On Tuesday, January 23, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for its awards, popularly known as the Oscars.
There seems to be some disagreement among historians of the industry as to how the term ‘Oscar’ attached itself to these awards. One view is that they memorialize the first husband of Bette Davis, Harmon Oscar Nelson. The legend married that Oscar at around the same time that she got her first big break in the industry, the lead female role in The Man Who Played God (1932).
Regardless … the Oscar nominations are always read carefully, as a seer might read tea leaves, as signs of who is up in Hollywood, who is down, and what broad trends in the culture or politics in the country are receiving recognition or snubs through the medium of the prospective honorees. This year has been no exception to that rule.
Right Wing View
The conservative blog Red State picked up on the fact that Wonder Woman received no nominations. It found this odd, since “Hollywood is bending over backward to make sure women get noticed this year.” It solves the mystery to its own satisfaction by charging that the Academy has a problem with the religion and/or nation of origin of the movie’s star, Gal Gadot, a proud Jewish Israeli.
Two World War II themed dramas, Darkest Hour and Dunkirk, are nominated for Best Picture. Both pictures actually look at the same moment in the war from different points of view. Darkest Hour looks at the political drama playing out in London, as the Prime Minister overcomes the temptation to sue for a peace settlement in the face of terrible military news, and Dunkirk puts the viewers in the middle of that terrible news, standing with the “Tommies” on the beach awaiting the boats.
One conservative pundit writes at some length on his blog about how these two movies have no hope of getting the Oscar, because Hollywood despises the warrior ethos they represent, it despises “strong masculine role models” such as they provide.
Left Wing View
The New York Times asks in a headline, “Why Didn’t Steven Spielberg Get an Oscar Nomination for The Post? “ The story quotes an anonymous friend of Spielberg, a much-honored director who was expected this year to get at least a nomination for his movie about the Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers controversy. The indignant friend said, “This is a dark day for Hollywood. The greatest picture of all time was made and they haven’t recognized the director.”
The best director nominees are: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water); Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread).
Though the Academy didn’t put Spielberg on that list, it did include The Post as one of the eight nominees for Best Picture.
Another leftward interpretation of the nominations list is: where are the Latinos? There is no Latino or Latina named in the nominations of the acting categories.
In mitigation of this offense against diversity, it might be said that Disney’s Coco, an animated movie with an all-Latino voice cast and drawing on Mexican themes, has been nominated for Best Animated Feature.
A Final Word
Although it isn’t something with an obvious political valiance, we’ll give the last word here to the work ethic of Tiffany Haddish, who was considered the break-out star of last summer’s comedy hit Girls Trip.
Haddish’s fans were vocally unhappy that she did not receive a nomination. Haddish herself was unfazed.
“I’m more into the job,” she said. “What’s the next job? …I don’t have space in my house for this trophy, so I need checks so I can get a bigger house.”