Oscar nominations: Still white and male-dominated, but more international

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oaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in “Joker.” Credit: Niko Tavernise. Copyright: © 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. TM & © DC Comics.

Oscar nominations are out, and no women are on the shortlist for best director. 

Only one person of color, Cynthia Erivo (for “Harriet”), was nominated in the best actor and supporting actor categories. 

A white woman was nominated twice (Scarlett Johansson for “Jojo Rabbit” and “Marriage Story”). 

Snubbed: Awkwafina (“The Farewell”), Lupita Nyong'o (“Us”), Jennifer Lopez (“Hustlers”). 

What also stood out: 

“Joker” sweeps

Eleven nominations went to “Joker,” one of the most controversial films of the year. Why such a sweep? Because it was widely seen and widely liked. 

“It started awards season with a win at the Venice Film Festival, which is a big deal and a positive,” says Rebecca Keegan, senior film editor for The Hollywood Reporter. “And also with this huge controversy surrounding the violence in the film. Interestingly, that did not slow down the box office. The box office hit over $1 billion, and I think that's part of why it was so nominated.”

Keegan notes that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has gotten bigger and more international in the last few years. And this year’s nominating season was short. 

“Part of what pushes films to the top is just how many Academy members have the opportunity to see them. In the case of ‘Joker,’ it was released in October and easy to see,” she says.

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Director Greta Gerwig is slighted

“Little Women” earned nominations for best film, screenplay, actress, supporting actress, costume design, and original score. But it didn’t get on the shortlist for best director. 

“This is consistently the category that is a head scratcher,” says Keegan. “Greta Gerwig emerged with a nomination for ‘Lady Bird’ just a couple of years ago. I personally thought, well, the Academy's already shown they liked her. They will like her again with a movie that should be right up its alley. (Costume dramas are the kind of thing that the Academy typically does reward.) And clearly, they like the film … noting it in so many other categories.”

Keegan says this year is the 87th time in which the director category is all male. Is that because the Academy has more male voters? 

“Each branch votes for its own nominees, and the directors branch is overwhelmingly male,” Keegan explains. “I also think sometimes there can be a bias about what a director looks like, what directing looks like.” 

She notes that the camera movements and costumes in “Joker” draw attention to the fact that it’s directed by an auteur; and Greta Gerwig’s lighting in flashback sequences vs. contemporary sequences draws attention as well. “Nonetheless, the Academy just didn't acknowledge it in the same way,” she says.

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Adam Sandler is left out

Keegan says there’s outrage over Adam Sandler -- a white man -- not being nominated. 

“Sandler did something really different in ‘Uncut Gems,’ which is this A24 movie that's been really widely seen and liked. And I think many people were hoping to get an opportunity to see him at the Oscars. He is really a guy who has the complete opposite image of the Oscars,” she says.

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Korean film earns a lot of attention

Keegan notes that there’s been incremental change -- with Academy membership getting more inclusive and international.  

“If you look at how well ‘Parasite,’ that Korean movie directed by Bong Joon Ho performed today, that's an indication that this is not just a group of Hollywood professionals. Increasingly, it's a group of professionals from around the world. And that's going to influence what gets nominated,” she says. 

“Parasite” is nominated not just for best picture, but best international film. The Academy just changed the name of that category from best foreign language film, acknowledging that “foreign language” is an outdated term, Keegan notes. 

“I think ‘Parasite’ has a total of five nominations, which is really a huge showing, considering a Korean film had never even been nominated in what had been called the foreign language category,” she adds. 

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No host, once again 

This year's telecast will not be hosted. 

“Last year's telecast got pretty good ratings, considering awards show ratings are declining all around, which suggested … that a host was beside the point,” Keegan says.

She adds that last year, several movies that performed well at the box office were represented at the awards ceremony too. “You had the whole cast of ‘Black Panther’ there. You had people from ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ there. This year's crop of nominees does not look to have as much box office power, and that may determine how many audience members tuned in.” 

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir