The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced January 13, and much like prior years, the list of Oscar contenders is full of surprises — not all of them good.
First and foremost among the highlights of the 2020 Academy Award nominations was the sudden dominance of Netflix, which earned 24 nominations across all of the categories, giving it the most nominations of any movie studio. Sony Pictures finished second in total nominations, buoyed largely by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ affinity for Joker, Todd Phillips’ controversial drama that earned 11 nominations.
The amount of money Netflix poured into its slate of original films this year — which includes the Best Picture-nominated dramas The Irishman and Marriage Story — has clearly paid off with a long list of nominations at each of the major awards ceremonies, but so far the streaming studio has yet to convert those nominations into many wins. Despite amassing 16 nominations for Golden Globe Awards, for example, Netflix ended up winning in just one category at this year’s ceremony — an event that’s typically been an early indication of how things will pan out at the Oscars.
While the accolades heaped on Netflix suggest that streaming projects are finally being judged equally alongside theatrical releases (as far as awards recognition), it’s worth noting that Netflix was also the only streaming studio to garner any Academy Award nominations this year. Despite earning nominations — and even winning a few Oscars — in recent years, Amazon Studios was completely left out of the mix this year despite several potential contenders in technical categories (such as the amazing visual effects of The Aeronauts, for example) and other areas of the nomination pool.
Whether Netflix can successfully translate that horde of Oscar nominations into actual awards remains to be seen, and will likely be the true test of whether Oscar voters are sincere about all films — regardless of release format — competing on the same field when it comes to the industry’s highest awards.
Although the Oscar nominations don’t suggest a favorite when it comes to streaming versus theatrical releases, the final list of contenders does make it clear who the Academy Awards voters tend to favor when it comes to individual nominees: White, male nominees dominated nearly every possible category, putting the #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale hashtags into play for yet another year.
No women were nominated in the Best Director category this year despite widespread acclaim for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (which earned six nominations, including one in the Best Picture category), Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, and Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Similarly, Harriet actress Cynthia Erivo was the only Black actress nominated in any category, despite 2014 Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o earning heaps of praise for playing not one, but two compelling roles in Jordan Peele’s Us.
Despite the diversity-related criticism heaped on Oscars voters, who remain 68% male and 84% white, there were some positive elements to come out of this year’s nominations, with South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite receiving six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director nominations. This marks the first time a South Korean film has been nominated in the Best Picture category, but the fact that none of the film’s cast was nominated in acting categories looms large over the film’s accomplishments so far.
Some of the biggest surprises to come out of this year’s Oscar nominations included the absence of Adam Sandler’s celebrated drama Uncut Gems from any categories, as well as the even-more-conspicuous absences of The Irishman star Robert De Niro and Dolemite is My Name star Eddie Murphy from the male actor categories. After taking home a Golden Globe Award for her lead performance in The Farewell, actress Awkwafina was also noticeably missing from the list of lead actresses receiving Oscar nominations this year.
Given the praise heaped on 1917 for presenting its World War I adventure in what appears to be (but is not actually) one single, continuous shot, the film was surprisingly not represented in the Best Film Editing category.
As far as Oscar predictions go, the number of nominations earned by Netflix projects hasn’t given the streaming studio an edge when it comes to the most likely winners.
After nominations were announced, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Sam Mendes’ 1917 remained oddsmakers’ favorites to win the Best Picture category, with Mendes also expected to beat The Irishman filmmaker Martin Scorsese in the Best Director category.
The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will air live at 3:30 p.m. PT/6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 9, on ABC.
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