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The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2020 Oscar Nominations

The Farewell, Uncut Gems, and Dolemite Is My Name completely shut out, but Scarlett Johansson and Honeyland make history.

by | January 13, 2020 | Comments

The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced early in the morning on Monday, January 13 by Issa Rae and John Cho, and as is usually the case, there were plenty of surprises. Netflix turned up in a few places we didn’t expect it to compete, potentially knocking out contenders in the Best Actor, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Animated Feature categories. That said, one of the streaming giant’s most prominent films, Dolemite Is My Name, failed to register even a single nomination, along with other favored contenders like Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems, and Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers. But arguably most surprising of all was the fact that Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix’s supervillain origin story, Joker, nabbed the most Oscar nominations of any film this year, with a total of 11. See below for our picks of the biggest snubs and surprises, then vote in our poll or let us know what yours are in the comments.


SURPRISE: Joker Comes out on Top with 11 Nominations

Niko Tavernise/© 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. TM & © DC Comics
(Photo by Niko Tavernise/© 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. TM & © DC Comics)

We all knew it was going to be a good morning for Joker, with noms for Best Actor and Best Picture guaranteed, but few thought it was going to be this good. The movie won the day with 11 nominations, more than any other film, including Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Sam Mendes’ 1917, and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which each picked up 10. Where Joker really made up its numbers was in earning nods in a number of categories where it was considered an outside chance rather than a lock: Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Director for Todd Phillips.


SNUB: Jennifer Lopez and The Farewell’s Shuzhen Zhao Miss Out

JA, Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection
(Photo by JA, Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection)

Be kind to J-Lo fans today, who may require the comforting warmth of a luxury fur coat after the multi-hyphenate was left off the Best Supporting Actress list – maybe the biggest single snub of this year’s Oscar nominations. Lopez was widely favored in the category for her performance as exotic dancer Ramona in Hustlers, with many pegging her as the likely winner come February. She had racked up wins all season and was mounting a killer campaign. The category was generally one of the most surprising, with The Farewell actress Shuzhen Zhao, who won hearts as Nai Nai in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, also snubbed, and Kathy Bates and Florence Pugh, considered slight dark horses, managing to squeeze in.


SURPRISE: Kathy Bates Shakes Up the Supporting Actress Noms

Claire Folger/©Warner Bros.
(Photo by Claire Folger/©Warner Bros.)

J-Lo’s loss is Kathy Bates’ gain. (There’s a sentence we never thought we’d be writing.) But the huge snub of Jennifer Lopez in the Best Supporting Actress race opened up the door for an outside contender, and Kathy Bates – whose performance as the title character’s mom in Richard Jewell has been widely lauded by critics – beat out other hopefuls Annette Bening (The Report), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name), and the ladies of Parasite to take her place in the field. Interesting side note: Kathy Bates won Best Actress in 1991 and the next year handed Best Actor to Anthony Hopkins – both winning for playing different kinds of psychopaths. Could they both take out Supporting Actor this year, for very different roles?


SNUB: Put Your Bets on Adam Sandler? You Just Lost Big.

A24
(Photo by A24)

With Uncut Gems racing to become A24’s biggest box officer earner ever, and Adam Sandler racking up critics groups awards over the last month, you might have thought he was looking good for his first-ever Oscar nomination. Alas, it was not to be for the Sandman, with The Two Popes’ Jonathan Pryce taking what was considered the open fifth slot in the Best Actor race (noms for Joaquin Phoenix, Adam Driver, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Antonio Banderas were considered locks). Uncut Gems, in which Sandler plays a Diamond District gem dealer with a gambling problem and a complicated love life, is one of the actor’s best-reviewed movies, according to the Tomatometer.


SURPRISE: Two Popes, Two Noms – Jonathan Pryce Takes Coveted Fifth Slot in Best Actor Race, Anthony Hopkins Up for Supporting

Peter Mountain/©Netflix
(Photo by Peter Mountain/©Netflix)

As we said above, four of the Best Actor slots were seen as sure things going into Monday – Joaquin Phoenix, Adam Driver, Antonio Banderas, Leonardo DiCaprio – with the fifth slot considered open. Would it be Golden Globe-winner Taron Egerton for his portrayal of Elton John? Or Robert De Niro for his take on Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran? Turns out the fabulous pop star and the bloody house-painter would have to step aside for none other than his Holiness, Pope Francis, as played by Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce in Netflix’s Two Popes. The film generally made more of an impression than some were expecting, picking up noms not just for Pryce but also for co-star Anthony Hopkins, and for Best Adapted Screenplay.


