Oscar nominations create controversy with lack of diversity, exclusion of female directors

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Cynthia Erivo in “Harriet.” [Focus Features]

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has faced widespread criticism for the dearth of diversity among the top nominees as well as the exclusion female filmmakers at its upcoming 92nd Annual Academy Awards.

Male-dominated titles dominated the Oscars field when the nominations were revealed Monday: Todd Phillips’ R-rated smash “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as a failed mentally ill comedian who turns to crime and eventually becomes Batman’s nemesis, nabbed a leading Oscar 11 nominations and became just the second comic-book movie nominated for best picture, following 2018’s “Black Panther.”

As I reported on my BAM’s Blog, Quentin Taratino’s revisionist ode “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” boasts 10 Oscar nominations, tying it with Sam Mendes’ first-person World War I odyssey “1917″ as well as Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic “The Irishman.”

The nine best picture nominees this year are “Joker,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” “1917,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story” and “Parasite.”

In the four acting categories, only one performer of color is nominated: Cynthia Erivo for her portray of former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in “Harriet.”

Performers such as Tulsa native Alfre Woodard for “Clemency,” Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers,” Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” previous Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx for “Just Mercy,” previous Oscar victor Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” and Golden Globe winner Awkwafina for “The Farewell” were all considered possible contenders but were snubbed.

As has been the case earlier this awards season with the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, the Academy selected an all-male slate in the best director category, with Phillips for “Joker,” Mendes for “1917,” Scorsese for “The Irishman,” Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite” snagging the nominations.

Directors Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”), Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”) and Marielle Heller (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) were regarded as potential nominees but were left out. Had she been nominated, Gerwig would have been the first woman in history to be nominated for best director twice; she became just the fifth woman nominated for best director in 2018 for “Lady Bird.”

Announcing the nominations alongside John Cho on Monday morning, Issa Rae seemed to reference the lack of women nominees in the category by offering “congratulations to those men.”

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in “Little Women.” [Columbia Pictures]

Speaking to Deadline, “Little Women” Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan (nominated in the best actress category) and Florence Pugh (for best supporting actress) expressed frustration that Gerwig was snubbed in the best director contest. “Little Women” received six nominations, including the two acting nods, best picture for producer Amy Pascal, best adapted screenplay for Gerwig, best costume design for Jacqueline Durran and best original score for Alexandre Desplat.

“I’m really happy that the Academy recognized [Gerwig] for Adapted Screenplay and Picture, and I feel like if you’ve been nominated for Best Picture, you have essentially been nominated for Best Director,” Ronan told Deadline. “But to me, Greta, since she started, has made two perfect films, and I hope when she makes her next perfect movie, she gets recognized for everything, because I think she’s one of the most important filmmakers of our time.”

Pugh told Deadline that it was “a big blow, especially because she created a film that is so her and so unique and it’s just come out of her, and it’s been a story she’s wanted to do for so long.” She added, “I think everybody’s angry and quite rightly so. I can’t believe it’s happened again, but I don’t really know how to solve it. I don’t know what the answer is, other than we’re talking about it.”

Franklin Leonard, founder of the Black List, brought math to Twitter, arguing convincingly that misogyny is to blame for women not getting best direction nods:

“Just a reminder that based on demographics, the odds of one or fewer women nominated for Best Director in a decade is 1 in more than 22 trillion,” he tweeted. “If you assume that men are 80% of directors, it’s 1 in more than 5000. 90%, 1 in more than 29.”

“For it to even be likely (better than 1 in 2) that there are one or fewer women best director nominees over 10 years, you have to assume that 96.7% of the eligible candidates on offer are men,” he added.

When asked by a fellow Twitter user, “What female director did you want nominated?” Leonard reminded them that this is about more than just this year’s nominees.

“The point is not which female director I wanted nominated this year. The point is that the industry and the academy are rife with sexism,” Leonard tweeted.

It wasn’t all bad news as the Oscar nominations were announced: According to Variety, press materials shared by the Oscars noted that “a record 62 women were nominated, [representing] almost one third of this year’s nominees.”

With her best actress nod for “Little Women,” Ronan, 25, becomes the youngest performer to earn four acting nominations after Jennifer Lawrence. Scarlett Johansson achieved the rare feat of garnering her first and second Oscar nods in the same year: She is nominated for best actress for “Marriage Story” and best supporting actress for “Jojo Rabbit.”

And Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir is just the seventh woman nominated for best original score for her work on “Joker.”

The twisty hit thriller “Parasite” also made Oscars history, becoming the first South Korean movie to be nominated for best picture as well as in the newly renamed best international film category. It received six Oscar nods, including best director, original screenplay, production design and editing.

“Parasite” won the SAG Award for best performance by a cast in a motion picture at tonight’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, making history as the first foreign language film to win in this category, according to The Hollywood Reporter. On Saturday, “1917” won the Producers Guild of America’s award for the best-produced feature film of 2019. As The Wrap reports, it’s an important victory that usually honors the film that goes on to win the Oscar for best picture, but that’s one contest that still feels a little uncertain this year.

Despite the lack of Oscar nominations for women and for people of color, “Clemency” writer-director Chinonye Chukwu spoke to hope and joy on Twitter.

“I speak on joy because in a world that is more comfortable with my oppression than my empowerment as a black woman, owning my joy is one of my greatest tools of power,” she tweeted. “To the many artists who have been overlooked and undervalued, I see you – I see US – and we are glorious!”

The 92nd Academy Awards will be handed out Feb. 9 on ABC. For the second year, the Oscars will not have a host but several top stars are expected to help hand out the trophies.

-BAM

 

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