Yes movie fans, the day has come once again. The nominations for 92nd Annual Academy Awards have been announced and, as always, there’s equal parts joy and anger to go around. I don’t think there’s quite anything in the movie world that inspires so much happiness and head-scratching at the exact same time as the yearly Oscar nominations. Per usual, there’s plenty of snubs and surprises to catalog.
SNUB: Frozen II Left in the Cold
Yes, terrible pun aside, this was truly a shocking thing to behold. Frozen II not only boasts the best animated box office numbers of the year but also a stellar grade from the critics. So what exactly happened here? Some in the Academy might be sour on the franchise, but I think the bigger culprit is that we’re seeing a shift in the animation awards game. Last year’s top prize in this category went to the revolutionary Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, a film that bent what you thought animation could do. And that trend continued quite a bit this year with films like I Lost My Body and Klaus taking unconventional paths to their nominations. Perhaps we’re seeing a shift in the Academy away from the standard popular fare like Frozen and towards more brave and bold animation. Either way, Frozen II’s exclusion is quite a shock.
SURPRISE: Florence Pugh Crashes Supporting Actress
Let me be very clear here: Florence Pugh has had a KILLER year in the movies. It started with a bonafide star-turn in Fighting With My Family (which is one of my top films of the year), kicked into the stratosphere with a truly wrenching performance in Midsomar and caps now with this nomination for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. While it is strange seeing her play a girl in the single digits age-wise from the source material, Gerwig played with the narrative just enough to get away with it. I personally would have preferred a nomination for Lead Actress for Midsomar, but after the year she’s had, it’s nice to see Pugh’s hustle pay off so much.
SNUB: Jennifer Lopez Left Out
Hard to say exactly what went wrong here. Lopez is an industry veteran that has never tasted an Oscar Nomination. Hustlers was a well-reviewed film in which her performance was lauded by nearly every critic as Oscar-worthy. So what gives? Well, it’s easy to look at Pugh as taking her spot given the dirge of early nominations lists she was left off of. Sometimes, Oscar noms simply come down to momentum. The moment Pugh was rising, Lopez seemed to be falling and it simply might have been the right place-right time moment here. Either way, tough break to J-Lo on this one. Maybe headlining the Super Bowl halftime show can be a nice consolation prize.
SURPRISE: Antonio Banderas Snags Best Actor
Look, I already wrote in the Golden Globes recap that Best Actor is the most packed I’ve ever seen it. 10 legit top performances and only 5 spots. Someone is going to get left out (we’ll get there momentarily). But seeing Antonio Banderas’s career-defining performance in Pain & Glory get one of those spots was indeed a genuine surprise. Banderas has always done fantastic work but he’s never really been in the Awards game. Well hopefully this serves as the kick-off to a prestige streak for him as he’s more than earned his place on this list.
SNUB: Taron Egerton Left in Outer Space
All that being said, Taron Egerton’s exclusion from this list is my biggest snub of the year. Sure, Rocketman came out in the Summer and it’s a long time to try and carry a Best Actor campaign. But I was certain that his Golden Globe win meant he had a spot locked up. As usual, the Globes throw off my better instincts. Still, it wasn’t a token nomination I was looking for. Egerton did some of the most impressive work of the year as Elton John (doing his own singing in the process) and it’s a little disheartening to see one of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars not recognized with a nomination for its top prize. We’re sure to still see Egerton at the ceremony singing with the person he portrayed for their nominated Original Song, but we really should also be seeing him in the nominee seats too.
SNUB: Roberto De Niro Pulls the O-Fer
It’s not all bad for ‘ole Bobby De Niro here. He did get a producing nomination for The Irishman after all. Still, this snub is really for the entire Awards season for not giving this man some damn recognition. I know it’s become the thing to point out how De Niro only plays gangsters (he doesn’t) for only Scorsese (he doesn’t), but every critic has talked about how his performance is a whole different shade of the iconic actor's typical roles. It’s genuinely shocking to see not even a single major award show give De Niro a nomination.
