Film

The Oscars Continually Fuck Over Women And It’s Exhausting

This is exhausting.

Oscars 2020 nominations Jennifer Lopez

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. On a related note, the Academy Award nominations! Let us begin our annual discussion of why the Oscars are cooked and how the cookery continues in 2020. Because mates, it’s a fuck storm.

There’s saying the Oscars are out of touch and out of date, and then there’s this list of nominations which — and I cannot emphasise this enough — DO NOT INCLUDE JENNIFER LOPEZ FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS.

Jenny from the block did not make it through the year 2003 for a bunch of crusty old fucks to do her dirty like this.

Her performance in Hustlers wasn’t a revelation to anyone who has been paying attention for the past twenty years. It was one of the most critically acclaimed of 2019, with Lopez’s portrayal of Ramona exceeding the ‘scheming stripper’ archetype: it had heart, it had humour, it had depth, it had physicality, and it had teeth. 

It sure as shit had more substance to it than Kathy Bates’s nominated performance in Richard Jewell (no disrespect to the legacy of Annie Wilkes).

Joker might not understand the principles of contouring or that you need to bleach your roots in order for dye to hold on to the hair follicle, but it does understand that if you can copy and paste Martin Scorsese’s entire oeuvre, you can be nominated alongside his film The Irishman with eleven Academy Award nominations, including Best Director for Todd Phillips.

That nomination in particular is a festering wound, because not only did it likely come at the cost of another person of colour joining Bong Joon Ho (like Taika Waititi) but it shut out women. Plural, not singular: it shut out any woman getting a nod.

Apparently Films By Women Direct Themselves

Greta Gerwig is the omission that everyone is talking about, because her film Little Women got nominated for Best Picture, and yet she wasn’t nominated for Best Director.

In an expanded category where there can be up to ten nominees each year, Best Picture has become a consolation prize for female directors where their films seem to get a nomination, a pat on the head, and a quietly implied ‘be grateful now, young lady’.

It happened to Ava DuVernay with Selma in 2015, a film that at the time was easily the best of 2014 and — in the years that have passed since — has once strengthened in status compared to its fellow nominees (American Sniper? The Theory of Everything? Please). Yet you can’t give retroactive Oscars. You can only know better, do better … which the Academy definitely ain’t.

Because Gerwig, good as she is, wasn’t even the best female filmmaker with output in 2019: that was Lulu Wang with The Farewell, a movie that was completely snubbed with zero nominations. Zero.

It’s a God damn travesty that it couldn’t even get a technical nomination when The Irishman is nominated for best editing and the film goes for THREE HOURS AND TWENTY NINE MINUTES. Sir, where was the editing?!?

There’s Hustlers Lorene Scafaria, who would have had nominations across the board for ‘a crime caper with tits’ if her name was Lorenzo Scafaria. There’s Alma Har’el for Honey Boy, Céline Sciamma for Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, Mati Diop for Atlantics, and Ardelia Mapp herself Kasi Lemmons for Harriet. In a year when we could have easily had an all-female pool of Best Director nominees and still had stellar examples on the bench, we got none. Nil.

Is There A Light At The End Of This Sewer?

It’s not all bad, however. Okay, it’s like ninety-five per cent bad, but that five per cent is important because that’s the space that has seen some historic firsts.

South Korean favourite Parasite has scored six nominations, which is ace because it means the odds of Bong Joon Ho calling Americans dumb-fucks again during an acceptance speech are high.

Jojo Rabbit’s nominations across the board mean we have groundbreaking Polynesian representation in the Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Production Design categories for Chelsea Winstanley, Taika Waititi and Ra Vincent. The importance of that is colossal and cannot be understated, just like it was so important when Keisha Castle-Hughes became the first Indigenous woman ever to be nominated for a Best Actress In A Leading Role Oscar in 2003 for Whale Rider when she was just thirteen.

It took sixteen years for that to happen again with Yalitza Aparicio in Roma.

Yet this year, like so many Oscar years, the Academy Awards are being defined by what they excluded and not what they included. Women can have a little Best Director nomination, as a treat? Nah.

Films populated almost entirely by persons of colour, like the marvel that is Dolemite Is My Name and The Farewell weren’t even recognised once, just once. The dipping viewership numbers for the awards ceremony broadcast have been a point of stress for the Academy over the past decade, but that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

People are unlikely to tune in and watch a broadcast that is not only not rewarding the best films of the year, but it’s not even acknowledging them. The Academy Awards are more irrelevant than ever, the situation worse than ever, and the hope for improvement more absent than ever.


Maria Lewis is a journalist, screenwriter and author of The Witch Who Courted Death, It Came From The Deep and the Who’s Afraid? novel series, available worldwide.