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4 winners and 3 losers from this year’s Oscar nominations

The patriarchy is riding high for the 2024 Oscars — but not Charles Melton or the boys of Saltburn.

An image from the “Barbie” movie showing Barbie driving her car with Ken in the back seat.
The box office hit Barbie has received eight Oscar nominations, including a nod for Ryan Gosling, pictured left.
Warner Bros.

The 2024 Oscar nominations are in, and as always, all anyone can talk about are the snubs. Buzzy, highly debated audience favorites like Saltburn and May December were all but shut out in the final tally, while arty treatments of real-life subjects received Best Picture nods. The latter camp includes “great man” biopics like Oppenheimer (the leader with 13 nominations) and Maestro, as well as “banality of evil” chronicles Killers of the Flower Moon and Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama Zone of Interest.

It was a banner year for international films, with both the British Zone of Interest and French courtroom mystery Anatomy of a Fall picking up Best Picture nods and making history in the process with an additional four nominations apiece; German actress Sandra Hüller, who stars in both films, also walked away with a Best Actress nomination for the latter. (Before this year, Hüller was perhaps best known for her role in one of the best comedies you’ve never seen.) Zone of Interest’s nominations are a rebuke to critics who thought Glazer’s directorial decision not to show the horrors of the Holocaust was a cowardly one.

The rest of the field is a typical mixed bag, with several frontrunners like Killers of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone getting their much-predicted acknowledgments. There were several major shutouts, most notably for Greta Gerwig, who despite directing the year’s biggest film was passed over for a directing nod for Barbie — though Barbie itself received a whopping eight nominations in total. The irony isn’t lost on any woman paying attention.

Speaking of, here are our winners and losers of the 2024 Oscar nominations.

Winner: Oscars populism

As Oscars stats whiz Ben Zauzmer reported on X, 2024 marks the second straight year in which the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office was nominated for Best Picture. Last year, it was Top Gun: Maverick, and this year, it’s Barbie. The Oscars haven’t nominated box office winners back to back like this since the mid-1970s, when first Rocky and then Star Wars: A New Hope were up for Best Picture.

The 1970s was the era when the blockbuster was born. Starting with Jaws in 1975, and followed by successors like Rocky and Star Wars, splashy, crowd-pleasing movies drew massive crowds to theaters. They changed the business of movie-making, pushing studios, as Roger Ebert put it, “to go for the home run instead of the base hit.” They were new and they were exciting, and mass audiences and the Academy loved them — until, depending on who you’re asking, either blockbusters lost their artistry or the Academy got too snooty.

Our most recent crop of blockbusters carries an existential appeal. They are the movies that got people to come back to movie theaters after lockdown, after Marvel lost its box office luster, after streaming and theater closures and Nicole Kidman begging everyone to go to where heartbreak feels good. It makes sense that the Academy would be excited about them. But only time will tell whether they mark the beginning of a new era of movie-making, as their predecessors did, or whether they’re the last gasp of a dying business model. —Constance Grady

Winner: The patriarchy

Well, it’s official: Ken is an Oscar nominee. Ryan Gosling was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Barbie, while Barbie and her female director were shut out. (The America Ferrera nomination, seemingly for The Monologue, has people similarly puzzled.)

Greta Gerwig missed out on a Best Director nomination but is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay alongside her chronically unenthused partner, Noah Baumbach. It seems a thought the Academy was only comfortable recognizing her as a director for her debut Ladybird at the 2018 Oscars, that post-Moonlight year when everyone was congratulating themselves for celebrating “diversity.” This particular snub for a box office-breaking movie has a hint of “You just got here, young lady!” Additionally, Margot Robbie was left out of Best Actress, despite being a frontrunner throughout awards season.

Thankfully, Justine Triet scored a Best Director nomination for Anatomy of a Fall. Still, Celine Song was oddly left out, despite Past Lives earning a Best Picture nomination. And Ava DuVernay, like several Black, female directors this year, didn’t have much of a chance, despite her last-minute grassroots campaigning for Origin. It’s clear Hollywood still has a hard time appreciating women in this space.

Despite how egregious these Barbie snubs look, it’s maybe not a shock that Gosling was the safest bet when it came to Barbie’s Oscar chances. (His big number “I’m Just Ken” is also nominated for Best Original Song.) Despite the film’s attempts to underscore Ken’s unimportance, the movie arguably gave the Drive actor a lot to do while being ripped and hot. Blame it on the power of a fine, goofy man, but also on industry sexism. —Kyndall Cunningham

Loser: May December (and Netflix, again)

Although May December was one of the year’s buzziest and most debated films, the Academy showed once again it has scant love for Todd Haynes cinema. The tricky, layered film heavily based on the real-life scandal of Mary Kay Letourneau’s sexual predation of a 12-year-old boy snagged only a single nomination: for Adapted Screenplay. The only other time a Haynes film has been nominated for an Oscar, that film, Far From Heaven, was also nominated for its screenplay. It’s astonishing to look at a filmography that includes films like Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There, Carol, and now May December and realize that Haynes has yet to receive a single Oscar nod for directing.

