It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world, according to the Oscars. The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced Monday morning and the big winners were a buddy movie set in 1969 Hollywood, an immersive World War I film, an epic mobster movie, and a grim origin story of a supervillain.
The last of those four, “Joker,” has the most nominations of any 2019 release – 11 – including best picture, director (Todd Phillips), actor (Joaquin Phoenix), and adapted screenplay. “Joker” was so well received by Academy members that it received nods in unexpected categories like costumes, editing, score, and the two sound categories.
Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood,” and Sam Mendes’s “1917” each received 10 nominations, including best picture and director. Mendes’s one-take war film prevailed in the technical categories, Tarantino’s love letter to the movies saw acting nominations for Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, “The Irishman” is up for two supporting actor awards (Joe Pesci and Al Pacino), and all three movies scored in the craft divisions.
The surprise of the year, though, has to be the strong showing for Bong Joon-ho’s class-war comedy-drama “Parasite,” which became the first South Korean film to be nominated for either best picture or best international film (the category that until this year was called best foreign language film). Bong was nominated in the directing category as well, and the film was honored for production design, original screenplay, and editing – six nominations in all.
Also receiving six nominations each: Taika Waititi’s antic Nazi comedy “Jojo Rabbitt,” Noah Baumbach’s divorce story “Marriage Story,” and Greta Gerwig’s much-loved “Little Women.” All three were nominated for best picture, adapted or original screenplay, and for their performances, but none for best director. Gerwig’s omission is especially rankling, given that 2019 saw a large number of commercially successful and/or critically acclaimed movies made by women, all of which have been ignored during awards season. The “Little Women” director was the best hope for Oscar inclusion in this category, but she and such filmmakers as Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”), Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), and Melina Matsoukas (“Queen & Slim”) were passed over.
Nor did the Academy see fit to recognize any actors of color except for Cynthia Erivo, a surprise best actress nomination (but a deserved one) for “Harriet.” Other hoped-for possibilities in that category included Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” and Alfre Woodard for “Clemency”; neither received nominations. Oscar is still (mostly) #SoWhite.
Surprises? There were a few. The Academy’s admiration for veteran performers was seen in Kathy Bates’s supporting actress nomination for “Richard Jewell,” Anthony Hopkins’s and Jonathan Pryce’s nominations (best supporting actor and best actor, respectively) for “The Two Popes,” and Pesci’s and Pacino’s supporting actor nominations for “The Irishman” (although lead actor Robert De Niro was ignored). Tom Hanks has achieved near-Streep levels of Academy adoration, as his supporting turn as Fred Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – yes, it’s a supporting role – was that film’s lone nomination.
Likewise, the Academy’s love for talented and glamorous new actresses could be seen in Florence Pugh’s supporting actress nomination for “Little Women.” (Her costar Saoirse Ronan landed in the best actress category.) “Bombshell,” the Fox News tell-all, saw two acting nominations: for Charlize Theron (actress) and Margot Robbie (supporting actress). And Scarlett Johansson is one of the handful of nominees in Oscar history to find herself in two categories, best actress (“Marriage Story”) and best supporting actress (“Jojo Rabbit”).
There were snubs, of course. The entire directing category is a snubfest; since only five filmmakers can be honored and this year saw nine best picture nominees, “Marriage Story” (Baumbach), “Little Women” (Gerwig), “Jojo Rabbit” (Waititi), and “Ford v Ferrari” (James Mangold) must have directed themselves.
“Rocketman” received only one nomination; the Elton John song he wrote for his own biopic. None of the “Parasite” cast were recognized. “Frozen 2” was frozen out of the animated category, a real shocker. Anyone betting on a long-shot “Uncut Gems” nomination (Adam Sandler) or two (the Safdie brothers) lost their shirt.
On the other hand, the wonderful Macedonian movie “Honeyland” scored two nods, for feature documentary and international film. Antonio Banderas is a best actor nominee for Pedro Almodovar’s wistful “Pain and Glory.” “Parasite” scored a well-deserved production design nomination (that house!). And the certifiably bonkers “The Lighthouse” is up for best cinematography for its nightmarish black-and-white visuals.
Also: Netflix owns the town, at least for now. The streaming behemoth was the most-nominated “studio” of the year, with 24 nods, largely on the strength of “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story.” Disney, which saw only 17 nods, will have to be content with being the first studio to ever pass the $10 billion mark in global ticket sales.
That’s business, and so are the Oscars. When all is said and done – and despite the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences making efforts in recent years to diversify its membership – this year’s nominations serve notice that Hollywood remains a boy’s club, and the boys of the moment are Sam Mendes, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Todd Phillips. If Phillips’s “Joker” wins best picture of 2019, it will be the first comic book franchise film in Oscar history to take the top prize. And that will say a lot about what the American movie industry has become in 2020.
Check out the full list of nominees.