Oscars 2020: Two Lesbians Discuss the Very White, Very Straight, Very Male 92nd Academy Awards

Usually in our friendship I’m the cinephile and Riese is the person making claims like movies aren’t good anymore. But this year Riese saw every single Best Picture nominee and I only saw four! We decided to talk about these movies, the Academy Awards, and why they matter… even as they constantly leave us disappointed.

Drew: So I want to start first with some backstory on myself which is that in 2018, I didn’t just see every Best Picture nominee I saw every nominee in general – even the shorts, even Boss Baby. Also as of 2018 I’d seen every Best Picture winner ever. The only one I haven’t seen now is last year’s Green Book because I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it. This is all to say that despite myself I’ve always loved the Oscars and tried to be very knowledgeable about them and the films nominated……… but this year I’ve seen almost nothing. And you’ve seen everything??

Riese: Yes, this is where I carried you. Why did you decide to abandon your film practice this year? Is it because you were busy watching A Perfect Ending? Too many bad lesbian movies in your life to make room for bad heterosexual movies?

Drew: It’s true that I did watch 195 movies last year and about 170 were about lesbians and beyond. But it’s really that MoviePass is extinct! The stakes are a lot higher when you’re deciding whether to pay $20 to see a movie about a bunch of old white guys.

Riese: Right I had screeners. They sent me movies in the mail “for my consideration” and I was like, ok I will consider them.

Drew: But also it’s not like I invited myself over to watch anything, so clearly cost wasn’t all of it. I think I’m tired! I was tired just talking to you about your viewing!

Riese: Right. When I was like “I’m gonna watch 1917 tonight” you were not like “Wait 4 me.”

Drew: I was not.

This is not a picture of Drew running over to Riese’s house to watch 1917

Drew: Do you usually watch all of the Best Picture nominees or was this year special?

Riese: I used to be a big film person! So like in the 90s I usually had seen all of them, yes. But as you know from my article “I Don’t Like Movies,” I sort of fell out of love with The Cinema in the mid-aughts and saw a lot less films. ALTHOUGH I think I often ended up seeing them, just later? I flew A LOT in 2017 and 2018, so I saw a lot of movies on planes.

But if I look at the 2016 nominees… all I saw was Hidden Figures and Moonlight. And like 25 minutes of La La Land before I decided i’d rather stand in my giant yard and stare at the sky praying for salvation.

Drew: Wow 25 minutes in it hasn’t even gotten really bad yet.

Riese: In 2017 all I saw was Lady Bird, Get Out, and Call Me By Your Name — and Get Out was the only one of them I’d seen prior to the Oscars.

Drew: So by the time you saw Lady Bird I’d already seen it twelve times

Riese: Yes. Last year I saw about half of them. The pattern seems to be that I really only watch movies that are about women, queer people, and/or people of color.

Drew: Shocking!

Riese: And this year reminded me of why that is.

Drew: I mean, that’s a big part of it for me. I spent so many years watching movies because they were on the AFI 100 lists or the Sight and Sound list and the vast majority of those stories aren’t just about straight white men but about straight white men who are violent.

Ignoring a lot of the successful mainstream movies doesn’t feel to me like limiting the stories I consume – it feels like finally widening them.

Riese: Yes, absolutely! If you were nominating 9 movies for best picture this year what would you pick?

[delay as I was thinking!!]

Riese: Are you going to nominate Frozen 2 nine times? A Dog’s Journey?

The Farewell
Little Women
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Uncut Gems

I think that is a good balance of movies I loved and movies that I think simply deserve this kind of recognition. I’m so mad Atlantics wasn’t at least nominated in the foreign language category!

Mame Bineta Sane in Atlantics (2019) directed by Mati Diop

Riese: So the only overlap there is Little Women and Parasite, which were the odd ones out in this year’s list.

Drew: Definitely. But the only other two I saw were The Irishman and Marriage Story.

Riese: Honestly, like — in all tv and film awards — the nods and trophies usually go to white men from history. There’s something about something being set prior to the mid-20th century that gets Academy voters really hard. They like going back to a period of time when history has already sidelined all the women and POC for them and they can just really dig into some white male epics.

Drew: Right which is a shitty excuse because there are period pieces about people who aren’t straight white men and those get ignored.

