Does the 2024 Oscars Represent History’s Most Inclusive Lineup of Best Picture Nominees?

On Oscar nomination day in January, the narrative that grabbed all the attention had to do with “Barbie,” the year’s top-grossing film and a cultural phenomenon for the ages. It received eight nominations, including one for Margot Robbie for producing and a screenwriting nod for Greta Gerwig and her spouse, Noah Baumbach.

But Robbie wasn’t nominated for Best Actress and Gerwig was passed over for Best Director, categories in which they were thought to be shoo-ins.

Were the Robbie/Gerwig slights a bummer? Sure they were. But for anyone unfamiliar with the Oscar nominating process, it’s a matter of numbers and ranked placement that often breaks a few hearts in the process. And it is
possible that this story overshadowed a possibly larger, more significant one: that this could be the most inclusive, exciting, unconventional, big-and-small-budgeted Best Picture lineup in the Oscars’ 96-year history.

A quick survey of this year’s Best Picture lineup unveils stories about the Black experience (“American Fiction”), the Native American experience (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) and the Asian and Asian-American experience (“Past Lives”). It
includes movies in which a character’s LGBTQ+ status is not an immediate reason for tragedy (“American Fiction,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Maestro,” “Poor Things”). And it contains stories of women exploring autonomy and self-worth in worlds—that can be interpreted as both real and unreal—dominated by men (“Barbie” and “Poor Things”).

And even the more traditional Oscar-sounding films in the mix are not wholly conventional: “The Holdovers” dares its audiences to luxuriate in a 1970s-mood character drama and contains a sympathetic portrayal of a grieving, working-
class Black woman as well as an adult and teen struggling with depression. “The Zone of Interest” deviates wildly from its source material to create an even more demanding, purposefully distanced look at the seemingly idyllic life of a Nazi
family that lives just outside the wall of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where the father oversees the camp’s atrocities. (If that’s not timely in 2024, nothing is.)

And even though “Oppenheimer” is a biopic by no less a powerhouse than Christopher Nolan, it was a massive gamble that could have backfired spectacularly if it didn’t connect with audiences. It illustrates thorny, unheroic human weakness, while its techniques and visuals are not presented for easy digestibility.

Academy Award

A quick survey of Twitter will tell you that opinions differ wildly on all of these films. The gnarly discourse sometimes yields a few salient points, chiefly that cinema still needs to tell all of these stories from even more uniquely personal and diverse points of view. But since the 2009 expansion of the Best Picture nominees, which—ironically enough—was sparked by the sting of Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” not making the Best Picture cut that year, one would be hard-pressed to find a lineup so diverse and so illustrative of the filmmakers’ passions.

Even the snob factor is greatly reduced for the second year in a row: After 2022’s two top international grossers, “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun:
Maverick,” made the Best Picture cut, both “Barbie” (2023’s champ) and “Oppenheimer” (its third-place grosser) are there. And history will show that there were definitely not as many cosplay Mavericks and Na’vi in attendance at theaters in 2022 as there were Oppys and Barbies (and Kens) in 2023.

Oscar debates and gripes are all part of the fun and why everyone always comes back for more. But as “Steel Magnolias”’ Truvy Jones once said, why don’t we just focus on the joy of the situation? One need only refer to Dua Lipa’s “Barbie” anthem “Dance the Night” (which the Academy overlooked despite it being perhaps the most ubiquitous pop song of 2023) for the right frame of mind before everyone gets back to the hard work of stomping out injustices. This resonance will read loud and clear on that red carpet on March 10: “Even when the tears are flowin’ like diamonds on my face/I’ll still keep the party goin’, not one hair out of place.”

This story first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read more of the issue here.

Down to the Wire, TheWrap Magazine - February 20, 2024
Illustration by Rui Ricardo for TheWrap

Illustration by Rui Ricardo for TheWrap

Barbie, Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon

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