Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My thoughts on the Oscar nominations

The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday.  Yawn.   I’m still waiting to see if I get any lifetime achievement awards. I hope I don’t confuse their offer with a robocall.

The big story the minute the nominations were announced is the snubs. No women directors. Not enough diversity. Will Smith. This has become the new annual cry. There have always been snubs; deserving artists and films that unfairly miss the cut. But now racial and gender issues are the cause celebre (or in the case of Hollywood, cause celeb).

I miss the good old days when the Academy just didn’t like specific people.

Another perennial – there is no relationship between Golden Globe winners and Oscar nominees.

Personally, I was and wasn’t surprised by some of the snubs. Adam Sandler seemed a lock to me in UNCUT GEMS. It was the role of his life. But I think too many voters found the movie itself annoying. I couldn’t sit through the whole thing. So that hurt him.

Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN may have suffered from male voters not interested in the subject matter and not willing to watch the movie. Likewise, THE FAREWELL, supposedly excellent, but dreary as hell and I have CNN if I want to be clinically depressed.

Eddie Murphy deserved a nomination, but I think DOLEMITE had two strikes against it – it was a comedy (you can’t nominate a movie that audiences merely enjoy) and it was for Netflix. I sense a reluctance to shower love on Netflix movies since Academy members know damn well they’re TV shows disguised as motion pictures.

That said, you get Marty Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino together for a gangster movie and it could be for Pornhub and the Academy would nominate it.

Plus, let's be real.  Hollywood studios aren't making films where the hero doesn't wear a cape or the sequel number isn't in the title.  Netflix is the only place making decent movies that aren't aimed at 12 year-old boys. 

The cast of PARASITE deserved some nominations, but nobody in the US knows who they are and the Academy has been burned before by nominating no names. Remember, it’s ALL about the TV show and delivering a big audience for ABC. I can’t believe they haven’t asked Alex Trebek to host it.

A lot of people are outraged that Taron Egerton wasn’t singled-out for his portrayal of Elton John in ROCKETMAN. The problem there might be – the movie was ridiculous.

Others are in a tizzy that HUSTLERS and JLo were shut out.   Maybe the fact that it was a terrible movie had something to do with that?  

1917 got some nods due to its scope and execution and Hollywood loves war movies. You put a guy in a uniform with a rifle running through a field and you go to the Oscars. Whether it actually wins anything is another story.

As in years past, most Americans will not have seen most of the movies honored. As phenomenal as PARASITE was, I don’t see that becoming a boxoffice sensation. Same with JOJO RABBIT.  (I think a lot of voters are mixed on JOJO.  That may hurt them.)

Lots of nominations for THE JOKER. It’s the Academy’s desperate attempt to attract viewers by nominating a movie some of them have seen. I’d be surprised if it wins much.

Most of the Best Picture Nominees are too long. But length is a plus when it comes to awards season.

Meanwhile, there's no real buzz on anything.  

And finally, I must say, skimming through the list of nominees I couldn’t find one I thought really didn’t deserve to be there. It’s a numbers game and certain people are Oscar’s darlings. Meryl (even if she's not in anything), Robert (Bobby to his friends so not Trump), Quentin, Marty, Charlize, Margot, Leo, Tom, Adam (Driver not Sandler), Scarlett (for sure), Rene, Pixar, and Greta will win for Adapted Screenplay.

The ceremony is February 9th. It’s getting earlier every year. Soon we’ll have DICK CLARKS ROCKIN’ NEW YEAR’S OSCARS.


alkali said...

No one likes to hear complaints about diversity but the nominations lineup this year is really bad and the complaints are very well taken. If they can't find one woman to nominate for best director year after year -- and particularly this year -- there is a problem. Many strong performances by minority actors were overlooked. More generally there is a subject matter diversity problem: war movie, check, mob movie, check, Taxi Driver-retread, check.

"Likewise, THE FAREWELL, supposedly excellent, but dreary as hell and I have CNN if I want to be clinically depressed."

If you've seen it and that's your take you're of course entitled to it, but it's hard to see why it's obviously more depressing than, say, World War I, Mafia goons in the 1970s, or whatever hellscape Joker is purporting to depict.

