Culture Clips: Oscar the Grouch

culture clips oscars

It’s hard to drive anywhere in Hollywood this time of year without plowing into another stack of awards. Honorary hardware practically falls from the sky in January. But all of those awards and honors culminate in the biggest awards show of all: the Oscars. Nominations for said awards were unveiled Monday morning.

If you’re interested in a full list of potential honorees, click here, but as a quick recap: Nine films landed in Oscar’s Best Picture category: 1917, Ford V. Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Marriage Story and Parasite. Joker led the pack with 11 nominations. The Irishman, 1917 and Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood snagged 10 apiece. And Netflix—you know, the streaming service we typically associate with television—led all “studios” with 24 nominations, thanks to The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes.

Aaaand with that little tidbit, we dive into an inescapable element of the Oscars almost as traditional as the Oscars themselves: controversy.

Ever since Netflix pushed into awards-bait movies (here’s a handy chart to see how that push has grown ever stronger in recent years), it’s been pushing to upend the motion picture business, too. Recently, the streaming service has been giving its highest-profile award-hopefuls a traditional theatrical release to qualify for the Oscars, but one that’s usually far shorter than the 90-day exclusive window that most theater chains push for. As a result, AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas are both refusing to screen Netflix’s bevy of nominated movies in their chains.

But we’re just getting started. Pundits had plenty to grouse about when the nominees were released, especially the omission of Greta Gerwig, once again, in the Best Director category. If there was an awards category for Most Aggregious snub, Gerwig would be the clear front-runner. Given that her film, Little Women, earned five other nominations, including Best Picture, Slate asked, “Does the Academy Think Little Women Directed Itself?

Gerwig also became something of a poster child for the lack of female recognition in the category as a whole. Only five women have ever been nominated in the Directing category, and just one (Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) has won. Many pundits noted that this was a particularly rich year for female-directed films (including the directors for awards-season darlings The Farewell, Hustlers and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), which made the omission all the more noticeable. Even as the awards were being rolled out, announcer Issa Rae drew attention to the omission, saying “Congratulations to these men.”

The Oscars also narrowly avoided another full-throated #OscarsSoWhite controversy, though many have noted that the acting categories still were notable for their lack of diversity. Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo was the only person of color to be nominated, and Los Angeles Times’ film critic Justin Chang said that this year’s class felt like a “return, in a lot of ways, to a kind of white male nostalgia.” Those sorts of controversies muted the awards success of Parasite, a dark South Korean comedy that racked up six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

But pundits took issue with plenty of other, um, issues too. Some wondered why The Irishman snagged nominations for two Best Supporting Actors (Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), but the Academy snubbed Robert DeNiro as Best Actor. Jennifer Lopez and Eddie Murphy were seen as glaring omissions, too. Adam Sandler, who earned rave reviews for Uncut Gems, was passed over as well—though Sandler took it in stride by congratulating Kathy Bates (nominated for her work in Richard Jewell), who played his mother in Waterboy. (“I love you my Bobby Boucher!!!” Bates tweeted back, referencing Sandler by his Waterboy character name; “You was robbed!! But Mam loves you!!!”)

Slate’s Dan Kois thinks it’s an outrage that Joker (which he said was “as dumb as h—“) stole 11 nominations. L.A. Times’ Sonaiya Kelley can’t figure out why horror films never seem to be in the running. And so it goes.

But honestly, it’s amazing that we still have time to pay so much attention to the Oscars, given that the television industry churned out 532 shows last year. That number’s expected to go up next year. Many of those shows seem to reflect how uneasy we feel with the real world these days, and Salon’s Melanie McFarland noted the rise of existential TV. Name-checking such shows as Netflix’s Russian Doll, Amazon’s Fleabag and NBC’s The Good Place, McFarland writes:

Existentialist themes in our shows invite us on an alternate journey to the typical one offered by TV. People who call it a waste are talking about the series that numb us, that give us a means of escape without offering much in the way of intellectual nourishment in return. But the shows mentioned above ask the audience to tune in not merely to the mechanism but to the message, its moral and its spiritual marrow.

But who needs deep existentialism when you can watch the Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time? The showdown between the game show’s three biggest winners probably has snagged more viewers than all McFarland’s mentioned existentialist shows combined. Indeed, the competition averaged 15 million viewers through the first three shows—more than any other non-sports show this television season. (And even many sports events are lagging. The 2019 NBA Finals and the 2019 World Series both earned lower ratings than Jeopardy’s GOAT event boasted.) Alas for ABC, the tourney is over now, with Ken Jennings winning three out of four events and being dubbed Jeopardy’s greatest champion ever.

