Arts and EntertainmentThe Oscar Nominations: Good, but predictable

An amazing lineup of movies, but perhaps a little too much of the same thing.
Evan EngelhauptJanuary 23, 2020483 min
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Illustration by Ren Rader

This round of Oscars certainly has a stellar lineup. There is no doubt that the movies on the list are deserving to be potential Academy Award winners. However, that is not to say that things couldn’t have been better, and if anything, at least less predictable.

2019 was a huge year for movies all around. Box office blockbusters, Netflix movies and independent films all seemed to just be better this past year. In the blockbuster realm, movies like “Joker” continued what “Black Panther” revolutionized, showing that comic book films, when done right, have a place at the Oscars. Furthermore, “The Irishman,” Sam Mendes’s one-shot film “1917,” and the 1900s aesthetic of “The Lighthouse” made leaps and bounds in the realm of cinematography. And on the more independent side of filmmaking, films like “Parasite” got the credit they deserved.

All these films deserve to be up there. The problem? 2019 introduced several brilliant films worthy of a spotlight. Movies like “Uncut Gems,” “The Farewell,” “Queen and Slim,” “Waves” (the list goes on) all seem to have been completely ignored by the Oscars. There is then the complaint, as is indicated by the aforementioned list, that the Academy Awards remain as they have several years prior, white and male-dominated.

There are numerous articles discussing this issue online, calling out the fact that aside from South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, the entire list of nominees for Best Directing consists of white men. Similarly, all except two of the actors and actresses in Best Leading and Best Supporting categories are white.

While that seems problematic to the more progressive society that we live in, I’ll leave that discussion to other media outlets. Rather, I noticed a different problem with the Oscars, perhaps due to this lack of diversity, perhaps not. What we have lined up are remarkable accomplishments in filmmaking, but they are so predictable.

Even to the average film audience who is at least remotely familiar with some of these films, their nominations should not come as a surprise. That can be a good thing, but what I find detrimental is the sheer number of spots that the same films continue to take up as you scroll down the list of nominations. “Joker” was phenomenal, but the fact that it holds 11 nomination spots makes me consider that those nominee slots could have been put to better use.

And this trend is seen with several of the movies nominated. It’s almost as if getting nominated once immediately leads to five other nominations. This is the primary problem I have with the Oscars. The Academy Awards are supposed to contain the obvious picks but also some surprises along the way, and seeing the diversity of films that deserve to be up there would demonstrate the well-roundedness of movie-making that was 2019 rather than implying that “Joker” and “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” were the only good movies of the year.

This problem seems due, in part, to the voting process that creates the nomination list in the Oscars. For those unfamiliar, nominating a movie for each award takes place in a separate branch of filmmaking.

The actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors and so forth. In theory, I have no complaints about that system because it makes sense that those in the field would nominate the awards for that field.

But all it takes is one good movie to be nominated for half of the categories and then that starts a train of certain movies dominating most of the categories and crowding out other films. Multiply that by at least five movies that will do the same, and you have a lineup of six movies that dominate the entire Academy Awards.

The solution is a tough one. Perhaps, like Congress, the Academy Award nominees could use some term limits. That is really the only solution I can think of that would force the Academy to nominate some different films along with the obvious choices. But even then it would shake up the entire voting process.

Under that system, different branches would be competing for the maximum amount of spots a film could hold. Ultimately, maybe just more open-mindedness to lesser-known films would be nice. Whatever the solution may be, it did not happen this year.

The films are great, and while I am proud to see them up there, I cannot help but dream of what the Oscars could have been if they included the much deserving titles that the past year produced.

Evan Engelhaupt

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