No J.Lo! Double Scarlett! The Five Biggest Shocks of the 2020 Oscar Nominations

Published on January 13, 2020

Well, it was a great morning in Hollywood if you’re a white male. That was the big takeaway from the 2020 Oscar nominations announcement — which started generating controversy before Issa Rae and John Cho even finished reading the list. Not only was the directors’ group female-free (just like the Golden Globes), but almost none of the acting nominations featured minority representation. Read: No Awkwafina or other actors from The Farewell; no Jamie Foxx for Just Mercy (he got a Screen Actors Guild nod); and no actors from Parasite. And, most shockingly of all, no Jennifer Lopez. And with no host presiding over the festivities, it will be interesting to see how the snubs reverberate from now until the end of the big show on Sunday, February 9. Here’s a closer look at the five biggest Oscar nomination shocks.

1. J.Lo Is a No-Go

Make no mistake: Jennifer Lopez was a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role as a stripper-turned-crime-ring-instigator in Hustlers. Golden Globe and SAG nominations? Check. Playing against type as a crafty villain in a hit movie? Check. Glad-handling Academy voters and press at private events, Q&As and receptions? Check. Heck, the pole-dancing scene alone should have sealed it. My guess is that the Academy’s older members — and there are a bunch of them — did not cotton to the saucy Hustlers, in which females in stilettos take charge and rip-off their male clients. Instead, they opted for Kathy Bates’ performance as a sympathetic mom in the Clint Eastwood-directed Richard Jewell. A small part of me also wonders if J.Lo’s success as a celebrity magnate may have been a turn-off. She has her concerts, her Super Bowl half-time performance, Alex Rodriguez, her $1 billion brand, etc. Maybe that’s enough? (Answer: It’s never enough.)

2. Sorry Sandler!

Oh, what a story it would have been if Adam Sandler — the fired Saturday Night Live star who made a huge name for himself starring in smash-if-critically-reviled low-brow comedies — managed to snag that Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of an ultra-desperate jeweler/gambling addict in Uncut Gems. It’s an incredibly complicated role, and he dominated the movie (which, not for nothin’, happens to be a surprise hit.) Again, this is a case in which the veteran Academy members likely preferred the more staid and classier (cough, safer) choices, such as Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes. It probably didn’t help that he was also left out of the Golden Globes and SAG groups. Sandler must take solace that he can share the category snub with the great Robert De Niro, who was left out for The Irishman. Same for Eddie Murphy, left out for his comeback performance in Dolemite Is My Name. 

3. Scarlett Fever

It’s hard to believe that until this morning, Scarlett Johansson had never received an Oscar nomination. (Nope, not even for Lost in Translation back in the day.) Now she has twins. No doubt she expected to receive the Best Actress nomination for her nuanced work as a divorcee-to-be in Marriage Story. But the cherry on top was her pleasant-surprise nomination in the Best Supporting Actress in Jojo Rabbit, in which she plays a sympathetic German resistance fighter in World War II hiding a Jewish girl in her house. She joins the recent ranks of Jamie Foxx, Al Pacino, Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson, who have all received joint nominations in the single year. But like Sigourney Weaver‘s two-fer back in 1989, She’s still on the outside looking in for both categories — Renee Zellweger and Laura Dern are the heavy favorites for Marriage Story and Judy, respectively — but she and Colin Jost will surely make a happy and handsome red-carpet pair.

4. A Little Problem

Ayayayayay. Though Greta Gerwig didn’t receive that Golden Globe nomination for Best Director for Little Women, the announcement went down weeks before the movie was released. In that interim, her adaptation of the 19th century classic had been championed and embraced by the critics and audiences. Certainly the wave of goodwill spread to those acting nominations for Saoirse Ronan (Best Actress) and Florence Pugh (Best Supporting Actress). Gerwig also landed a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, while the film itself got a coveted Best Picture slot. But those nominations just make the Best Director snub all the more glaring. This is not a good look! Indeed, the film didn’t direct itself and Gerwig has certainly proved herself capable, thanks to her nominated work for Lady Bird two years ago. I suspect the issue was that Little Women is smaller in scope than the more daring and sprawling films in this category such as Parasite, Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917 and The Irishman. In fact, it’s telling that Gerwig’s partner, Noah Baumbach, also didn’t receive a Best Director nomination for the deeply personal Marriage Story. But like Little Women, a Best Picture nod is the consolation prize.

5. Zero Love for the Indie Faves

Pour one out for some beloved and acclaimed films that didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination. To wit: Not one film I saw at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival netted a single nomination. And, ugh, almost all of them are female-fronted. We’ll always remember Awkwafina’s moving dramatic turn and her bond with her grandma in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. Writer-director Olivia Wilde did wonders putting her own spin on the buddy comedy in Booksmart. Lopez and her ladies reigned supreme in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers. But wait, there’s more: The Captain Marvel special effects dazzled. Frozen 2 was shut out in the animated category, save for Best Song. Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood received just one nod — for Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. Let’s also note that Uncut Gems was also completely shut out. The irony? The characters in most of these movies would have a field day against the Academy members, easy.

The 77th annual Academy Awards airs Sunday, February 9 on ABC  

Also published on Medium.