Glenn said...

Ken, all this de-aging stuff... seems like we can give actors round 2 of their careers. But how long before we get a a 90-year old geezer playing a love scene with the new 25-year old starlet? I mean, we kind of get that anyway sometimes, but at least now we can make it look like two beautiful people going at it.

Justin Russo said...

I am one to wish the Oscars would just accept that it is an elitist organization and run with it. Recognize that this body was created in 1927 solely so Hollywood insiders could congratulate one another. That said, were Bette Davis still president of the Academy today, I am sure she'd push (rightfully) for more diversity. Hell, it's the reason she quit!

As for Best Actress, I think we can universally agree that the Academy should just throw a wrench and give the award to Angela Bassett as Tina Turner from 1993. OR retroactively re-vote on the 1950 Best Actress award and give out ties to Bette, Judy Holliday, and Gloria Swanson.

Otherwise, go back to being a dinner ceremony and please PLEASE stop trying to be "cool."

Brian said...

Hollywood loves kissing its own ass.
They did it with Argo - a crap that no one remembers now. This year it will be for Once upon....

Greta did not deserve. How many times are you going to adapt the old classics to death? She is just all hype.

Best Supporting Actor category is the dullest. Come on.... not one new name. Just the same old farts being re-nominated again and again. And they wonder why no one cares for the Oscars. Except Al, I don't care for anyone there.

Director - everyone's best bud Marty or Weinstein's best bud 'Big Dog' will win.

Ho... Did you see Weinstein now needs crutches. Poor guy.....

Look out for Amy Pascal, if she wins, there will some speech on redemption or crap and I hope the camera pans to Angelina Jolie if she is in the audience.

Clara said...

First time I am seeing you praise Adam Sandler.

blinky said...

Nice post. Fun, informative and a little snarky. Great ending with the DIck Clark joke.
(I won't mention that a similar post about the Golden Globes would have been awesome.)
Funny how the running theme for years is that nobody saw the winning movie. Voters take their cues from the bosses, just like in the Senate. Pretty soon it will all be done by Artificial Intelligence and literally nobody will have seen the movie.
At least Ken Levine is still real.

Unknown said...

I'm happy that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood got ten nominations. I never saw a Tarentino movie until this one. I've watched it 5 times and still love it. I guess I need to get out more and see more movies. But, I'm looking forward to the annual Oscars watching party my friend has every year. Too fun to describe here. Thanks for your blog, Ken.

McTom said...

Oy - so much talk about "Hollywood" and the Academy not being woke enough. A monolithic single-minded body didn't vote on the nominees - individuals did, and like it or not, them's the results. Would it be nice if the nominees were more diverse? Sure. But at the end of the day, it's a raw-numbers popularity contest, and not a rigged process that deliberately quashes diversity.

Dixon Steele said...

Agreed on Sandler & Uncut Gems. Even with Scott Rudin producing, it got nada.

I thought LITTLE WOMEN was superb and Greta deserved a nod. Her BF Noah B. also missed out on a directing nom but at least they were both nommed for Screenplay. So I feel better.

Very surprised that THE FAREWELL got zilch. If it had just come out, it would've got some love.

I loved DOLEMITE but Best Actor? Hmmm....

Taron deserved a nod.

I liked HUSTLERS but didn't really get all the JLo Oscar talk.

Still trying to figure out how JOJO got made.

Loved JOKER and Joaquin will win Best Actor, deservedly.

You couldn't find ONE deserving nom? Banderas, Driver, Erivo, Zellweger, Hanks all deserving...

Blue Velvet said...

I am so thoroughly sick of the identity politics that greets every year's set of nominations. Where's the outrage over the lack of Native American, Chinese, Persian, Latino, Indian, Kurdish nominations?

Steven Spielberg famously went without an Oscar win for the first 18 years of his career. No one accused the Academy of anti-Semitism. Martin Scorsese went without one for even longer. No one accused the Academy of being biased against Italian Americans. Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick never won Best Director. David Lynch still hasn't.

People need to calm down and put things into perspective. Tyler Perry not having an Oscar for A Madea Halloween isn't an injustice.

