At Z Movies

Oscar, Oscar: Here’s Looking at You, Kid!

The cast of Barbie with director Greta Gerwig sporting a Barbie-doll pink pantsuit. Ryan Gosling (far left) is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. To his left is America Ferrara, nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her fierce feminist manifesto. (Courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA – In a stiffly contentious presidential election year, the problems of a few very fortunate folks in competition over a golden, gender-neutral statuette don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. That said, the 96th Academy Awards contest is proving to be a battle of the sexes, and the sexless, as Barbie takes center stage in the Oscar-disenfranchised spotlight.

Barbie, the iconic 64-year-old plaything of influencers from Boomers to Gen X, Y, and Z, has singularly generated a firestorm of sexist backlash. Crying foul over the shut-out of director Greta Gerwig and her Barbie incarnate Margot Robbie, the feminist Furiosa battle cry to arms – and legs that go on for a mile – has taken to the streets of Hollywood. How ironic that a film based upon a character eternally indicted for overt sexual stereotyping should pivot to an emblem of modern female empowerment rivaling Wonder Woman!

Oppenheimer dominates the race for 2024 Oscars, led by Robert Downey, Jr., (left), shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor; most-likely-to-win director Christopher Nolan; and Cillian Murphy, leading contender for Best Actor. (Courtesy image)

Can this 21st-century hero of fashion victimhood prevail over the ultimate paradigm of 20th-century misogyny, science, and the military in Oppenheimer? The American Film Institute named Barbie one of the year’s top ten films amid stiff competition. Oppenheimer is inarguably an outstanding film achievement. Can the original material girl compete against the father of the atomic age? Given that Vegas oddsmakers are predicting an Oppenheimer juggernaut come March 10, the chances of an Argo effect in 2024 seem slight. But not a long shot.

The Argo effect refers to the apparent Oscar voters rallying in support of Ben Affleck, who produced, directed, and starred in the 2012 film depicting the daring rescue of the Americans safeguarded at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis of the 1979 revolution. Affleck was not nominated for Best Director, but Argo won Best Picture. Argo also won for Adapted Screenplay.

Will Barbie steal the Oscar from frontrunner Oppenheimer? Remember 2017 when there was a switcheroo? LaLa Land was inadvertently named Best Picture versus the actual winner, Moonlight! (Courtesy photo)

Argo prevailed over The Life of Pi, Spielberg’s eponymous Lincoln, fan-favorite Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, and Quentin Tarantino’s chef d’ouvre Django Unchained. None of the last three films received nominations for achievement in directing. It’s an encore case of the best films directing themselves and the best picture not having the best director. Perhaps the Academy should consider expanding the Best Director category in addition to the recent decision to add a new category for Best Casting in 2026.

Will Barbie Argo Oppenheimer? The magic eight ball says…..”Cannot predict now. Ask again later.” At Z MovieZ counters…”Without a doubt. It is decidedly so. Never underestimate the power of women scorned.”

Oscar prognosticators will argue that Argo wasn’t entirely the little underdog that could. Argo earned 54 nominations in the 2012 film award season. It garnered 19 awards including wins for Best Picture and Best Director from the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards, and BAFTA, Best Film from the Producers Guild, and Outstanding Achievement from the Director’s Guild. Barbie isn’t exactly in Oppenheimer’s league with overall wins to date (30), but it has demonstrated Argomentum, tying Christopher Nolan’s epic biopic with 51 noms. Barbie also out-performed Oppenheimer with nine Golden Globes versus Opp’s five.

Greta Gerwig, director of Barbie receiving the Director’s Award from Sheila Johnson at the Middleburg Film Festival. Will Oppenheimer stop the steal? (Photo Kelly MacConomy)

The color of money used to tip the scale come awards season. Boffo box office largess continues to hold sway, but movies taking home the top prize of late have been indie and streaming productions such as Coda, Nomadland, and last year’s sleeper sweeper Everything Everywhere All at Once. Still… better think pink! The can-do-it-all gal with the pink Malibu beach house and matching Corvette grossed $1,435,879,337. That’s ten numbers, earning it the titles of top-grossing film of the year and the highest of all time for a female director.

Reaching out to a member of both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG/AFTRA), At Z MovieZ was told, “…it’s important to remember that the voting method the Academy uses to determine Best Picture makes the award more like ‘Most Well-Liked Picture’ vs what the most amount of people think is the actual best movie.” Coming from ground zero of popularity contests, it’s not shocking that Hollywood determines the ultimate cinematic high five like a cross between Prom Queen and a presidential race.

Don’t worry about Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie not being nominated. They are both producers of Barbie. They both have a shot at that coveted little golden Ken. If Gerwig isn’t a popularity tipping point, Robbie assuredly is.

Did you know that there’s an Oscar carved onto the Washington National Cathedral? It celebrates the 1985 Best Documentary Short win for The Stone Carvers, spotlighting the artistry of Vincent Palumbo and Roger Morigi. Alexandria’s late great John Hiller took home a gold statuette for his camerawork. (Photo: Washington National Cathedral)

For one night only, this March 10, cast off your fears and tears. Play dress up. Pop some corn. Or that Champagne cork. Rag on the costly couture threads. Come on… we’re all wondering what Timothé Chalamet won’t be wearing. Cheer on the popular vote. The People’s Choice. Let’s make girls power- and Barbie – great again!

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Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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