A lot of history was made, too. Lily Gladstone became the first Native American woman to be nominated for Best Actress for Killers of the Flower Moon, Colman Domingo became the second openly gay man to be nominated for playing an LGBTQ+ character and the first Afro-Latino to be nominated for Best Actor. Also, for the first time ever, three of the 10 Best Picture nominees were directed by women.
Sadly, one trend that continued is a lot of women were left off in some key categories, which shocked a lot of people, including us. Yes, their movies were sometimes (not always) celebrated in other categories, but there were specific, often solo nominations, where it felt wild to see them not included.
So, because we are both extremely passionate about movies, namely female representation in movies, we decided to break down why some of this year's biggest Oscar snubs sting:
Nora Dominick: Straight out of the gate: Little Women is my favorite movie of all time. I'm very much coming at this as a Greta Gerwig fan. I love Lady Bird, I love Frances Ha, I love everything she's done as an actor, writer, and director. The Greta Gerwig snub for me is rough. My initial thoughts were that, on a larger scale, that movie was such a cultural moment — as well as breaking a billion dollars. A lot of what went into that was her direction. I'm happy she got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination alongside Noah Baumbach. The script was very fun, but I think the direction of that movie is the crux of why it was so good to me.
Natasha Jokic: I think it's important that you mentioned Little Women here. I think if we see this contextually, this is the second time Greta has been nominated for Best Picture without receiving a nomination for Best Director as well. I do realize that if we look at the numbers, every Best Picture nominee can't have a Best Director nomination. Saying that, I have some qualms about Barbie, but I think the world that Greta created in it was undeniably so wonderful, colorful, and rich.
Another thing that gives me pause, as well as Greta’s personal snubs, is the history of the Oscars when it comes to the lack of female directors being nominated for Best Director.
ND: 2021 was the only year that two women were nominated for Best Director. Outside of Greta, this was a year where there were so many objectively great movies directed by women. It’s great that Justine Triet was nominated for Anatomy of a Fall, but it also begs the question: Is it time to expand that category?
NJ: This is the second year in a row that there have been criticisms about the erasure of women from the Best Directing category. Women Talking and Aftersun’s directors also hit the Best Picture list but not the Best Director. Woman King was totally snubbed. Hell, only three women have ever won the award and Justine is the eighth to be nominated. Given the accomplishments that Barbie made, both in the box office and as a cultural moment, it just makes me think, What else would you like a woman to do?
ND: America Ferrera’s entire monologue in Barbie, whether you loved it or not, is about this. How much more does Greta have to do? Lady Bird, she gets nominated for Best Director, which, I think is a phenomenal film and very well-done across the board. With Little Women, she takes a story that everybody knows and whenever I rewatch it, I'm just so impressed with how she was able to lay it out. Some of the shot structure, like the shot-for-shot recreations of, SPOILER, Beth's death in both the past and the present, that was incredible to me. And then that still didn’t warrant a nomination. To your point, now Greta goes and does Barbie, which is now different from what she's done because it's a more “commercial” movie. Her and Christopher Nolan brought people back to the theaters for "Barbenheimer." Christopher totally deserved his nomination, but how do you only have one-half of that big moment in this category?
It’s not my favorite Greta Gerwig script. Direction-wise, she subtly made Barbie as an ode to old Hollywood movies, with references to The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain, and more. The way her mind worked to pull it together made it very much a directing movie for her, in my opinion.
NJ: It's interesting that you bring up the references within Barbie to other movies, because usually industry stuff is catnip to the Oscars. I wonder if, because it's packaged in a way that's very fun, accessible, and doesn't take itself too seriously, it clashes with other things we have historically seen rewarded at the Oscars.
I can sense people are gonna say, Well, who do you think SHOULD'NT have been nominated for Best Director? For me, the bigger point is emphasizing that it's okay to see Ryan Gosling get more individual nominations than Greta Gerwig and think, this doesn't leave a great taste in my mouth.
ND: At the end of the day, this movie, for me, was Greta's showcase as a director. Hollywood is an industry and how lucrative a director she is is also part of the conversation. Personally, when I watched Barbie, I didn't come away with it being, like, That is some of Greta Gerwig's best written work. I came away with it, like, This is some of the best directed work that I think she's done.
NJ: On the note of how lucrative it was, when we talk about why there have been so few directing nominations for women in the past, the Oscars, to a certain extent, mimics the system of Hollywood — and in Hollywood, we know that female-directed and female-centered stories are often given smaller budgets and aren't given the same arsenal that projects directed by men are. What makes it sting with Barbie is that this was a case of a female movie being both critically and commercially successful, incredibly so.
