A drama major’s thoughts on the Oscars

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The 96th Academy Awards poster. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The nominations for the 96th Academy Awards are in! And the results have created something of a stir. But before discussing this year in particular, we should revisit what the Oscars are for.

The purpose of the Oscars is “to recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts […] and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures.” In the words of UD’s Resident Costume Designer Martin Sanchez, “The Oscars are awarded to celebrate and recognize works that expand the idea of what film is.”

The eligibility and voting system is also quite complex. Firstly, for the category of Best Picture alone, many eligibility criteria must be met: required length, required screening areas, required screening times, etc.

Secondly, certain “Representation and Inclusion Standards” must be met in the cast, crew, production and/or subject matter. Despite these heavy rules and regulations, over 270 movies were presented to the Academy as eligible for Best Picture.

Every voting member of the Academy can vote for Best Picture. The other categories are voted on by the voting members of that specific branch (i.e. the members in the directors’ branch vote within the director’s category).

All voting members of the Academy vote to determine the final winner for each category. With all that in mind, the reasons for the Academy’s nominations and winners become clearer.

It was not surprising to me to see “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” and “Poor Things” all in the line-up for Best Picture alongside some other notable movies like “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “The Zone of Interest.”

Another interesting category this year for the Oscars is the Animated Film Feature. In that category, we see one of the most loved, popular and successful films of the year: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” placed in the same category as Disney/Pixar’s flop “Elemental.”

An Animated Feature can be nominated in multiple categories alongside its Live-Action compatriots. The Academy seemed to snub “Spider-Man” despite its revolutionary animation styles and superior sound designs which fit into the Oscars criteria of “excellence in the motion pictures… [and] inspir[ing the] imagination.”

Like almost everything this year, we return to “Barbie” and the revolving drama of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. This is a huge topic of debate, but I’d like to highlight a few key points. Concerning Robbie’s lack of a nomination, note that while the finesse of her control over body, face and voice was phenomenal, the Oscars also have a social agenda that they must adhere to.

I say this in light of Lily Gladstone’s nomination as Best Actress. Nothing against her performance in “Killers of Flower Moon,” but she was type-casted. It would appear that the Academy is attempting to be inclusive in their nominations through Gladstone, who is making history as the first Native American to be nominated in the actor category and the second to be nominated ever.

This is a snub against the work and precision Robbie put into her role. Following the idea of the type-casted role, Ryan Gosling was such a good fit for Ken that his acting was, of course, “sumblime!”. On what merit are Gladstone and Gosling being nominated and not Robbie or even Leonardo di Caprio (“Killers of the Flower Moon”)?

The nomination of “I’m Just Ken” along with “What Was I Made For?” is an example of the cultural impact “Barbie” created in making history. The last time a movie had two separate nominations for Original Song was “The Princess and the Frog” for “Down in New Orleans” and “Almost There.” But is “I’m Just Ken” really Oscar worthy?

Other nominations that I think are deserved are Emma Stone’s “Poor Things,” Emily Blunt in “Oppenheimer,” “The Boy and His Heron” for Best Animated Feature, “Killers of the Flower Moon” for Best Cinematography, “Barbie” and “Poor Things” for Costume Design, “Napoleon” for Production Design, and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” for Visual Effects.

These, however, are a limited selection of opinions and I’d love to hear the rest of UD’s thoughts on the Oscars this year.

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