This image released by Universal Pictures shows Lupita Nyong'o in a scene from "Us" written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. Picture: AP
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Lupita Nyong'o in a scene from "Us" written, produced and directed by Jordan Peele. Picture: AP

This year's biggest Oscar snubs, from people of colour to female directors

By Elahe Izadi, Sonia Rao, Bethonie Butler, Emily Yahr Time of article published Jan 14, 2020

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What a time to be alive: 2020 is the year that Adam Sandler and Jennifer Lopez didn't receive Oscar nominations and it was considered a snub.

The academy announced nominations on Monday, which included few surprises but plenty of such omissions. 

Predictably, "Joker," "The Irishman," "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" and "1917" led the pack with the most nods, which were announced Monday. 

But other films like "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," "The Farewell" and "Uncut Gems" received little to no love from the academy.

With so many contenders who had hovered around the cusp completely out of the running, let's break down which exclusions are most glaring.

Female directors

After presenting the best director category, Issa Rae quipped, "Congratulations to those men," recalling Natalie Portman's oft-referenced introduction while presenting the "all-male nominees" at the Golden Globes ceremony two years ago.


— The Pop Hub (@ThePopHub)

Four names were more or less cemented ahead of Monday morning's nominations: Martin Scorsese for "The Irishman," Quentin Tarantino for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Bong Joon-ho for "Parasite" and Sam Mendes for "1917." 

Many had hoped Greta Gerwig, who earned a directing nomination two years ago for her solo debut "Lady Bird," would again appear for her critically acclaimed adaptation of "Little Women." But the fifth slot went to Todd Phillips, whose box-office juggernaut "Joker" landed the most nominations of any project despite being one of the year's most divisive films.

Supporting actress Jennifer Lopez

Was JLo ever really going to win an Oscar? Well, no, probably not. But that didn't stop the hype machine from going into overdrive over her captivating role in "Hustlers" as Ramona, the ringleader of a group of strippers who start drugging wealthy clients to steal their credit cards. (Her pole-dancing scene instantly became legendary and probably immediately caused a spike in moviegoers googling her age. She's 50, for the record.) Alas, despite earning nods for a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award, an Academy Award nomination was not in the cards - and the writing seemed to be on the wall as the buzz for other actresses grew louder throughout award season. Still, quite a few people were very angry:

Lead actors Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler

This past year saw two comedic icons - both with track records of making films torn apart by critics - give award-worthy performances. And they were totally snubbed by the voting academy.

Eddie Murphy was literally and metaphorically hanging out on his couch the past few years, but decided to return to the spotlight for what he has called his "bookend" period. "I don't want to sit on the couch after 'Mr. Church,' " he told the New York Times, referring to the 2016 drama. And while Murphy received a best actor nod at the Globes for playing blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore in "Dolemite is My Name," he got no love from the academy.

Sandler, who previously offered nuanced performances in "Punch-Drunk Love" and "The Meyerowitz Stories," joked that if he didn't get awards consideration for "Uncut Gems," he would return to making terrible movies "on purpose just to make you all pay." So expect that.

Lupita Nyong'o in "Us"

Horror movies notoriously have a difficult time at the Oscars, but it was hard to stop thinking about Lupita Nyong'o's double roles in the psychological thriller "Us," including the unsettling portrayal of her own doppelganger. But even though plenty of critics felt that Nyong'o deserved the nomination alongside front-runners such as Scarlett Johansson ("Marriage Story") and Renée Zellweger ("Judy"), it unfortunately wasn't a huge surprise when she was left off the list - although it certainly angered plenty of fans, particularly because Johansson got two separate nods (the other for "Jojo Rabbit").

People of colour, in general

The Oscar nominations aren't as devoid of diversity as last week's backlash-inducing BAFTA nominations, which included not a single actor of colour. But people of color are still overwhelmingly underrepresented among this year's slate of nominees.

One of the more glaring omissions - aside from Awkwafina and JLo - is the academy's failure to nominate renowned costume designer Ruth E. Carter for "Dolemite Is My Name." Carter made history last year as the first black costume designer to win her craft's most prestigious award for "Black Panther." (Her longtime collaborator Spike Lee is probably not very happy right now.)

The lead and supporting actor categories are dominated by white men. The lead actress category, meanwhile, includes a nod for Cynthia Erivo, the British actress who somewhat controversially portrayed Harriet Tubman in a long-awaited biopic. But Erivo's nod underscores the idea that actors of colour only win praise for playing certain types of roles. (Remember how Jadakiss pointed this out back in 2004?). Nyong'o, whose devilishly dual role was left out of the running this year, famously won an Oscar in 2014 for portraying a slave in Steve McQueen's period drama "12 Years a Slave."

"Y'all love your black women in the key of slave narrative over there in Hollywood," one social media user tweeted Monday, noting that Nyong'o technically played two roles in one film.

The academy could have surprised Oscar viewers by honouring bolder choices - the polarizing romantic drama "Queen and Slim" or Jamie Foxx's SAG-nominated performance in "Just Mercy" - for example. But that seems too much to ask for a ceremony that gave its top honour last year to "Green Book."

Documentary "Apollo 11"

The best feature documentary category may have given some predictable love to "American Factory," the Netflix documentary produced by the Obamas' production company, but nothing for the one documentary considered the front-runner to win: "Apollo 11." Todd Douglas Miller used archival footage, including images never seen before by the public, to depict the Apollo 11 moon-landing. It had an impressive haul for a documentary, earning $15 million worldwide at the box office, and won the Sundance Film Festival's U.S. documentary grand jury prize.

But this category can be wild. Last year, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" was thought to be the movie to beat. The critically acclaimed feature about Fred Rogers earned $22 million at the box office, the most of any documentary in 2018, showing that there is still a strong appetite from the movie going public for heartwarming stories about real people who are actually kind. But, stunningly, it didn't receive an Oscar nomination.

Earworm supplier "Frozen II"

The sequel to Disney's beloved, Oscar-winning 2013 film about a princess trying to reunite with her estranged ice crystal-wielding sister has received mixed reviews, but we still expected to see it, among the indies and Pixar's "Toy Story 4," on the best animated films list. In the end, "Frozen II" managed only to get nominated in the best original song category (for "Into the Unknown"). That's no small feat, considering Beyoncé failed to get a nod for "Spirit," her rousing gospel-infused track from "The Lion King."


Does the academy want to make a powerful enemy of the Beyhive? The superstar's fans weren't thrilled when her ballad from the "Lion King" remake was left off the list for best original song. While she would have faced tough competition with Elton John's "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" from "Rocketman" and Cynthia Erivo's "Stand Up" from "Harriet," it's still surprising that Beyoncé's star power couldn't at least edge out "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away" from "Toy Story 4."

The Washington Post

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