Is Barbenheimer coming for the Oscars?

Barbenheimer weekend has come and gone, but don’t expect the films to fade so quickly. Thanks to the Academy Awards, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” will likely remain in the conversation through March of next year, when each film looks set to receive some recognition at the 2024 Oscars. (One might even be our Best Picture frontrunner.)

Keeping in mind it’s far too early to set any predictions in stone given many of the possible contenders haven’t even premiered, let’s take a look at what the 2024 Oscar nominations might hypothetically have in store, with a focus on how “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” could fit in. 

(Note: All nominees are listed in descending order from most to least likely to win.) 

Best Picture

  1. “Oppenheimer”
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  3. “Past Lives”
  4. “The Color Purple”
  5. “Maestro”
  6. “Dune: Part Two”
  7. “Saltburn”
  8. “Barbie”
  9. “Poor Things”
  10. “The Zone of Interest”

In 2022, a summer blockbuster became one of the year’s biggest movie phenomenons. And although it was popcorn entertainment, it was so undeniably well crafted that it earned a Best Picture nomination. The movie was “Top Gun: Maverick,” and “Barbie” is its 2023 equivalent. Greta Gerwig took what sounded like a crass commercial endeavor and made it a hilarious but thought-provoking treatise on gender roles and the moviegoing event of the year. Will the Oscars really ignore that entirely? 

Gerwig’s previous two movies, “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” were both Best Picture nominees. The biggest roadblock this time is that the Academy doesn’t often nominate comedies, let alone comedies as silly as “Barbie” is for most of its runtime. But voters may make an exception for one that has so much on its mind and struck such a nerve in the culture. And the film might have even more of a chance should studios push films like “Dune: Part Two” and “The Color Purple” due to the actors and writers strikes.

Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” has received such near-universal acclaim that, at this early stage, it looks like a frontrunner to win Best Picture. It is everything Academy voters could want: a weighty historical drama that’s relevant to today’s world and mixes technically accomplished filmmaking with impressive performances. “Dunkirk,” Nolan’s last movie based on a historical event, received eight nominations, including Best Picture. 

Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” is the other strong early contender after receiving raves at Cannes. But the movie could be in danger of losing momentum in the same way that Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” did last year

Best Director

  1. Martin Scorsese (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) 
  2. Christopher Nolan (“Oppenheimer”)
  3. Celine Song (“Past Lives”)
  4. Denis Villeneuve (“Dune: Part Two”) 
  5. Greta Gerwig (“Barbie”)

Christopher Nolan was nominated for Best Director for “Dunkirk,” so it should go without saying that he’ll be up again for “Oppenheimer.” Heck, he might even take home the gold. But Best Director doesn’t always align with Best Picture, so if “Oppenheimer” takes the top prize, perhaps voters will honor Scorsese here instead.

Greta Gerwig being nominated for “Barbie” is more uncertain considering she didn’t even get a nod for “Little Women.” But that snub generated enough backlash that voters may want to make things right this time. Plus, it could be argued that turning a doll into a successful movie was much more of a challenge than adapting a beloved novel. 

Best Actor

  1. Cillian Murphy (“Oppenheimer”)
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)
  3. Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”)
  4. Joaquin Phoenix (“Napoleon”) 
  5. Colman Domingo (“Rustin”)

“Oppenheimer” is carried almost entirely by close-ups of a tortured Cillian Murphy, and his performance has drawn such raves that it’s impossible to imagine him not being nominated. In terms of a win, his biggest competition could be Leonardo DiCaprio, as some have dubbed his performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon” the best of his career. But has it been long enough since DiCaprio’s 2016 win that the Academy will want to give him a second statue? 

Best Actress

  1. Fantasia Barrino (“The Color Purple”)
  2. Emma Stone (“Poor Things”)
  3. Carey Mulligan (“Maestro”) 
  4. Greta Lee (“Past Lives”)
  5. Natalie Portman (“May December”)

Margot Robbie delivers strong work in “Barbie,” but earning a Best Actress nod might be tough, given it’s Ryan Gosling’s Ken who has arguably the film’s central arc. For now, the category frontrunner looks to be Fantasia Barrino, who’s playing the same role in “The Color Purple” that earned Cynthia Erivo a Tony Award.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Robert Downey Jr. (“Oppenheimer”)
  2. Robert De Niro (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)
  3. Colman Domingo (“The Color Purple”)
  4. Samuel L. Jackson (“The Piano Lesson”)
  5. Ryan Gosling (“Barbie”)

The cast of “Oppenheimer” could carry this entire category but Robert Downey Jr. is earning the highest marks. Plus, the Academy loves a comeback story, and Downey, who bounced back from drug addiction and legal issues to become one of the biggest stars in the world, has one of the greatest in Hollywood history. The Academy could use this as an opportunity to honor Downey and welcome him back to dramatic acting after years in the Marvel universe. 