Riese: Unless they’re about slavery!

Drew: I also think a lot about when something is considered an “Oscar movie.” Because a pattern I notice is when a boring movie about white men is nominated people say “Well it’s an Oscar movie!” but then when a movie that’s maybe not the best but very Oscar-y is made by women/POC it’s dismissed as “well it’s just mediocre.”

Imagine a movie like Birdman ever being nominated let alone winning if it wasn’t about a straight white man. That isn’t an Oscar movie at all!

Riese: I think boring white cis men like to see themselves represented. “I am boring and so is this movie,” they say to themselves. And then they vote for it.

Drew: Hahaha

Riese: I didn’t see Birdman.

Drew: Don’t. Even if two women make out randomly at one point

Riese: Honestly, sold.

Drew: It’s Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough! You can watch them make out with women in other better movies!

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in Birdman (2014) directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Riese: I did find that all of the best picture nominated movies were constructed in a digestible way. They had a very Hollywood feel to them where even if the subject matter was boring, you were carried through by a fairly formulaic procession of conflict and resolution.

Drew: So not like last year when there was the absolute incompetence of something like Bohemian Rhapsody? Which I actually didn’t see! lol

Riese: Drew, I have to tell you something.

Drew: Did you like Bohemian Rhapsody??

Riese: I liked Bohemian Rhapsody.

Drew: WHAT

Riese: :)

Drew: Wait sorry one second.

Riese: Yes.

Drew: Are you sure you didn’t mean that you love Queen? Because I also love Queen.

Riese: Mhm. I saw it on an airplane! And I thought, “Hm, not bad.” I mean I expected it to be really bad based on what I’d heard. I’d also heard they erased his bisexuality and that did not seem to be the case to me!

Drew: Wow, well as I said I haven’t seen it so I’ll let the internet have you on this one. But I am curious your takes on THIS YEAR’S movies.

Riese: Yes I’m ready. As a film expert.

Drew: Now I’m nervous knowing you liked Bohemian Rhapsody.

Riese: Feeling nervous is part of being alive.

Drew: Speaking of “Being Alive” shall we start with Marriage Story? Which I actually just watched this week.

Riese: Yes and you articulated all the things about it that I could not, to nobody’s surprise.

Drew: After making a big stink on twitter about how I was never going to watch it.

Riese: I also was vehemently not gonna watch it. However, I was engaged and emotionally invested in the film, I think because it sort of hovered above a world I am familiar with ’cause I grew up around it, which is “upper middle class artsy intellectuals.”

I thought it was very sad! I ended up just feeling sad about Adam Driver a lot. Sad on his behalf.

Drew: Yes!

Riese: My review of Marriage Story is: :-(

Drew: I said this on Twitter but I think it’s the problem with the movie. Baumbach and Driver create a really compelling and sympathetic character in Charlie and there’s a really great specificity there. The scene where he’s bleeding was my favorite moment in the movie. It was so sad and desperate and still really funny.

But everything with ScarJo was bland.

Riese: Yeah it felt like the film did not like her character, and then also; we don’t like her as a person, so.

Drew: The movie made a really compelling case that Baumbach was the sympathetic one in his divorce and I’m sorry but I’m Team Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Riese: She seemed a little harpy, and like she’d had all these problems with Adam Driver that she didn’t express and now she was expressing them and oo boi.

Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and Azhy Robertson in Marriage Story (2019) directed by Noah Baumbach

Drew: But overall Noah Baumbach is good at writing and making movies. It definitely wasn’t a painful watch for me even if it was a tad boring. It’s very long.

Riese: If ScarJo had made out with Laura Dern I would’ve been like, “Ok this film is good.”

Drew: Really what the film is missing.

Riese: What all films are missing!

Drew: Laura Dern doesn’t make out with any women in Little Women either! Somebody send the Gerwig/Baumbach household a copy of “The Puppy Episode” stat!

Riese: I know, another bummer. We already have to deal with Jo March being allegedly straight, although your point that Laurie is actually a trans woman I think was overlooked by the film and deserves more attention.

Drew: Thank you. I agree. Also Jo March is not straight. Especially not in this version??

Let’s move to Little Women! Which I wrote an essay about so I’ll just get your thoughts.

