January 13, 2020
The Academy got the joke.
‘Joker’ walked away with eleven nominations Monday when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its slate of contenders for the 92nd Academy Awards. The superhero spin-off landed recognition in the most prestigious categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay) and added to its haul with multiple below-the-line adorations.
It’s a major step for the superhero genre, which only landed its first Best Picture nomination last year for “Black Panther.” The snubbing of “The Dark Knight” in 2009 pushed the Academy to expand its Best Picture field from five movies to up to ten, in an effort to recognize more popular popcorn fare. Over a decade later, and now another Joker-led film finds itself in pole position for the honor.
Trailing behind with ten nominations apiece are a trio of Best Picture frontrunners in “The Irishman,” “1917,” and “Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood.” The latter two are fresh off big wins at last week’s Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Picture in the drama and musical/comedy fields respectively.
But each of those heavyweights came up short in key categories that could spell trouble for their Best Picture chances. “The Irishman” himself, Robert De Niro, missed out on a Best Actor nod. Both “1917” and “Once Upon a Time” missed out on Best Editing kudos; typically seen as a requirement for any movie hoping to win the biggest prize of the night. (Only “Birdman” has won Best Picture without an editing nod since 2000.)
“Parasite” further solidified one of the best campaigns of the season with nominations for Best Picture and Director. The modern tale of class warfare is South Korea’s first Best Picture nomination, and the nation’s first recognition in the Best International Feature category. No one from the film’s strong ensemble earned acting nominations, but there’s no doubt of its strong support within the Academy, which should give it a fighting chance at becoming the first subtitled movie to win top honors at the Oscars.
Unfortunately, that’s the end of the good news when it comes to representation at this year’s ceremony.
The Internet breathed a collective sigh of relief when Cynthia Erivo landed a Best Actress nomination for her titular role in “Harriet.” With the nod, she became the only black actor to earn a nomination, meaning the 2020 ceremony may barely avoid the now-infamous #OscarSoWhite designation, while leaving dozens of stars of color from Eddie Murphy to Awkwafina watching from the sidelines. It was the same story for gender representation. Despite a banner year for women in film that saw a record number of female filmmakers sit behind the camera, the Best Director field will consist of five men yet again. Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, Marielle Heller, and Lorene Scafaria lead the list of notable omissions. The disparity was underscored when presenter Issa Rae quipped, “Congratulations to those men,” after revealing the nominees.
Oscar nominations day has become somewhat of an annual referendum on the state of inclusion in Hollywood. In recent years, the Academy has taken great efforts to diversify and expand its membership in the hopes of avoiding more highly-hashtaggable fiascos and better represent the demographics of both moviegoing and moviemaking.
But yet another year dominated by white and male nominees should lead to even more navel-gazing from the Academy as it sets off on another Sisyphean quest to modernize the awards show format, host or no host.
Check out the list of nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards.