Sorry but Barbie wasn't the biggest Oscar snub, Priscilla was

Sorry but Barbie wasn’t the biggest Oscar snub, Priscilla was

It’s enough now!

Barbie might be widely considered to be the biggest snub on the Oscar nod list, but I think it’s actually Priscilla.

Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig not getting nominated in their respective categories of Best Leading Actress and Best Director might be the talk of the town, but that energy ought to be preserved for Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, starring Cailee Spaeney.

The complete absence of Priscilla from the 2024 Oscar nomination is a dangerous omen about Hollywood’s future. This is also the case for many films that didn’t make the cut, like May December, The Iron Claw, A Thousand and One, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. It leaves the following question running around my mind: Will I be living in an IP corporate hellscape forever?

In the run-up to Barbie’s release, much was made about it being a cynical attempt to sell plastic dolls and push unrealistic body standards on little girls. As someone who was once this little girl, I doubt how much Barbie dolls and not the entire Western mainstream culture were the root of that damage; the latter feels unconvincing. However, the former, the former grabs my attention. The future of independent cinema and the wider industry is very concerning. Intellectual property offerings, like Marvel or Super Mario, are easy cash grabs for studio executives. People already love and know the characters, so there’s a built-in audience. There was particular ire for Greta Gerwig, who helmed modern classics such as Lady Bird and Little Women, for getting into bed with Mattel.

To some, like Caspar Salmon in the Guardian, it felt like what Martin Scorsese said when he made himself enemy number one of comic book bros when he came for Marvel. His comments, which he outlined in a New York Times op-ed, were framed as a petty beef. However, it wasn’t an old man refusing to move with the times. Instead, it highlighted a real concern: The ever-increasing barrier to entry into the film industry.

I cite Priscilla as one of the many films left off the nominations list because it has many similar aspects to Barbie. See, it’s also a film based on existing lore. It is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir Elvis and Me, her 1985 memoir all about her marriage to the late music superstar Elvis Presley. Looking at themes of girlhood, growing up and beauty standards, it also matches up. It also features the rising star Jacob Elordi as the big man himself.

Unlike Barbie and its $145 million budget, Priscilla didn’t have backing from a multinational corporation. Priscilla’s director, Sofia Coppola, might have got to debut the film at the high-brow Venice Film Festival, but she struggled to finance it. An illustrative example is that Sofia, a three-time Academy Award winner and nepo baby extraordinaire, had to repurpose a 2017 Cartier ad she shot to fill in the gaps when the $20 million budget ran out. Luckily for Sofia, the model driving the car around LA looked enough like the titular role actress Cailee Spaeney to make it work. When the daughter of Frances Ford Coppola cannot get enough dough to make your film, the industry has a problem! What about people who aren’t the literal spawn of The Godfather trilogy creator? How will they make movies?

Priscilla, which should definitely find itself in the Hair and Makeup category at the very least, if not in any of the big important ones, has faced criticism for feeling rushed towards the end.  However, this can definitely be brought back to the tale of haunting glamour’s relatively tiny budget.

Don’t get me wrong, Barbie is what was once missing from the cinema listings. It was a fun, big-budget summer blockbuster. It delivered the goods and should be awarded for that. Arguably, it has. After earning the status as the top box office earner of 2023, The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences gave it eight nods, making it the fourth most nominated film this year. Barbie trails behind Oppenheimer (of Barbenheimer fame), Poor Things and Killers of the Flower Moon. Other awarding bodies, like the Golden Globes, have recognised it. Along with Best Original Song for Billie Eilish’s sad summer anthem What Was I Made For, Barbie won its inaugural Cinematic and Box Office Achievement. This largely made-up award was made extra funny by all the Don Draper “that’s what the money is for” memes.

Personally, I adored Barbie. However, we do have to take a deep breath and look at the state of Hollywood today. In order for it to stay good, it can’t be consumed by suits and their goals. It must be an artist’s playground, built on respect for the medium and those who contribute to it. This means authorities like the Academy must shine a light on the indies, not films like Barbie. It must give them the credence and credibility that Barbie doesn’t need.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Barbie, Oppenheimer and Poor Things: Here are all the 2024 Oscar nominations

∙ I’m not perfect, but I am proud to be who I am’: Selena Gomez claps back at body shamers

From racism to forgettable: Here are 15 of the most poorly aged Oscar Best Picture winners

Photo credit via Barbie and Priscilla