By John H. Foote
Though I am sure there are those griping that Greta Gerwig was shut out of the Best Director category, screaming anti-female, the truth is there were six or seven better achievements in direction than hers on Little Women, and it was reflected in the nominations. Women have stated for a number of years that they wish to be treated equally to men, that female directors want to be on the same playing ground as the men. OK, so suck it up! There will be times in the not so distant future when I suspect women will outnumber the men in the Directing category, but that time has not yet come. Nor would Gerwig want a nomination that screamed of “token” which is what it would have been. She did a brilliant job on Little Women, but her partner Noah Baumbach surpassed her achievement with Marriage Story…and was not nominated for Best Director.
If there was a single major shock it was that Joker led the nominations with eleven!! A film based on a comic book, a departure from the DC Universe has racked up eleven Academy Award nominations just one year after Black Panther became the first comic book-based film to be a Best Picture nominee!! And Todd Phillips? Look at the curve his career has taken this year. The director of The Hangover (2015) made a huge departure with Joker, merging A Clockwork Orange (1971), Taxi Diver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1983) is his troubling, very unsettling of the emergence of the Joker. His R rated film stunned critics and has thrilled audiences to the tune of over one billion dollars at the box office. Can you feel it changing??
And Netflix led all studios with twenty-four nominations, besting Sony Pictures by four. I would say Netflix has arrived, but I will save that when they actually have an Oscar win for Best Picture.
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Sam Mendes 1917 and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood each earned ten nominations each, Best Picture and Best Director among them. At this writing, Tarantino’s film must be given the edge given the push back against The Irishman and its Netflix roots.
Parasite, the huge success from South Korea racked up seven nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best International Feature Film. The love for the film has spread through the Academy as the film was nominated for Film Editing and Production Design as well.
Scarlett Johansson must be smiling this morning given she is a two-time nominee in a single year, nominated for Best Actress in Marriage Story and Best Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit. This marks the first time the actress has been so nominated over a twenty-year career. Never before has her range been so perfectly captured, and let’s not forget she had a massive box office hit with Avengers: Endgame. Not a bad year at all.
The year ended poorly, or at least with great disappointment, for both Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy, ignored for their outstanding work, both awards calibre in Uncut Gems and Dolemite is My Name (respectively).
Also shut out entirely was Akwafina and her film The Farewell, a major critical success and which earned her a Golden Globe a week ago. Left out of the Best Actor race was Globe winner Taron Egerton, further stating the irrelevance of the Globes.
The First World War epic 1917 is hot in the mix with ten nominations including Best Film and Best Director for Sam Mendes, his first trip back to the Oscars since winning Best Director and Best Picture for American Beauty in 1999. Over the weekend the film did very well at the box office, bringing in an excess of $36 million dollars, making clear it is a legitimate threat to win the big awards.
Two time Oscar winner Robert De Niro was left out for The Irishman, a curious move, given the praise for the role, and his past with the Academy. Both his co-stars, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominees in the supporting actor category, which also welcomed back Tom Hanks, not nominated since 2000 for Cast Away though being more than deserving. Brad Pitt is expected to triumph here for his cocky, deadly stuntman in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Renee Zellweger continues to dominate the race for Best Actress, with her first nomination since her supporting actress for Cold Mountain (2003).
All in all no real surprises, the Academy has become so predictable, or perhaps it is our fault, covering the awards from September until the big night. The elements of surprise are virtually non-existent.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.