Many of the Year’s Best Films Just Got Snubbed

The Academy gave in to its worst habits, presenting an uninspiring list of Oscar nominees.

THE FAREWELL | PHOTO COURTESY A24

The few bright spots in this morning’s Oscar nominations were more than washed away in a flood of head-scratching snubs — many of which highlight the Academy’s ongoing reluctance to embrace a more diverse representation of contemporary film.

The exclusion of performers of color from acting races and women from behind-the-camera contests is a depressingly regular occurrence for the Academy. This year’s three most stunning exclusions all fit that troubling pattern.

Jennifer Lopez, thought to be a lock for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her dynamic role in “Hustlers,” was left out; instead, Kathy Bates earned a surprise nod for the problematic “Richard Jewell.” Awkwafina’s powerful turn in “The Farewell” was snubbed for a Best Actress nomination, despite her Golden Globe win. (Fellow Globe winner Taron Egerton was also left off the list, although Best Actor was seen as a tighter race this year.)

And, in this year’s most egregious error, “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig was denied a directing nomination. Naming Gerwig, who was included for her screenplay, would’ve been a well-deserved inclusion (and one that would’ve made her the first woman to be nominated twice). The continued exclusion of female nominees in the Directing category was subtly called out during the nomination webcast by presenter Issa Rae: “Congratulations to those men,” she quipped following the announcement.

“The Farewell,” “Uncut Gems,” “Us,” “Dolemite Is My Name” and “Hustlers” were among the films that were entirely excluded from contention this year, as the Academy poured nominations instead upon the likes of Todd Phillips’ divisive “Joker” — the leader, with 11 nominations — “1917,” “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” In contrast to the films left by the wayside, a more traditional choice, “Ford v Ferrari,” garnered more nominations than expected, including a surprise Best Picture nomination.

A strong showing for “Parasite,” the genre-bending thriller from South Korean auteur Bong Joon Ho, was a rare bright spot among the largely predictable nominees. The film garnered nominations for Best Picture, Director, Editing and Production Design, as well as a nod in the newly renamed Best International Film category, where it will be a heavy favorite to win.

Defenders of the Academy’s choices will often cry that there simply were not likely nominees among women and people of color. In 2019, however, that was markedly not so. Aside from the three mentioned above, deserving nominees for this year’s awards included: Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” and Alfre Woodard for “Clemency” in the Best Actress race; Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name” in Best Actor; Zhao Shuzhen for “The Farewell” in Best Supporting Actress; Sterling K. Brown for “Waves” in Best Supporting Actor; Lulu Wang for “The Farewell” and Marielle Heller for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for Best Director; and Best Picture nominations for “The Farewell” and “Us.”

All were rejected by an Academy that once seemed committed to change. The Best Picture win for “Moonlight” was seen as the pronouncement of a new, more thoughtful Oscars; with Monday morning’s announcement (as well as last year’s dispiriting Best Picture win for “Green Book”), those hopes seem unrealistic.

Perhaps the “Moonlight” victory was little more than tokenism — a concept, if this year’s nominees are any indication, that the Academy seems woefully happy to embrace.

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