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OSCAR CASTS A WIDE NET

Let others bemoan who’s missing from this year’s roster of Academy Award nominees. I prefer to focus on the positive: Greta Gerwig’s beautiful rendering of Little Women earned six major nominations including Best Picture, even though the director’s branch didn’t vote for her. (The screenwriters did.) And South Korea’s Parasite made Oscar history by earning six nominations including Best Picture—a first—as well as Best Screenplay and Best Director. And although I didn’t care for it, Joker goes in the record books with eleven nods for what is officially (if not tonally) a comic book movie.

The Academy, with its membership significantly expanded by 2,000 new recruits from the international film community—including more women than ever before—can no longer be accused of being a Hollywood monolith. That doesn’t guarantee a sea change in the results of nominating ballots, but it does make it more difficult to point fingers at the institution.

I’m encouraged that box-office numbers still don’t translate to the merit-based nominations. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has been properly recognized for its Sound Editing, Visual Effects, and John Williams’s majestic score, while the Animated Feature category includes such dark horses as Jeremy Clapin’s I Lost my Body and Laika studios’ underrated Missing Link, shutting out Disney’s Frozen II.

And although little discussed, one of my favorite films of the year, The Two Popes, has come through with nominations for its two superb stars, Jonathan Pryce (as Best Actor) and Anthony Hopkins (as Best Supporting Actor), as well as Anthony McCarten (for Best Adapted Screenplay).

I leave it to other pundits to debate whether or not diehard industryites will support Netflix movies like The Irishman, Marriage Story, I Lost my Hand, or documentary American Factory. Those same film industry people bestowed nominations on all of them, which is hardly akin to shutting out the so-called disruptor that financed and/or acquired these exceptional films.

And as for so-called snubs (my least favorite word every awards season) I still maintain that no Academy branch has a mass meeting where all its members conspire to exclude anyone. If an individual or achievement didn’t earn enough votes to make the final cut, that’s the way the cards were dealt.

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Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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