“Barbie” is a box office success, as well as its praise from critics and audiences. If you follow the social media chatter and the general sentiment of most pundits, this could be a viable awards contender for Warner Bros. One category currently being debated is where Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s screenplay could compete – whether as an original or adapted screenplay. The answer lies in how the WGA ranks it and whether the Academy could or would overrule that choice.
Variety confirms that there are ongoing conversations with strategists and Warner Bros regarding where “Barbie” would attend next year’s ceremony.
On the title cards it says “Based on ‘Barbie’ from Mattel”, which is, of course, a toy company. At the same time, there have been several CGI movies and TV series featuring the fashion doll since her debut in the late 1980s (42 to be precise). This would indicate a “suitable” race. However, take the case of Pixar’s first feature “Toy Story” (1995), which chose an original script name (Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Joe Ranft). In this case, it provides a path for the original. The CGI classic features characters such as Mr. Potato Head, a Hasbro product, and other toys such as Etch A Sketch, Magic 8 Ball, and even parts of Barbie herself. Part of the Mutant Toys, which are creations of Andy’s sadistic neighbor Sid, it has one called “Legs” – which are a pair of Barbie doll legs attached to a green fishing rod.
One of the most prominent examples of existing IP products and toys competing in the original was Warner Bros’ “The Lego Movie,” based on Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s famous building blocks, though it was ultimately not nominated.
In addition, a number of biopics on historical figures were able to compete and/or win original scripts, such as “Milk” by Dustin Lance Black on the first elected gay Harvey Milk or “Darkest Hour” by Anthony McCarten on the British character Winston Churchill.
Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” starring Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett was an inspired homage to Elia Kazan’s 1951 film “A Streetcar Named Desire,” as well as Tennessee Williams’ original play. Nevertheless, it was recognized as an original work.
The WGA is one step, but the writers branch of the Academy is another.
In the past, the WGA has classified works such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, “Moonlight”, and “Whiplash” as original works. However, the Academy felt that the adapted category was the most suitable path for all three. Even alleged adapted works such as Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana,” which the WGA and the filmmakers said was loosely based on Robert Baer’s 20023 memoir “See No Evil,” were sent to the opposite category.
From a competitive standpoint, former Oscar nominees Gerwig and Baumbach competing against indie dramas like “Past Lives” (Celine Song) or dramas like “May December” (Sam Burch, Alex Mechanik) would present a better opportunity to win than facing “Barbenheimer” rival “Oppenheimer” (Christopher Nolan) or a film starring legends like “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Eric Roth and Martin Sco rsese). Plus, comedies have a better track record in the original script, with past winners like “Annie Hall,” “Juno,” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” In adapted, it would come up against more “serious” films. Some examples of losing comedies include “The Devil Wears Prada” to “The Departed” or “The Full Monty” to “LA Confidential”.
Also worth noting is the possibility of other major films coming out of 2023, such as its Warner Bros. counterpart “The Color Purple” and “Dune: Part Two.” Each film moved improves the chances of those who are released.
The debate will continue and we probably won’t get the definitive answer until the opening of the nomination vote in January, when the ballots are presented. In the meantime, the world continues to enjoy the “sublime” world of Barbie.