The 2020 Oscar nominees have been announced and boy was it a doozy. The nominations for the 92ns annual Academy Awards saw four films nominated for ten or more awards, the most since the 50th annual ceremony in 1978 when three movies were nominated for ten or more. While this could speak to one of the most competitive collections of films to date, the nominations also saw several notable snubs some of which do nothing to curb the “lack of diversity” accusations that have haunted the show over the last decade. So, with the awards still a month away let’s dive into these nominations and see who are the big winners, losers and uncalled for snubs of this year’s Oscar contenders.
Do you have a favorite film or performance that was snubbed? Which nominees were you excited or surprised to see on the list? Let me know in the comments and scroll to the end of this post to see the fill list of nominees.
As I said, this year there are four films with ten or more nominations, the most with that record since the 1978 show and maybe the most ever for double digits nods. I didn’t go much farther back than that so I might be wrong. Regardless none of these films should be a surprise and all are deserving, some more than others but all deserving, nonetheless.
Capturing the most nominations with 11 was “Joker”, somewhat of a surprise given the film’s divisive critical reception. The DC comics adaptation scored nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix which he is heavily favored to win after taking home a Golden Globe, Best Director for Todd Phillips, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score which the movie also won at the Globes, and a slew of technical awards including Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Design. While many, including myself, feel it’s a long shot for Best Picture several of these honors are very winnable especially the costume, makeup, cinematography, score and, of course, actor awards. “Joker” might not be the nights big winner, but it’s record for most nominations of the year is a positive head turner for those who still doubt the movie’s merit.
Behind “Joker” are three films that most expected to be heavy hitters in this year’s ceremony. “1917” is hot off Golden Globe wins for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director for Sam Mendes and will seek both Best Picture and Best Director again at the Oscars. It will also be seeking wins for Best Original Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score and both Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. “The Irishman”, Netflix’s monster award season contender, also has ten nominations with several coming in the acting categories. In addition to Best Picture and Best Director for Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman” also earned Best Supporting Actor nominations for both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci while Robert De Niro was snubbed…although most including me didn’t see that as too much of a shocker. “The Irishman” will also compete for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing. The final movie with ten nominations is the Golden Globe Winner for Best Screenplay and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood” which will also be competing for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director for Quentin Tarantino and Best Picture. Other nominations include Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and we’ll see if Brad Pitt can match his Golden Globe with an Oscar for supporting actor while Leonardo DiCaprio will seek his second acting Oscar as Actor in a Leading Role.
While foreign films usually find Oscar success quite difficult outside of the International Feature Film category, “Parasite” proved it was worth all those “year’s best movie” honors the industry passed out at the end of 2019…including my own. With six nominations “Parasite” becomes the second foreign film in as many years, after “Roma” in 2019, to become a legitimate and worthy contender for Best Picture while Bong Joon-ho earned a Best Director nod. The South Korean flick will also be the favorite to win for the newly renamed Best International Feature Film award while its original screenplay, production design and editing all earned it nominations as well.
Other films that earned six nominations include “Little Women”, “Marriage Story” and “Jojo Rabbit” all of which will compete for Best Picture. “Marriage Story” and “Jojo Rabbit” allowed their mutual star Scarlett Johansson a very rare accomplishment. Johansson stared in “Marriage Story” and was a supporting actress in “Jojo Rabbit” and as such received nominations in both the lead and supporting actress categories for each respective film. She’s the first woman and first actor since Cate Blanchett in 2007 to earn nominations in both a lead and supporting roll category at the same ceremony and the twelfth actor overall to receive such an honor. “Marriage Story” proved that while many in the Academy are still dead set against the relevance of Netflix to the film industry you can’t deny greatness. The drama will also compete for Best Picture and has star Adam Driver as a frontrunner beside Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor. Laura Dern, who won the Golden Globe as a supporting actress, also earned a Oscar nod and is expected to be the favorite for the award giving Marriage Story the most acting nominations of any film in the mix. “Jojo Rabbit” meanwhile adds nominations for its adapted screenplay, production design, costume design and editing to its tally. “Little Women”, in addition to Best Picture, rounds out its six nominations with two acting nods for Saoirse Ronan as a lead and Florence Pugh as a supporting actress (who was snubbed unrighteously by the Globes) as well as recognition for its adapted screenplay, costume design and score.
