ONES TO WATCH

Academy courts con­tro­versy again with this year’s nom­i­na­tions

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - ASHLEIGH WIL­SON ARTS ED­I­TOR

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

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