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Oppenheimer and the Oscar’s all-or-nothing culture problem

The gilded Oscar statue.
Martin Vorel
The gilded Oscar statue.

“Oppenheimer,” the World War II drama directed by Christopher Nolan, swept the Oscars, winning a demonstrative seven awards. This is three more than second place, “Poor Things” and six more than the highest-grossing movie of 2023, “Barbie”.

Oppenheimer was well received for its actors’ great performances and dramatization of the mentally ill World War II scientist Julias Robert Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy. 

Recently, winning seven Academy Awards is not unusual. There is usually one movie that ‘sweeps’ every year; in 2023 it was “Everything Everywhere All at Once” with seven and in 2022 it was “Dune” with six. 

The Academy Awards before this paint a very different picture. In 2021, “Nomadland” had only one more win than the second-highest winning movies, which is a remarkable six-way tie. In 2020, “Parasite” had the most with four awards, but is only two away from action flick “Ford v Ferrari” or psychological thriller “Joker.” In 2019, only four movies won multiple awards, but three won three and the most award-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody,” won four. 

The Academy Awards have become very polarized recently, with one movie winning so much more than the rest. For the sake of competition, this is not a good direction to go in. Does “Oppenheimer” really deserve seven awards? It retold and dramatized a World War II story like hundreds of movies before it. It didn’t lead to a surge in toy sales, or tell a native story never told, native stories, that Oppenheimer itself ignored

Oppenheimer was not a bad movie, but it is not worthy of seven times the awards of the highest-grossing film in 2023. The Oscars awarded to “Oppenheimer” should have been assigned like this:

  • Best Picture- Greta Gerwig- “Barbie” 

An instant classic, this film tackles ideas of gender inequality in a way that is thought-provoking and nuanced, yet still delivers a great family film that can be watched over and over.

  • Best Director- Martin Scorsese- “Killers of the Flower Moon”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of the greatest movies of 2023, the actors chosen, the editing and the choices made to deviate this film from the book it is adapting are all signs of a great director at the helm.

  • Best Actor- Cillian Murphy- “Oppenheimer” as Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy is a phenomenal actor who managed to embody an incredibly unique character from America’s past.

  • Best Supporting Actor- Ryan Gosling- “Barbie” as Ken

Ryan Gosling’s Ken and lead Margot Robbie’s Barbie are the best protagonist duo of 2023. They play off of each other very well, and the movie would not have been the same without Ryan Gosling’s performance.

  • Best Original Score- Ludwig Göransson- “Oppenheimer” 

The music throughout “Oppenheimer” adds so much to the film, and Ludwig Göransson is one of the most accomplished composers in recent memory.

  • Best Cinematography- Rodrigo Prieto- “Killers of the Flower Moon” 

The cinematography of “Killers of the Flower Moon” should have been given more accolades: the way shots were filmed, the camera angles and the colors of different scenes, are all thanks to Rodrigo Prieto’s research into film color.

  • Best Film editing- Jennifer Lame- “Oppenheimer” 

This film skips around “Oppenheimer’s” saga from 1949-1963, and the editing required to make each period in time feel different and letting the reader understand what is happening is an incredible feat of editing by Jennifer Lame.

This is a more fair spread of awards, giving each of these movies accolades for the elements that set them apart. Presenting Oppenheimer with all of these awards means that “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Barbie” don’t get their time in the sun, even though they are amazing films that did something new well.


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Luke Roberson
Luke Roberson, Copy Editor & Howler Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Luke Roberson and I'm a senior.  I was born in Texas just outside of Dallas. I moved here in third grade. I really like punk rock and scaw. I like to watch the NFL, my favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys. I play a lot of board games and I do a lot of writing. I like fantasy books, lord of the Rings, I've been in the newspaper for 3 years and I really enjoy it. I'm happy to be able to join the Howler for my final year!  

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