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'Barbie' receives 8 Oscar nominations, but was that Kenough?

Ryan Gosling received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his performance as Ken, but Margot Robbie did not receive a lead actress nomination for her role in <strong></strong><em>Barbie.</em> Greta Gerwig was overlooked for best director. <a href="https://www.npr.org/2024/01/23/1226287545/oscar-nominations-oppenheimer-surprises-snubs">Read more on the nominations here.</a>
Warner Bros. Pictures
Ryan Gosling received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his performance as Ken, but Margot Robbie did not receive a lead actress nomination for her role in Barbie. Greta Gerwig was overlooked for best director. Read more on the nominations here.

Wags on social media were quick to joke: It was just like the plot of the Barbie movie.

A pair of charismatic, smart, girl-power entertainment figures – responsible for the only billion dollar movie solely directed by a woman – are up for the biggest prize in the industry. And one of the biggest nominations goes to ... Ken?

To be clear, Barbie received eight Oscar nominations on Tuesday morning, including for Best Picture. Ryan Gosling was nominated for best supporting actor. America Ferrera, for best supporting actress. Barbie was also nominated for best adapted screenplay, Costume Design and Production Design.

But director Greta Gerwig was overlooked in favor of Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest), Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things) Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer) and Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon.) One female director was nominated — Justine Triet helmed the acclaimed French courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Fall, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

As for Barbie herself? The actress who carried the movie, Margot Robbie was overlooked in favor of Annette Bening (Nyad), Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon), Sandra Hüller, (Anatomy of a Fall), Carey Mulligan (Maestro) and Emma Stone (Poor Things.)

In a statement, Ryan Gosling said, "There is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally-celebrated film."

Now, it should be added that Gerwig and Robbie were nominated — just not for best director and best actress. Gerwig got a nod for best adapted screenplay for the film, which she co-wrote with Noah Baumbach. And Robbie's work as executive producer, for which she is up for Best Picture, included convincing Mattel to take real risks in how the character and the company was portrayed.

Director/writer Greta Gerwig and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto on the set of <em>Barbie.</em>
Dale Robinette / Warner Bros. Pictures
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Warner Bros. Pictures
Director/writer Greta Gerwig and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto on the set of Barbie.

"I would have loved to see Gerwig and Robbie nominated for directing and performance, but I'm glad they got other nominations," says NPR's Linda Holmes, host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. "People tend to talk about the screenplay nomination Gerwig earned with Noah Baumbach as though it's inferior to a directing nomination, but is it, really? And Robbie was nominated as a producer when the film got a nod for Best Picture, and given what I've heard about the fact that her producing contributions were really active, that's a real nomination, too."

"It's complicated," Holmes continues, "because people think of movies as directors' projects, so how can you be nominated for best picture and not best director? But with the math being the way it is now, if you have 10 best picture nominees [and only five directing nominees], you're going to have a bunch of directors not nominated. Gerwig wasn't nominated in that category, but neither was Bradley Cooper. Neither was Alexander Payne. Neither was Cord Jefferson. The academy was never not going to nominate Christopher Nolan or Scorsese. If Gerwig had been nominated, it probably would have been Justine Triet who wasn't, and that would have been a shame, too."

At least for the Academy voters, Barbie is certainly Kenough.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.