In a surprising turn of events, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has deemed that the highly-anticipated film “Barbie” will compete in the Best Adapted Screenplay category at the 2024 Oscars rather than Best Original Screenplay.
Backlash Over Surprise Category Shift
The move came as a shock, as “Barbie” was expected to be a major awards season contender for Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s original screenplay. The film’s production company had reportedly been campaigning hard in the original screenplay category. Variety reported that the Academy’s writers branch determined that “Barbie” contains enough material based on the Mattel toy line to warrant placement in adapted screenplay.
This decision has stirred up significant controversy and backlash across social media and Hollywood. Many argue that the existing source material from the decades-old Barbie brand is slim and that Gerwig and Baumbach’s script featuring Margot Robbie is overwhelmingly original.
— Fuzzy (@fuzzyyarns) January 3, 2024
Implications for Oscar Race
This surprising categorization severely impacts the film’s chances for a screenplay win. The adapted field typically features more heavyweight competition than original screenplay.
IndieWire notes that adapted screenplay already includes frontrunners like “Dune: Part Two” and scripts from prominent directors like Sarah Polley and Edward Berger. Meanwhile, original screenplay has seen weaker offerings this year besides “Babylon” and “The Fabelmans.”
|Original Screenplay Outlook
|Adapted Screenplay Outlook
|Currently sparse with fewer standout contenders
|Typically more competitive with multiple strong candidates
|“Barbie” was likely a front runner
|Now faces steeper competition against the likes of “Dune” sequel
|Opened up a stronger path to nomination and potential win for “Barbie” creators
|Puts Gerwig and Baumbach’s chances in greater jeopardy
Gerwig was considered a likely nominee for her acclaimed directing job, but this new wrinkle endangers the film’s screenplay recognition. It is a tough blow for the “Little Women” director in a year where female filmmakers are already struggling for representation.
What Led to the Decision?
The Academy has specific criteria in place delineating adapted vs. original screenplays. The critical factor appears to be the writers branch determining that Gerwig and Baumbach’s script is based enough on preexisting Barbie intellectual property to count as adapted work.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed that producers submitted a “Movie Comparison Exhibit” to the branch chairs demonstrating what elements were preexisting Barbie IP versus original invention. But the chairs were reportedly unmoved, voting definitively on the adapted classification.
So while “Barbie” may not be directly adapting a single specific Barbie movie or product, the writers branch sees it as still drawing substantial inspiration from the 60+ years of Barbie brand history.
What Happens Now?
“Barbie” has three options to respond:
- Campaign in adapted: Compete in the tougher race despite the lower odds
- Appeal decision: Try convincing Academy leadership to overturn the ruling
- Withdraw from awards: Pull out of 2024 Oscars given diminished chances
Many entertainment journalists predict the movie will proceed campaigning in adapted screenplay rather than mounting a messy public fight over the ruling. There is likely little upside to challenging the Academy, even if the decision seems unfair to some.
The focus now shifts to how voters will receive a “Barbie” adapted script. There is curiosity over whether the film can overcome skeptics dismissing this unexpected categorization as a reach. But based on the traymendous anticipation for Gerwig’s take on the iconic IP, interest remains sky-high for the July theatrical release.
So “Barbie” continues generating buzz as one of 2024’s more unconventional and cutting-edge contenders – now with a peculiar new Oscar wrinkle adding intrigue to her pink convertible ride towards awards season. Will this latest movie makeover prove another shrewd reinvention for the indefatigable Barbie brand?
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