The ballots are in, and the nominations for the 96th annual Academy Awards are final. And with their announcement early Tuesday morning comes a new year’s worth of snubs and surprises. Yet 2024 has a particular twinge of deja vu because like on a frosty January morning in 2020, Greta Gerwig was notably passed over in the Best Director category.
Indeed, the biggest movie of 2023 will go on to have the biggest snubs at the following year’s Oscars ceremony, with Barbie‘s Gerwig missing out on the Best Director shortlist and star Margot Robbie being absent in the Best Actress category, despite their film being nominated for Best Picture. The latter omission was always a strong possibility given how competitive Best Actress was this year, and with Emma Stone (Poor Things), Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon), and Carey Mulligan (Maestro) all locked in as frontrunners ( and probably in that order). There was also strong competition from the likes of Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall), who also did get in, and Greta Lee (Past Lives), who did not.
In fact, one of the biggest surprises of the morning was the unexpected nomination of Annette Bening for Nyad. That Netflix film, which otherwise went largely ignored beyond another nomination for Jodie Foster in the Best Supporting Actress category, must have some good friends in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Nonetheless, it is Gerwig’s omission from the Best Director race that is the most shocking. The Academy came under intense public criticism, including here, for ignoring Gerwig’s directorial efforts in 2020 on Little Women in favor of an all-male lineup of filmmakers. Admittedly, however, 2019 was a spectacularly competitive year dominated by landmark films. By contrast, one might say that no film dominated 2023 more than Gerwig’s Barbie—which did pick up Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a slew of technical nods—so the film’s absence from the Best Director race feels like a more pronounced slight.
With that said, the Best Director race is still an impressive lineup. Christopher Nolan is likely to win, but it was a pleasant relief to see Justine Triet nominated for her Palme d’Or winner, Anatomy of a Fall; Jonathan Glazer also got in for The Zone of Interest, joining Triet in not only unseating Gerwig but also Alexander Payne for The Holdovers and dark horse whispers of Bradley Cooper (Maestro).
As the morning wore on before the Best Director category was announced, some might have even speculated whether Martin Scorsese could actually miss considering how much Killers of the Flower Moon had been passed over in only a handful of minutes. While Scorsese’s Western epic received Best Picture, Director, and Leading Actress nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio noticeably went ignored in the Best Actor race, missing out to Colman Domingo (Rustin) who made a surprise and happy appearance alongside the obvious frontrunners of Cillian Murphy, Paul Giamatti, and Bradley Cooper. Additionally, it is nice to just see Jeffrey Wright nominated for this category for terrific work in American Fiction.
The Academy also raised eyebrows when they ignored Scorsese and co-writer Eric Roth in the Best Adapted Screenplay category where Killers missed out in favor of Glazer’s work on The Zone of Interest, which earned some last-minute groundswell of support among Academy voters (although we predicted that). After all, The Zone of Interest, like the other foreign-language film starring Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall, was able to fight its way into the Best Picture race, and at the seeming expense of The Color Purple. The musical remake was ultimately relegated to a single acting nomination: Danielle Brooks in Best Supporting Actress.
Other surprises include John Williams picking up an unanticipated Best Original Score nod for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny—likely at the expense of Daniel Pemberton’s work on Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse—and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon clocking in plenty of technical nominations. Sterling K. Brown’s American Fiction work also getting into the Best Supporting Actor race was a happy surprise as he was on the bubble. He likely beat out Willem Dafoe for Poor Things and Charles Melton for May December. The Todd Haynes movie was, in fact, almost entirely shut out beyond a single Best Original Screenplay nod.
… Also America Ferrera beat the odds set by Oscar prognosticators and got into the Best Supporting Actress category for her work in Barbie. So it seems the Academy was not cold toward Gerwig’s movie—just the woman who directed it to the cultural phenomenon and Best Picture nominee it is today.