Oscar nominations are in and it's all lads, lads, lads
Once again it's an all-male lineup in the Best Director category, and the awful Joker is somehow this year's frontrunner with 11 nominations, but it's not all bad in this year's anyone-could-win Oscars race
"Congratulations to those men."
That was the withering reaction to this year’s Best Director category by Issa Rae, who was co-presenting this morning’s Oscar nomination announcements. It’s a mood that’s felt by any right-thinking person looking at the 2020 list of Best Director nominees. Despite the Academy’s attempts to diversify its membership, no women directors with films released in 2019 were deemed worthy in this category. It was a similar case at the Golden Globe awards and with the recent Bafta nominations. Film fans were hoping that Greta Gerwig would have been nominated for her sparkling adaptation of Little Women, although Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) and Alma Ha'rel (Honey Boy) are some of the other women who might have held out hope of joining the Oscars’ Best Director boys’ club.
But there’s no last-minute twist in this script. As Hollywood is often want to do, it's stuck rigidly to the formula. Well... not quite. Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Sam Mendes (1917), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood) and Todd Phillips (Joker) took up four of the nominations, but we were punching the air in the office when South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho was announced in the fifth slot for his blistering class-satire Parasite. It’s rare for a foreign-language film to make any headway at all outside of the ghetto of the Best International Feature Film (née Best Foreign Film), but Bong has managed it, picking up six nominations in all, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. (Following Roma's strong showing at last year's Oscars, it looks like Academy voters have at last learned to read subtitles.)
This isn’t the only bong Academy voters are keen on, though; at least that’s the only explanation we can come up with for their love of Joker. Somehow Todd Phillips’ derivative, pseudo-edgy, crypto-fascist origin story of Batman’s great nemesis is this year’s frontrunner with eleven nominations. That’s one more than Tarantino's Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, Sam Mendes’ 1917 and Scorsese’s The Irishman, which each got ten apiece, making the four most nominated films in this year’s race very white, very male and very macho.
Further down the line you’ll find Little Women, Parasite, Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit which each get six nominations. All eight of these films on ten and six nominations will fight it out for Best Picture alongside Ford v Ferrari (or Le Mans '66, as it was titled over here), which got five nods overall. As ever it’s a mixed bag, ranging from the wonderful (Parasite, Marriage Story, The Irishman) to the laughable (Joker, Jojo Rabbit) but again, the lack of diversity is depressing.
There were some nominations to cheer about, though. We were delighted to see Antonio Banderas in the Best Actor category for his soulful turn in Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, and Cynthia Erivo is more than deserving of her Best Actress nod for the moving Harriet – two performances that were ignored by the craven Baftas. Cheers too for Rian Johnson’s Original Screenplay nomination for his hugely entertaining whodunnit Knives Out and Greta Gerwig’s nod for Adapted Screenplay for her sharp updating of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.
We were gutted, however, to see Jennifer Lopez’s charisma-to-burn performance in Hustlers ignored in the Best Supporting Actress category – come on guys, Gigli was 16 years ago, time to forgive. And Adam Sandler’s go-for-broke turn in the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems would have also enlivened the Best Actor category. A pair of blinding female performances in two great horror films were also overlooked: Lupita Nyong’o in Jordan Peele’s Us and Florence Pugh in Ari Aster's Midsommar, although the latter can take solace in a deserved Best Actress nomination for her role in Little Women.
The Academy voters can take heart in one thing, though: they aren’t as embarrassing as the Bafta members.
The 92nd Academy Awards takes place on 9 February