With “Barbie,” Ryan Gosling delivers a hilarious performance as the movie’s standout actor, but the question is whether his role is too goofy for a nomination. Then again, let’s not forget that Melissa McCarthy was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Bridesmaids,” a movie in which she defecates into a sink. So maybe it isn’t too far-fetched. 

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)
  2. Taraji P. Henson (“The Color Purple”)
  3. Da’Vine Joy Randolph (“The Holdovers”)
  4. Rosamund Pike (“Saltburn”)
  5. Emily Blunt (“Oppenheimer”)

It’s possible America Ferrera squeezes into Best Supporting Actress for “Barbie,” thanks mainly to her powerful monologue about how difficult it is to be a woman. But outside of that scene, she might not have quite enough to do in the film to be recognized. So the frontrunner remains Lily Gladstone, who has been described as one of the standouts of Scorcese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” If voters fall head over heels for “Oppenheimer,” though, Emily Blunt could ride that wave.  

Best Original Screenplay

  1. “Past Lives”
  2. “Saltburn”
  3. “Maestro”
  4. “May December”
  5. “The Holdovers”

We don’t yet know whether “Barbie” will be submitted as an original screenplay since it’s technically based on a popular toy. Either way, “Past Lives” is such an emotional gut punch that it’s the early frontrunner, especially if voters latch on to the semi-autobiographical nature of Celine Song’s script.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. “Oppenheimer”
  2. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  3. “Barbie”
  4. “The Color Purple”
  5. “Dune: Part Two”

The adapted screenplay category looks neck and neck between “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Oppenheimer,” both epic works from master filmmakers based on non-fiction books. But the Academy is likely to be so impressed that Gerwig turned a doll into a compelling movie that voters will want to somehow honor her writing accomplishments, so expect “Barbie” to make at least an appearance in one of the screenplay categories.

Best Sound

  1. “Oppenheimer”
  2. “Dune: Part Two”
  3. “Maestro”
  4. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  5. “Ferrari”

From a sound design perspective, will there be a more stunning sequence this year than the Trinity test in “Oppenheimer”? If not, add this statue to the haul for Nolan’s film. 

Best Production Design

  1. “Barbie”
  2. “Dune: Part Two”
  3. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  4. “Asteroid City”
  5. “The Color Purple”

The elaborate practical sets in “Barbie” have earned widespread praise, but “Dune: Part Two” presents a big threat, especially considering the first film won this award in 2022.

Best Visual Effects

  1. “Dune: Part Two”
  2. “The Creator”
  3. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”
  4. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”
  5. “The Little Mermaid”

Based on the trailer alone, it’s clear “Dune” once again has this statue in the bag.

Best Cinematography

  1. “Dune: Part Two”
  2. “Oppenheimer”
  3. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  4. “Poor Things”
  5. “The Color Purple”

Greig Fraser won this award for “Dune” and is likely to do so again for the sequel, though don’t totally count out Hoyte van Hoytema for “Oppenheimer.” He was previously nominated for “Dunkirk.” 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. “Maestro”
  2. “Barbie”
  3. “Dune: Part Two”
  4. “The Color Purple”
  5. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”

The Academy loves a physical (and historically accurate) transformation, so Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” should be a frontrunner here, despite the fabulous hair and makeup in “Barbie.”

Best Costume Design

  1. “Barbie”
  2. “Dune: Part Two”
  3. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  4. “The Color Purple”
  5. “Maestro”

Considering how far out of its way “Barbie” goes to show off its costumes (even displaying the names of some of them on screen), it’s in pretty good shape to win Best Costume Design.

Best Film Editing

  1. “Oppenheimer”
  2. “Dune: Part Two”
  3. “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  4. “Past Lives”
  5. “The Zone of Interest”

It’s often said that the winner of best editing goes to the film with the most editing. And that adage very much applies to “Oppenheimer,” considering it cuts between multiple time periods.

Best Original Score

  1. Ludwig Göransson (“Oppenheimer”)
  2. Hans Zimmer (“Dune: Part Two”)
  3. Robbie Robertson (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)
  4. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Killer”) 
  5. Christopher Bear and Daniel Rossen (“Past Lives”)

After winning in this category for “Black Panther,” Ludwig Göransson could take home a second Oscar for his memorable “Oppenheimer” score, which is so present throughout that it’s practically another character. 

Best Original Song

  1. “What Was I Made For?” (“Barbie”)
  2. “This Wish” (“Wish”) 
  3. TBD (“The Color Purple”)
  4. “For the First Time” (“The Little Mermaid”) 
  5. “Gonna Be You” (“80 For Brady”)

“Barbie” is likely to have a nomination here, but will it be Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” or Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken”? The former is the safer bet considering it’s more emotional, and Eilish won an Oscar for her James Bond theme. Then again, the Academy just gave this award to a silly dance number from “RRR,” so maybe voters could embrace “I’m Just Ken” as hard as Twitter has. Plus, if the hope is to keep the Oscars ratings from sinking, a song and dance number from Ryan Gosling is as good a bet as any.

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