Riese: I wish they’d had electricity.

Drew: During the Civil War?

Riese: Everything happened by candlelight and it was hard to see the film because the room I was watching it in had a glare coming in from the window.

Drew: This is why movies are better in theatres! Note: Riese watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire not in theatres and I haven’t been able to let it go because I’m annoying.

Riese: Wanna know what I did see in theaters this year ? You probably don’t.

Drew: Well we saw The Avengers: Endgame together. Is that it?

Riese: No, I also saw Cats.

Drew: Hahaha

Riese: And Once Upon a Time.………………. in Hollywood.

Drew: Which we’ll get to. But first other than the glare ruining the very nice cinematography… Little Women.

Riese: Right so Little Woman was good, obviously. All the women were good. I love women. I am a Jo March fangirl. Little Women was a big part of my life growing up. I took writing classes at the Alcott House when my family lived in Concord for a year.

But I mean for me nothing will ever replace the ’94 film which I felt was PERFECTLY cast with ALL my faves at the time.

Drew: Can I confess something

Riese: Obvs

Drew: There’s a moment in Marriage Story where Charlie says that when he’s at parties and people are talking about a movie he hasn’t seen he lies which is hilarious because of course Noah Baumbach does that. But I do not do that because I am not Noah Baumbach. So.

I have never seen the ‘94 Little Women.

Riese: Well if only it had won Best Picture.

Drew: Every white lesbian in their 30s I know is OBSESSED with the ‘94 Little Women.

Riese: Yeah it’s formative. It’s up there with A League of Their Own and Fried Green Tomatoes and Foxfire and Now and Then.

There was a big chunk of movies during that time period that all kinda had at least one of these people in them: Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, Winona Ryder, etc.

Drew: Oh yeah for sure. A golden age of cinema with that bunch. Also this is going to get us off topic but FOXFIRE IS SO GOOD.

Riese: Yeah Foxfire is so underrated.

Winona Ryder and Claire Danes in Little Women (1994) directed by Gillian Armstrong

Drew: So with that in mind did you feel like Greta Gerwig’s film justified its existence? Despite your love of the earlier version?

Riese: Yes it did. There can never be enough Little Women.

Drew: They seem to make one every couple years so glad you feel that way.

Riese: Also I don’t think a film focused on a woman exclusively (like without being also focused on a man, e.g., Silence of the Lambs, Million Dollar Baby) has ever won Best Picture. Unless you count Chicago. Whereas films like 1917 that only have one woman in them for five minutes win all the awards.

Drew: Mrs. Miniver (1942). Sorry. This is who I am.

Riese: Oh! Terms of Endearment.

Drew: There are a handful. [Refinery 29 has a list of all 17 Best Picture Winners with Female Leads.]

Riese: Yeah I was just thinking post-1980 since those are the ones i am more familiar with. But also — All About Eve. The Sound of Music. We need more musicals I think. More musicals, less war!

Drew: I think a lot about the way men are portrayed in “women movies” vs. how women are portrayed in “men movies.” Like Little Women has some excellent male characters. Or closeted trans women in the case of Laurie.

Riese: It did.

Drew: But The Irishman certainly didn’t have excellent female characters. Marriage Story is supposed to be a two hander and that barely does! Women filmmakers tend to make space for men in a way that men do not for women.

Riese: Yes true.

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in Little Women (2019) directed by Greta Gerwig

Drew: I’m sad that Greta didn’t get a directing nomination. The Oscars love an underdog story but never want to bring a not white man into their regulars club. I think a similar thing happened with Barry Jenkins not being nominated for If Beale Street Could Talk. It’s one thing to have this exciting newbie, but if they just become repeat Oscar nominees actual power would be shifted.

Riese: Right.

Drew: How do you watch If Beale Street Could Talk and not nominate it for everything?? How do you nominate Todd Philips over Greta Gerwig?? Racism and sexism IMO.

Riese: That is a fact. Not an opinion.

Drew: Yes.

Riese: They don’t view those stories as important. White men make history, uphold history, create history. What women/POC/queer people are doing is not seen as Important enough to be an Oscar Movie.

