With a grim, deadpan expression on her face, Issa Rae shaded the Academy for once again producing an all-male lineup of Best Director nominees when she and John Cho announced the 2020 Oscar nominations Monday morning. “Congratulations to those men,” she said.
But Rae very well could have been shading the Academy on a broader scale, with choices this year in every category, save for a welcome surge of support for Little Women, ignoring pretty much any film that was written or directed by a woman not named Greta Gerwig. Most egregious of all: They snubbed J.Lo.
It’s truly shocking that Jennifer Lopez didn’t get nominated in Best Supporting Actress for her role as a con-artist stripper in Hustlers, given how much of the award-season narrative centered on her revelatory performance in the movie. But it’s also not shocking at all that she was snubbed, given the odds against performers of color scoring nominations and the statistical bias—to bring the point home one more time—against films directed by women.
Like Hustlers, female-directed The Farewell and Portrait of a Lady on Fire were snubbed completely, while Booksmart and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood were overlooked in the screenplay categories they were jockeying to contend in (though Tom Hanks earned a deserved acting nod for the latter).
It’s been an exasperating Oscar season.
There were concerns that there could be a repeat of #OscarsSoWhite after the BAFTAs produced an all-white slate of acting nominees, which is insane in a year when Alfre Woodard, Eddie Murphy, Awkwafina, Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o, Zhao Shuzhen, and Song Kang-ho gave such exemplary performances. While all of them were snubbed, Cynthia Erivo and Antonio Banderas did get in. Still, two out of 20 ain’t great diversity numbers, people.
There was the confusing overlooking of female directors. There was the Martin Scorsese-Marvel discourse. There was the Joker of it all. Yep, the most nominated movie of the year is Joker. With 11 nods, it is now at the very least a numbers-game frontrunner for Best Picture, a fact that is giving many film critics an ulcer as we speak.
With Oscar nominations morning comes outrage. Most of that is directed toward the snub of Jennifer Lopez. That, and our other thoughts on snubs and surprises, are below.
SNUB: Jennifer Lopez
They really snubbed J. Lo. Jennifer Lopez made one of the most iconic entrances in film history. She gave a mesmerizing, nuanced, athletic, powerful performance in Hustlers. Every gay in media participated in a word-of-mouth campaign to make the star’s first Oscar nomination. Instead she was snubbed in favor of Kathy Bates, in a lineup of five white women. The snub hurts at any time, but is particularly egregious in a year when awards voters were on notice for their tendency to discount and dismiss superior performances from people of color.
SURPRISE: Kathy Bates
Kathy Bates is a spectacular actress who gives a heartbreaking performance in Richard Jewell, a movie in which she is the best part. That said, it is insane that she got nominated instead of Jennifer Lopez.
SURPRISE: Florence Pugh
While the Academy has never met a white blonde woman in her early twenties that it doesn’t like, that Little Women had performed so poorly in precursor awards made people think that the 24-year-old actress who accomplished the impossible—making literature’s most notorious brat empathetic—would be off the nominations list.
The gays in the Academy need to step up their game. Mere minutes after the destabilizing Jennifer Lopez snub, the Oscars also failed to nominate Beyoncé for her still-elusive first Oscar nomination for writing the song “Spirit” for The Lion King. (Despite being one of the credited writers on the Dreamgirls song “Listen,” Beyoncé notoriously wasn’t included in its Oscar nomination because of a rule governing how many nominees there can be per song.)
SNUB: Frozen 2
Seriously, what are the Academy gays doing?
But congratulations to the Netflix movie about Santa that got in over one of the biggest and most ambitious animated movies of all time.
SURPRISE: Todd Phillips, Joker
Any controversy there had been over the artistic responsibility and worth of Joker seemed to have evaporated by the time award season reached Oscar nomination morning, with the Academy not just going for the film and Joaquin Phoenix’s lead performance but also including director Todd Phillips in the Best Director list.
SNUB: Female Directors
It’s not exactly surprising, given the trajectory of award season so far, but it’s still ridiculous in what has been a banner year for films directed by women that there was, yet again, an all-male Best Director list. Given its late-game surge of popularity and how much the Academy seemed to love the film otherwise, it seemed like Greta Gerwig was going to make it in for Little Women.
SNUB: The Farewell
One of the most beautiful, best acted, written, and directed films of the year was snubbed in all of the categories it was considered a major player in. No Awkwafina in Best Actress, no Zhao Shuzhen in Supporting Actress, no Lulu Wang in Original Screenplay, and no dark horse Best Picture nomination.
SURPRISE: Little Women
The gays did at least one thing useful. After early reports that male Academy voters were flat-out refusing to see Little Women because they didn’t think the sensational film would interest them, a flurry of press was written in support of Gerwig’s movie, gender be damned, and the film pulled out a Best Picture nomination Monday morning in addition to mentions for lead actress Saoirse Ronan and supporting actress Florence Pugh.
SNUB: Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy’s career-best performance was overlooked by the Academy, but more surprising is that the film as a whole was shut out. A year after she took home the Best Costume trophy for Black Panther, at the very least Ruth Carter should have returned to the category for her work on this film.
SNUB: Apollo 11
The Best Documentary category was one of the most competitive this year, and the Academy’s choices in the category are historically bizarre (remember when Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was snubbed?). But Apollo 11 was a revolutionary achievement in archival research and editing and one of the most celebrated documentaries of the year, and, even if the category is traditionally quirky, it’s odd not to see it here.
SURPRISE: The Two Popes
After it seemed that the papal buddy movie had lost its award-season mojo, miracles were performed and the film scored nods for both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce—the latter a surprise Best Actor nominee—and was included in Adapted Screenplay.
SNUB: Lupita Nyong’o
The Us star was on the cusp of her second Oscar nomination. Her omission only fans the flame of outrage that the Academy continues to discount acting performances in horror films. (Justice for Toni Collette!)
SURPRISE: Cynthia Erivo twice
Not only is Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo a Best Actress nominee for Harriet, she’s also nominated in Best Original Song for co-writing the anthem “Stand Up.” It’s a feat that only Lady Gaga had pulled off before.
SNUB: Uncut Gems
The cinematic blood pressure spike was beloved by critics and indie awards organizations, but star Adam Sandler and writers-directors the Safdie Brothers failed to get in with the Academy.
SNUB: Song Kang-ho
The Academy clearly loved Parasite, but it wasn’t enough to carry star Song Kang-ho to a Best Supporting Actor nomination in its tidal wave.
SURPRISE: 9 Best Picture nominees
More math than I ever care to do is involved in determining how many nominees there are in the Best Picture category, which uses a formula that factors in ranked voting to produce anywhere between five and 10 nominees. This year there were nine. Considering how great a year it was for cinema, I would have expanded it to 10 and included The Farewell or Uncut Gems. But considering that the Academy probably would’ve voted in The Two Popes or Bombshell, maybe it’s for the best that things were capped at nine.