The Oscars: snubs and surprises

This year’s Oscar nominations point to evolving trends regarding representation in film and the potential for the Academy to rectify their previous wrongs.

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Sophia Di Iorio

This year, the Oscars have seen an increase in both international names and female nominees for best picture and best director categories. This is a chance for the Academy to show that the need for equity and inclusion might become a staple within the entertainment industry. (Illustration by Sophia Di Iorio)

By Julia Gastone, Contributing Writer

It seems like eons ago that “Parasite” dominated the Oscars last season. With the 93rd Academy Awards nominations released last week, one can’t help but wonder who Bong Joon Ho’s successor could be? After an entire year in which premieres were released through streaming platforms, the Oscars announced their nominations later than usual. Despite this year’s changes, snubs and surprises still remain. 

One of the most pleasant surprises of all had little to do with the categories themselves, but with the Academy’s apparent change in attitude towards diversity. It was just one year ago that there was outrage among the alt-right at a Korean film winning best picture

This year, we have seen an incredible increase in both international names and female nominees for best picture and best director categories. This is not only the first time in which two women have been nominated for best director, but Chloé Zhao also secured the first nomination for a woman of color. 

With this year’s Academy Awards including a more diverse selection of artists, we, as viewers, hope that the need for equity and inclusion becomes a staple within the entertainment industry.

The Oscars are still far from perfect, as evident by the many snubs this year had to offer, alongside a few head-scratching surprises:

Lakeith Stanfield for Best Supporting Actor

This nomination isn’t an unwelcome one. Stanfield turns in a strong performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The source of surprise and confusion stems from the fact that both Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield were nominated in the best supporting actor category, even though Stanfield is the lead actor in the film. 

“Judas and the Black Messiah” follows Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton’s (Daniel Kaluuya) downfall as Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Party on behalf of the FBI. The film follows Stanfield’s character, yet both actors are caged within the best supporting actor nomination. Stanfield addressed the perplexity in a now-deleted Instagram post that said, “I’m confused but f-ck it.” With this choice, we have ‘Judas’ and ‘The Black Messiah’ going head-to-head yet again, most certainly stirring up a level of drama over who, if either of them, will prevail.

Aaron Sorkin for Best Director

Kaluuya was not the only portrayal of Fred Hampton in this year’s Oscars. The late political figure also made an appearance in Aaron’s Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”  The movie, which also received five other nominations, puts a Hollywood spin on the dramatic criminal trial of seven protestors accused of inciting a violent riot in 1960s Chicago. 

While the film was nominated for best picture, Sorkin was overlooked in the best director category. This is more of a surprise than a snub, considering Sorkin is simply not a director, but a writer. His poor attempts at directing have only harmed the increasingly relevant subject matter of the film. Despite its Academy approval, critics were not as impressed by the film, which is what contributed to his lack of nomination.

Regina King for Best Director

Regina King was also snubbed in the best director category. King proved herself as a visionary with her directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” a fictional account of a night in the ‘60s where Black civil rights figures came together to discuss the nation’s political evolution. Although this seems to be a year that celebrates female directors, the Academy cut the influential actress and previous Oscar winner from the list. 

Chadwick Boseman for Best Supporting Actor

Considering Boseman’s passing from colon cancer, this one stings a little more than most. The iconic “Black Panther” actor was posthumously featured in two films this year, and earned a best actor nomination for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” After receiving multiple nominations among Film Critic Circles around the country and posthumously winning the Award for Best Supporting Actor at the New York Film Critics Association, there was a possibility of Boseman earning two nominations at this year’s Oscars. This would have given him a shot at being the first actor to ever win two separate Oscar categories in a single year, which would have been a well-deserved final appraisal of his talent.

Da 5 Bloods for…  Just About Everything

In addition to Chadwick Boseman’s best supporting actor snub, the entire Spike Lee film was overlooked in almost every category (except best original score). “Da 5 Bloods” follows the story of four African American Vietnam War veterans. The vets return to the country to find the remains of their squad leader and a hidden gold chest that he left them. 

Spike Lee, widely considered to be one of the most influential directors of the 20th and 21st centuries, was completely ignored for best director, as did lead actor Delroy Lindo, who was widely campaigned for as a frontrunner for best actor. Lee made a statement on this snub and expressed his disappointment. He also noted that this is not a reflection on the strong reputation that Lindo has built for himself through years of powerful performances. Audiences stood behind this statement.  Many regarded Lindo’s performance in the film as one of the best in years, and showed disappointment for the film’s lack of recognition. 

Despite the bewildering decisions that come as a result of Oscar nominations every year, this Academy season is more predictable than usual. It will be interesting to see if the Academy will continue on its path of including a diverse set of nominees like Chloé Zhao or, whether they will retreat to its comfort zone of choosing predominantly older, white and male nominees.

As it stands, the Academy’s decisions this year will act as unique signifiers for our society, marking how far we have come and how far we still have to go. As the countdown continues, we may miss seeing those who were excluded, like Delroy Lindo and Regina King, but we have an exciting, particularly meaningful Oscars to look forward to, with the opportunity for many more surprises to present themselves in the days ahead. 

Email Julia Gastone at [email protected]