of the most diverse ever, the deliberate exclusion of Greta and Margot feels like punishment for being a blockbuster hit. And, for being a story about “plastic dolls with big boobies” - we're looking at you Jo Koy. Barbie wasn't a Transformers film Sorry Michael Bay!, based on a line of toys and barely scratching the surface of the world. It was a film that made got audiences in a trance, made them re-evaluate their perceptions of beauty, and united people under ‘girlhood’, regardless of their gender. As a fan myself, I was moved to tears when a mother son duo sat in front of me laughed and cried together as the movie went through its highs and lows.
It's about the story, and in some cases, the genre too. Why else would a masterful filmmaker like Alfred Hitchcock only have a lifetime achievement award in his repertoire. Because psychological thrillers are difficult to digest. Or Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski missing an Oscar nod; a whole movie revolving around a lazy stoner who gets wrapped up in a dubious kidnapping plot? It's telling.
A serious oversight
When it comes to Greta and Margot's Oscar snubs, it almost feels personal too. The duo were instrumental in taking the film from the ideation table to the big screen and dealing the subject matter with respect and levity. While Margot did get an Oscar nom as one of the producers for the film, her acting nom got lost in the mail. Could Margot be treated as Glenn Close has for her entire career? Like stories, these women have also pushed the boundaries and brought risqué and morally dubious characters to life. Does that make you undeserving of being nominated, or presented with, the prestigious award? Margot's exclusion comes more as a surprise when her co-stars from the film, America Farrera (another well-deserving nominee) and Ryan Gosling (the Ken we love and want to keep forever) were given nominations. Margot is Barbie, trust me. As someone who dressed up with her besties to catch an early showing of the film, coming out and exchanging notes about our las gynac's appointments; Margot Robbie is the Barbie of our dreams.
It's hard to say when offbeat and unconventional stories will get their time of day at the Oscars. Or when creators can harness their creative genius to tell us these stories without it feeling pandering or spoon-fed. Or when Greta will finally get her first win, given that she's one of the most talented filmmakers working today, time will only tell. Till then, we can relish in the fact that a Barbie movie was even made in the first place, with Margot forever becoming a pop culture icon as the ultimate feminist hero.