Drew: Unfortunately that’s true. Especially when people are telling their own stories. Regardless of what you think about the movie I bet if a white man had directed Harriet instead of Kasi Lemmons it would be nominated for Best Picture. Note: Kasi Lemmons’ debut was Eve’s Bayou, one of the best movies of all time, and her follow up The Caveman’s Valentine is wildly underrated, and she really should be making whatever work she wants to instead of biopics. Alas.

Riese: I thought things were shifting after the 2016 awards. I mean the past three years were better, representation-wise, than this year. It seemed like we were maybe getting close to the general realm of “somewhere.”

Drew: I think they are shifting. I think this is part of the shift. Green Book and Joker are aggressive choices. They are indicative of cis straight white men grasping for power.


Drew: Let’s talk about it!

Riese: It is the WORST PICTURE.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019) directed by Todd Phillips

Drew: This is the only one based on talking to you that you HATED.

Riese: Correct. Because it is horrible. First of all it seems like they’re basing its world on like, ’70s-80s Manhattan. It seems like they are drawing inspo from some actual incidents that happened in the 1980s in New York during this time period, but they shift the incidents to make POC the perpetrators of violence rather than the victims of it (you can read more about this in The New Yorker’s review of the film). It was deeply racist and misogynistic. And it said nothing! This white man is a terrible person who starts a movement by being nihilistic and killing people???? I guess????

What is the point of this movie I don’t know, who is it speaking for??? Comic book villains? Why is it being spoken at all???????? WHY ANYTHING?????

Drew: As a kid I had a Taxi Driver poster I bought at Blockbuster Video so I think I earned the right to not see Joker.

Riese: It just felt empty and irrelevant.

Drew: The only reason I’m happy about Joker being in the awards conversation is it has been such a joy to watch Martin Scorsese be aggressively dismissive of Todd Phillips. Like in the Hollywood Reporter Directors Roundtable, Phillips is talking about how the movie is a tribute to Scorsese and Scorsese just has so much contempt for Phillips.

It must be annoying to have your work copied and misinterpreted so aggressively! But also I think it calls into question the value of that original work. Which is what I think The Irishman is all about. I’m certainly not the first to say this but it feels like Scorsese grappling with the legacy of something like Goodfellas.

Riese: Yes the movie in which they CGIed Robert DeNiro to look like Robin Williams.

Drew: He’s supposed to be 25 in those early scenes! That’s younger than me! Nobody is younger than me!

Riese: That’s true, you’re the youngest person I know.

Drew: He looks 45 at best. But I do think it’s a well made movie. I saw it in theatres because I knew if I watched it at home I wouldn’t focus.

Riese: Yes, it was well done. That was a movie where I was like, they know how to make movies. And once I realized it was tied to actual history and not a made up story I was more invested.

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and friends in The Irishman (2019) directed by Martin Scorsese

Drew: I do think Scorsese is one of the best filmmakers ever even if his subject matter doesn’t always interest me.

Riese: Generally mafia and gangster movies are a big snooze for me. And this wasn’t NOT a snooze but it was fine. I felt fine about it and understood why it would be nominated.

Drew: My favorite Scorsese movies are Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence, Bringing Out the Dead, and Hugo in case anyone was wondering!

Riese: Also I don’t think this one had anything new to say. The Oscars don’t want anybody to say anything new!!!

Drew: Speaking of nothing new and incredibly boring can we talk about Ford v Ferrari and 1917 at the same time?

Riese: Why because in both films there were two white men in romantic friendships?

Drew: Oh I didn’t realize there were two white men in 1917. I thought just the one guy running.

Riese: [SPOILER ALERT] Well one of them dies. But he dies pretty late in the film.

Drew: These are the two I’ve been least engaged in.

Riese: 1917 is like you go on a walk with two dudes you barely know for 3 hours. Which, I mean, is a nightmare.

George MacKay in 1917 (2019) directed by Sam Mendes

Drew: I find the obsession around long takes to be so dull. If you want good cinematography watch what Claire Mathon did in Atlantics and Portrait of a Lady on Fire!

Riese: Well it also meant they had to create ENORMOUS sets.

Drew: Right…….. like I guess that’s sort of cool.

Riese: I watched a behind the scenes featurette and I know we can’t even begin to talk about the money spent on movies – we obviously cannot – but I was just like, wow they basically built an entire city here for an imaginary story when there are so many people who do not have houses to live in.

