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Oscar Watch: A ranking of the 2020 Best Picture nominees

As the 92nd Academy Awards are just shy of a week away, it’s time to break down the top films competing for the Best Picture statue. While some standout movies this year such as Uncut Gems and Hustlers were snubbed, others such as The Joker and Little Woman earned rightful places. Although nominees are routinely announced with an essence of shock, 2020’s ballot was certainly among the more predictable. 

Through a collective effort of more than 8,000 active member voices, the Oscar ballot is slated carefully each year by an “expert voting body.” The organization has tried to diversify with a goal of doubling female and minority membership, and made small but important strides this time around. 

Statistically, the Academy is slowly beginning to shed its whitewashed, male-dominated reputation, despite female director Greta Gerwig not receiving a nod for Best Director. Ultimately, the nominations may have been rather predictable, but history in terms of diversity were made as well. Here are a few of the Best Picture nominations from the 2020 Oscars, ranked:

5. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite

Parasite is among the more unpredictable nominees chosen this year, as it’s unfortunately unusual for a movie with subtitles to perform well with American audiences. Nonetheless, the South Korean thriller transcended leaps and bounds in terms of overall success — grossing over $160 million worldwide since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019. The merit of the film is within its suspenseful and twisting plot, alongside a nuanced lens of insight on class rebellion and struggle. 

The film’s nomination displays the Academy’s effort at trying to become more inclusive as an international organization. 

“Korean cinema has a long history,” Joon-ho said per Variety. “There are many masters that have yet to be introduced to the Western audience. It would be great if people would take more interest in Korean cinema due to my nomination.” 

4. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit

Despite the film’s initial wave of controversy, Jojo Rabbit has somehow made its way from blacklist to Oscar list. The World War II satire follows a 10-year-old fledgling Nazi and his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. The film surprisingly earned a crowd-pleasing reputation with its timely message about ultranationalism and hate. Film critic Alissa Wilkinson said, “Some critics really loved it. Others hated it, seeing its ironic tone as a detraction. I thought it was flawed but had something interesting at its core.”

Waititi’s dark comedy is currently up for six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Scarlett Johansson for Best Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Film Editing, Adapted Screenplay and Production Design. 

“To get the nominations is an incredible honor and it feels amazing,” Waititi told TheWrap. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing for me. My films are never a part of conversation so, yeah, for this film to get its nominations is massive.”

3. Greta Gerwig’s Little Woman

Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women garnered six Oscar nominations — lifting the total nominations for all adaptations to 14. Released on Christmas Day, the movie grossed just over $16.5 million within the first weekend. Just like that, a quiet movie about family life became a radical hit. 

However, Gerwig is one of the many females snubbed in the Best Director category. Had she been given a nod, the director would have made history as the first woman to ever be nominated twice, following her 2017 debut with Lady Bird. Saoirse Ronan — who plays Jo March in Little Women — showed recognition when she said via Deadline, “Since she started, [Greta] has made two perfect films. I hope when she makes her next perfect movie that she will be recognized for everything.”

2. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

As one of the most-nominated films, Tarantino’s epic about Hollywood during summer 1969 is also the most successfully commercialized and controversial movie. Its overall success is within the ending — redefining history and escaping a tragic reality.

Little to no surprise, the film picked up a whopping 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Original Screenplay. The film does have its highlights, including performances from Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate and Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton. Despite its merits, the several nominations raise an important question: Does Hollywood really just enjoy movies about itself? 

1. Todd Phillips Joker

Out of the nine movies competing for the Best Picture, Todd Phillips’ Joker leads with 11 nominations. Although many believe the film is unlikely to take home the honor on Feb. 9, Joker certainly deserves the title. Ultimately, it expresses a common sentiment of our times with nuances of corruption, mental illness and American politics today. The film struck a chord with audiences as it grossed an astounding $96 million in its opening weekend. Phillips’ expressed that he believes the film to be an “anti-superhero” movie, and that action sequences were aimed to horrify the audience instead of thrill them.

Following Black Panther in 2019, the dark film is the second comic adaptation to ever be nominated for Best Picture. Although many critics believe the nomination to be a joke in itself, the nuanced representations depicted within the underdog contender make it the top contender.


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