92nd Academy Award Nominations & Thoughts

So here we are with the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards, and I have thoughts. Yes, there was a certain inevitability to a lot of what happened. In such a good year, it can be argued that there simply weren't enough slots to represent all that was offered in theaters. Still, I have some thoughts on things, but I'll just throw out now that the lack of representation for on-screen diversity (let alone behind the camera) is certainly noticeable. For all the strides found in seeing a South Korean film, for example, get nominated so much for the first time, some things haven't changed much. Anyway, here's the list of nominees, with some of my own commentary to go with it. The ceremony won't air until February 9, and I'll have more Oscar-related content in the weeks to come. For now, enjoy what I've put together in regards to this year's batch of potential award winners.

A quick breakdown for the films with the most nominations:
Joker - 11, The Irishman - 10, 1917 - 10, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - 10, Jojo Rabbit - 6, Little Women - 6, Marriage Story 6, Parasite - 6, Ford v Ferrari - 4, Bombshell - 3, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - 3, The Two Popes - 3

Films sadly left out of the conversation entirely (regardless of inevitability):
Booksmart, Dark Waters (They Knew!), Dolemite Is My Name, The Farewell, A Hidden Life, The Last Black Man In San Francisco, Midsommar, Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, Queen & Slim, Uncut Gems, Us, Waves, Wild Rose

And The Nominees Are:

Best Picture:
(ranked in order of preference - only this category)
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Sony)
“Parasite” (Neon)
“1917” (Universal)
“Marriage Story” (Netflix)
“The Irishman” (Netflix)
“Ford v Ferrari” (Disney/Fox)
“Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight)
“Little Women” (Sony)
“Joker” (Warner Bros.)

For anyone that's been keeping up, this was a reasonably easy lineup to predict. It really came down to whether there'd be 8 or 9 nominations. Still, here we are with a pretty good variety of films to look at as far as the potential Best Picture of the Year. I suppose the only two potentials that didn't make the cut were The Two Popes (but Netflix still struck gold twice) and The Farewell (which was shockingly snubbed for any nomination). That said, except for maybe Joker (leader of the pack in nom number count), I can't say I'd be upset by any of these winning the top prize. Of course, I'll be rooting most for Hollywood, though Parasite cashing in on its universal love would not be bad by any means either.

Lead Actor:
Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”)
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”)
Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”)

I'm thrilled to see Banderas in this crowd. It's his first-ever nomination and his career-best performance. While Phoenix is the apparent frontrunner, Driver is right behind him, so we'll see how this turns out. It would have been great to see Adam Sandler shove his way into this race for good measure, let alone Eddie Murphy (and even De Niro turned in his best performance in ages), but this is a solid acting line-up, to say the least. Oh, and I guess private Elton John concerts for voters didn't help out Taron Egerton.

Lead Actress:
Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”)
Saorise Ronan (“Little Women”)
Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”)
Renee Zellweger (“Judy”)

Another group of expected contenders, also notable for being the only acting category to feature a person of color (give or take Banderas). By seemingly any metric, Lupita Nyong'o gave maybe the best performance of the year in Us, but it's also a horror movie so that sadly played against its chances. This is Ronan's fourth nomination, putting her in Amy Adams' territory. However, it feels like the Judy train is still rolling at this point. And just to mention it again, Bombshell doesn't get much credit for me, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. Meanwhile, thoughts on Akwafina making her way into this category didn't quite pan out.

Supporting Actor:
Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”)
Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)
Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)
Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)

This is a pretty old crew, and Song Kang-Ho would have been a welcome addition. That said, all the favorites made the lineup (and they are all previous Oscar winners), with Pitt likely on his way to victory (well-earned, and his first for acting). The double nods for The Irishman, if anything, will cancel it out, but great showing for two great performances. Tom Hanks gets his first nomination since Cast Away in 2000, so that's nice for him as the world's nicest TV show personality. 

Supporting Actress:
Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Jojo Rabbit”)
Florence Pugh (“Little Women”)
Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”)

The actors' branch must really like Kathy Bates. The Oscar-winner has seemingly swooped in to snag a nomination away from the heavy favorite (along with Dern) Jennifer Lopez. Every website/writer will tell you that's the biggest surprise of the day. Meanwhile, Florence Pugh snags her first nomination, which also comes as a bit of a surprise. Johansson also scores a double nomination in the same year, a general rarity. Who missed out? Well, once again, The Farewell could have landed a spot, or any other surprise. Alas...

Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)
Todd Phillips (“Joker”)
Sam Mendes (“1917”)
Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”)

I mean, neither of them are going to win, but the showdown between Scorsese and Phillips over who made the better Scorsese film is... humorous. That said, I joked about Phillips being up for a Best Director Oscar for Joker a long time ago, and here we are ("no one's laughing now"). Meanwhile, while the possibility of Greta Gerwig scoring a second director nomination didn't happen, Bong Joon Ho is now welcomed to the club, which is very welcome indeed. That said, I think this is coming down to Mendes and Tarantino, who both make strong cases (not that the others don't), as far as how the Academy tends to vote.

Adapted Screenplay:
Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”)
Steve Zaillian (“The Irishman”)
Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes”)
Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”)
Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (“Joker”)

Quality notwithstanding, this is a weaker category than usual, given a lack of much look outside of the realm of big Oscar players. Still, the list of mostly Best Picture nominees keeps things interesting as far as potential winners. Maybe Taika Waiti will walk away with a trophy. There'd certainly be fun to go along with that. Or perhaps this is the one area where Popes or Women can claim gold.

