Oscar nominations matter, but they’re not everything

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Rebecca Sun argues the Barbie Oscar snubs aren’t as bad as some people think in BarbieGate: Why All Oscars Snubs Are Not Created Equal

a good question to ask is why a man playing a blond avatar of perfection felt like a braver feat than a woman doing the same? Perhaps the true irony of the Barbie snubs was that Gerwig and Robbie made being easy, breezy, beautiful look too easy.

I do enjoy the Oscars, but I don’t find myself ever really being “outraged” at snubs. I always appreciate when works that I enjoyed get recognition, but it’s not like an Oscar nomination (or win) is required for lasting recognition. Here’s a list The Guardian put together of the best acting roles in history that weren’t nominated for an Oscar, for example.

I’ll also add that back in the day, people would be upset when a movie was nominated for Best Picture, but the director wasn’t nominated for Best Director. “How can you say this was one of the best movies but somehow the director wasn’t the reason for that?” Years ago I get that, but in the modern Oscar format where there are 5 director nominees and up to 10 Best Picture nominees, you’re inherently going to have some directors left out.

But let’s get back to that block quote above. I think Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig delivered Oscar-caliber performances in their roles making this film. We need to go back less than a year from today to see a world where it very much looked like Barbie could have been a creative disaster and a box office bomb. Especially coming out of 2022 where Top Gun Maverick cleaned up and there was a narrative building that people just want more traditional, meat-and-potatoes films that shun any sort of social commentary that isn’t “military good, woke bad.” But Barbie rolled in with the complete opposite take, absolutely crushed expectations, and was the most financially successful film of 2023, both domestically and internationally. It was an incredible high wire act and it simply doesn’t work without Gerwig’s direction paired with Robbie’s performance. I think Ryan Gossling was amazing as well, and his nomination is well earned too, but if I was casting a ballot, Gerwig and Robbie are in my Best Director and Best Actress top 5.

That said, Gerwig got nominated for best adapted screenplay and Robbie was nominated as a producer in the Best Picture category, so it’s not like they weren’t nominated at all. Again, I think they were easily in my top 5 for acting and directing, but I’m not outraged they didn’t make it for everyone.

Finally, let’s remember that The Oscars aren’t the final say in what’s “the best” in film. It’s the biggest awards show, of course, but it’s not the be all end all for judging the quality of a film or its contributors, that’s of course Rotten Tomatoes 😉