The first two months of every year are prestigious in their own right for movies. On one side, it’s the unofficial “dump” month where studios release movies they have little confidence in and hope for the best. On the opposite end, awards season is in full swing, prompting everyone with a social media account to start having opinions that matter. With the excitement of the Oscar nominations being announced earlier this week, now is a great time to talk about the disappointments, surprises, deserved wins, and those who were snubbed by both the Golden Globes and Oscars.
There were some clear choices at the Golden Globes that wholeheartedly deserved their win: Elton John’s “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman took home Original Song while Parasite won Foreign Language Film. As mentioned in our recap of the best movies of 2019, Parasite is a monster of a movie that left an impact on audiences across the globe and it comes as no surprise that director Bong Joon-Ho is receiving multiple awards and nominations for his film. In fact, Parasite was the first South Korean film to win Foreign Language Film and, to my knowledge, is the first film to be nominated for both Best International Feature Film and Best Picture at the Oscars.
Joon-Ho joins a truly remarkable list of talent (and Todd Phillips) on the Director nominations: Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes, and Quentin Tarantino. The controversy surrounding the all male nominees (Thanks Natalie Portman!) is cause for conversation in diversity in film, but the directors themselves are still remarkable. To have to choose between giving the award to Scorsese, Tarantino, Mendes, and Joon Ho is a wonderfully horrible decision. Fresh from his Best Picture and Directing Golden Globe wins, Mendes is a clear frontrunner for the Oscars and, given how 1917 captures a breathtaking and personal story of war, it’s fully appropriate. Still, we can’t help but address the elephant in the room: Greta Gerwig’s exclusion from the Directors category for Little Women, despite her second feature film being nominated for Best Picture and two of its actresses receiving award nominations. Especially when you consider the snubbing of Lady Bird‘s awards run two years ago, Gerwig’s continued exclusion from this list remains confusing and infuriating.
Another frustrating element is Todd Phillips’ Joker, a film that I’m not the world’s largest fan of and find the attention it’s received from both the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Academy confusing at best. An award for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance makes the most sense for Joker, given that he personally channeled the pain, anger, and confusion of Arthur Fleck. Besides that and its score, however, Joker otherwise follows a re-skin of better films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. To nominate this for Best Picture and Directing feels unwarranted. Look no further than Judy not being nominated for Best Picture, despite a Lead Actress Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for Renee Zellweger as an example.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the strange exclusion from that Lead Actor list. Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Adam Driver, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jonathan Pryce were all nominated and deserve praise for their performances. Why, though, was Robert DeNiro left out of the running? DeNiro pulled out an all-time performance in The Irishman, a film up for nominations in Screenplay, Directing, Supporting Actors, and Best Picture. His performance as Frank Sheeran offers some of DeNiro’s best work, more than worthy of a nomination compared to his co-stars. The Golden Globes also lacked any nomination for DeNiro, but it’s a shock that the Academy wouldn’t recognize this work.
In terms of Best Picture, the nominations seem mostly well-rounded but leaves out a lot of big names that unfortunately bring back Hollywood’s diversity issue. The inclusion of Ford v Ferrari is out of left field due to its lack of nomination, but still appropriate for the chemistry between its two leads and James Mangolds’ direction. The Farewell would also be a worthy addition, especially considering Awkwafina’s Golden Globes win for Lead Actress in a Musical/Comedy.
Another film that could have filled this slot is Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, which tells the story of exotic dancers who decided to take back from their high class clientele. Both Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu gave powerhouse performers in Hustlers that helped promote Scafaria’s subversive vision of power within sexuality and tackling class systems. Why the Academy looked over these achievements we may never know, but it was a film that deserved recognition in a time begging for original storytelling. While I don’t believe Hustlers reigns supreme over films like 1917, Parasite, or The Irishman, it’s still a story worthy of Academy acknowledgement.
It’s long been a complaint that about both the HFPA and Academy, but moviegoers would prefer it if horror films and performances were more present in these nominations. Florence Pugh gives a fantastic performance in Little Women, undoubtedly. However, her performance in Midsommar was unparalleled and deserved equal praise. Previously, Toni Collete was looked over for her terrifying work in Ari Aster’s debut film Hereditary, while Lupita Nyong’os’ dual performances in Jordan Peele’s Us were ignored altogether by the Academy. Between Aster and Peele, horror is seeing a huge resurgence in quality, as noted by the latter’s Best Screenwriting Oscar for Get Out. This quality is worthy of awards, but the system is too broken and biased to nominate such films. Hopefully, the tides will turn in years to come.
Nonetheless, the acknowledgements made by both the HFPA and the Academy are admirable, if not just a bit confusing. There are some strange exclusions that seem criminal, but the quality of the majority of nominees can’t be refuted. In a just world, Parasite will clean up its categories and 1917 will sweep up the rest. Guess we’ll have to find out in February what path the Academy takes.