After making some major strides last year, the nominations for the 92nd Annual Academy Awards are basically #OscarsSo WhitePart 2: #OscarsSoWhiterAndWithMoreMen, a sequel to the hashtag originated in 2015 by April Reign for the lack of diverse nominees. The Academy Awards took the non-inclusive torch that was carried by the BAFTA Awards and the Golden Globes. Only one actor of color were nominated in the major acting categories while women were shut out of Best Director. It was at least refreshing to see John Cho and Issa Rae unveil the nominations early Monday morning because they provided much-needed color to the announcement — both figuratively and literally.
For Best Supporting Actress, awards season favorite Jennifer Lopez was snubbed for her role in Hustlers while people will be tweeting #JusticeForNaiNai as The Farewell‘s Zhao Shuzhen was excluded as well. Speaking of Lulu Wang’s family drama, Awkwafina, who made history as the first Asian American to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical, was also snubbed in the Best Actress category while awards season favorite Lupita Nyong’o was shut out for her amazing turn as Red in Jordan Peele’s Us. Parasite’s Park So-dam received praise for her performance which could have made its way on the list as well. The saving grace for the female acting category was Cynthia Erivo who was nominated for her role in Harriet, which was just as much a noteworthy performance as Awkwafina and Nyong’o.
It was the same story for the men as both categories were dominated by white actors. Noticeably absent from the nominations was Dolemite Is My Name‘s Eddie Murphy, who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday night at the Critics’ Choice Awards. In addition, Parasite‘s Song Kang Ho, who just took home the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for Best Supporting Actor, could have easily been included.
One of the biggest surprising non-surprises was that women were shut out of the Best Director category, following the awards season trail cleared by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the BAFTA Awards. With a massive pool of talented female filmmakers this year including Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Alma Har’el (Honey Boy), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), Kasi Lemmons (Harriet), Olivia Wilde (Booksmart), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) and Greta Gerwig (Little Women), it’s a head-scratcher in why none of them are in the running. Of the nominees, Bong Joon Ho is representing the underrepresented for Parasite.
The lack of women in the Best Director category is a sad tradition as only five — yes five — women have been nominated in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties in 1976; Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993; Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009; and Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird in 2017. Of those, Bigelow is the sole female in the history of the Oscars to win.
To add to the lack of people of color and women, there was little to no representation for other underrepresented voices including the disabled and the LGBTQ communities with the exception of Missing Link director Chris Butler, who is openly gay as well as Elton John who received a nomination for Rocketman‘s “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” which he wrote with Bernie Taupin. As for intersectional nominations, that’s not even on the Academy’s radar.
There were glimpses of diversity in other categories on this year’s roster of nominees including Taika Waititi’s noms for Jojo Rabbit as well as Greta Gerwig’s screenwriting nod for Little Women. In addition, the documentary American Factory produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground and directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar was nominated for Best Documentary. Barack Obama tweeted in response to the nomination: “Glad to see American Factory’s Oscar nod for Best Documentary. It’s the kind of story we don’t see often enough and it’s exactly what Michelle and I hope to achieve with Higher Ground. Congrats to the incredible filmmakers and entire team!”
Also getting an Oscar nod was journalist Waad al-Kateab’s documentary For Sama which follows her life during the uprising in Aleppo, Syria while Matthew Cherry was nominated for his animated short Hair Love.
Parasite was a big winner this year when it came to diverse storytelling as it was the first South Korean movie to receive nominations for Best Picture and Best International Film. The crossover hit has been championed by the Asian and Asian American community as it received six nominations, tying with Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit as well as Little Women and Marriage Story.
The nominations for this year pale in comparison to last year when it comes to films with diverse narratives. In 2019, the Best Picture category included Roma, Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther. These would become the major contenders for the year, getting multiple nominations throughout all the major categories.
The acting categories included five people of color in 2019 with Mahershala Ali winning for Green Book, Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody and Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk. Roma‘s Yalitza Aparicio and Marina became the Mexican-born actresses to be nominated for awards at the same ceremony. Aparicio was the second Mexican-born actress to be nominated for Best Actress after Salma Hayek was nominated in 2002 for Frida.
Roma‘s Alfonso Cuarón also made history last year for being the first person nominated for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Original Screenplay in the same year. Also, Spike Lee received his directing nomination — which many found a surprise.
Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther became the first superhero movie to get a Best Picture nomination. Hannah Beachler became the first black nominee and winner for Best Production Design while Ruth E. Carter, who won for Best Costume Design for the Marvel Studios pic, was the first black person to be nominated in the category three times.
And although Green Book won last year, it was a very divisive win as it received backlash as a black narrative told through a white gaze. There was criticism of its lack of authenticity which fueled the continuing conversation of inclusive storytelling in Hollywood. Perhaps this was a preview of what would happen this year.
As competitive as the 2020 categories are, the exclusion of people of color and women proves that progress for underrepresented voices in film is moving at a glacial pace, with peaks and valleys and more stories from diverse voices needing to be lifted and put in the spotlight.
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