Original Screenplay:
Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”)
Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”)
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”)
Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won (“Parasite”)

This screenplay category is more enjoyable, thanks to seeing original ideas get rewarded and expanding to other areas. I'm looking at Knives Out, which gives Rian Johnson his first Oscar nomination, which is quite cool. That said, Lulu Wang missing out on one for The Farewell feels like one of the bigger surprises. I'm all for 1917, but for the screenplay category, that's a bit of a reach. Could have seen some other neat additions here as well, like Pain and Glory or Booksmart, but there's plenty of great here already.

Animated Feature:
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World””
“I Lost My Body”
“Missing Link”
“Toy Story 4”

This has to be one of the strongest lineups in a while. I like all of these quite a bit, and props to Netflix for landing two nominations. But where does this go? Can Pixar pull a win for their fourth Toy Story? Will Dragon finally be rewarded for having a solid trilogy? Or does LAIKA finally get their due for their "Hilarious" feature? That said, I found I Lost My Body to be quite interesting and obscure enough to stand out for its own reasons.

International Feature Film:
“Corpus Christi”
“Les Miserables”
“Pain and Glory”

The newly dubbed "Best International Feature" has a solid lineup, but this is Parasite's to lose. Perhaps Pain and Glory can make a play for the win, but who are we kidding, it's all about Parasite here. Corpus Christi managed to bump out Atlantics for a nomination. Meanwhile, Honeyland is now a double-threat, thanks to being acknowledged here and in the next category.

Documentary Feature:
“American Factory”
“The Cave”
“Edge of Democracy”
“For Sama”

Yes, Honeyland now seems poised to win, given its two nominations, but you never know. Each of the other nominees has various messages to send out to viewers, which could resonate with voters too. That said, somehow, Apollo 11 missed out entirely, which is upsetting for one who felt it was better than most films this past year. That said, I can say the same about Honeyland, so let's see it happen for the win.

“The Irishman”
“The Lighthouse”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Can't deny how great-looking and well-shot all of these nominees are. Very happy The Lighthouse was able to make the cut, as weird as it is. That's a film with haunting visuals sure to leave an impact. Still, after years of not winning, it looks like Deakins is about to get his 2nd win within a short period. 1917 was an astounding cinematic effort, and between the shadows, contrasts, and dexterity of the camera movements, there's just too much to praise. Joker certainly knew how to establish shots as well, so with all the noms, this one at least feels fitting when not focusing on dialogue scenes. Oh, and Robert Richardson killed it with Hollywood.

Costume Design:
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Little Women”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

I guess the Academy wasn't feeling it for the fantastical this year, as Aladdin and Rocketman both couldn't make the cut. Perhaps more surprising was the funky look of Dolemite is My Name, which had plenty to work with, yet was still denied. That said, it was a big year for America during various decades, with the style of the Hitler youth really working for folks as well.

Film Editing:
“Ford vs. Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”

There's a common logic that Best Editing tends to go with Best Picture. If you're looking at 1917 and Hollywood as frontrunners, their exclusion is notable. That said, once again, very nice to see Parasite land here, given the maximization of the suspense coming out of terrific editing. I may need to watch Jojo Rabbit again to see what pushed it over the top. And yeah, Ford v Ferrari feels appropriate enough as far as a more "action-focused" nomination (that could likely win).

Makeup and Hair:
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

The expansion to five entries is nice to see, as it gives a chance for a broader look at things. Each of these is impressive in their own regard, though I once again sigh at the missed-opportunity to award more genre-specific features.

Original Score:
“Little Women”
“Marriage Story”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

This played exactly into my expectations, and while Newman and Desplat have nice scores for their films, and this is Williams best effort for the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films (regardless of the film itself), it seems to be coming down to Joker's Icelandic composer's first nomination versus Thomas Newman's 15th (without ever winning). I think 1917 has a pretty amazing score, but there is a certain power to the heavy use of strings found in Joker.

Original Song:
"I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” - “Toy Story 4”
“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” - “Rocketman”
“I’m Standing With You,” - “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” - “Frozen 2”
“Stand Up,” - “Harriet”

The Best Original Song category is a mess. Not that a ton of realistic choices were available, but I can't speak up for many of these. Cynthia Erivo becomes the third actress in a row to be nominated for an acting award as well as Song. I wish something else could have subbed in for one of these, like the powerful ballad from Wild Rose, or something more distinct like Thom Yorke's theme from Motherless Brooklyn.

Production Design:
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

As much as I like giving praise to Hollywood for its level of detail aided by the film's style, perhaps the best nomination (certainly below the line) is Parasite for production design. That film built everything from scratch, which is plenty impressive considering the homes we see for these characters.

Sound Editing:
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Great campaigning is how you get Joker dual sound nominations. That said after Rush was snubbed in 2013, here's hoping another proper racecar movie can go the distance.

Sound Mixing:
“Ad Astra”
“Ford vs. Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Nice to see Ad Astra sneak into at least one category. It's a technical marvel for sure. Surprised Rocketman couldn't even manage this, as musicals are usually a given.

Visual Effects:
“Avengers: Endgame”
“The Irishman”
“The Lion King”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"

The Academy leans towards realism these days, so I'm looking at 1917 or The Irishman as the ones to beat. That said, hey, Marvel fans can be happy to see Endgame land its one nomination here, along with that big cats movie...no, the other one about cats.

Documentary Short Subject:
“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone If You’re a Girl”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”

Hoping not all of these are depressing.

Live-Action Short Film:
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbor’s Window”
“A Sister”

Another set of films I look forward to watching.

Animated Short:
“Hair Love”

I've seen a couple of these and look forward to seeing the others.

And that does it for the nominations and my commentary for now. The Oscars will air earlier this year, on February 9, hostless once again. I'll have some podcasts and possibly other stuff coming up between now and then.


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