Months of galas, grumbling, and predictions later, they’re finally here: The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced Monday morning by John Cho and Issa Rae, who were up before dawn Pacific time to stoke our rage (“congratulations to these men”) and fuel our triumph (unironic congratulations to Rian Johnson and Bong Joon-ho!). The particulars change, but the roller-coaster of snubs and surprises remain eternal. Intrepid bloggers Miles Surrey and Alison Herman break down this latest round:
We live in an uncaring universe ruled by chaos and vulnerable to the whims of psychopaths. Such is the moral of Joker, the Golden Lion–winning origin story starring Joaquin Phoenix, as well as the moral of the runaway awards success of Joker. Todd Phillips’s film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, more than any other film in competition—including the one by Phillips’s clear inspiration, Martin Scorsese. Phoenix’s performance features the kind of oddball intensity and physical commitment the actor is known for, and it’s standard Oscars catnip. But nods for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, technical achievements like Best Sound Mixing, and even Best Picture suggest the possibility, if not the likelihood, of an all-out sweep. Such is the fitting conclusion of superhero fiction’s all-out dominance of popular culture, and the beginning of another month or so of pearl-clutching #Discourse. Before that happens, let’s get this straight: Joker isn’t bad because it’s incel propaganda; it’s bad because it’s a formulaic, fake-deep, thematically incoherent case of prestige by numbers. On the other hand, that sure sounds like an Oscar movie to me! —Alison Herman
The 2020 Oscars were shaping up to be a good ceremony for the dads of the world, with front-runners like 1917 and The Irishman checking the usual marks of Dad Cinema (dads love their war and gangster flicks!). But even Dad Movies on the fringes of the Oscars race were represented in the nominations, such as Ford v Ferrari, arguably the Most Dad-Worthy Blockbuster of the year.
With four nominations—including Best Picture—the inclusion of Ford v Ferrari is a win for dads everywhere, who ought to celebrate by popping in their favorite Ken Burns documentary tonight. Dad Movies can have a little Oscars hype, as a treat. —Surrey
Loser: Directors’ Branch
It would almost be easier if Little Women had simply been snubbed across the board, creating a simple, if aggravating, narrative of a story about girlhood ignored by a body that largely hasn’t experienced that tender, emotional phase of life. But Greta Gerwig’s second feature actually fared pretty well, earning well-deserved recognition for its performances, score, costume design, and even its Gerwig-adapted screenplay. This makes Gerwig’s exclusion from the Best Director slate all the more baffling. The Academy is not a monolith and does not make its decisions in unison, but still, how can you love all those elements of the film and not recognize the person primarily responsible for putting them together? Academy: Ya done goofed and gave us yet another slate of dudes. —Herman
Loser: The Farewell
For most of the awards season, The Farewell was on the outside looking in, though a promising showing at the Golden Globes (featuring a Best Actress—Musical or Comedy win for Awkwafina) had me feeling a little optimistic that the film could sneak into a few Oscars categories. (The absolute dream being a Zhao Shuzhen Best Supporting Actress nod.)
Unfortunately, The Farewell was completely shut out by the Academy; even Awkwafina couldn’t land a nomination after her Globes triumph. It’s a tough look, especially in a year when there’s been increasing anxiety that films helmed by women and people of color would be excluded from major Oscars categories—just look at the BAFTAs’ all-white acting nominees! Oscars representation shouldn’t have to fall entirely on Parasite’s shoulders. —Surrey
Winner: Florence Pugh
In the past couple of years, Florence Pugh has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most exciting young stars, putting together an impressive and versatile body of work that includes a wrestling biopic (Fighting With My Family), a small-screen le Carré adaptation (The Little Drummer Girl), a period piece (Outlaw King), a Swedish horror film (Midsommar), and coming later this year, a Marvel movie (Black Widow). For someone with Pugh’s talents, an Oscar nomination seemed like a matter of when, not if.
