The 2020 Oscar nominations are in. Along with some disappointment and joy, there was a lot of the usual debate about this year’s Academy Awards. Here are eight thoughts on the celebration of the year in film:
1 – Best Picture And Best Director – A lot has been made of a lack of diversity within this year’s Best Director category. As always, this prompts fair discussions about the opportunities available in the motion picture industry. When it comes down to the nominees, it is indicative of the slate of movies that received consideration, more than who actually got nominated. That reality is more important than the lead-burying nominations.
It is hard to say that there was much diversity of story and storytellers among the top films. Hustlers and Little Women were in the conversation, but were they clearly better than Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Parasite, 1917, and Jojo Rabbit?
The movies that received attention have a more classic Oscar composition than recent years. Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino are automatic nominees. 1917 appears to be an immersive war film that typically receives plaudits. Despite an onslaught of superhero movies, the renegade film among the Best Picture nominees is oddly Joker. It is the rare comic book-based movie to be up for the top honor in filmmaking.
2 – Joker – The R-rated Todd Phillips movie is a litmus test for DC and Marvel. Joker follows Black Panther as the second consecutive comic book-based film to receive an Oscar nomination. If it wins Best Picture, more R-rated character explorations could be in development ASAP.
Joker represents a reversal from the 2009 Academy Award ceremony. Christopher Nolan’s Joker The Dark Knight was not one of the five nominees for Best Picture. One has to wonder if the superior film would have a much better shot at an Oscar just one decade later. The “adult” superhero drama is becoming more commonplace and will likely pace the next run of DC and Marvel flicks.
3 – Tom Hanks – An unthinkable proposition in the Nineties, but this is the first time Tom Hanks has received an Oscar nomination in 20 years. His performance as Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is his first chance at an acting Oscar since Cast Away in 2000.
4 – Jennifer Lopez – While “snub” may be an overused word for many candidates who fell short of a nomination, J-Lo should have received a nomination for Hustlers. Ramona Vega was a brilliant, magnetic, sleazy, and conniving character straight out of the Scorsese mold. Her character was a nontraditional part in a year that badly needed for something different.
5 – Saoirse Ronan – The lack of J-Lo may overshine one of the most incredible Oscar statistics for the 2020 ceremony. Saoirse Ronan received her fourth nomination. She is the second-youngest actor (behind Jennifer Lawrence) to have four nominations. Ronan, Lawrence, and Amy Adams may go down as the best actresses of the 2010s. Despite a four nominations apiece during the decade, Lawrence’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook is the only win.
6 – Tolkien – One personal disappointment is the lack of attention for Tolkien. The biopic about the Lord of the Rings author was a visually-stunning movie that did not win any technical nominations. The film used a vivid color palate to use symbols of Middle Earth’s fantasy to explore the heart-wrenching story of J.R.R. Tolkien’s early life. Even if it will not garner an Oscar, it is deserving of a little appreciation for an imaginative depiction of the author.
7 – Original And Adapted Screenplay – Even though both were shut out from Best Director nominations, two filmmakers received important screenplay accolades. Rian Johnson was nominated for the fantastic whodunnit Knives Out. Greta Gerwig’s oft-discussed snub as a director was balanced by consideration for Adapted Screenplay. While not quite as an esteemed award, it is appropriate recognition for the film. Gerwig’s non-linear rendition of the classic novel Little Women was the movie’s most outstanding attribute.
8 – Original Score – This category belonged to three titans in the industry: Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, and John Williams. The trio has an incredible 79 combined Oscar nominations. Fellow nominee Alexandre Desplat has won two Oscars, but the honor is a first for Hildur Guðnadótti.
Her haunting score for Joker was an integral part of the film and represents a watershed year for the composer. Guðnadótti’s work on Chernobyl and Joker has earned Grammy, Emmy, and Golden Globe consideration within the last year.