ND: I long for the day I can finally say Academy Award winner Greta Gerwig. I know it will likely happen in my lifetime. But it's literally the thesis of Barbie: How much more does a woman have to do to get the same recognition as a man?
SNUB: Margot Robbie for Best Actress for Barbie in Barbie:
ND: LOL, did they miss the point of Barbie? I love Margot Robbie as an actor. She's given incredible performances before, but she has never won a major acting award. Margot is such a staple in the industry, in terms of acting as well as producing, and she still has not gotten recognized in that way. It was a movie about Barbie! And truthfully, they gave nominations to two of the supporting actors who are supporting her performance.
NJ: Margot has such a magnetic presence about her in Barbie, too, and just commands the screen. She’s a movie star.
ND: She’s a throwback, old-school movie star. I don’t think of her as a celebrity. I think of her as a movie star first and foremost. She has a long career ahead of her and I have no doubt we will see her win an Oscar someday.
NJ: In some ways, this reminds me of Leonardo DiCaprio when he wasn't nominated for Titanic. Also, similarly, we have Leonardo DiCaprio, who's a very conventionally good-looking man, who did a number of very commercial and well-beloved acting roles, but he was only eventually awarded for The Revenant — when he went into the method acting schtick that the Oscars love. Margot's sole nomination for Best Actress for I, Tonya fits the Leonardo DiCaprio-esque hypothesis, because it’s a movie where she looks less "conventionally attractive" for some of it. I saw a comment saying that the Barbie snub is almost punishing her.
ND: Remember Ryan Gosling's confused reaction when "I'm Just Ken" won at the Critics' Choice Awards and not the beautiful, sweeping Billie Eilish song? I have a feeling that might be him right now.
Even for me personally, looking at the glorious America Ferrera speech — not to say America didn't do a great job delivering it — but it was Margot receiving that speech and crying that was my favorite part of that scene.
So Barbie is nominated for Best Picture, but the standout things that it accomplished aren’t nominated solo?
NJ: Priscilla was one of my favorite movies of last year — save for The Boy and the Heron, which I think should have been nominated in more categories, but that isn’t what we’re talking about right now. At the very least, I think Priscilla should have received a nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for the work led by Cliona Furey and Jo-Ann MacNeil. The fact that Maestro was nominated over Priscilla is a shame.
Sofia Coppola has openly spoken about how low the budget was for Priscilla and that certain scenes had to be cut last-minute. The fact that Priscilla received zero nominations goes back to what we said about the Oscars mimicking the wider dynamics of Hollywood. Compare Priscilla to Elvis, which was nominated for eight awards, had four times the budget, and received this big hoopla over Austin Butler’s method acting. In my humble opinion, Priscilla is a better movie. Unequivocally. I think it's telling that a movie that questions one of America's most famous men, isn't celebratory of him in the way that Elvis was, gets totally snubbed. No Best Production Design, no Best Costume Design, no Best Adapted Screenplay, nothing.
ND: I can’t believe it didn't get hair and makeup.
NJ: If you were to show me a frame of that movie, I would be able to tell you what stage in Priscilla’s journey she is based on what her hair and makeup is at the time. It's really good visual storytelling that’s also, obviously, evocative of a real person and era.
SNUBS: Celine Song for Best Director for Past Lives AND Greta Lee for Best Actress for Nora Moon in Past Lives
ND: I watched Past Lives at the end of last year finally and it knocked me over. I, like, love those kinds of movies. In general, it is beautifully written and I’m really happy that Celine Song was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The movie is also beautifully directed by her, and Greta Lee's performance is so good.
It’s kind of what we were talking about with Barbie. When Past Lives didn’t get a directing nod and got zero acting nominations, but got the Best Picture nomination, I'm almost like, So how much of the movie did you really like, voting body? Because there are obviously technical awards, but for me, Best Picture also speaks to things that a non-film-buff would see, too — the acting, the directing, and the writing. Greta and Celine’s misses for Best Actress and Director go hand in hand with Margot and Greta. I will avenge both Gretas! Past Lives was such a beautifully told story, I loved the romance of it, I loved the characters. Getting the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay nominations without anything else feels like they just missed a large part of what also made that movie so incredible.
NJ: It’s almost like that Regina George line in Mean Girls: You agree, Past Lives is a good movie?
ND: I also think back to Parasite, where if you get over the subtitle hurdle, you find so many more great movies. We're coming off of big Oscar seasons where Parasite, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and Minari celebrated Asian identity. With the Charles Melton and Greta Lee snubs it feels like the Academy is trying to say, Okay, we did that, which isn’t right.