The Clown Prince of Crime got the last laugh on Oscar Nom morning as the R-rated billion-dollar blockbuster Joker led all films with 11 nominations including Best Picture. It’s the first time that a movie based on a comic book character has been the Academy’s leading nominee, going further than Black Panther did with 7 nominations last year.
Three more films were right behind Joker with 10 nominations each. It’s hard to recall when we’ve seen this tight of logjam at the top.
The Irishman, 1917, and Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood will trail Joker in nominations by a hair at The 92nd Annual Academy Awards. These four Best Picture nominees also saw their directors — Martin Scorsese, Todd Phillips, Sam Mendes, and Quentin Tarantino — become finalists. Scorsese becomes the most nominated living director with 9 career Best Director nominations, closing in on the 12 garnered by William Wyler who won three times for Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of our Lives, and 1959’s Ben-Hur.
(Similarly, John Williams earned his 52nd Oscar nomination for his score of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker; he’s won five Academy Awards over the course of his career. Like Scorsese, he holds the most nominations by any living artist in his category but is still second historically to overall record-holder Walt Disney who received 59 career nominations.)
That Best Director quartet is joined by nominee Bong Joon-ho whose thriller Parasite was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Film (among its six total nominations). It’s the first South Korean film to be nominated for those four premiere awards. That’s a real breakthrough, despite hopes being dashed that Song Kang-ho and Yeo-jeong Jo would sneak into the Supporting categories; they didn’t.
Right behind those four leaders was another logjam of four films tied for third with 6 nominations each: the aforementioned Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story and, in a surprise to a lot of Oscar bloggers and pundits, Little Women.
Greta Gerwig‘s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel had been largely ignored by industry guilds (whose memberships began their voting processes before the film opened in theaters), including having been completely shut out by the Screen Actors Guild and laying a goose egg from the Golden Globes. But as I accurately predicted in this tweet, it appears that ever since opening on Christmas Day and becoming a buzzed-about box office hit, Academy members rightly got swept up in Gerwig’s thoughtful, moving artistry, including nominations for Best Actress Saoirse Ronan and Best Supporting Actress Florence Pugh (her first).
Sneaking in as the final Best Picture nominee (of 9 total) was Ford v Ferrari, which earned 4 nominations that included Film Editing and both Sound categories. All are top notch technical achievements from an impressively proficient Hollywood production.
One of that film’s leads, however, joined a list of high profile snubs in the Best Actor category. FvF‘s Christian Bale was ignored there, as was Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems) and, biggest of all, Robert De Niro (The Irishman). That legend’s absence on the Actor list wasn’t entirely unexpected; he’s been missing from others during the awards season, most notably the Screen Actors Guild.
Taking their place: Cannes Best Actor winner Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and, in an underdog sneak, Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes. His co-star Anthony Hopkins was cited in the Supporting category. Phoenix enters the Actor race as the heavy favorite, with Driver likely serving as his primary competition.
This marks Banderas’ first ever Academy Award nomination. Joining him as a long overdue first-timer is Scarlett Johansson with her first two nods, a dual nominee for Best Actress (Marriage Story) and Best Supporting Actress (Jojo Rabbit). On the flip side of that coin, Tom Hanks (back-to-back winner of Best Actor Oscars 25 years ago) scored his first Oscar nomination in 19 years as Supporting Actor for portraying Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; his last one came in the lead category for 2000’s Cast Away.
So how could an actor of De Niro’s stature — who plays the title role in a top nominated film! — be bypassed? The culprit is likely the VFX de-aging process which some voters may have found to be an obstacle, especially when De Niro’s Frank Sheean is supposed to be at his youngest. That didn’t stop fellow actors Al Pacino and Joe Pesci from being nominated, though, as both were tagged for Best Supporting Actor nods.
Notable in the director category: no women. More broadly, racial diversity remained an issue as well.
Outside of the love for South Korea’s Parasite, the only ethnic representation in major categories went to Spaniard Banderas and African-American Best Actress nominee Cynthia Erivo (Harriet). Perhaps the biggest snub in this regard is Jennifer Lopez being denied a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Hustlers, a performance that garnered her several critics group wins. Looks like she’ll have no distractions while prepping for that Super Bowl halftime show which occurs one week before the Oscars.
Another art house contender (and ethnic representation possibility) that was completely ignored was Lulu Wang‘s Chinese-language film The Farewell. Wang was left out of the Original Screenplay category, as was Golden Globe Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) winner Awkwafina, and even overlooked for Best International Film. Lord knows a surprise Supporting Actress nod for Zhao Shuzhen would’ve been one of the day’s (and season’s) biggest highlights, too. Alas.
Lupita Nyong’o is another minority actress who has racked up several Best Actress wins this awards season for her two-faced powerhouse turn in Us, but she was also denied by the Academy. If you look at the Screen Actors Guild nominees, in which Nyong’o and Lopez were nominated, it would seem that Little Women contenders Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh (who aren’t SAG nominated) took their places in both of the Academy’s Actress categories.
In an absolute shocker, Disney’s Frozen II was left out of the Best Animated Feature category. Upsetting it there were the French-language film I Lost My Body and Netflix’s 2D hand-drawn Santa Claus origin story Klaus.
