‘Barbenheimer’ duo dominates Oscar nominations; Israeli animated short included

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ tops nominees with 13, as ‘Barbie’ snags 8; Israeli Tal Kantor’s animated ‘Letter to a Pig’ makes the cut; ‘Golda’ nominated for best makeup

Cillian Murphy plays J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan's film 'Oppenheimer.' (Universal Pictures)
Cillian Murphy plays J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan's film 'Oppenheimer.' (Universal Pictures)

After a tumultuous movie year marred by strikes and work stoppages, the US Academy Awards showered nominations Tuesday on Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic, “Oppenheimer,” which came away with a leading 13 nominations.

Nolan’s three-hour opus, viewed as the best picture frontrunner, received nods for best picture; Nolan’s direction; acting nominations for Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt; and multiple honors for the craft of the J. Robert Oppenheimer drama.

But the year’s biggest hit, “Barbie,” came away with a nominations haul notably less than its partner in Barbenheimer mania. Greta Gerwig’s feminist comedy, with more than $1.4 billion in ticket sales, was nominated for eight awards, including best picture; Ryan Gosling for best supporting actor; and two best-song candidates in “What Was I Made For” and “I’m Just Ken.”

But Gerwig was surprisingly left out of the best director field. Gerwig was nominated for best director in 2018 for her solo directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” At the time, she was just the fifth woman nominated for the award. Since then, Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) and Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) have won best director. Before those wins, Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” in 2010) was the only woman to win the Oscar’s top filmmaking honor.

Both Martin Scorsese’s Osage epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Frankenstein riff “Poor Things” were also widely celebrated. “Poor Things” landed 11 nods, while “Killers of the Moon” was nominated for 10 Oscars.

Lily Gladstone, star of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” became the first Native American nominated for best actress. For the 10th time, Scorsese was nominated for best director. Leonardo DiCaprio, though, was left out of best actor.

Ryan Gosling, left, and Margot Robbie pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Barbie’ in London, on July 12, 2023. (Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)

The 10 films nominated for best picture were: “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie,” “Poor Things,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “The Holdovers,” “Maestro,” “American Fiction,” “Past Lives,” “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest.”

Lead nominees “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie,” “Poor Things” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” made for a maximalist quartet of Oscar heavyweights. Nolan’s sprawling biopic. Gerwig’s near-musical. Scorsese’s pitch-black Western. Lanthimos’ sumptuously designed fantasy. Each utilized a wide spectrum of cinematic tools to tell big, often disturbing big-screen stories. And each — even Apple’s biggest-budgeted movie yet, “Killers of the Flower Moon” — had robust theatrical releases that saved streaming for months later.

Award-winning Israeli animator Tal Kantor, director of Ophir-winning animated short, ‘Letter to a Pig,’ in an undated photo. (Courtesy Bezalel)

There was also an Israeli representative: Tal Kantor’s “Letter to a Pig” was nominated in the short animated film category.

The 15-minute picture won the award for Best Short Film at the 2022 Ophir Awards — Israel’s version of the Oscars — marking the first time an animated short was recognized by the Israeli film community. Based on a dream Kantor, 36, had during high school, “Letter to a Pig” is a journey into Israel’s collective subconscious about the Holocaust, as seen through the eyes of a school girl.

Additionally, “Golda,” starring Helen Mirren as former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, was nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. While the movie isn’t Israeli, many of its creators are, including director Guy Nattiv.

The Associated Press notched its first Oscar nomination in the news organization’s 178-year history with “20 Days in Mariupol,” Mstyslav Chernov’s harrowing chronicle of the besieged Ukrainian city and of the last international journalists left there after the Russia invasion. It was nominated for best documentary, along with “Four Daughters,” “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” “The Eternal Memory” and “To Kill a Tiger.”

Rotem Keinan, left, and Helen Mirren, as Golda Meir, in a scene from the film “Golda.” (Bleecker Street via AP)

“20 Days” is a joint production between The Associated Press and PBS’s “Frontline.”

The nominees for best international film are: “Society of the Snow,” (Spain); “The Zone of Interest,” (United Kingdom); “The Teachers’ Lounge” (Germany); “Io Capitano” (Italy) ; “Perfect Days” (Japan).

The nominees for best animated film are: “The Boy and the Heron”; “Elemental”; “Nimona”; “Robot Dreams”; “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

Oscar season has reunited “Oppenheimer” with its summer box-office partner, “Barbie.”

Historically, blockbusters have helped fuel Oscar ratings. Though the pile-up of award shows (an after-effect of last year’s strikes) could be detrimental to the Academy Awards, the Barbenheimer presence could help lift the March 10 telecast on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel is returning as host, with the ceremony moved up an hour, to 7 p.m. Eastern.

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