Drew: Yeah that is definitely another discussion!

Riese: They could’ve just dug a tunnel for an Upper East Side subway in Manhattan instead of digging that tunnel through the European countryside to get their one take. Give something back!

But the characters were empty. I think it got nominated because the one long take thing really got everybody all fired up and because white men are gay for war.

Drew: And cars.

Riese: I felt like I was at the movies with my grandpa during Ford v Ferrari. He’s dead but I kept looking around for him because I could not imagine another context in which I would watch such a film.

Drew: I know so little about this movie. I know it’s based on history but I don’t know the history. And I never saw a trailer. Can I guess what it’s about?

Riese: Yes. Just throw things out there.

Drew: Okay so Christian Bale plays… Mr. Ferrari. And Matt Damon plays… Henry Ford?

I feel like Matt Damon is too young on the poster and the cars look too cool. So maybe Henry Ford’s son! And the Ferrari is invented and everyone thinks it’s cooler than the old cars. So Henry Ford’s son (grandson?) is like wait a second we’re gonna make cool cars too.

And towards the end they meet and there’s a lot of sexual tension. But they don’t kiss. And ultimately they decide there is room in the world for both car companies?

Was this correct?

Riese: Ok here is what you got right: Henry Ford’s son is a character in the film. And there is a … competition of sorts around whose cars are cooler. Also you are right that they don’t kiss.

Drew: Bummer.

Matt Damon, Christian Bale, and a couple of their best friends in Ford v Ferrari (2019) directed by James Mangold

Riese: So basically Ford is losing market share and Ferrari is HOT HOT HOT and they also always win this big car race in France where you race for like 24 hours.

Drew: The Tour de France but with cars got it.

Riese: Right. What I learned from this film is that driving a car really fast is a sport that requires skill, something that has honestly always confused me. My whole notion of car racing comes from men in my extended family going to the Indy 500 and also Grease.

Drew: Car racing required skill (and heart!) in Grease.

Riese: So anyway Ford wants to win the race, and Matt Damon is who they hire to help fix it, and Christian Bale is like the best race car driver in the US!!!!!!! Even though he is BRITISH?!?!?!?! And guess what?!!!?! He has an … abrasive personality.

Drew: Wow!

Riese: And Ford is not SURE if he can REPRESENT their brand even though he is THE BEST RACER.

Drew: Oo tricky.

Riese: He’s great but they’re like NO we don’t want him on the podium!!!! Let’s kick him out. So they do and the other guy sucks so Matt is like “let my bf come back” and they are like “ok” and then he does and they all win.

Drew: And they don’t kiss after all that??

Riese: Except he doesn’t actually win because they ask him to hang back so all three Ford cars can cross at the same time which’d make a good photograph.

Drew: So he learns to be a team player. Despite that abrasive personality. A character arc if you will.

Riese: Mhm yes he takes one for the team. Then a few months later his car blows up and he dies. The end. Based on a true story!

Drew: Wow. Okay. Well, cool cars and sudden violence seems to take us to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood even though I’m dreading that discussion.

Riese: I saw that film in the theater because my friend was like “let’s go see it” and we all agreed to see it knowing nothing about it. I was imagining it would be about like, girls in Hollywood because Once Upon a Time makes me think of fairy tales which I think of as a female-centric genre. Listen the point is that it was VERY warm in the theater. Luckily I wore shorts but my friends were not so lucky.

Drew: I actually know very little about it. I never even saw the trailer. But I have seen every other thing Tarantino has ever done Including his CSI episode. I went through a Tarantino phase like the good film boy I was trying to be.

Riese: I have NEVER felt so confused during a film. Like a man would say a thing, and everybody would laugh except me. I did not understand why the jokes were jokes? They didn’t seem like jokes to me. It felt like a movie By Men 4 Men. I’m not sure why it’s so celebrated. I feel like it’s objectively bad and also ENORMOUSLY irrelevant. Again, it has nothing new to say. Why should I care about this aging Western movie star? Why are they rewriting the Manson story to make it less interesting?

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) directed by Quentin Tarantino

Drew: I almost saw it many times. I didn’t actively boycott it. We don’t need to have a whole conversation about restorative justice but I really don’t know what I want from Tarantino. I think his on-set behavior and enabling of Weinstein has just resulted in me… not really caring about what he has to say as an artist?

