Joker leads Oscar pack with 11 nominations

LOS ANGELES • Film writer Todd Phillips’ much-debated supervillain origin story and R-rated box-office smash Joker has garnered 11 Academy Award nominations.

Martin Scorsese’s elegiac crime epic The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s Los Angeles fairy tale Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Sam Mendes’ 1917, a story of World War I, all trailed close behind with 10 nods apiece.

Those four were among the nine films competing for best picture, in nominations announced yesterday for the 92nd Academy Awards.

The others were South Korean movie Parasite, the film adaptation of the classic novel Little Women, domestic drama Marriage Story, Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit and race car drama Ford v Ferrari.

The pre-dawn Academy Award announcement capped months of ceaseless campaigning by A-listers and film studios, revealing which stars and movies have a shot at Hollywood’s ultimate prize next month.

While Joker was expected to do well yesterday, the academy’s overwhelming support for a movie that was far from a critical favourite was unexpected.

The film’s nominations included best actor for Joaquin Phoenix and best director for Phillips.

For the 87th time, the academy selected all-male directing nominees despite a year which saw women making historic gains behind the camera.

The most likely female candidate was Greta Gerwig (Little Women), who was the last woman nominated, two years ago for Lady Bird.

“Congratulations to those men,” said Issa Rae, who announced the nominees alongside John Cho.

There were some surprises, however. Disney’s Frozen 2, the highest grossing animated film ever, was passed over.

Beyonce (Lion King) missed out on her first Oscar nomination, for best song.

And most glaringly, Jennifer Lopez, long considered a supporting actress front runner for her performance in Hustlers, was denied her first Oscar nomination.

Black actors and actresses were also largely overlooked, with British-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) the sole nominee.

The academy has mounted an effort to double female and minority membership, in large part by inviting more film professionals from overseas to the institution. But even after four years of the initiative, the organisation remains 68 per cent male and 84 per cent white.

Last week, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) put forward an all-white field of acting nominees for its awards gala, snubbing widely praised performers such as Erivo, Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name) and Lupita Nyong’o (Us).

“It’s time for change,” Erivo said after that, declining an invitation to perform a song at the Bafta banquet. “We can’t overlook it anymore.”

Over the last decade, the Academy Awards have become a bit superfluous, with a torrent of precursor ceremonies leaving fans (and honourees) exhausted and the contents of the envelopes unsurprising.

The academy’s board of governors, alarmed by sharp declines in television ratings, decided in 2018 to move up this year’s ceremony.

It will be held Feb 9, at the Dolby Theatre Los Angeles, two weeks earlier than the last go-round, a seemingly small truncation that nonetheless has the movie capital in a tizzy.

ABC, which broadcasts the Oscars, said last week that the ceremony, viewed by roughly 30 million people in the United States, would not have a host for the second year in a row.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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