After a year filled with a wide variety of movies and cinematic achievements, the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards left many audiences surprised. While comic book movies have received some recognition in the past (The Dark Knight, Logan, Black Panther and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse), Todd Phillips’ Joker broke records after receiving eleven nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and a Best Actor nomination for Joaquin Phoenix. Following close behind in the race are Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, and Sam Mendes’ 1917, having each received ten nominations in the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography categories. Scorsese’s Best Director nomination also makes him the most nominated director with nine in his career. Other Best Picture nominees include Parasite, Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story, and Ford v Ferrari.
Since this past year was filled with many critically and commercially successful films by female filmmakers, the fact that they were shut out by The Academy did not go unnoticed. Greta Gerwig did not receive a Best Director nomination for Little Women despite the film scoring six nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay. Florence Pugh, who starred in Little Women and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, called Gerwig’s snub “a big blow.” Moreover, critically acclaimed films such as Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy, Mati Diop’s Atlantics, and many others did not receive any nominations by The Academy.
In terms of the acting categories, there were many firsts this year. Antonio Banderas received his very first Oscar nomination for his performance in Pain and Glory. Jonathan Pryce received his first nomination for The Two Popes, and Cynthia Erivo received her first nomination for Harriet. Meanwhile, nine-time Oscar nominee Al Pacino received his first nomination in twenty-seven years for his work in The Irishman, whereas six-time Oscar nominee Tom Hanks received his first nomination in nineteen years for his performance in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio received their seventh acting nominations this year for their performances in Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood. And both Saoirse Ronan and Charlize Theron received their fourth Oscar nominations this year for Little Women and Bombshell respectively.
While it is great to see overdue actors and directors receive nominations, many have pointed out the lack of diversity in the acting categories. While on the one hand, Scarlett Johansson received two nominations in her first year as an Oscar nominee by earning a nod for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit respectively, the lauded performances of Lupita Nyong’o in Us, Awkwafina in The Farewell, Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name, and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers were overlooked. These snubs were somewhat unexpected as many of these performances received recognition in precursor awards, with Awkwafina even winning a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. The win made her the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe in a lead actress film category. Even in the case of Bong Joon-Ho’s critically and commercially successful Parasite which received six nominations, including both Best Picture and International Feature Film, none of the actors of the film earned nominations for their performances. Erivo is the only actor of colour to receive an acting nomination this year.
The Academy’s lack of diversity in terms of its nominations is disappointingly familiar to audiences and critics. One might want to ask, is it worth placing so much importance and significance in an awards ceremony which continually refuses to recognize the critically and commercially successful films led and made by women and people of colour? The box office proves that audiences embrace diversity in films and it is about time The Academy catch up.