Riese: I have never cared what he has to say as an artist because I hate violence in movies. I walked out of Kill Bill. Except I did like Four Rooms.

Drew: Lol what?

Riese: Yes.

Drew: You liked Four Rooms?

Riese: I mean, I don’t remember it super well. But I think I liked it. Great little cast. Jennifer Beals! Not as much violence. Fun musical score. And there’s a witch coven in it!

Drew: Your favorite Tarantino movie is the one co-directed by lesbian filmmaker Allison Anders who directed an episode of The L Word?

Riese: Yes.

Drew: This checks out. My favorites were Jackie Brown and Inglourious Basterds but I have no idea how they’d hold up because I haven’t seen either in years. I do think I’ll eventually watch this one. When it’s free.

Riese: Well let me know if you think it’s funny.

Drew: I will do that.

Riese: Like Leonardo DiCaprio would kill someone with a fire gun and everyone would be like LOLOLOL

Drew: Oh boy.

Riese: I was like, where am I? Take me back to The Basketball Diaries.

Drew: I miss old Leo so much wow.

Riese: He was such a cute lesbian.

Drew: It feels like next we should talk about Jojo Rabbit because that’s the other movie I planned on seeing but didn’t. Multiple people told me that I specifically would hate it?

Riese: Oh right I saw that one because my friend works for the company doing social media for it. And she was curious if i would find it offensive or not as a Jewish person. I did not for the record

Drew: I tend to be really picky with Holocaust movies. I hate Schindler’s List. And REALLY hate Life is Beautiful.

Riese: I loved Life is Beautiful.

Drew: Yeah that, Cinema Paradiso, and Forrest Gump are the movies I hate and can’t talk about or else I lose friends.

I think I always feel weird about Holocaust movies that try to be inspirational? I mean I love Chaplin’s The Great Dictator! It’s not that there can’t be humor! It’s more that I don’t like the sentimentality of those other films.

Thomasin McKenzie and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit (2019) directed by Taika Waititi

Riese: I liked JoJo Rabbit. It was fine. It had a visual style I appreciated and a tone that obviously took more risks than we generally see in Oscar bait. ScarJo is always like in things though, and that’s tough.

Drew: I like Taika Waititi and I would’ve been more eager to see it if ScarJo wasn’t in it! But also the actress from Leave No Trace (Thomasin McKenzie) is in it and she’s great. That movie should’ve been nominated last year and she should’ve been too.

Riese: It’s interesting that there were a lot of actors who showed up twice during this Best Picture Expedition of mine. I saw ScarJo, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Laura Dern twice. And I saw every black actor in the universe say lines zero times.

Drew: I’m still so mad Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t nominated for Us.

Riese: In Joker, his social worker was a black woman, as was a woman who lived in his building who he had an imaginary relationship with. I think that was it.

Drew: Well this brings us to the last movie and the only movie not about white people: Parasite. I don’t like Parasite quite as much as most, but I do think it’s really good and I’m pulling for it on Oscar night.

Riese: It’s also the only movie about the present.

Drew: Because Joker is mimicking the 70s and 80s and Marriage Story takes place in 2013 when Noah Baumbach was getting a divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh. A period piece.

Riese: lol.

You’re right, Marriage Story and Parasite are both about the present.

I liked Parasite. I thought it was interesting and engaging. I hope it wins. I really think we should be expecting our Best Picture nominees to have something new to say. And you can do that with movies about the past. But I don’t think any of these movies got there.

Drew: That’s interesting because I think Little Women has more to say about the present than Marriage Story. Even if Greta Gerwig’s vision is rather limited as much as I do love her and the movie.

Riese: Yeah you are probably right about that. Here’s the thing!!! There’s a lot more NEW things to say about women/POC because our stories are told less often. These categories should be dominated by movies about women/POC that are written / directed / produced by women and POC.

Drew: Yes! It’s why my decision to watch more movies not about straight white dudes results in me seeing much better movies. Except A Perfect Ending.

Riese: I think even within the world of what Oscar voters tend to get into, Pain and Glory deserved a spot over Joker.

Drew: Yes! I loved Pain and Glory so much.

