Earlier today, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science announced the nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards. With a huge swath of movies nominated for a variety of awards, it’s bound to be a time of celebration and praise for the film industry. Sure, it’s entirely self-congratulatory and undeniably egotistical, but this is still the time of year for people to gather around and celebrate the achievements in film over the past 365 days. However, if you were to look online, most of the conversation surrounding the Oscars aren’t on who was nominated, but who wasn’t nominated.
Now this isn’t anything new. Every year there are always people or movies that just aren’t nominated to be in the running for the most coveted award in Hollywood. Everyone can’t be nominated and only five can have the chance to fight it out for the gold. That being said, it feels like that more so this year than any other year, people are talking about the variety of movies that aren’t getting recognition. The Farewell, Uncut Gems, Hustlers, Knives Out, and Bombshell are all movies that have a legitimate claim of being snubbed this year, either receiving one nomination or none when the nominees were announced earlier today. I’m of the opinion that while it sucks that your favorite movie didn’t get nominated or didn’t get the representation that you think it deserves, that shouldn’t diminish the impact and achievement of the other nominees.
Believe me, I understand why people would be quick to vocalize their dissatisfaction with how certain categories played out due to certain exclusions. Some performances do deserve praise and adulation, but not at the expense of other performances. Claiming that a certain nominee doesn’t deserve to be included in a category doesn’t sit right with me. You may not have personally enjoyed the performance, but there is talent and craft in the final product that deserves some attention. Other people may have just liked the performance more, and while the Academy can be prone to nominate questionable performances, those performances still have fans of their own.
This isn’t to say that people disappointed in the nominations are complaining for the sake of complaining because trust me, I get it. You can have a movie that you love or impacted you in a way that no movie had ever done so before and seeing it get snubbed by a group of stodgy old men can dampen your enthusiasm. You aren’t complaining in protest against the Academy itself in this case, but rather the fact that your favorite movie in a given year was somehow wronged. The fact that your favorite movie wasn’t nominated in a specific category might seem like a huge injustice, but the follow-up question would be to ask which of the current nominees you would cut. Let’s say that you really did love Adam Sandler’s performance in Uncut Gems and you’re upset that he was snubbed. Okay, which of the nominees would you ax to give Sandler his spotlight? Unless you’ve seen Joker, Pain and Glory, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, or Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, it’s almost impossible to answer. Even then, it comes down to taste. You may have preferred one performance over the other, but does that invalidate the rest of them?
Just to throw out my own experience, I adored The Lighthouse. I honestly think it was the best movie of 2019 and I loved every second of it. When the list of nominees began to trickle out and I saw that The Lighthouse only had one nomination for cinematography, I wasn’t upset. Quite the contrary. I was thrilled! I was amazed that The Lighthouse had a single nomination and that was cause for celebration. I didn’t bemoan that Willem Dafoe didn’t get nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I was just happy it got something. Now this is a bit different for movies that didn’t receive any Oscar nominations like The Farewell or Hustlers, but those movies are still hauling in awards in other major circuits. The key difference is that those aren’t Oscars.
I am aware that the Oscars are seen as being the biggest prize of the award seasons and that most other major awards don’t matter to the general public, but that’s a stigma that needs to be erased and fast. Just by watching the Golden Globes last week, so many wonderful movies received tons of recognition that will never be honored at the Oscars. Awkwafina got her due for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, as did Taron Egerton for his portrayal of Elton John. They were still recognized elsewhere and lauded for their achievements. So who cares if a movie didn’t get an Oscar nomination? There are plenty of other major awards circuits to worry or care about. Some of the best movies of the decade went on to become critical darlings not from love at the Oscars, but for love at the Golden Globes, BAFTAS, Satellite Awards, Critic Choice Awards, and so on.
The most notable snubs though are the ones that come with social repercussions, which is a problem that the Academy has been dealing with for years. The Academy touts itself as being a progressive institution but has frequently been under fire for its lack of representation not only in its nominees but in its voting body. #Oscarssowhite and the lack of female director nominees are a few major roadblocks the Academy faced in recent years with last year’s racially tone-deaf Green Book becoming emblematic of the Academy’s disconnect with audiences.
Once again, those debates are starting to rear their ugly head again with a slew of male only directors for the Best Director category. Common consensus was that Greta Gerwig, director of Little Women, was a wild card contender for the Best Director race, only for her to fail to receive the nomination. The loss was upsetting for a fairly large group of people, with presenter Issa Rae congratulating the all male nominees for their nomination on the live feed. History is doomed to repeat itself, but the discussion is swiftly moving towards “No women nominated for Best Director = Sexist” instead of being pleased at who did receive nominations.
First, is it alright to admit that Little Women was just okay? I mean it was perfectly fine, but it didn’t light my world on fire like a majority of the nominees did and comes across like the weakest of the bunch, although I do admit I have not seen Ford v Ferrari. It was a good enough movie that still earned six nominations, including being a contender for Best Picture, so losing out of Best Director hardly seems like a major loss for the movie. Second, despite Greta Gerwig losing the nomination, Hildur Guðnadóttir received a nomination for Best Original Score for Joker, coming off her making history as the first woman to win the same category at the Golden Globes.
Third, while it may not have been a massive win for Greta Gerwig and her supporters, it was a monumental occasion for South Korea. For some inane reason, South Korea never once received a nomination for an Academy Awards in the event’s 92 year history, making today absolutely astonishing. The closest they ever got to being honored by the Academy was last year when Burning made the shortlist for Best International Feature, but nothing more. Parasite, South Korea’s entry this year, received six nominations, two of which are gigantic wins for the country. Bong Joon-Ho is the first South Korean nominated for Best Director and Parasite also stands as a Best Picture contender. Unfortunately, Parasite’s feats are being swept under the rug in favor of disappointment over Gerwig’s losing out on another nomination or the general lack of representation in the acting categories outside of Cynthia Erivo and Antonio Banderas, which is a real shame. Representation is there, but it’s not as overt as usual.
No one will ever truly be satisfied by any nominations that Academy brings out. Whether or not the movies they talk about are truly the best of a year, there will always be people that are upset either for legitimate reasons or groan-inducing ones. Is it fair to want more representation in cinema? Of course it’s fair, but it shouldn’t undermine the representation already there. Do some movies deserve more praise than others? That comes down to your own opinion. You may not like the fact that Jojo Rabbit got nine nominations, but that shouldn’t discredit the people that loved the movie. There are no easy answers here, but these meaningless award ceremonies should be a time to celebrate the good in cinema and not argue over issues that we’re all just going to forget about in a month anyway. Go out, see some movies, and judge for yourself if the Academy made the right calls.