Other big winners include “Ford v. Ferrari” which earned four nominations including the ninth and final Best Picture spot, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” which earned three nominations, Netflix’s “The Two Popes” which earned acting nods for Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins in addition to an adapted screenplay nomination, and “Bombshell” which scored three nominations two of which are for acting and the other for makeup and hairstyling. There are a slew of one and two nomination pictures worth mentioning that will rightfully be recognized in the mix at
the ceremony. “Pain & Glory”, a Spanish language film seeking the Best International Feature Film prize, earned Antonio Banderas his first ever nomination for an Oscar as a lead actor. “Avengers: Endgame”, which became the highest grossing film of all time in 2019, earned one nomination for its visual effects. I’m absolutely thrilled to see “The Lighthouse” earn a nomination for its cinematography and while it wasn’t a good film “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” earning a Best Makeup and Hairstyling nomination feels very appropriate. Tom Hanks earned a very deserving Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of Mr. Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” while Kathy Bates earned the only nomination for “Richard Jewell” as a supporting actress. Cynthia Erivo is in the mix for best actress for her role in “Harriet” as is likely eventual winner and Golden Globe victor Renee Zellweger for “Judy”. The Best Animated Feature Film category is much different than it was at the Globes with Globe nominees “Toy Story 4” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and Globe winner “Missing Link” joined by Netflix’s “Klaus” and “I Lost My Body” further adding relevance to Netflix’s Oscar credibility. “The Lion King” remake, which was among the Globe’s nominees for Best Animated Film, received a single nomination for visual effects.
There were some huge snubs from this year’s award ceremony, many of which disappointed me like few prior years especially given the hype and credibility surrounding many of those left out of the mix. I’m going to start with the elephant in the room, one that I’m sure a lot of people are sick and tired of hearing about…the lack of diversity in these nominations. Now it’s not like there isn’t some diversity in the nominees. One of the frontrunners for Best Picture is a South Korean film with a South Korean director, himself nominated for his direction and screenplay. Cynthia Erivo, a black actress, earned a nomination for playing Harriet Tubman. Spaniard Antonio Banderas is also nominated as an actor for the first time. But otherwise there’s really not a lot of diversity in this year’s mix and there should be. Not just because we want it but because there was legitimate talent that deserved it.
I need to say before I progress, a lot of what I might delve into going forward might be considered controversial or repetitive compared to others in the business, but I’m going to say what I feel needs to be said because, we’ll, it’s my blog. It’s what I do. Anyways I don’t believe in token nominees. If someone is going to be nominated for an award, they should deserve it for their merits not their gender, race or any other such factor. But the Academy snubbed some very worthy names in this year’s lineup, and I can’t ignore it. The most glaring misfire right off the bat is leaving out Awkwafina. Awkwafina won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy and became only the third actress in the past two decades to be snubbed at the Oscars. But as an Asian woman and arguably the second-best single performance by a woman in 2019 aside from Renee Zellweger who redefined herself as a dramatic actress seporate from her more traditional comedic persona…how was she left out? Her performance in “The Farewell” far surpasses both Charlize Theron and Cynthia Erivo in their respective movies. That’s not to take away and credit to those ladies, and yes I’m contradicting myself by saying Erivo, the only black nominee, should be replaced with Awkwafina…but it’s true. Neither of these ladies were more impressive that Awkwafina. It’s even more depressing that “The Farewell” didn’t receive ANY nominations as all…not for original screenplay or for Director for Lulu Wang. This was a genuine quality Asian-centered film that provided a perfect opportunity for the Academy to fully embrace diversity in its picks with a movie and cast that actually earned the nominations, but they passed it over. This to me is an unforgivable oversight given how Awkwafina’s performance compared to some of the competition.
But Awkwafina wasn’t the only one snubbed. While I commend Cynthia Erivo for being the best thing about “Harriet” the fact that Lupita Nyong’o, who turned in a spectacular duel performance in “Us”, was left out feels criminal. Then you go to the supporting actress category and there are two clear missing pieces, Jennifer Lopez and Ana de Armas. Both would have made for a much more interesting, and diverse, supporting actress category possibly in place of Kathy Bates, whose inclusion honestly feels really random given “Richard Jewell’s” irrelevance, or even replacing Margot Robbie or Scarlet Johansson. Lopez’s performance has had awards buzz for months and Ana de Armas feels like a victim of the Academy’s strange refusal to include “Knives Out” in the show. These women were all opportunities to not only include strong and deserving females in the mix but also ones with diverse backgrounds who truly deserved to be among the potential honorees. These wouldn’t have been just some token nominees. They actually deserved it and, in many cases, deserved it more than those who were actually nominated. Instead only one woman in either acting category is a non-white woman and it’s not even the best performance by a member of a minority group in 2019.
