She was considered a sure thing for a best supporting actress nomination. Then she wasn't. Here are four reasons academy voters gave her the cold shoulder.
When Jennifer Lopez invites you to climb into her fur, you're supposed to say yes.
Lopez, 50, was perhaps the most high-profile omission from the list of Oscar nominees announced this week in Los Angeles. After Hustlers began screening in September, many pundits expected Lopez to be a major supporting-actress contender for her performance as Ramona, a savvy stripper who steals from her wealthy clients and becomes an unlikely crime kingpin.
For a time, some even wondered if Lopez could win. Those dreams were dashed by the awards-season dominance of Marriage Story scene-stealer Laura Dern, but Lopez still seemed like a no-brainer to score her first nomination: Oscar loves it when a movie star shows unexpected depth, and Lopez had plenty of critics in her corner.
So what happened? Here are a few explanations for how it all went wrong.
Hustlers couldn't pull off an awards-season rebrand
Though it was a box-office hit that grossed more than US$100 million domestically, Hustlers failed to get much traction this awards season: Even the Golden Globes, with its separate comedy categories, neglected to nominate Hustlers for the top prize. When it comes to awards season, populist blockbusters need to effectively recontextualise themselves if they hope to compete against weightier, more traditional "Oscar bait" — meaning, it's not enough to be seen as just a hit.
While your Carpetbagger felt there was plenty going on beneath the glossy surface of Hustlers — as a parable of class struggle, it would have been great company for the Oscar darling Parasite — most voters didn't bother to reconsider it. This hindered Lopez, who would have been the sole nominee for her movie up against a field of women who either hail from best-picture contenders or appear in films that scored multiple nominations. Ultimately, the supporting-actress category only made room for one such lone-star nominee: Richard Jewell actress Kathy Bates, who fronted a much weaker movie but is, at least, a former Oscar winner.
Lopez is seen more as a celebrity than an actress
After a pair of acclaimed performances in Selena and Out of Sight came early in her career, Lopez has mostly stuck to starring in light romantic comedies, which lowered her critical bona fides. Even those films were not perceived to be her primary bread and butter, since Lopez is now far better known as a performing artist, reality-TV judge and tabloid celebrity. The latter designation is tough to shake, as Lopez's former flame Ben Affleck can tell you: When Affleck failed to earn a best-director nomination for Argo, many attributed it to a backlash incurred by his long-ago love affair with Lopez, which spanned music videos, gossip pages and the notorious box-office bomb Gigli.
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Had Lopez been more available this season, time could have been spent emphasising her as an actress, with retrospectives and frequent Q&As meant to drive that point home. Alas, Lopez was limited in her ability to campaign: She was busy shooting a new romantic comedy with Owen Wilson in the fall and was recently announced as a co-headliner for the Super Bowl halftime show, which will air days before the Oscars. That gig is a major coup for Lopez as a performer, but it reinforced the perception that acting isn't her primary profession.
Films about women were underseen this awards season
This year's crop of best-picture contenders are dominated by male ensembles, and films like 1917 and The Irishman have only a handful of lines for actresses. Movies fronted by women, including Hustlers, Bombshell and The Farewell, had a harder time standing out, and though Little Women just barely made it into the best-picture race, it only did so after a series of high-profile snubs along the way.
The academy has made it a priority to include more women in its membership, but it is still dominated by older men who've spent decades telling us what narratives are considered weighty and worthy. A crime ensemble starring men can succeed, but when you flip the script and cast women, voters are less enticed: Even Steve McQueen, who followed his 12 Years a Slave best-picture victory with last year's female heist drama Widows, found that acclaimed contender completely snubbed.
Lopez is already on top
When it comes to Oscar attention, there's a level of humility that can be tough to hit. You have to want the award, but not too much, lest you be seen as calculating and ambitious. Here's the thing about Jennifer Lopez, though: We like her because of her ambition! That hustle, drive, and self-possession is an inextricable part of her star persona, and any attempt to play it down just wouldn't feel true.
Unfortunately, Oscar voters aren't as beguiled: When so much of your public persona is about having it all, there isn't much of an urge to give you something else. Academy voters like to feel like they're a crucial part of a nominee's journey, and with Lopez, they've never quite been there. At the beginning of her career, she was willing to call out actresses who may not have forgiven those slights. Now, at her peak, Lopez wears her crown so evidently that the academy felt no need for further anointment.
Written by: Kyle Buchanan
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