Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

We all had a hunch it would do well, right? Picture, probably; actor, for sure; maybe writing and maybe directing and probably a handful of craft nominations. But if you told most Oscar watchers that, with the announcement of nominees for the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, this morning's big winner would be the super-villain origin story Joker, they'd likely reply with one of Joaquin Phoenix's most memorable lines from that film: “Hahahahahahaha!!!

And yet here we are: Todd Phillips' critically divisive, über-dark, billion-dollar-grossing comic-book movie received more Oscar nominations – a whopping 11 – than any of its competitors, among them Martin Scorsese's mobster epic The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino's revisionist Tinseltown salute Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, and Sam Mendes' late-breaking World War I thriller 1917, all of which received 10. [Scroll past the commentary for the full list of contenders.]

The writing seemed to be on the wall from the early minutes (and, at 7:18 this morning, they were definitely early) of John Cho's and Issa Rae's nominations presentation, when Joker was cited not just for such widely expected categories as Original Score, but also Sound Mixing and Costume Design – the latter a bit of a shock considering that, colorful clown garb aside, costumes designed to look 1981 hardly scream “period.” (The Downton Abbey team must be furious.) But then the film went on to net an additional bunch of nods that Best Picture nominees presumably “need” to be viable threats for the win – Directing, Screenplay, Film Editing. And when nominations for the year's biggest prize were finally revealed and the math was done, there he was: Batman's nemesis boogie-ing all the way to the top of the heap. Forgive my completely predictable use of that dancing-Joaquin photo to introduce this article. You're gonna be seeing a lot of 'em just like it today.

Joker's stunning success is definitely the chief takeaway on an Oscar-nominations morning that was otherwise pretty low on surprises – or at least happy ones. And make no mistake: Plenty of people are gonna be plenty pissed, for legitimate reasons, about some things that went down. As Issa Rae tartly stated after announcing the nominees for Directing, “Congratulations to those men,” and they were all men – Greta Gerwig's much-championed nod for helming Little Women didn't come to pass. (She is nominated for her screenplay, at least, and her film wound up with six nods overall including Best Picture and – yay! – Supporting Actress for Florence Pugh.) But The Farewell's Lulu Wang was a possibility for Directing, too, and she was also overlooked … for everything, it turned out, as her indie hit failed to receive a single mention, including Best Actress for the Golden Globe-winning Awkwafina. (Her fellow Globe winner in the Comedy/Musical acting categories, Rocketman's Taron Egerton, was similarly bypassed.)

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Ray Romano in The Irishman

Four years after the second-annual #OscarsSoWhite P.R. disaster, the Academy just barely bypassed a repeat of that hashtag with its 2020 nominees, thanks to Cynthia Erivo receiving a Best Actress nod for Harriet (and a second citation as co-writer of Harriet's Original Song nominee “Stand Up”). However, barring the six deeply deserved nominations for Bong Joon Ho's Parasite (among them Best Picture), it was yet again an awfully white year. No one from The Farewell. No members of the Parasite cast. No nods whatsoever for Dolemite Is My Name or Waves. No recognition for Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nominees Jamie Foxx for Just Mercy or – my hugest heartbreak of the morning – Lupita Nyong'o for Us. And, in the biggest surprise/not-surprise of all, no Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers, despite a Globe nod and a SAG nod and a $100-million-grossing smash and a legendary career, to boot. Back in September, when her unexpected Oscar buzz first started, I had a feeling the Academy might turn up its collective nose at the idea of rewarding J. Lo for playing a larcenous pole dancer. I really need to start trusting my instincts … .

There's certainly more for prognosticators and bloggers and regular ol' folks to get in a dither about: No Frozen II for Animated Feature? No Apollo 11 for Documentary Feature? The Irishman for Visual Effects? (For, I'm presuming, turning Robert De Niro into an unconvincing 30-year-old?) But bitching is easy, especially when you have to get up at the crack of dawn to do it. So what say we instead accentuate the positives?

A bunch of previous Academy Award winners received their first nominations in ages, with recognition this morning going to Bombshell's Charlize Theron (her first citation since 2006), Judy's Renée Zellweger (2004), Richard Jewell's Kathy Bates (2003), A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood's Tom Hanks (2001), 1917's Sam Mendes (2000), The Two Popes' Anthony Hopkins (1996), and The Irishman's Al Pacino (1993) and Joe Pesci (1991). In addition to the newly minted Erivo, Pain & Glory's Antonio Banderas garnered his first Oscar nod for a screen career that began in 1982, while his fellow Best Actor contender Jonathan Pryce, of The Two Popes, claimed his first for a filmography that started in 1976. Scarlett Johansson, meanwhile, went from zero nominations at 7:15 a.m. to two nominations some 20 minutes later, having been acknowledged for a pair of Best Picture nominees with six citations each: Best Actress for Marriage Story and Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit. (Johansson is the first person to double-dip in the acting races since Cate Blanchett in 2008.)

Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

The beekeeping saga Honeyland, from North Macedonia, became the first film ever nominated for both Best International Feature Film (formerly “Best Foreign Language Film”) and Best Documentary Feature. Netflix's Klaus, a wonderfully weird and funny Christmas comedy that came out of nowhere and charmed pretty much everyone who saw it, made it to the Animated Feature category. So did the sensationally deserving Missing Link, meaning that its animation studio Laika has now earned Animated Feature nominations for all five of the full-length films the company has released. Fan favorites Taika Waititi and Rian Johnson earned the first screenwriting citations of their creative and eclectic careers for Jojo Rabbit and Knives Out, respectively. (Fine, Johnson's not necessarily a favorite among Star Wars fans. But remember: positivity!)

Little Women's Saoirse Ronan received her fourth acting nomination by the age of 25, a stat previously held only by Jennifer Lawrence. Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir becomes only the seventh woman ever nominated for Best Score. Scorsese earned his ninth Best Directing citation, making him the second-most nominated director of all time (behind 12-time nominee William Wyler). Pacino snagged his ninth acting nod, placing him among the Oscars' five most-nominated male actors. (Only 12 more, Al, and you can tie Meryl Streep's record for women!) For the first time in six years, an acting category – Supporting Actor – boasts a lineup composed entirely of previous nominees, with 56-year-old Brad Pitt both the category's youngest nominee (!!!) and the only one not to have previously won an acting Oscar, though he does have a l'il gold guy as a producer of Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave. Like last year's Black Panther, Ford v Ferrari, with four nominations overall, managed to crack the nine-film Best Picture lineup despite no acting, directing, or writing nods. (In my personal predictions this year, I would have guessed the Best Picture roster perfectly had I not stopped at eight and included my number-nine selection Ford v Ferrari. Overall, I did typically not-bad in my prognostication – 74 correct out of 109 – but that miss galls me. As does the lack of love for Lupita Nyong'o. Yes, I'll be on this high horse for a while.)

And as one of the producers of Joker, Bradley Cooper received his eighth nomination in eight years, a feat recently accomplished by George Clooney – although unlike that two-time victor, Cooper has yet to win. Will it finally happen on February 9? My suspicion is no, and that Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, The Irishman, 1917, Parasite, and Jojo Rabbit all have better shots at the biggest prize. But then I remember what I wrote 10 days ago at the end of my commentary regarding potential Best Picture nominees: “So we may as well just plan on everyone losing their minds when it ends up going to Joker.” Maybe the time to start trusting my instincts is now.

The following are your 2020 Academy Award nominees, with the boldface citations the nominations I correctly predicted. (I wish there were more of 'em.)

Sam Mendes directs Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay in 1917



Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit


Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood




1917, Sam Mendes

The Irishman, Martin Scorsese

Joker, Todd Phillips

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino

Parasite, Bong Joon Ho



Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan, Little Women

Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Renée Zellweger, Judy



Antonio Banderas, Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Choi Woo-sik and Song Kang-ho in Parasite


Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Florence Pugh, Little Women

Margot Robbie, Bombshell



Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

Al Pacino, The Irishman

Joe Pesci, The Irishman

Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood



1917, Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairnes

Knives Out, Rian Johnson

Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino

Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won



The Irishman, Steven Zaillian

Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi

Joker, Todd Phillips, Scott Silver

Little Women, Greta Gerwig

The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten



How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I Lost My Body


Missing Link

Toy Story 4



Corpus Christi, Poland

Honeyland, North Macedonia

Les Misérables, France

Pain & Glory, Spain

Parasite, South Korea

Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit


American Factory

The Cave

The Edge of Democracy

For Sama





The Irishman


The Lighthouse

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood



Ford v Ferrari

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit






The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood




The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit


Little Women

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Timothee Chalamet and Florence Pugh in Little Women



Ford v Ferrari


Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker




Ad Astra

Ford v Ferrari


Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood





Little Women

Marriage Story

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



Breakthrough, “I'm Standing with You”

Frozen II, “Into the Unknown”

Harriet, “Stand Up”

Rocketman, “(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again”

Toy Story 4, “I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away”

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story



Avengers: Endgame

The Irishman

The Lion King

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker







Maleficent: Mistress of Evil



In the Absence

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)

Life Overtakes Me

St. Louis Superman

Walk Run Cha-Cha




Nefta Football Club

The Neighbors' Window


A Sister



Dcera (Daughter)

Hair Love




Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari

Total Number of Nominations

Joker – 11

1917 – 10

The Irishman – 10

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – 10

Jojo Rabbit – 6

Little Women – 6

Marriage Story – 6

Parasite – 6

Ford v Ferrari – 4

Bombshell – 3

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – 3

The Two Popes – 3

Harriet – 2

Honeyland – 2

Judy – 2

Pain & Glory – 2

Toy Story 4 – 2

Ad Astra – 1

American Factory – 1

Avengers: Endgame – 1

A Beautiful Day in the Neighorhood – 1

Breakthrough – 1

The Cave – 1

Corpus Christi – 1

The Edge of Democracy – 1

For Sama – 1

Frozen II – 1

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – 1

I Lost My Body – 1

Klaus – 1

Knives Out – 1

Les Misérables – 1

The Lighthouse – 1

The Lion King – 1

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – 1

Missing Link – 1

Richard Jewell – 1

Rocketman – 1

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