Now that the 2020 Oscar nominations are in, the requisite analysis can begin. You can’t learn a lot about movies from the Oscar nods, but you can learn a lot about the movie industry — what it prioritizes, who it favors, who it ignores over and over again. And this year’s nominees provide plenty of fodder for that analysis.
Alongside “most controversial movie of the year” and “highest-grossing non-Disney movie of the year,” Joker is now the “most Oscar-nominated” movie, too, which isn’t too surprising. The movie started its path to the Oscars by winning the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in early September. It also earned solid reviews and had the biggest October box-office opening of all time. And it’s been raking in awards all season, especially for star Joaquin Phoenix, who even the movie’s detractors generally agree merits recognition for his body-contorting performance. That’s a huge showing for director Todd Phillips, who until 2019 was best known as for helming the Hangover trilogy.
The only thing standing in Joker’s way — at least from the standpoint of industry insiders who vote on the Academy Awards — is that it’s based on a comic book property, which still carries the whiff of “unserious” to some. But movies like 2008’s The Dark Knight and last year’s Best Picture nominee (and similarly high earner) Black Panther have paved the way in that regard. And given that Joker self-consciously, if clumsily, mimics two classic movies made by Martin Scorsese (whose own film The Irishman earned 10 nominations), its “serious” bona fides seem well-established. The big question now is whether the Academy loves the movie enough to actually send it home with trophies. — Alissa Wilkinson
The Oscars have never had a sparkling track record with nominating people of color in the biggest categories. The omissions are particularly glaring this year: While Bong Joon-ho scored several nominations for his unforgettable film Parasite, the only non-white nominee in the acting field is Cynthia Erivo. And Erivo is recognized for her turn as Harriet Tubman in Harriet — stellar work, to be sure, but it’s hard not to find it dismaying that the one black person with a big-deal Oscar nod played a slave.
When it comes to ethnic and LGBTQ diversity, there are almost no non-Americans and no self-identified queer nominees this year. Again setting aside Bong’s recognition for Parasite, Antonio Banderas is the one international star to pick up a nomination, for Best Actor in Pain and Glory. And almost every one of the Best Picture nominees probes the fascinating, unsung trials and tribulations of … being a white man in society.
For as great as many of the nominated films and actors are, #OscarsSoWhite — and straight, and American — has reared its head once more. — Allegra Frank