The Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and somehow, in a year with a wealth of solid options that could provide a controversy-free Oscar month, the Academy still managed to irk and irritate. Lainey and Duana will have more on specific snubs and #OscarsSoMale on the next episode of Show Your Work, but for now let's talk about Joker and its ELEVEN nominations.
I was prepared for Joker to get around six nominations—Joaquin Phoenix and a Best Picture nod were a given—because Joker has been doing well with the craft guilds all season. But sound? The sound in Joker is not extraordinary. And editing? Well, I guess we should be glad that they didn't nominate 1917 which only has like, three cuts. But the editing is not exceptional in Joker, either. The score, the cinematography, even the costume nod—which is for the Joker's one suit—those are earned nominations. But the fact that Joker, a movie that, in the end, was not really divisive or controversial or even interesting, is our leading nominated film for 2019? I guess we deserve it. Darkest timeline and all.
Also, Todd Phillips got a directing nod, triumphing over Taika Waititi, who actually did make a bold, unique film that prompted conversation. They were both riding the Best Director bubble, and in a move that proves the Academy is not that cool, Phillips is the one that got in (Taika is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay). This is personally irritating as I find Phillips to be a boor and his cinematic misanthropy is uninteresting and tired. Joker is just Scorsese fanfiction, but I guess aping a legendary filmmaker is all it takes to convince the Academy you're a visionary.
Let's be clear about Joker, which is probably going to tout how dangerous and outre it is in its for-the-win Oscar campaign—there is nothing more square or safe than being an Academy Award nominee. Weird movies can be nominees (see also: The Shape of Water), but the Academy doesn't go for dangerous or risky. By giving Joker eleven nominations, by making it the most nominated film, and thus the most acceptable to the Academy, movie of 2019, the Oscars have confirmed that Joker is safe and conventional. Remember that despite a significant push to broaden and diversify the voices counted among Oscar voters that the Academy remains overwhelmingly aging, white, and male. Those Palm Springs voters? They went for Joker. That’s how “dangerous” this movie is not. It appealed to the Palm Springs set, even more than classic Oscar bait like 1917. Just keep in mind, as we’re in for a month of Todd Phillips blathering on about his bold and daring vision of aggrieved white masculinity that we see all the time on the news anyway, Joker is the favorite movie of the Palm Springs set.