2024 Oscars shaping up as a ‘Barbenheimer’ sequel

A long time ago — relatively recently, in this short-attention-span age — and at nearby multiplexes, the simultaneous theatrical release of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” was pretty much all anyone could talk about. This was, of course, before Travis Kelce made a friendship bracelet for someone special, before we were well-versed in SAG-AFTRA interim agreements, and before we were sobbing while rewatching “Friends.”

And now, nearly six months and three bags of bite-size Halloween candy later, we’re talking about “Barbenheimer” again. The emphasis this time isn’t on the propriety of quoting the Bhagavad Gita during sex or how “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig worked references to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Red Shoes” into what could have been an extended toy commercial. The focus has shifted to the Oscars, which are shaping up to be a follow-up to that unforgettable opening weekend.

How big will the sequel be? Let’s just say it’s bigger than “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and see where it goes from there. Or, simply put, the producers of the upcoming 96th Academy Awards are most likely already on the phone arranging for some celebrity Ken cameos in a “Barbie” dance number. (Based on “Maestro,” Bradley Cooper should be up for it.)

Or we could put on our thinking caps (fedoras, of course) and comb through the award categories to predict what will be a (equally?) incredible Oscar season for both films.


“Barbie” grossed over $1.4 billion in ticket sales while winning over the majority of critics, triggering fragile men, and sparking a thousand think pieces that sifted through the subversive ways Gerwig celebrated and critiqued its namesake toy. That is sufficient to secure a nomination. But the “Barbie” team isn’t resting on its laurels, enlisting filmmakers Todd Field and Judd Apatow, as well as playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, to moderate Q&As at recent events. “I think it’s a masterpiece,” said Kushner.

Meanwhile, “Oppenheimer” grossed nearly a billion dollars, a record for a three-hour R-rated drama about the “father of the atomic bomb.” “Oppenheimer” has the pedigree of a best picture winner thanks to the box office, the reviews, and its ambitious examination of our history that isn’t as distant as we’d like to believe. It will be difficult to overcome.

“Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” are among the nominees.


Christopher Nolan has one nomination as a director (“Dunkirk”), two nominations as a writer (“Memento” and “Inception”), and two nominations as a producer (“Inception” and “Dunkirk”). He has never won an Academy Award. That is likely to change soon, as voters will have three different categories — director, writer, and producer — to finally honor him this year.

Gerwig has never won an Academy Award, despite nominations for her work on “Lady Bird” and “Little Women.” She’ll almost certainly be nominated again as both a writer and director, with her original screenplay (see below) giving her the best chance of winning.

Gerwig and Nolan have been nominated.


The only thing that could keep Margot Robbie from being nominated is voters’ failure to recognize the degree of difficulty in what she accomplishes in the film — the comic timing, the emotional depth she brings to the character, the precise body control required to play a plastic doll. It’s a standout performance with flawless acting. It would be a heinous crime if she went unnoticed.

Robbie’s nominations


“Oppenheimer” owes much of its power to Cillian Murphy’s terrific performance as the tortured title character, just as “Barbie” would not have succeeded as spectacularly without Robbie. Murphy collaborated with Nolan on the “Dark Knight” trilogy, “Inception,” and “Dunkirk,” resulting in a fruitful collaboration that will now earn the actor his first nomination — and, potentially, the Oscar itself.

Murphy’s nominations


Emily Blunt, who plays Oppenheimer’s wife, Kitty, delivers a powerful monologue in “Barbie” in which she laments, “I’m just so tired of watching myself, and every single other woman, tie herself into knots so that people will like us.” Gerwig gives Ferrera a meatier role, while Blunt makes the “long-suffering wife” memorable. Blunt has a longer film resume, which gives her an advantage.

Blunt’s nominations


Robert Downey Jr.’s astute and varied performance as Oppenheimer’s antagonist, Adm. Lewis Strauss, serves as a second lead in the film. You could also argue for several of the film’s brilliant scientists (Benny Safdie is fantastic as Hungarian-born physicist Edward Teller), but Downey’s presence casts a long shadow.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say Ryan Gosling stole “Barbie,” his playful, spot-on performance as Ken, who questions the meaning of his existence, was a delight. Mark Ruffalo (“Poor Things”) and Robert De Niro (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) will provide stiff competition for Gosling and Downey, but the Oscar should go to one of these two.

Downey and Gosling were nominated.


Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach’s joyful, inspired take on “Barbie” will compete in original, while Nolan’s painstaking reworking of “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” will compete in adapted. Both will be considered among the favorites to win.

“Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” are among the nominees.


Hoyte van Hoytema has only one Oscar nomination to show for 15 years of unforgettable photography. His spectacular, immersive work “Oppenheimer,” which he describes as a “three-hour-long movie about faces,” will earn him another nomination and, very possibly, the award. Rodrigo Prieto, the “Barbie” cinematographer, also shot Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Voters could (and should) choose between Barbieland’s beautifully backlit world and the brooding, burnished textures of “Killers of the Flower Moon.” But that could be a stretch.

“Oppenheimer” received nominations.


“Oppenheimer” designed Los Alamos; “Barbie” designed the Dreamhouse.

“Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” are among the nominees.


Jacqueline Durran won an Oscar for her work with Gerwig on “Little Women.” She’s back in the spotlight thanks to all of the fashion packs and accessories she designed for “Barbie.” Ellen Mirojnick has a chance for “Oppenheimer” (those hats! those power suits!) but she’ll have to compete with the headwear in “Wonka,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and Napoleon’s bicorn.

“Barbie” was nominated for two awards.


Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt had never scored a film before “Barbie,” but you’d never know it from the way their music complements the film’s emotional undertow. Composer Ludwig Göransson, on the other hand, has already won an Oscar for his work on “Black Panther” and could easily win another for the beautiful melodies and disturbing energy he brought to his “Oppenheimer” score.

“Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” are among the nominees.


“Barbie” is submitting three songs, the maximum allowed — Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night,” Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For,” and Ryan Gosling’s power ballad “I’m Just Ken” — and only two can be nominated, according to academy rules.

“Barbie,” two nominations (prayers for “I’m Just Ken”)


If, as Van Hoytema claims, “Oppenheimer” is a three-hour film about faces, it’s also a three-hour film about people talking in rooms. But it goes by fast! (Your results may vary.) That is excellent editing. “Barbie” has many transitions — through worlds, tones, and textures. It should have been nominated, but so should Nick Houy’s brilliant work on “Lady Bird,” which was passed over by the academy.

“Oppenheimer” received nominations.


“Barbie” should make the cut with her wigs, Ken’s spray tan, and Weird Barbie’s Sharpie-fied makeup. And if “Oppenheimer” earns enough points for making Downey nearly unrecognizable, it might as well.

“Barbie” was nominated for two awards.


“Oppenheimer” features a small number of visual effects shots, all of which were shot in camera. “Barbie” used approximately 1,300 VFX shots, including the opening “2001: A Space Odyssey” homage.

“Oppenheimer” received nominations.


“Barbie” has a song at its core (musicals always perform well here), whereas “Oppenheimer” dials back the volume.

“Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” are among the nominees.

Los Angeles Times, 2023. Go to latimes.com. Tribune Content Agency, LLC is in charge of distribution.

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