After weeks of guessing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ favorite films and performances, the 2020 Oscar nominations have been announced, revealing that most of the members liked what you liked. Joker! Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood! Parasite! 1917! It was a largely predictable slate of nominees.
Except where it wasn’t. Every year’s list of nominees produces a jaw-dropping omission or two, and the 2020 edition delivered its own batch of face-palming MIAs. From a daring dual performance to a momentous comeback to one of the most mesmerizing documentaries in years, there were more than a few head-scratching nominations missing from this morning’s list. Here are the 12 most egregious, enraging snubs.
Best Director: Greta Gerwig for Little Women
Or: Any woman for Best Director. When will the Academy honor female directors to the same degree it does men? The Academy once again threw its gender bias right on the table, picking five guys for Best Director and ignoring an obvious choice sitting in their Best Picture lineup. Greta Gerwig made the cut for Lady Bird but apparently wasn’t deemed worthy for her equally acclaimed follow-up, even though the film landed six nominations overall. Big-up the film’s two acting nominations and being one of the best pictures of the year … but it’s not one of the best directed? What?
And the embarrassing history when it comes to nominating women in this category didn’t just snub Gerwig this year. What if the Academy had surprised everyone and nominated Céline Sciamma for Portrait of a Lady on Fire? Or Marielle Heller for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood? Or Lulu Wang for The Farewell? (More on that in a second.) Every year, more and more female directors seem to be working hard to correct the gender imbalance in their field. Maybe someday the Academy will notice.
Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o for Us
The voting body snubbed one of the most acclaimed performances in years — well, actually, two performances. Lupita Nyong’o’s dual threat in Jordan Peele’s Us was one of the most daring, jaw-dropping balancing acts of the year by far. Yet this is an Academy that often embraces impersonation over embodiment of something original, and one unwilling to consider the notion that a blockbuster genre film not named Joker could have a genuine nominee anchoring it from beginning to end. (This is the same organization that has also traditionally demonstrated a bias against horror, but still.) What Nyong’o does in this film should have had her leading the conversation about winning her second award — but she can’t even get a nomination?
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers
This was probably the biggest head-scratcher, given the deafening buzz that surrounded Jennifer Lopez’s performance since the minute that Hustlers premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. J-Lo dominates Lorene Scafaria’s film with one of those magnetic performances that the Academy typically loves, especially when it can be accompanied by a comeback narrative. In fact, there were people all the way up to nomination morning suggesting that there’s so much love in Hollywood for Lopez that she’d be considered by many to be a near-lock for a win. So what happened? Did the subject matter scare away voters? If so, it’s truly criminal that a performance that injected so much life into awards season has seen its run cut short before the final number.
The Farewell for anything
A24 had a rough morning overall, and the most tragic example of that has to be the complete exclusion of Lulu Wang’s beloved personal drama about her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. Considered a shoo-in for Best Original Screenplay and a definite possibility in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, The Farewell ended up with a total of zero nominations. From its Sundance premiere through its amazing theatrical run, it was an audience favorite. It helped rebrand Awkwafina as a dramatic actor, and introduced a sui generis voice in its writer-director. And … nada. It’s a true shame that a film this tender and personal couldn’t even get one nomination to push it to a wider audience.
Best Actor: Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems
What does Adam Sandler have to do to get a nomination? The man gave what was arguably the best performance of his career in Josh and Benny Safdies’ anxiety-inducing drama about a jeweler unable to see past (or outrun) his own personal flaws. A walking ball of tension, Sandler perfectly riffs on his screen personality of the bumbling buffoon; no other actor could have played this walking, talking, sweating, kvetching antihero in precisely the same way. Sure, in a crowded Best Actor field it always felt like something of a long shot, but his character lived and died on the long shot. He would have bet on Sandler too.
The ensemble of Parasite
Yes, it’s wonderful that Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite became the first South Korean film nominated for Best Picture, and we couldn’t be happier about the nods for Best Director, Best International Film, Best Original Screenplay and several technical categories. But was there anyone actually in this movie? Most people thought the legendary Song Kang Ho was in for Best Supporting Actor, and some critics groups gave citations to actresses like Lee Jung Eun and Cho Yeo Jeong. All of them missed out on nominations morning.
Best Actor: Robert De Niro for The Irishman
When a living legend gives a late-career performance as good as what Robert De Niro does in Martin Scorsese’s epic masterpiece, a nomination is almost always a sure thing. It worked for Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. So where’s the man who truly anchors this Best Picture nominee? Here’s the truth: The Irishman doesn’t get all of those nominations this year (10!) without the gravity that De Niro brings to it in every single scene. His performance is the least showy aspect of the film; it’s also what holds it all together. He hasn’t won an Oscar since 1980’s Raging Bull, and it would have been amazing to see him potentially get a third prize four decades later. Now that possibility sleeps with the fishes.
Dolemite Is My Name for anything
Netflix had a very strong Oscar morning, but voters clearly weren’t ready for the comedy comeback for Eddie Murphy. The story of Rudy Ray Moore’s rise to fame not only reminded us how great it is to have a funny Murphy performance again; it also revealed that casting agents should be calling Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Wesley Snipes for just about everything right now. None of them were nominated. Perhaps most surprising of all was the snub for Ruth Carter, whos costume design matched her award-winning work on Black Panther.
Best Actor: Taron Egerton for Rocketman
Let’s get this straight: You go and give the Oscar to Rami Malek for his impersonation of Freddie Mercury last year, but Taron Egerton’s superior embodiment of Elton John this year can’t even warrant an invite to the party? Perhaps the Academy felt like it didn’t want to repeat itself — and to be fair, the Best Actor category was stronger overall this year — but Egerton was everywhere this awards season, participating in Q&As and meeting Academy members. He’ll probably be back, but any hope for an Oscar this year is gone like a candle in the wind. (Sorry.)
Best Documentary: Apollo 11
Show us a documentary producer who has been told they’re the Oscar front-runner all year, and we’ll show you a doomed person. Last year’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was bafflingly missing from the nomination list — and the same thing happened this year with a movie a lot of people considered the presumptive front-runner to win. Remastering footage of the legendary Apollo 11 landing, Todd Douglas Miller’s chronicle of a groundbreaking moment in human history is a truly breathtaking film. It’s hard to even fathom why it missed the cut here other than that this nomination group has a bias against being told what to do.
Best Animated Feature Film: Frozen 2
This isn’t so much a snub on an artistic level as a shock. The Academy loved the first Frozen so much that they gave it an Oscar for Best Animated Film. Could the sequel follow in its icy footsteps? Nope. Not even nominated. Honestly, the Academy did think outside the box a bit here, likely giving Elsa & Co.’s nomination to the Netflix film Klaus or possibly the ambitious I Lost My Body, both films that needed a nomination boost to get people to watch them more than the Disney juggernaut. But we’re still surprised.
Best Original Song: “Spirit” from The Lion King
The producers of the Oscars have to be furious about this one. You passed on the chance to have Beyoncé perform at the Oscars? You mean the segments in which most people go to get a snack or take a bathroom break could have included a musical legend? And we said no?! The song category is regularly a super-weird one, but after last year’s incredible performance of “Shallow” went viral, you just know the Academy is kicking itself over not having a similar moment with Her Beyjesty this year. Maybe they can let her sing it anyway?