Parasite is the first movie not in English that my sister has ever seen in theatres without me. Ever! So I do think it’s really exciting how it’s gained mainstream success and attention. I would love if this could be reflected in future years. Because so many of the best films I saw last year were not in English.

Choi Woo Shik, Song Kang Ho, Chang Hyae Jin, and Park So Dam in Parasite (2019) directed by Bong Joon Ho

Riese: It feels like they max out on one (1) foreign film being nominated.

ALSO one important thing about that film specifically that I am aware of because of this piece I did in 2016 (Note: Riese updated this piece through 2020) is that historically when the academy HAS nominated a film about Asian people for Best Picture, they never nominate any of the actors. Whereas nine white actors have been nominated for playing Asian characters. And three won.

Drew: I just audibly sighed.

Riese: Five films with majority-Asian casts have gotten Best Picture nods but zero acting nods: The Last Emperor, Slumdog Millionaire, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life of Pi, and Letters from Iwo Jima. Now Parasite is six.

Drew: It’s incredibly frustrating when people claim the acting categories are so white this year because there just weren’t the performances. As if the entire cast of Parasite wasn’t fantastic. They won the SAG ensemble award!

Riese: They did.

Drew: Also Awkwafina feelings aside she should’ve been nominated for The Farewell. And Alfre Woodard for Clemency. And JLo for Hustlers AND Constance Wu for Hustlers to be honest. And AGAIN Lupita for Us. There really are no excuses.

The sad thing is the Oscars do matter. They determine what movies get made and how people’s careers progress. So as tempting as it is to just dismiss them as an outdated award show… I never seem to be able to.

Because I know that if Lulu Wang got an Oscar Nomination it would change her career. And I want her to make everything she wants!

Riese: Yeah and honestly also this is a smaller thing maybe? But it really sucks for these individuals and their senses of self. Getting an Oscar probably feels really great!

Drew: I’d love an Oscar! I was voted most likely to win an Oscar in my high school superlatives. But they didn’t know I was trans yet.

Riese: Hahaha

Drew: I’d really love to be the third trans woman to win a Best Director Oscar. But if I have to be first I guess I will be. SIGH

Riese: lol

I’m a completist, but I think the other reason I watched all these films is to get a temperature on the mainstream? Because I feel very out of the mainstream with the work I do. For example, Blockers was nominated for NOTHING last year!!

Drew: Blockers is better than most Best Picture winners!!!

I think it’s really important that we both understand the impact the Oscars have while pushing them to be better and make sure they don’t completely determine the work we see and celebrate.

Like I certainly understand wanting to be part of the conversation. But I just think post-Oscars no matter who wins people should watch Atlantics. It’s on Netflix. Trust me.

But Riese you did see everything so if someone wanted to watch a handful of the films which would you say are worth their time?

Riese: Little Women. Parasite.

Drew: Yay! I already did it!

Riese: I enjoyed Bombshell even though I recognize that objectively it has a lot of problems!

Drew: Is that the only movie with lesbians nominated for anything?

Riese: I mean in my fantasies, Janelle Monáe’s character in Harriet was a lesbian but lemme see…

Laurie, the trans woman in Little Women, is a lesbian.

Drew: Of course!

Riese: It seems like there should’ve been a lesbian in Judy but I can’t think of one!

Drew: SIGH

Well maybe someday there will be an on-topic reason for Autostraddle to do some proper Oscar coverage. But until then I’ve enjoyed this conversation immensely and learned a lot, for example the plot of Ford v Ferrari.

Riese: Thank you. I enjoyed getting to hear about film from somebody who had genuine opinions and wasn’t just a girl on a sofa.

Well, I guess you’re also a girl on a sofa. But with a film degree.

Drew: And sometimes I sit in actual movie theatres.

Riese: Right!

Drew: Like next week when I’m sitting in a movie theatre with you making you rewatch Portrait of a Lady on Fire which gets its official release on Friday.

Riese: Well, I do love popcorn.

We implore you to check out The Brittani’s, a much better award show.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 538 articles for us.


  1. “The sad thing is the Oscars do matter. They determine what movies get made and how people’s careers progress. So as tempting as it is to just dismiss them as an outdated award show… I never seem to be able to.”

