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Obert Opines: Gerwig "Best Director" snub not surprising

Tuesday morning, shockwaves were sent around Film X, formerly Twitter, with the announcement of Oscar nominations. Not only was America’s favorite A-list Actress, Margot Robbie, left out of the Best Actress nominations, but one of the great directors of the last decade, Greta Gerwig was left out of the Best Director nominees, while the movie itself was nominated for Best Picture.

I will admit the optics are abysmal but there is a method to the Academy’s madness, and while I will admit it is madness, ‘Barbie’ isn’t the only movie to have been slighted.

2008 represented something of a breaking point for the Academy. "The Dark Knight," the most popular film of the year and potentially most influential, was left out of the Best Picture nominations for the awards. One year later, the Academy expanded the Best Picture nominations to 10

Whether it was out of a guilty conscience, increased viewership for the broadcasted ceremony or because the Academy genuinely felt it was the right thing to do, the end result is that every year since the 2009 Academy awards there have been a handful more Best Picture nominations than Best Director nominations. 

The problem is even if the Academy really loves a certain movie and shows that by nominating it for an award, a handful of respective directors might not be so lucky. Greta Gerwig is just the latest director to fall on the wrong side of a bias the Academy holds against what I would call a “popcorn” movie like "Barbie."

Regardless of your thoughts on the power of "Barbie’s" messaging, the light-hearted tone of the film, its popularity, its cast and even its IP are all qualities of the style of film that the Academy looks past for serious best-picture contention even if it's strong enough to get nominated.

"Barbie," a comedy featuring Will Ferrell, and grossing almost $1.5 billion, surrounding America's favorite plastic doll is exactly the type of film the Academy might nominate for best picture even though it has virtually no chance to win the award

Last year was no different. "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water" were both wildly popular films that were good enough to be nominated for an Academy Award but were not in the upper echelons of the Best Picture nominees and therefore did not garner Best Director nominees.

Some will say this is unfair, movies should not be discriminated against by their popularity and I partially agree. Some of my all-time favorite movies did exceedingly well at the box office, but I understand the Academy’s logic. Movies like "Barbie," "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water" which are in some way connected to financially successful proven products or other movies, are a whole lot safer than original, more-challenging movies like "Banshees of Inisherin" or “ The Zone of Interest."

There were no assurances that Justine Triet’s legal-drama "Anatomy of a Fall" or Martin Scorsese’s 3 1/2 hour historical-epic about the Osage nation "Killers Of the Flower Moon" or even Christopher Nolan’s partially black-and-white rated R biopic "Oppenheimer" were going to make money. In fact, the "Killers of the Flower Moon" lost money at the box office.

Why is it such a bad thing when Nolan or Scorsese or Triet are rewarded for their financial risks, and, let’s face it, much heavier subject matter than that of a movie about a plastic doll?

I’m not trying to be dismissive of "Barbie," it clearly meant a lot to a great number of people, but it's not realistic to put it up against many of the Best Picture nominees. 

Regardless of what Gerwig or Robbie might say in the media, I really don’t think the pair ever feared that a film surrounding America’s favorite toy with potentially the most box-office friendly cast of 2023, a comedy/fantasy genre and a PG-13 rating was ever going to be a major flop at the box office. Fair or not that differentiates them from almost all of the other nominees in the Best Picture category.

I’ll always believe truly great movies should break through the Academy’s unspoken rules, and I’ll be the first to campaign when the Academy doesn’t allow that to happen, but this is not the way to do it.

Bobby Gorbett is a senior studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Bobby know by tweeting him @GorbettBobby.

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