Gender and race – that’s the headline from the 92nd Oscar nominations, announced this morning in the brand-new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Our best films represent the questions we’re asking ourselves in any given year, about who we are and who we want to be. Over the years, the Oscar nominees have helped us confront, among many issues, changing family dynamics, the AIDS crisis and LGBTQ rights. This year’s crop, however, may be remembered as much for who wasn’t nominated as for who was.
Once again, the directors’ branch failed to include any women in its list of five nominees: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Todd Phillips (Joker), Sam Mendes (1917), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) and Bong Joon-ho (Parasite). A reminder that for the Oscars, directors nominate directors, actors nominate actors, etc., and then the entire Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes on the final winners.
So the list of who was not nominated includes, to name just three, Greta Gerwig for Little Women, Marielle Heller for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Kasi Lemmons for Harriet. Given that only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director, this means the directors now have not nominated women 455 times. The actress and producer Issa Rae, who announced the nominees alongside the actor John Cho, certainly noticed – “Congratulations to those men,” she said dryly, after reading the all-male list.
Gerwig did earn a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Little Women. Krysty Wilson-Cairns, the co-writer of 1917, earned a nod for Best Original Screenplay. It’s likely that Hildur Gudnadottir will edge out her four male competitors to win Best Score for her work on Joker, and Thelma Schoonmaker (The Irishman) may do the same in her category, Best Film Editing. As always, many women are nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hair, and – important to remember – as producers of many of the Best Picture nominees. Should any of them win on Oscar night, it would be wise to let them speak.
Now, to the second issue of this year’s Oscars: race. It was clever of the Academy to hire Rae and Cho, ensuring that the nominations announcement, at least, would not be #sowhite. Thankfully, Rae and Cho announced a handful of nominees of colour and diversity.
Though all 10 nominees in the supporting actress and actor categories are white – including frontrunners Laura Dern (Marriage Story) and Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) – Antonio Banderas and Cynthia Erivo were nominated for best actor and best actress (for Pain & Glory and Harriet, respectively), as was Bong Joon-ho, for directing Parasite. Parasite also received nods for best picture, Best International Feature (previously called Best Foreign Language Film) and some craft awards, though its actors were shut out.
Also edged out: Frozen II did not make the Best Animated Feature cut. Jennifer Lopez did not receive a nomination for Hustlers, nor did Awkwafina for The Farewell, nor Lupita Nyong’o for Us, nor Beyonce and Mary Steenburgen for their original songs for, respectively, The Lion King and Wild Rose. In a year crowded with standout male performances, there was no room for Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari), Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), Robert DeNiro (The Irishman), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes (Dolemite Is My Name) or Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems).
Canadians are also near-absent from the list. Canadian sound engineer Paul Massey earned his ninth nod for Best Sound Mixing for Ford v Ferrari (he won last year for Bohemian Rhapsody). Canadian documentary maker Sami Khan co-directed the Best Documentary Short nominee St. Louis Superman. And Montreal-based Tunisian filmmaker Meryam Joobeur earned a Best Live Action Short nomination for Brotherhood. Antigone, Canada’s submission for Best International Feature, didn’t make the cut.
The big winners are Joker – who would have suspected it would be the most-nominated film of the year, with 11? – and The Irishman and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, with 10 each. Netflix had a banner year, with 24 nominations, including its first nod for Best Documentary Feature. And Scarlett Johansson earned her first two nods ever, for JoJo Rabbit and Marriage Story. The last time someone earned two nods in one year was Cate Blanchett in 2008.
So watch on Feb. 9 for a few battles to play out. Studio films Joker and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood vs. Netflix films Marriage Story, The Two Popes and The Irishman. Films with a West Coast sensibility like Once Upon a Time… and Judy vs. East Coast – The Irishman, Joker, Bombshell, Little Women. And Marriage Story, where that West Coast/East Coast split is crucial to its plot.
The Academy has spent the last four years trying to double its female and minority membership, mainly by inviting more members from outside the U.S. Yet the organization is still 68 per cent male and 84 per cent white. Until those numbers change, the nominations slate won’t either.
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