SNUB: Awkwafina and Lupita Nyong’o Get No Love

©A24, Claudette Barius/©Universal
(Photo by ©A24, Claudette Barius/©Universal)

Considering Awkwafina racked up a ton of nominations from critics groups, and Lupita Nyong’o has been winning the Best Actress award from a lot of those same groups, it certainly came as a shock when neither of them managed to land a nod from the Oscars. The former earned rave reviews and a Golden Globes win for her nuanced work as a frustrated granddaughter coming to terms with her grandmother’s terminal illness in Lulu Wang’s deeply personal dramedy The Farewell, while the latter’s dual turn, both as a mother trying to protect her family and as her evil doppelgänger, in Jordan Peele’s Us blew everyone away and earned her a SAG Award nomination. Unfortunately, neither was good enough to merit a spot in the Academy’s top five.


SURPRISE: Cynthia Erivo Just an Oscar Win Away from EGOT STatus

Focus Features
(Photo by Focus Features)

Cynthia Erivo was always a chance for a nomination for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in Focus Features’ rousing Harriet, but pundits favored Golden Globe winner Awkwafina for what was seen as the category’s open fifth slot. With The Farewell completely snubbed this morning, including its lead Awkwafina, the slot was open, and it went, as some expected, to Broadway star Erivo, who’s earned praise for a string of film roles over the last two years (Widows, Bad Times At The El Royale). Lupita Nyong’o and Alfre Woodard had been her fiercest competition for the coveted opening. The nomination puts Erivo one step closer to EGOT status, having earned a Tony, Grammy, and Emmy for her role as Celie in Broadway musical The Color Purple – she got her Daytime Emmy for a performance from the production on The Today Show. The smart money would say it’s not her year for a win, but as we’ve seen this morning, the Academy never ceases to surprise.


SNUB: Apollo 11 Grounded by the Academy

©Neon
(Photo by ©Neon)

The Best Documentary category may not be the most glamorous, but there was one film most believed would at least make the list, if not win it entirely. Apollo 11, the stunning chronicle of the eponymous space mission brought to life solely through archival footage, wowed critics to the tune of a near-unanimous Certified Fresh 99% on the Tomatometer, and it’s been plowing through awards season picking up trophies from all of the major critics organizations. Alas, none of it was enough to earn recognition from the Academy, who, among their selections for Best Documentary, curiously saw fit instead to include Netflix’s The Edge of Democracy, which isn’t a bad film by any means, but it hasn’t been nominated for pretty much anything else.


SURPRISE: Honeyland Makes History 

Ljubomir Stevanov/©Neon
(Photo by Ljubomir Stevanov/©Neon)

North Macedonian film Honeyland quietly made history this morning, becoming the first movie nominated for both Best Documentary (Feature) and Best International Feature Film (the category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film). It made history, too, as only the second North Macedonian movie to ever receive a nomination for the international category (the first was for the 1994 film Before the Rain). The film, shot over three years in a fly-on-the-wall style, focuses on a woman who uses ancient beekeeping techniques and traditions to produce honey in the Macedonian mountains, and the tensions that arise when a new nomadic family arrives and interferes with her livelihood. It remains one of the best-reviewed movies of 2019, Certified Fresh at 99% on the Tomatometer. [Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that Honeyland was the first nominated North Macedonian film; it is actually the second.]


SNUB: Monday Morning’s Alright (For Fighting) for Largely Ignored Rocketman

@ Paramount Pictures
(Photo by @ Paramount Pictures)

No need to clean your rose-tinted shades: Your eyes don’t deceive you – Elton John biopic was snubbed in a number of surprising categories. Perhaps the biggest shock was that Taron Egerton, who plays John in the film and took home a Golden Globe for his efforts (and sang all of his own vocals), missed out on a nomination for Best Actor. Other shockers for Rocketman: No love for Best Costume Design or Makeup and Hairstyling. The movie earned its sole nomination in the category of Original Song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” with music by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin.