James said...

I sense a reluctance to shower love on Netflix movies since Academy members know damn well they’re TV shows disguised as motion pictures.

If you wrote a collection of music in the style of traditional opera, following all the forms and traditions, but instead of presenting it in an actual Opera House, it was performed in an outdoor amphitheater or even on a temporary stage in Central Park, would that make it not an opera?

The only difference is the venue. All the other arguments are smoke and mirrors for snobbery.

Unknown said...

I'm disappointed Groot didn't get nominated.

Gary said...

Did Joe Pesci deserve his? He just kept mumbling through the movie.

10 nominations for Irishman, all because of big names. A boring drivel that basically was made just for awards sake.

Why do they nominate just 9 when you can add one more?

thomas tucker said...

When Joaquin Phoenix wins Best Actor, I'm so glad I won't be watching his acceptance speech.

Anne said...

Hey Ken, did ya know Kobe Bryant has an Oscar?

Rick said...

"TV shows disguised as motion pictures"

What's wrong with TV shows? You are from TV and keep saying that they are far better than movies.

Oscars would be lucky if they got quality like TV has now.

Movies like Irishman are a bunch of pompous hubris projects for old geezers who refuse to retire.

Cynthia said...

Lot of good performances by non-white actors, but just 1 nomination.

So don't try to make it as if non-white people are always cribbing.

Ambrose said...

You want people from all over the world of all race to watch your TV shows and movies and pay you their money. But god forbid if they speak out against not being nominated.

Tina said...

Tell me honestly, do you really think Scarlett deserved 2 nominations?

Give one to someone else.

Anonymous said...

1. The outrage over "diversity" is inclusive of all the groups you named.
2. The Academy could not be aƧcused of having a bias towards the groups represented by the big names you named because historically, other Jews, Italians, etc. had won...and these people's works had been recognized in other ways and categories.
3. Nobody is calling foul or "injustice" on Tyler Perry not having an Oscar, so please stop with the b.s. and poor attempt at gaslighting.


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear!


Blue Velvet said...


1) No it's not. It's focused entirely on African American actors and directors.

2) Are you seriously suggesting that historically African Americans have NOT been recognized by the Academy?

3) It's not gaslighting. Every year hundreds of films and actors are ignored, but there's only ever an outcry over a perceived lack of nominations for black and female artists. This was legitimate when NO black or female artists were being nominated, like the many years leading up to Denzel Washington and Halle Berry winning, but things have improved greatly. That doesn't mean every single year should have nominations to satisfy a quota. The issue remains one of opportunity. There's still a lack of female and black directors, among other groups. The more opportunities there are, the more they will appear in nominations.

This annual furore is just symptomatic of the Millennial generation who are always looking for things to get offended about and always desperate to "cancel" people.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Slightly off-topic, I thought you would enjoy this interview with Brian Cox, who is starting to win prizes late in his career. Star of SUCCESSION, first and still best Hannibal Lector, and I believe he played Daphne's dad on something called FRASIER.


Oscar? Who's he?

Myles said...

Thank you for your service!

Myles said...

2. Movies with Black leads can't even get viewed for the Oscars for the most part...forget getting nominated. Tell me 5 Black actors or writers who've won awards for things that didn't involve slavery/servants...I'll wait. You can probably name every Black person you know who won an Oscar on one hand. Two max.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how Tom Hanks landed in the Supporting Actor category. The credits for Lovely Day in the Neighborhood clearly list him as the lead actor, and Matthew Rhys as supporting (source IMDB). Don't get me wrong, I love Hanks in every role he plays. Any thoughts on his supporting nomination?

gottacook said...

Regarding an actor being nominated for two different roles, lead and supporting, in the same year: It's not that uncommon; this is the ninth time it's happened in the past 37 years, and in about half of these occasions, the actor in question wins one or the other. See https://ew.com/oscars/actors-and-actresses-nominated-two-oscars-same-year/.

Anonymous said...

