“Oppenheimer” led the pack in an unsurprising list of nominees. During a chaotic year for Hollywood dominated by strikes, mergers and AI, that might be just what the Oscars needed.
The 2024 Oscar nominations were officially announced, and “Oppenheimer” led the way.
Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic secured 13 nominations, outmatching “Poor Things” (11 nominations), “Killers of the Flower Moon” (10 nominations) and its Barbenheimer match, “Barbie” (eight nominations).
Looking at the list of nominees, Steve Granelli, associate teaching professor of communication studies at Northeastern University, says “there wasn’t a whole lot that was surprising,” given which films have swept the awards shows in the lead up to the Oscars, which take place on March 10.
After a chaotic year for Hollywood that was dominated by strikes, mergers and the disruptive presence of artificial intelligence, relatively unsurprising, non-controversial nominations might be what Hollywood and the Oscars needed.
“In terms of accessibility, critical acclaim and box office, this is about as broad of a spectrum of recognition that you’re going to get from the Academy at this point,” Granelli says.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned from those looking closely at the nominees.
It’s hard to say that a film like “Barbie,” which earned more than $1 billion at the box office and secured eight Oscar nominations, was snubbed. But Granelli says it’s just as notable which categories it was not nominated for. Lead Barbie herself, Margot Robbie, and director Greta Gerwig failed to secure nominations for best actress and best director.
“One of the weirdest things was that there were acting nominations for ‘Barbie’ and Margot Robbie wasn’t one of them,” Granelli says. “Everyone talks about [Ryan] Gosling [in best supporting actor], but I was surprised to see America Ferrara nominated for ‘Barbie’ in best supporting actress and Margot Robbie not nominated for ‘Barbie.’”
Gerwig’s failure to secure a best director nod is indicative of a fiercely competitive race in a category that includes the likes of Nolan and Martin Scorsese. But Granelli notes it’s also part of a long-standing hesitance and failure for the Oscars to nominate multiple female directors per year (Justine Triet was nominated this year for the French drama “Anatomy of a Fall”). It’s a sign of how far the Academy still has to go.
“Scorsese and Nolan didn’t cancel each other out, but that seems to hold with the Oscars at this point,” Granelli says. “You have one nominee for best director and they’re female, and that’s all you’re going to get. It’s upsetting.”
Granelli is adamant that Robbie and Gerwig’s snubs say nothing about the actresses and directors who were nominated in those categories. In fact, Granelli says the acting categories, while predictable, are uniformly worth celebrating not only for the quality of the performances, but the diversity of the performers.
The lead actor category includes two Black actors, Colman Domingo for his performance in “Rustin” and Jeffrey Wright for his performance in “American Fiction,” and the best supporting actress race includes three non-white performers: Danielle Brooks (“The Color Purple”), America Ferrera (“Barbie”) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”). Meanwhile, Lily Gladstone, who Granelli expects to win best actress for her performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” is the first Native American nominated for a best actress Oscar.
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Nominated alongside established performers, all of these actors are first-time nominees, which Granelli hopes can speak to the power of what the Oscars really do for rising talent in Hollywood.
“If more people are introduced to performers like that and then they get more recognition for the next choices they make, great,” Granelli says. “Isn’t that supposed to be what the nomination does?”
International films and filmmakers also received more recognition and attention this year, Granelli notes.
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Since South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho won best director for “Parasite” in 2020, that category has included at least one international filmmaker every year. International films like “The Zone of Interest” and “Anatomy of a Fall” getting strong representation in mainline categories like best director and best picture is potentially indicative of the Academy opening its doors even further.
And in the best international feature category itself, Granelli points to “Society of the Snow” as an example of how international films are attracting more attention from mainstream audiences as well, in part because of their availability on streaming services like Netflix.
“Just thinking back, I can’t think of another year where one of the international features was so widely available and has stayed in the top 10 movies on Netflix for a long period of time,” Granelli says.
Granelli feels like the outcome of the major categories are almost set in stone at this point. But he does still have one major lingering question: Will we hear Ryan Gosling perform “I’m Just Ken,” his chart-topping viral hit song from “Barbie,” live at the Oscars?