Oscars 2023 snub Tar and Elvis: Is this the Death of the Music Biopic?

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and Todd Field’s Tár came home empty-handed at this year’s Oscars. The previously favoured genre has not managed to secure a single award in any category with either Elvis or Tár. Is this indicative of the genre being played out and tired?

The Academy at this year’s Oscars has made a firm stance against the music biopic genre, by excluding Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis and Todd Field’s Tár from winning in any category they were nominated for. Tár and Elvis, play in starkly different realms of music and film, despite the different approaches, it appears that the genre has simply stopped impressing. 

The Oscars have snubbed both music films in every category they were nominated for. Elvis and Tár were both nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best picture. Todd Field has lost out in Best Director and in Best Original Screenplay. Elvis was also snubbed in Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling as well as Best Costume Design. Two movies about music and no one is a winner, this is a clear signifier that the Academy is no longer enjoying this booming genre. 

Tar biopic

In January, the leads of both films, Austin Butler and Cate Blanchett won the Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best Actress. However, the Oscars instead honoured Brendan Fraser and Michelle Yeoh, snubbing both portrayals of musicians. Butler had been vocal about his devotion to the Elvis character, as his voice and mannerisms seem to be altered permanently in his everyday life.

Blanchett had a more subdued approach to her performance as the troubled German composer Lydia Tár, but nonetheless, both left without Hollywood’s biggest accolade. This is an especially shocking result as the portrayal of real-life people has been the trend for Best Actor winners over the last ten years.

The Oscars had even given the award to Rami Malek in 2018 for his performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, which shares the same glitzy but troubled star story as Elvis. It seems that mimicry of past icons is no longer the way to ensure an Oscars win.

This ennui with the music biopic has been rising since production companies have been pumping out production after production, following the same formula and relying on the nostalgia found in the music to gain the audience’s approval. The sheer number of these films such as Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, I Wanna Dance and many more, have been exhausting the genre of any originality. This year’s Oscars snub is perhaps the sign production companies have needed to step away from reusing real-life stories and creating more original content. 

What was once considered Oscars fodder is now an Oscars snub. The music biopic genre has been clearly outed by the Academy. It looks like not only has the Oscars changed the colour of their carpet this year but also what they are voting for.