1. I've heard Greta and Akwafina mentioned in talks about the lack of diversity. Perhaps the focus has been on the lack of black actors because they were the majority in the limited offerings of movies that featured all the other groups you originally mentioned.
2. No. My argument is that while Spielberg, for example, had to wait 18 years before he won an Oscar, his work was recognized (deservedly) through multiple nominations nominations. In that time and before, other Jews were nominated and/or had won, which suggests that Spielberg's non wins were not due to him being Jewish. The same cannot be said for "people of color." Just look at the two names you mentioned in your response to #3, both of whom won in 2001, I believe. In fact, in the Academy's 91 years, in the lead acting categories, 20 nominations have been for black actors, 13 of the 20 from 2001+; 12 nominations for black females, half of which have also been since 2001.
3. Therein lies the problem: Why does the call to include/recognize other worthy non-white and/or female nominees mean a quota is being filled? Is that why ScarJo is nominated in two categories this year?

While I have my issues with Millennial culture, their push for equity and inclusivity is not one of them. And can we please stop it with saying "cancel culture?" It's a myth. Nothing that is meaningfully in need of being cancelled because it's toxic to our society or long-term being has been cancelled.


(I won't be responding after this out of respect for Ken: I know he dislikes this kind back and forth, understandably ��).

Charles Bryan said...

It's always good for people to remember that the Oscars were devised as a promotional tool for the industry. Members sometimes take their vote seriously, some don't, some have their assistant fill it out. Members vote for friends, against frenemies, or for sentimental reasons. They like scenery chewing and characters with disabilities (but maybe not actors with same) and the occasional kid actor. But, ultimately, it's trying to compare work in different genres - like who's the better player, Nolan Ryan or Tom Brady or Serena Williams?

Like a race car fan who loves a crash, I watch the Oscars hoping for some wild, controversial moment, and I remember all the classic films that didn't win Best Picture.

sanford said...

I have only seen 3 of the best movie nominations. However I think having the Awards handed out in February is fine. What is so special about having them handed out in March or at one time even April. I don't know when the nominations were usually announced in the past. I guess you have to give the actresses some time to get fitted for their dresses.

Jerry Gilligan said...

I hate it when everyone says someone was snubbed for an award but they're not willing to say who should be replaced by that person. Maybe Greta Gerwig should have been nominated for Best Director but which one of the 5 should be booted? Tarantino? Phillips? All 5 are solid choices, but someone is always going to be #6 or #7 on a 5 person list.

Blue Velvet said...

"Tell me 5 Black actors or writers who've won awards for things that didn't involve slavery/servants...I'll wait. You can probably name every Black person you know who won an Oscar on one hand. Two max."

Excluding the winners who were in films involving slavery and servants:

Morgan Freeman
Viola Davis
Jamie Foxx
Denzel Washington
Cuba Gooding Jr
Mahershala Ali
Spike Lee
Whoopi Goldberg
Forest Whitaker
Barry Jenkins
Halle Berry
Jennifer Hudson
Regina King
Jordan Peele

And now you'll change the terms of your response and just say 15 isn't a lot.

Astro said...

At this point in my life, the only reason I care about the Oscars is because it means only 4 more months till the Tonys!

Myles said...

Congrats...I don't need to change the response to say 15. This still proves my point. You can bundle all the Black winners you can think of from the last 50 years and it'll still be a fraction of how many white people will win this year alone. The problem should be obvious but we keep pretending a few exceptions doesn't mean there is a rule.

gottacook said...

Blue Velvet: Don't forget Sidney Poitier, who won for Lilies of the Field.

Larry McHale said...

The biggest lack of diversity at the Oscar's seems to be diversity of genre and subject matter(Comedy,Sci-Fi and Horror all seem to have 1-2 films a decade that take off with Oscar). Of the 20 acting nominations only 4(Marriage Story and Pain and Glory) were Original IP's of fictional charecters. And wouldn't you know it both films were defacto Biopics for Both Directors and the actor's were all playing people who work in the industry.

Instead of seperating into Comedy/Drama like the Golden Globe or a Female and Male Director award, maybe make 1 set of nominees for tradtional Oscarbait(War Films,Biopics,Gangster Films,Actors playing people who work in the industry,cronies who we will nominate no matter what they do) and one for everything else.

MikeN said...

Why even have separate awards for Best Actor and Best Actress?