SURPRISE: That Toy Story 4 Song You Forgot About Is Up for an Oscar

 © Walt Disney Studios
(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios)

Did you even remember that Randy Newman had a song in Toy Story 4? Because we’ll be honest, we’d kinda forgotten (and so had most pundits, with the song barely registering a blip on the prognostication radar ahead of this morning’s nominations). But he does, and it’s called “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” and it’s just been nominated for Best Original Song, pushing Beyoncé’s “Spirit” from The Lion King out of contention. The Newman song might be the most literal of the nominated tunes this year, playing over a montage of incidences in which Forky tries to throw himself away, and, well, Woody just can’t let him. This is Newman’s 21st Oscar nomination, and fourth Best Original Song nomination for a Toy Story movie.


SNUB: Lulu Wang’s The Farewell Shut Out Entirely

The Farewell
(Photo by A24)

We’ve already covered how Awkwafina and Shuzhen Zhao were snubbed in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories above, but considering how much of a phenomenon The Farewell was, it’s incredible that it failed to garner any nominations at all. If the acting categories were too crowded, we thought perhaps writer-director Lulu Wang stood a chance of competing for Best Original Screenplay, but even there, she was supplanted by Sam Mendes’ 1917, whose Writers Guild Award nomination was the first recognition of the film’s writing all season. Ever since The Farewell premiered, we’ve been expecting to see it make some sort of appearance at the Oscars, but it looks like that’s not going to happen after all.


SURPRISE: Scarlett Johansson Earns Double Nominations, Joining Prestigious Company

©Netflix, Larry Horricks/©Fox Searchlight Pictures
(Photo by ©Netflix, Larry Horricks/©Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Maybe she can play a tree… Scarlett Johansson earned the distinction of being twice-nominated in a single year for her work in Marriage Story (Best Actress In a Leading Role) and in Jojo Rabbit (Best Actress In a Supporting Role). Johansson becomes just the 12th actor ever to be nominated for two awards in the same year, and, interestingly, one of her fellow nominees this year is among those names: Al Pacino was nominated for both Scent Of A Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross at the 65th Academy Awards. The last actor to earn double nominations in a single year was Cate Blanchett, nominated for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and I’m Not There at the 80th Awards. Double nominations seem to neither be a disadvantage nor advantage, with seven of the 11 past double nominees managing to win one of their awards, though no one has ever won both.


SNUB: Dolemite Ignored Across the Board, Including for Best Costumes (What!?)

Eddie Murphy stars in DOLEMITE IS MY NAME! PHOTO CREDIT Francois Duhamel COPYRIGHT NETFLIX
(Photo by Francois Duhamel/Netflix)

Adam Sandler wasn’t the only dark-horse SNL alum to miss out on a Best Actor slot this morning: Eddie Murphy, whose Dolemite Is My Name is one of the best-reviewed comedies of the year and whom many thought could ride the cresting Eddie-aissance to an Oscar nom, got no love today, and neither did the film generally, earning a total of zero nominations. The biggest snub for the Netflix comedy arguably came in the Costume Design category, where Ruth E. Carter, who took home the Oscar in the category last year for Black Panther, was considered a shoo-in and a favorite to win. Joker, on the other hand, was the surprise nominee for Best Costume Design, edging out Dolemite and Elton John biopic Rocketman.


SURPRISE: Klaus Edges Out Frozen II in A Battle of Winter Animation

©Netflix
(Photo by ©Netflix)

We’re not saying Klaus isn’t a terrific film, because it is — it’s Certified Fresh at 93% with an Audience Score of 98% — but that doesn’t mean it’s any less surprising that it managed to nab a nomination for Best Animated Feature over Frozen II. This is the first time since 2011’s Winnie the Pooh that a Walt Disney Animation film hasn’t been nominated for the Oscar, and it’s worth noting that the first Frozen even went on to win back in 2013. It used to be conventional wisdom that Disney’s animated films and Pixar’s various offerings would almost be guaranteed to earn Oscar nods, but this is just more evidence that times are changing, and there are more and more studios taking risks and producing incredible work in animation.


The 92nd Academy Awards will be celebrated on Sunday, February 8 at 5pm PT /8pm ET and broadcast live on ABC.

Are you as obsessed with awards as we are? Check out our Awards Leaderboard for 2019/2020.

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