ONES TO WATCH
Academy courts controversy again with this year’s nominations
Joker, 1917, and Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood top Oscar nominations
Margot Robbie has another shot at an Oscar next month when the beautiful people of Hollywood come together for the 92nd chapter of the Academy Awards.
And while three films dominate the nominations — led by Joker, with 11, then 10 apiece for Sam Mendes’s 1917, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman — the Academy is facing yet another backlash over the lack of diversity among nominees.
It is putting the best spin on things but the numbers are hard to deny: 19 of the 20 acting nominees are white. What happened, for instance, to Lupita Nyong’o (Us)? Or Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)?
It also hasn’t passed without comment that women are absent from the nominees for best director — though Greta Gerwig, considered a strong contender for Little Women, is up for best adapted screenplay.
Robbie is nominated for best supporting actress for Bombshell, the Fox News drama that also earned a best actress nomination for Charlize Theron. She’s up against a formidable line-up of actresses: Laura Dern, who won a Golden Globe for Marriage Story, as well as Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women) and Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell).
Robbie, nominated in 2018 for her starring role in I, Tonya, is the only Australian in the running for the Oscars, which take place on February 9 without a host.
Sam Mendes is a chance for best director for his war drama 1917, but he’s up against some strong big names: Tarantino, Scorsese, Todd Phillips (Joker) and Bong Joon Ho (Parasite).
The one shining light for diversity was Parasite, which became the first South Korean film to be nominated for best picture, one of its six nominations. The other best picture nominees are Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Joker, Marriage Story and The Irishman. The latter two films belonged to Netflix, which received 24 nominations in total.
Joaquin Phoenix will be hard to beat as best actor. He is up against Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood) and Adam Driver (Marriage Story).
If he does win, it will be the sec
Sam Mendes is a chance for best director for his war drama 1917, but he’s up against some strong big names
ond time an actor playing the Joker has won an Oscar, after Heath Ledger’s posthumous best supporting actor award for The Dark Knight in 2009.
Renee Zellweger, meanwhile, is a favourite to take out the best actress honour for Judy. Other notable absences include Adam Sandler, who has had critical acclaim for his performance in Uncut Gems, and the Elton John biopic Rocketman, nominated only for best original song.
Four years ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was forced on to the defensive over the distinct lack of diversity among acting nominees. In response, its membership was opened to new entrants in a move its own leadership described as a “historic action to increase diversity”.
The spread of nominees had improved by the following year, when Moonlight was named best picture and all four acting categories included black nominees. “It’s lovely to see the work that’s nominated reflect the world at large,” said Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight.
But that was then. The hashtag that summarised the diversity dilemma — #OscarsSoWhite — is doing the rounds again this week after the Academy released its list of nominations for this year’s Oscars.
Leading the pack is Joker, the Todd Phillips nihilist comic book saga. Despite dividing critics worldwide, the film received 11 nominations, including best picture, best director (Phillips) and best actor (Joaquin Phoenix). It has been closely followed by two well-received dramas with 10 nominations each: Quentin Tarantino’s ode to filmmaking, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, and Sam Mendes’s familyinspired World War 1 narrative, 1917. There was also a strong showing for Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s critically acclaimed film, which has been nominated for six awards, including best picture — the first time a South Korean film has been included in the category — best director and best original screenplay.
But as critics and film lovers digested the nominations on Tuesday, it was the lack of diversity on display that really stood out, once again. Consider this: apart from Cynthia Erivo, who plays Harriet Tubman in Harriet, 19 of the 20 acting nominees were white. Among the actors to have missed out are Eddie Murphy, who played the lead role in Dolemite is My Name, and Lupita Nyong’o, a previous Oscar winner for 12 Years a Slave, who was overlooked for her performance in Jordan Peele’s latest thriller, Us.
American writer Roxane Gay wrote on Twitter: “Every year the Oscar nominations are a hot mess but this year offers a particularly heated mess. To overlook Lulu Wang, Melina Matsoukas, Greta Gerwig, Lupita N’yongo and J.Lo. Smh. Did the Academy even watch movies this year?”
The BAFTAs — dominated, like the Oscars, by Joker — received a similar response last week when nominees were announced for the British film awards. Its chief executive, Amanda Berry, said: “The lack of diversity in today’s nominations is hugely disappointing to see.”
There may also be cause for a repeat of the “sausage party” protest that disrupted the AACTA Awards in Sydney in 2016. Even though the Academy pointed out that a record 62 women had been nominated, no women have been nominated in the best director category. Greta Gerwig, for example, was overlooked, even though she had been considered a strong contender for Little Women. Gerwig did receive a nomination, though, for adapted screenplay, one of six nominations for the film.
Other surprises include Adam Sandler, the comic actor who was considered a good chance for his performance as a New York jeweller in Uncut Gems. Anyone who has been immersed in the singletake illusion that is 1917 would have been struck by the quality of the film work — but Australian editor Lee Smith, who won for Dunkirk in 2018, didn’t receive an editing nomination. Taron Egerton might have been a chance for Rocketman, but that film received only a single nod (best song). And Jennifer Lopez missed out for Hustlers, which received no love at all from the Academy.
Margot Robbie was the only Australian to score a nomination: two years after missing out on a best acting gong for I, Tonya, she is in the running in the best supporting actress category for Bombshell, the Fox News drama that also resulted in a best actress nomination for Charlize Theron. Robbie will face some serious competition, including from Laura Dern, whose work on Marriage Story won her a Golden Globe this month.
If Phoenix wins best actor for Joker, that character will have resulted in two Academy awards after Heath Ledger was awarded a posthumous Oscar in 2009 for The Dark Knight. Phoenix has been nominated three times — for The Master, Walk the Line and Gladiator — but never won.
This year he is up against Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Jonathan Pryce (Two Popes) and Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory). Renee Zellweger will be a favourite to win the best actress award for playing Judy Garland in Judy: the other nominees include Erivo, Theron, Saorse Ronan (Little
Women) and Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story).
Netflix executives will be hoping for a better result than the Golden Globes, where the streaming service won only two awards from a record 34 nominations. It has received 24 nominations, notably for Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Both those films are up for best picture alongside Parasite, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, 1917, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Little Women and Jojo Rabbit.
Described by David Stratton in this newspaper as “exhilarating, nerve-racking and inspirational”, 1917 goes into the Oscars with plenty of momentum, having won best drama at the Golden Globes; it also has been nominated for nine BAFTA awards.
Will Barack and Michelle Obama be tempted to attend the Oscars ceremony this year? The former US president was quick to applaud on Tuesday after American Factory, a film made by their production company, Higher Ground, was nominated as best documentary feature: “It’s the kind of story we don’t see often enough and it’s exactly what
Michelle and I hope to achieve with Higher Ground. ”
The awards will take place in Hollywood on February 9. They will also be unfolding without a host, a duty that has been carried out through the years by, among others, Bob Hope, Billy Crystal, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Rock and Jimmy Kimmel.
The host-less ceremony will make it two years in a row after Kevin Hart pulled out of duties last year after old homophobic tweets went public — making last year’s Oscars the first since 1989 to take place without a dedicated host.
‘Every year the Oscar nominations are a hot mess but this year offers a particularly heated mess’
ROXANE GAY AMERICAN WRITER
Margot Robbie, right, with Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman, is up for best supporting actress in Bombshell
Clockwise from main picture, Dean-Charles Chapman, left, and George MacKay in 1917; Margot Robbie, left, and Kate McKinnon in Bombshell; Renee Zellweger in Judy; and Joaquin Phoenix in Joker