It’s no better for the men with Antonio Banderas being the only non-white nominee. But honestly with the men there are actually three white actors who feel completely left out
of the mix. The first is a big one, Taron Egerton who somehow failed to translate his Golden Globe win for “Rocketman” as a lead actor in a musical or comedy film into a nomination for an Oscar. Granted his exclusion probably allowed for Banderas to be in the mix so there’s that. Anyways with both Egerton and Awkwafina out of their respective categories this is the first time since 2008 that the winners of both lead actor awards for musical or comedy at the Globes were snubbed at that year’s Oscar ceremony (Sally Hawkins and Colin Ferrell were the snubs back then). Daniel Craig feels like another unfortunate victim of the Academy’s strange decision to exclude “Knives Out”. The mystery whodunit only received one nomination, for Best Original Screenplay, which seems like a huge miss considering the hype and respect the movie has earned over the past two and a half months. Finally, another major missing leading man is Adam Sandler whose career-best performance in “Uncut Gems” was somehow ignored by the voters. Yeah, Sandler has a bad track record, but this performance completely redefined him as a force to be reckoned with if he chooses the right project. His inclusion was deserved over almost half of the nominees in the mix even in a crowded field of talented performers.
I can’t move on without addressing one of the most controversial snubs of these Oscars, Greta Gerwig. Gerwig is a very talented director and was THE leading lady for the director category going into the nominations. A lot of people have been furious about her exclusion for the Best Director category and I get it. I love her work. “Lady Bird” and
“Little Women” are both among the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in my three years doing this blog. But with respect to the five men who are in the category, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes and Todd Phillips, they all really do deserve to be there. This was a crowded category. If there was a sixth, I believe Gerwig would have been that sixth. But I think the problem here isn’t so much her exclusion…it’s the fact that there’s such a small pool of women with projects worthy enough to get into this show that having only Lulu Wang and Gerwig as true snubs for this category is in itself a shame. More women should be handed the reins to bigger, more complex projects and when those projects come to life they should be respected and honored if they’re good enough. “Little Women” got six deserving nominations. Should it have a seventh, yes but I’d argue that the five films led by the five directors in the category were all better than “Little Women” which to me means that they all deserve to be ahead of Gerwig. I think the solution here isn’t just to have a woman there for the sake of having a woman…let’s start giving women more chances to lead big, artistic films. That’s the change we need. Let’s make the Academy have no choice but to respect them by giving more female filmmakers their chance to shine. Either that or increase the director category which I would honestly not mind…why not six? Hell we already have nine best picture nominees.
Finally, two snubs that I’m totally okay with…“Frozen II” and Beyoncé. I’m not disappointing that Beyoncé wasn’t nominated for Best Original Song. “Spirit”, feature in “The Lion King”, felt like an Oscar bait song to begin with and was part of what I believe is one of the worst movies of 2019. If “Cats” can’t get a nomination for a decent song because the movie was so bad, neither should “The Lion King”…maybe it just wasn’t a year for cat movies come to think of it. While “Spirit” itself isn’t a bad song, when compared to the pool of contenders that includes “Frozen II’s” “Into the Unknown”, “Harriets” superior anthem “Stand Up”, “Rocketman’s” Golden Globe winning “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”, “Toy Story 4’s” “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away”, and the inspiring “I’m Standing With You” which is quite literally the only tolerable thing from the preachy “Breakthrough” it’s easy to understand why “Spirit” being excluded isn’t only proper, it might be the bravest thing that the Academy has done with this year’s nominations…and in a year where they denied proper diversity which was a pretty ballsy move in itself. Denying Beyoncé a chance to perform at your show is certainly one interesting and controversial way to say it’s about the song not the artist. And while “Frozen II” got a nomination in that original song category that’s all the animated sequel gets. While I enjoyed “Frozen II” it’s not the best animated feature from 2019 and it doesn’t really deserve to be especially given the competition making it’s surprising snub from the show nothing I’ll be crying about anytime soon.
The nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards:
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Best Animated Feature Film
Best International Feature Film
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Production Design
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Documentary Feature
Best Documentary Short Subject
Best Animated Short Film