Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Chances Of “Barbie” Receiving A Best Picture Oscar Nomination

Barbie” continues to exceed expectations, breaking box office records and establishing itself as one of the cultural moments of 2023. Passing the $750 million mark and making its budget back within a week of its release, it’s a successful critical and audience hit. The film has gone above and beyond what many thought it would accomplish, which has garnered it even more attention. That attention can also be seen through the perspective of its awards chances, specifically in the Best Picture race. Director and co-writer Greta Gerwig has gone two for two with the Academy as her previous solo outings (“Lady Bird” and “Little Women“) received Best Picture nominations. There is a lot of goodwill for “Barbie” in multiple above and below-the-line categories in early Oscar predictions, which can propel its momentum to a Best Picture nomination. So what exactly is standing in its way, if anything?

It’s safe to say “Barbie” will likely be in the awards season conversation later this year for its below-the-line categories such as Best Production, Costume Design, and Orginal Song (whether it’s for “Dance The Night Away,” “What Was I Made For” “I’m Just Ken,” or even all three). Above-the-line categories such as Best Supporting Actor for Ryan Gosling as Ken and Best Adapted Screenplay for both Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach are also significant potential contenders. But even if “Barbie” obtains most of these nominations, there may still be a hurdle or two for it to receive a Best Picture nomination. Most of this skepticism comes from questioning if the Academy will go for a satirical studio comedy that’s based on a doll.

Now, yes, the Academy has recognized multiple comedy films in recent years compared to the past, including “The Favourite,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” and even the Best Picture Winner “Green Book.” There is a shared relationship between “Barbie” and “Jojo Rabbit” in their goofiness, cartoonish characters, and story beats. However, one thing those previously-nominated films have in common is that they cater toward a more Oscar-friendly narrative. Meaning they’re either a period piece or a biopic. These genres are often placed on the Academy’s radar as awards baity projects, sometimes before they’ve even had their official first screening. Comedic films such as “Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)” or “Lady Bird,” balance more drama throughout their narratives. “Barbie,” while it certainly has its fair share of moving and more serious moments, like the famous America Ferrera monologue or the film’s climatic ending, it’s more of a consistent knee-slapper of a comedy that begins and ends with camp compared to almost all of these films.

Satires have found success in recent years in the Best Picture category with “Triangle Of Sadness,” “Don’t Look Up,” “Get Out,” and the previously mentioned “Jojo Rabbit” all receiving Best Picture nominations. These films have used their genre conventions to tackle present-day social or political issues. One of the more critically praised aspects of “Barbie” is how it handles the observation of comparing/contrasting both the Barbieworld and the real, present-day world we live in. If we dig a bit deeper, the best comparison one could make toward the Academy warming up to “Barbie” for a Best Picture nomination would actually be with last year’s Best Picture winner, “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” 

Everything Everywhere All At Once” was a smaller independent film that rose organically to become the highest-grossing A24 film to date and one of the most acclaimed films of all time. This multiverse action/comedy overcame many odds with its touching narrative about the power of love and acceptance within ourselves and others through the story of an Asian-American family. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scherinert struck gold with the story (literally, they each won three Academy Awards for writing, producing, and directing), balancing cartoonish whacky comedy and sci-fi action that is much more unorthodox than what we’ve seen the Academy embrace in a Best Picture winner. Seeing the character Barbie start her day by drinking and eating imaginative food from toy props or Ken bouncing off plastic ocean waves isn’t much more ridiculous than Raccacoonie or hand-to-hand fights with dildos. So what’s the holdup exactly when “Barbie” has strong critical reviews, a sensational box-office performance akin to the performance “Top Gun: Maverick” displayed over the summer last year, and a built-in Academy track record from Greta Gerwig?

Everything Everywhere All At Once” proved the Academy is slowly progressing and changing on what they deem the best for the highest honor a film can receive. If that can happen for a film that won just a year ago, then there’s no reason to say other comedies can’t continue to be nominated despite their silly, wacky humor. A “Barbie” nomination for Best Picture would be another test to see how far the Academy has come in selecting films that differ from their more traditional and outdated ways. Even in a post-#MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite awards climate, there can be a case made that the Academy likes to take two steps forward and one step back regarding diversity in their nominations. Less we forget, we are not too far removed from recent conventional Best Picture films such as “Green Book” over more fresh projects that push boundaries and are more inclusive of a worldview outside of the straight, white male perspective. This would be their ultimate opportunity to strike down any preconceived notions of misogyny within the Academy and show they’re accepting of female-led, created, and embraced films.

If “Dune: Part Two” and/or “The Color Purple” get moved to next year due to the SAG-AFTRA/WGA strikes – that would put “Barbie” in a better position to get a Best Picture nomination. This wouldn’t necessarily guarantee it, but it could be the extra push it may need to solidify its chances. However, if the other two anticipated Warner Brothers titles stay on the 2023 release calendar, it would be an uphill battle to see the studio be represented with three Best Picture films in this year’s lineup of ten (unless one of the films were to underperform and not meet expectations). No single studio has managed to get three Best Picture nominees in the same year. There is still a bit of time before we get a clearer picture of what the Best Picture race will look like, as it’s only now starting to take shape. But as of right now, “Barbie” has everything working in its favor to secure a Best Picture nomination should Academy members overcome their biases towards the film’s female identity and comedic nature.

What do you think? Do you believe “Barbie” has a shot at a Best Picture Oscar nomination? Will it be deemed too campy and silly to receive such a nomination, or is the Academy past such trivial thinking? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account. And please check out our latest Oscar predictions and see who on the NBP Team is predicting “Barbie” to receive a Best Picture nomination here.

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Isaiah Washington
Isaiah Washington
Aspiring Screenwriter & awards season junkie. If you don't hear from me, I'm probably busy watching a film.

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