Equally disappointing was the shutout of all three lead actors, including Natalie Portman in a role whose brilliance few people seemed to understand, and newcomer Charles Melton, in a performance so powerful most Oscar watchers felt he was a shoo-in for a Supporting Actor nomination.

May December’s snub also means Netflix has yet again likely lost its best chance for nabbing a long-elusive Oscar for Best Picture. Though the tepid Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro eked out a nod in that category (Bradley Cooper was also passed over for a directing nod), next to a towering epic like Oppenheimer, its pretensions seem even more hollow. —Aja Romano

Loser: Saltburn

Listen, nobody actually thought Saltburn would sweep the Oscars. The Times called it “the sort of embarrassment you’ll put up with for 75 minutes. But not for 127”; of the finale, Vulture said it “makes you feel a little dumb for being invested.” No amount of style (and there is a lot of it!) can make up for the fact that, as pretty much everyone who’s seen the movie agrees, it lacks the artfulness of its two most obvious influences, Brideshead Revisited and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and the “twist” ending feels cheap.

But it’s not as though the Oscars are allergic to rewarding not-great movies (Crash, Green Book?), and unlike many past winners, you can’t say Saltburn isn’t extremely fun to watch. Whether or not you’re cringing — at, say, the period blood cunnilingus, the grave-fucking, the bathtub jizz-guzzling, or perhaps at director Emerald Fennell’s allergy to subtlety — is almost beside the point. Jacob Elordi is gorgeous, Rosamund Pike is hysterical, Barry Keoghan is doing his little freak shtick. What more do the Oscars want?! If only there were an award for “Most Parties Thrown With This Theme” — well, Barbie would probably win that one. But Saltburn would come in second. And at least at the Saltburn parties, we’d get to listen to “Murder on the Dancefloor” instead of the stupid Ken song. —Rebecca Jennings

Winner: Oppenheimer

The Year of Barbenheimer concludes in a draw: Barbie may have crushed the box office, but Oppenheimer lit a fuse under the Academy, walking away with the most nominations of the night — 13 in all, including the trifecta of Best Picture, Best Director for Christopher Nolan, and Best Actor for recurring Nolan muse Cillian Murphy. The film may have elided plenty of details about the complicated life and eccentric character of the world’s foremost nuclear physicist, but not even “cry baby scientist” J. Robert Oppenheimer himself could opine about these results. No Oscar voter was ever going to resist the sheer posh spectacle of Christopher Nolan conducting an ensemble of stars in a symphony of American existential dread. —AR

Winner: Novel adaptations

Three of this year’s most nominated pictures — Poor Things, with 11 nominations, and Zone of Interest and American Fiction, with five each — are adapted from novels. They’re also all up for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Adapting a novel into a two-hour movie is an act of compression. You’ve got to pick some things to spotlight and others to discard. While Zone of Interest significantly rewrites its Martin Amis source material, Poor Things and American Fiction are aiming to be more faithful translations of their texts. They are case studies in the pleasures and perils that come with changing your medium — starting with their mutual choice to blunt their source materials’ politics.

The source for Poor Things, a 1992 novel of the same title by Alasdair Gray, is on one of its many levels an elaborate allegory for Scottish nationalism, while Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things keeps its attention strictly on gender politics. Besides the core character of Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) and her illuminating journey into the world, what Lanthimos kept from Gray is the kaleidoscopic and careening quality of his work, matching Gray’s verbal pyrotechnics with his distorting fish-eye lens and saturated, explosive color palette.

Meanwhile, Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction gentles the scathing satire of Percival Everett’s Erasure. Both film and book feature a Black literary author writing a “street” novel whose rapturous reception indicts its white audience — but while Everett makes it clear that the character white readers are lauding as an authentic depiction of Black life is a serial rapist, Jefferson keeps the novel’s contents ambiguous. Instead, Jefferson’s focus is on the family life of the protagonist, which under the lens of his camera becomes something sweeter and less abrasive than the pointedly vicious dysfunction of Everett’s book.

These are rich depictions of rich texts. They’ve given the Academy plenty to work with. —CG

Loser: The Color Purple

It’s rare that a film with an all-Black cast, a Black director, and a Black screenwriter makes it into the Oscars realm — the most notable example being 2017’s Best Picture winner, Moonlight. But at the start of its press run, the musical remake of The Color Purple seemed to have a fair shot at scoring multiple nominations, including Best Picture.

Ultimately, it received a single nod for Danielle Brooks in the Best Supporting Actress category, an objectively correct choice. (She’s arguably the best part of the film and performed the only song I could remember by the end!) Still, this big-budget remake of an iconic Hollywood film seemed destined for so much more.

Fantasia Barrino Taylor gave a genuinely good and gutting performance, on top of having the kind of awards narrative the industry (and American Idol fans) could get behind. At one time, past winner Taraji P. Henson seemed like she had a fair shot in the Best Supporting Actress slot, too. Best Adapted Screenplay was also on the table. On the other hand, it’s not that surprising that none of the new, original, admittedly lackluster songs made it into the Best Original Song category. But why deny us a televised Usher performance? —KC

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