SURPRISE: Scarlett Johansson Arrives With Double Nomination
Take the next statement how we all should: Scarlett Johansson has never been nominated for an Oscar. An actress lauded for her raw ability as a teenager has never been to the big show as a nominee. Well I guess it finally got to her as she racked up 2 nominations in the same year: Lead Actress for Marriage Story and Supporting Actress for JoJo Rabbit. Now, history tells us double noms usually go home empty-handed. Sadly it appears that trend may continue as Scar-Jo faces some steep competition in both categories. Still, for an actress this caliber to double up her first time as a nominee, that’s how you crash the gate!
SNUB: Knives Out Cut Down
Again, maybe it’s just an embarrassment of riches syndrome this year, but how Rian Johnson’s superb murder-mystery garnered one single nomination for it’s brilliant screenplay is quite frankly baffling. This is considered by nearly the entire movie-going world as one of the best of the year. A fresh, original and stylish film that re-opens the possibilities of the mystery genre. How this film fails to nab one of the 10 Best Picture nominations is as big a mystery as its plot. And maybe even more galling is the lack of rising star Ana De Armas as a nominee for Lead Actress. She carries this film effortlessly and was more than deserving of a nomination in even as packed a year as this. Chalk this one up to momentum I suppose as the late slate of contenders might have done this gem of a film (and my personal favorite of the year) in.
SURPRISE: Parasite Has Arrived
Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite has been, wire-to-wire, the best reviewed film of the year. It’s on every top 10 list. It’s raking up every foreign language film award. It even garnered main category nominations at the likes of the popular film haven Golden Globes. But now we can officially say this film is firmly in the race. Garnering 6 nominations in total, including for Screenplay and Director, this film is no longer the "Korean film that could" and is now a legit spoiler candidate. The Academy does love to reward bold foreign film making and in a year where there’s no clear front-runner in anything, many voters may default to simply giving it to the perceived actual best film. Then again, they would have had to have seen the film and foreign films are famously mis-awarded at the Oscars. Still, it’s an impressive slate of nominations to be sure!
SNUB: Avengers: Endgame Continues Superhero Snubs
Stop me when you’ve heard this one before: The Academy is out of touch with real movie-goers. It’s truer and never more glaringly obvious than with the newly crowned Box Office champion being relegated to 1 special effects nomination. Now some would say the superhero bias argument is moot this year with Joker leading the whole pack in nominations. But that is a superhero film that looks very much like what the Academy considers a “worthy” drama. Throughout the reign of the MCU at the Box Office, the Academy has routinely rejected the legitimizing factor of a Best Picture nomination. I’m sure Disney and their billions aren’t crying too hard tonight. But if you want proof of the bias, try this on for size: In the history of the Oscars, this is the first time a new all-time box office champion has been crowned yet wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. And considering all of those other 8 instances happened when the field was limited to 5 nominees as opposed to the current 10, it’s pretty bad trying to find a way to justify it this time. Oh, and Alan Silvestri’s score BADLY deserved a nomination (I mean, just listen to “Portals. Do it now!)
SURPRISE: JoJo Rabbit scores 6 nominations
Here’s the thing about Taika Waititi, he’s one of the more polarizing directors working now. Some think he’s the next evolution of film-making genius. Some think he’s just a little too quirky for his own good. And some simply don’t see the talent at all. I’m in category #1 and am as surprised at anyone that JoJo Rabbit, his most recent brush with biting satire (albeit in Nazi form), garnered as many nominations as Little Women, Marriage Story and Parasite. Most critics are on one side or the other of this film with very few occupying the middle ground. It seems the Academy decided to join my bandwagon this year. But here’s hoping it’s the start of many more Oscar noms for this truly unique film voice.
SNUB: Dolemite is not the Name.
Eddie Murphy is in the midst of another renaissance and many thought his heart-warming turn in Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name was his path to attempt to make up for the criminal robbery of not winning his Oscar for Dreamgirls in 2006. Dolemite has been called the feel-good story of the year but apparently the film was a little too sentimental for Academy voters as it failed to garner a single nomination. Perhaps the world wasn’t quite ready to welcome Mr. Murphy back to the Awards plateau. But at least this critic is hoping it’s not the end of the return of one of the best talents to come out of the 80s.