I guess that’s one award not in doubt.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I finally rented All Is True this weekend and just finished watching it and boy oh boy was it a fantastic movie. For a Shakespeare nut like me it was extremely satisfying, thought-provoking, and very emotional. I definitely learned things I never knew before about Shakespeare's family, and really the whole thing was quite something to see. For Shakespeare fans like me it's a must see, and if you're not really familiar with his work at all but decide to give it a go anyway it might make you want to dig deeper yourself. Easily one of the best films of the year I think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

The only films I've seen that got nominated for anything were The Lion King, The Hidden World, and Toy Story 4 and out of those The Lion King was my personal favorite film of the year with Blinded By the Light and Aladdin nipping at its heels. The Hidden World was a surprisingly good film, the best out of all the How to Train Your Dragon movies, but alas Toy Story 4 stunk up the place and shouldn't have been nominated for anything as awful as it was. The only other films that even interest me in the least are the Mr. Rogers one, the latest by Clint, and possibly Frozen 2, but that's no surprise since my tastes tend to lean towards more family-friendly fare and typically those types of movies don't get much love from the academy.

By the way in case anyone cares here are my personal favorite movies from 2019 that I've seen so far:

1. The Lion King

2. Blinded By the Light

3. Aladdin

4. All Is True

5. The Art of Racing in the Rain

6. A Dog's Journey

7. Last Christmas

8. Descendants 3

9. A Madea Family Funeral

10. DisneyNature's Penguins

11. The Secret Life of Pets 2

12. A Dog's Way Home

13. Dumbo

14. Breakthrough

15. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Honorable Mention going to The Mule, Clint's 2018 movie that I got for Christmas last year so finally saw it and definitely enjoyed it.

charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I didn't understand how the Oscars worked, until I saw Adam Ruins Everything: Awards Shows on YouTube. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. Basically, which movies get nominated and which ones win come with the biggest "gift bags" to the academy members. I guess Greta Gershwig's studio didn't want to give out free iPads with the Little Women screener this year. :P
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Joker getting the most Oscar nominations this year is exactly why Warner Bros is my favorite studio in Hollywood and why Tenet is my most anticipated movie of 2020. WB is willing to take risks on movies that nobody else would be willing to try, and while they don’t always pay off, they knock it out of the park when they do.

I still have yet to see Joker, but after getting so many nominations, I think I just might real soon (who knows, I might actually watch the Oscars for once!).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My own personal thoughts on The Greatest Of All Time: in my opinion the whole thing was sort of like watching a student learning from his master. Essentially Ken outplayed James by beating him at his own game. He went for the more money options first, he went all in whenever he found a Daily Double, he buzzed in quicker than anyone else. Basically he was more like James than James was and that helped him win in the end. Also as smart as James is he really needs to bone up on his Shakespeare because if he had correctly guessed Iago instead of Horatio he would have tied things up forcing a Game 5, and then who knows he might have ended up beating Ken. Alas, he shot himself in the foot for having Shakespeare be his one Achilles Heel. Either way, it was a very entertaining competition save for the completely incompetent Brad Rutter, and I very much enjoyed myself watching it.
Big Mike More than 1 year ago
yeah what was with brad rutter?
he failed more miserably than most rookies on jeopardy?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just think he's gotten too old and has lost his touch. Either that or he was never all that great to begin with, lol.
Natalie L More than 1 year ago
What do you all think about this year's Oscars nominations? Is the pushback well-deserved, or are the concerns about lack of diversity overblown? Do you agree with Stephen King's tweet that quality comes first, and then diversity? (He later retracted that statement due to intense blowback on Twitter.)
The Mouse Of Non More than 1 year ago
I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen King. I don't want movies that are garbage getting lots of attention. I want well-made and well-plotted films getting the attention they deserve. I wish Knives Out had been nominated for more as that was one of the best films from last year, along side Avengers: Endgame and 1917. I am happy that 1917 got nominated for as many as it did. It was one of the best films I have seen in a while. Generally the academy nominates films that I do not think deserve Oscars, but this year is different. I don't want Joker to win Oscars because I feel that there are more deserving movies than that one to win this year. 

To the point of diversity, I feel that if we want more diverse nominations, companies need to give diverse actors and filmmakers more shots. I'm excited for Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I think it will be different than what we have seen from Marvel, but it will still be a well made film. I could be wrong though. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Endgame definitely should have been nominated for Best Score. Portals and The Real Hero are some of the best pieces of cinema music this past year.