Some personal disappointments, though hardly surprises: the Brit indie Wild Rose did not receive Best Actress or Supporting Actress nods for Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters. What was surprising, however, was that its centerpiece finale song “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” was also ignored. The emotional blues-rock ballad is central to the entire movie (unlike other end-credit entries that were nominated), not to mention it was written by none other than former Academy Award winning actress Mary Steenburgen who became a songwriter late in life after a bizarre post-surgery fluke (read the fascinating story here).
Also disappointing: Maiden, my favorite documentary of the year — one that made me sob like a baby because of how inspiring it was — was left out of the Documentary Feature lineup, as was One Child Nation, one of the year’s most acclaimed efforts about China’s one child policy. (You can screen that one on Amazon Prime.)
In terms of powerhouse nominees, two separate producers each have two films nominated for Best Picture: Emma Tillinger Koskoff (The Irishman and Joker) and David Heyman (Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood and Marriage Story). There’s that famous quote by William Goldman that nobody knows anything in Hollywood, but Koskoff and Heyman seem to have something figured out.
Two brothers will be pitted against each other in the same category: perennial nominees Randy Newman and Thomas Newman will vie for Best Original Score for their work in (respectively) Marriage Story and 1917. Randy, a 22-time nominee, is a two-time winner for his songs from Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3, but 15-time nominee Thomas still awaits his first trip to the Oscar podium.
The only snub I was actually relieved to see was that there was no Film Editing nomination for the so-called “one shot” World War I epic 1917. Weird as it may sound, it would not have been entirely surprising to see the mostly un-edited narrative get tagged for what was, essentially, a seamless masking of a few cuts that stitched the film’s series of real-time long takes together. I’m glad that the Editors branch did not allow themselves to get swept up in the trending surge for Mendes’ film by making a ridiculous nomination.
Unfortunately, Gerwig’s Little Women didn’t take its slot, a film whose power is so reliant on the skill and craft of editing. Very frustrating.
And in a bit of a stunner, Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood was also not nominated for Film Editing. That category is usually a tell-tale sign of how strong or weak a Best Picture contender is, and for those looking to forecast against Quentin winning the big one, they’ll point to this snub first.
I won’t be one of them, though.
For as strong as 1917 is looking right now, following its director and Best Picture – Drama wins at the Golden Globes, I’m still betting that Quentin Tarantino will finally receive Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture he’s long coveted (and certainly deserved).
A winner of three original screenplay Oscars in the past, the top two prizes have always eluded the most admired American director of his generation. I believe that will finally change here, especially given the subject of Tarantino’s movie. It’s not only about Hollywood, but it takes a very nostalgic, sentimental look at one of the industry’s most crucial historical shifts, from the Old Hollywood system of the first half-century to the New Hollywood era of the 1970s.
1917 will get a few craft/tech awards, Parasite will win Best International Film and possibly Original Screenplay, Joker will earn Joaquin Phoenix his Academy Award (for having played the same character that Heath Ledger won his Oscar for, no less) along with up-and-coming composer Hildur Guðnadóttir for her eerie, operatic score, and The Irishman will likely go 1-for-10 with Film Editor Thelma Schoonmaker taking home the mob epic’s sole piece of hardware.
That would leave Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood as the night’s big winner, logging three wins in major categories: the top two to Tarantino, and the other to Brad Pitt for Best Supporting Actor.
We’ll see how things shake out over the next three weeks, most notably in the various guild awards, and I’ll make my final predictions before Oscar night.
The 92nd Annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday night February 9, 2020, at 8pm EST/7pm CST. Hosted by no one, it will air on ABC.
The Nominees for
THE 92nd ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
– Ford v Ferrari (4 Nominations)
– The Irishman (10 Nominations)
– Jojo Rabbit (6 Nominations)
– Joker (11 Nominations)
– Little Women (6 Nominations)
– Marriage Story (6 Nominations)
– 1917 (10 Nominations)
– Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (10 Nominations)
– Parasite (6 Nominations)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
– Knives Out, Rian Johnson
– Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach
– 1917, Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
– Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
– Parasite, Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Won
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
– Corpus Christi (Poland)
– Honeyland (North Macedonia)
– Les Misérables (France)
– Pain and Glory (Spain)
– Parasite (South Korea)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
– American Factory
– The Cave
– The Edge of Democracy
– For Sama
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
– “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
– “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
– “I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
– “Into the Unknown” – Frozen II
– “Stand Up” – Harriet
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
– In the Absence
– Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
– Life Overtakes Me
– St. Louis Superman
– Walk Run Cha-Cha
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT SUBJECT
– Nefta Football Club
– The Neighbors’ Window
– A Sister
BEST ANIMATED SHORT SUBJECT
– Dcera (Daughter)
– Hair Love
Click on links below for other Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2019 / 20 season:
Screen Actors Guild Award Winners
Producers Guild of America Winners
Critics’ Choice Awards Winners
Directors Guild of America Nominations
Writers Guild of America Nominations
Golden Globe Winners
National Society of Film Critics
Dallas/Fort-Worth Film Critics Association
Boston Society of Film Critics
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
AFI American Film Institute Awards
New York Film Critics Circle
National Board of Review
Atlanta Film Critics Circle