And though I’d argue Midsommar was her most impressive performance of 2019—the Oscars always sleep on horror!—it was her supporting turn as Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women that netted the actress her first Oscar nomination. Pugh is in a competitive category that includes Golden Globe winner Laura Dern (Marriage Story)—the presumed front-runner going into February’s festivities—but for someone who wouldn’t have been on many radars even three years ago, Pugh’s rapid ascension is an accomplishment in and of itself. Don’t be surprised if you see her singled out by the Academy a lot in the 2020s. —Miles Surrey
Loser (in This One Specific and Highly Limited Instance): Beyoncé
Please don’t come for me, Beyhive: In the grand scheme of things, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an undisputed winner. In the race for the 2020 Academy Award for Best Original Song, however, Beyoncé’s “Spirit” from The Lion King was shut out entirely just more than a week after losing the (much more celebrity-oriented) Golden Globe, putting the track on the same level as Taylor Swift’s treacly offering from Cats. That’s an undeniably tough look, and I’m sure Beyoncé slightly furrowed her brow before moving on to the 10,000 better things she has to do today. The true loss is for the Academy, which turned down the opportunity to have the biggest star in the world attract viewers to its flailing broadcast. Congratulations to “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman, which is now running basically uncontested! —Herman
Loser: Taron Egerton
There’s always an element of an Oscars race that comes down to campaigning—an actor/writer/director trying to curry favor with prospective awards body voters by putting on the charm offensive. Egerton has reportedly been campaigning hard to make sure his lead performance in Rocketman wouldn’t go unnoticed—and his persistence was rewarded at the Globes with a win for Best Actor–Musical or Comedy.
But whether it was because the Best Actor category was so ridiculously stacked or because Academy voters were wary of the surface similarities between his work and Rami Malek’s in Bohemian Rhapsody, Egerton wasn’t able to land a nomination on Monday, leaving Rocketman with only one chance at Oscars glory next month (for Best Original Song). As someone who hates performative displays of ass-kissing, well, you hate to see it. —Surrey
Loser: Local Bias
In a New York magazine profile from last October, Parasite director Bong Joon-ho iconically dismissed the Oscars as “not an international film festival” and “very local.” The members of the Academy apparently did not take offense, nominating Parasite for not just (newly renamed) Best International Feature, but also Best Picture, Film Editing, Production Design, and Original Screenplay, and nominating Bong up for Best Director. Parasite’s strong showing is a heartening acknowledgement of its unqualified excellence and a vindication of Joon-ho’s season-long campaign for U.S. audiences to “overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles.” Along with Antonio Banderas’s nomination for Best Actor in Pedro Almodóvar’s Spanish-language Pain and Glory and the nomination for Macedonia’s Honeyland for Best Documentary Feature, Parasite’s success also builds on the domino effect of the Academy’s deliberate recruitment of international members, last seen in 2019’s nomination of Pawel Pawlikowski for his direction of Cold War. Lord knows the Oscars still have plenty of blind spots, but at least this one is getting smaller. —Herman
Loser: Jennifer Lopez
This year, we were blessed with Jennifer Lopez’s extended pole dance to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” the peak of Lorene Scafaria’s delightful crime romp Hustlers. To reiterate just how preposterous a feat the routine was, Lopez released a YouTube breakdown condensing months of training and practice into 15 minutes of vicarious sweating. And to get her face even more out there than it already was, Lopez closed a Versace fashion show in the iconic green dress that launched 10 trillion Google Image searches, on top of signing up for the Super Bowl halftime show. After all that, the Academy had the gall—the ingratitude—to snub her turn as Ramona Vega, the insult on top of the injury that was ignoring Hustlers across the board. (It also bears noting that the resulting Supporting Actress field is now entirely white.) Actors’ branch, I will not be coming into your fur. —Herman
Loser: Adam Sandler
The Sandman was boxed out of a highly competitive Best Actor race—and Uncut Gems was shut out of the nominations entirely. Sandler threatened that he’d go back to making objectively bad movies if he didn’t win an Oscar this year, so when you’re wondering why you have to sit through cringe-worthy trailers for Grown Ups 3 and Murder Mystery 2 in 2021, blame the Academy. —Surrey