Jury selection in the Harvey Weinstein trial may have just begun, and the presidential election is still months away, but over in Hollywood the verdict is in. More than ever this year, Oscar’s Best Picture list is full of white men making the world a worse place.
A psychopath inciting anarchy. Mobsters killing a liberal president. The war that birthed the global military industrial complex. Old Hollywood players pining for the days when women knew their place. Joker, The Irishman, 1917 and Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood lead the race with a whopping 41 nominations amongst them. Throw in those Two Popes absolving each other for turning a blind eye to rampant abuse and you’re up to 44. And other than a bloody finger wag from 1917, these movies seemed more concerned to sympathize with the bad behavior than condemn it.
And where are the women and people of color we’ve been hearing Hollywood is finally woke to? Did not a single female or race-centric film other than Little Women stand up in quality to Ford v Ferrari? The female-centric stories or female-lead productions that did get more than a nod here or there – Little Women and Bombshell – only scared up 9 nominations total. And Harriet stands completely alone as the only race-centric film on any list other than documentary or shorts. Us and Clemency were so much better as films, and both had lead female performances entirely more nuanced than the lone one recognized by Oscar. But Harriet was a slave and the other two roles were modern, professional black women, so we see how that goes. And keeps going…
Marriage Story, written by a man, looked at family with an unforgiving, angry lens. Lots of noms there, and deservedly so due to the fantastic acting. The Farewell, written by a woman, looked at family with sweet humor and fresh insights on cultural differences, and not even a writing nomination. Hustlers, a critically-lauded female take on a very male genre, got nothing. And though Portrait of a Lady on Fire was excluded from Best International Film by a technicality in France, the Academy ignored its stunning cinematography – by, you guessed it, a woman – to nominate the murky Irishman and Joker.
There were a few bright spots.
Parasite was expected in Best International Film, Director and Screenplay, but it also cracked categories like editing and production design, signs that it’s as serious a contender for Best Picture as Roma was last year.
Jojo Rabbit and director/writer thank-god-he’s-around Taika Waititi got lots of love, negating the ‘how-dare-you-make-light-of-Nazism’ trolls.
Scarlett Johansson, double nominee!
Though Little Women didn’t get acknowledgements many hoped for, Florence Pugh, who was the film’s standout, got a Supporting Actress nomination.
The amination branch continues to acknowledge greatness even when it doesn’t come from a big American franchise. I Lost My Body was one of the best films of the year, live or animated.
Clint Eastwood’s grumpy Republican voting block was shut down. Nothing but one nod (to acting great Kathy Bates) for his lying, incel-baiting movie Richard Jewell.
Jewell’s snub, though, is more about the film’s alignment with Trump talking points than it is a sign that voters are moving away from these men who need to just hang it up and enjoy their Jackson Hole chalets.
Studios like A24 and Neon, and streamers like Netflix and Amazon, are giving us more and more daring and innovative and inclusive films, films that look at the same subjects the big movies do but in more incisive ways and from fresher angles. Yet every year, almost none of this is reflected in the Oscar nominations. If Academy voters won’t even acknowledge the smaller films and performers, why should anyone expect theaters to do so? Spread the love, Hollywood. You can still shower plenty enough praise on your icons while carving out a few spaces for The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Waves and Honey Boy.
Better luck next year? Doubt it.