    Drew this is so true! And Riese, I’m thinking of something from your Oscars So Racist tome I read again yesterday— you quote a blogger writing about Marlon Brando’s nomination for playing Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952) and the blogger says (paraphrasing) that Brando was convincing and “his performance as a Mexican was some of the best acting of the year.”

    The Oscars literally shape what is thought of as “good” acting, and what gets held up as “good” cinema. These assertions are reiterated for far too long, and re-cemented through stuff like the AFI’s 100 Best lists (shouts out to being a good film kid Drew!) that are circulated and quoted again and again, so that even if you haven’t seen the movie you have this vague impression of like “oh yeah I’ve heard that’s a good film, it’s on the ____ List.” And the reconsideration and reckoning for these films (“is it THAT good?”) takes far too long or never quite happens on a mass scale.

  2. I agree with a lot of things said above. Especially with Drew’s taste. I just cannot get over the fact that Riese watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but NOT IN THE THEATRE??? That’s a terrible sacrilege. It is by far the best film of 2019. It is the best lesbian film ever. It deserves to be seen on the big screen. The story, the acting, the sound, the colors, the whole mis en scene really…It is a staggering heartfelt, emotional, beautiful work of art. It touched me like no work of art has ever before. `please Riese and everyone else, go see it in theatres!

    • I saw it yesterday at my local arthouse cinema and it made me cry at the end. It’s been a long time since a film has moved me so much. I still feel vaguely devastated a day later. Being a lesbian who paints it also inspired me to make some art when I got home. It’s the best film since Moonlight, imo.

  3. Drew, I’m curious what were the things that you didn’t like as much about Parasite? (I don’t want to fight, I promise! I just like your brain and would love to know your smart smart thoughts!)

    • I think Bong Joon Ho tends to make movies with really direct thematic cores and he does it really well, but that kind of storytelling doesn’t always totally work for me? I actually think Parasite and Us have similar goals creating worlds that unveil the imbalance within our society, but I responded far more to the messiness of Us.

      But that said I think Parasite fully succeeds at being the movie it wants to be and I am THRILLED that it won.

  4. I haven’t finished reading this (but will) but just had to jump down here real quick and say it’s so nice to read people who know about movies not liking Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood because I saw it and hated it and maybe the by men for men is why? But also I was someone laughing by the end not because it was funny but because it was a bad movie with bad storytelling and he decided to end it by literally KILLING IT WITH FIRE which is exactly how I was feeling about the movie at that point and nothing mattered and maybe I’d never make it out of there but was dead and being punished by watching a terrible move about terrible men that never ended and left out all the interesting parts! And that was after two drinks. My friend and I spent the next hour apologizing to each other for not just getting up and leaving but it was one of those places where you order drinks ahead of time and they deliver them to you while you’re watching so we had to wait for the second round.

    • i don’t know why i am on this post like a month later but this comment made me laugh out loud and i wanted to thank you for that

  5. “I think boring white cis men like to see themselves represented. “I am boring and so is this movie,” they say to themselves. And then they vote for it.”


    This is about the show itself: There need to be measures in place to prevent speeches like Joaquin’s and Renee’s. So awful. A good side effect of having more marginalized people win is they tend to give MUCH better speeches and usually avoid the “we must unite and at the core we are all the same” bullshit. I feel like Audre Lorde should be required reading for all nominees before next year’s Oscars. Christ.

  6. I loved reading this conversation, thank you for sharing it! It really hit on a lot of my problems with the Oscars, especially this year, and I appreciate having the words the explain it now. <3

  7. I love this a lot. I was double majoring in Film and English in the late 90s, and was a Tarantino stan while also seeking out every queer film to rent at the downtown SLC Hollywood Video. Fast Forward to right now where my guide for whether I want to see a movie is pretty exclusively “Is it GAY? EVEN A LITTLE?” But also I need more energy to leave the house/money to also see movies because I saw just about nothing last year.

    My mother tends to gently badger me to see certain Oscar nommed stuff and I just can’t anymore after the time I fell asleep in the theater when we saw La La Land. Fortunately she’s been OK with seeing the queer stuff.

  8. RIESE I am SO GLAD someone else HATED joker as much as me. WORST FILM!!!! SO ABLEIST! SO RACIST! SO MISOGYNISTIC!

Comments are closed.