Renée Zellweger is among this year’s Academy Award nominees, earning a place in the Best Actress contenders for her portrayal of Minnesota native Judy Garland, a 20th century icon. The biopic Judy found Garland near the end of her life, playing a poignant last stand in London.
“It’s a big performance with a poignancy that lies in Zellweger’s ability to embrace the small moments,” I wrote, citing “the self-doubts, the loving fun with her kids, the happy stage-door meetings with her adoring fans. She repeatedly flashes a laugh-smile that serves various functions, ranging from genuine amusement to a desperate invitation for her listeners to interpret her behavior in the best possible light.”
Zellweger has already won a Golden Globe for her performance — as did actor Taron Egerton for playing Elton John in Rocketman, a performance that didn’t make the Oscar shortlist. John himself, however, was nominated for writing “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” an original song for the biopic co-written with his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin.
The other Best Original Song nominees were Hollywood veteran Diane Warren’s “I’m Standing With You” (from Breakthrough); “Into the Unknown,” another Frozen song that wasn’t inspired by Prince; “Stand Up,” a Cynthia Erivo song from Harriet; and Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” a song that sounds like a metaphor but is in fact very literal because it’s sung to a self-destructive spork in Toy Story 4.
It was a big day for the Newmans: that includes Randy, also nominated for Original Score for Marriage Story, and his brother Thomas, nominated for scoring 1917. Best Original Score nominees also include Oscar favorite Alexandre Desplat for Little Women; Golden Globe winner Hildur Guðnadóttir for Joker; and John Williams, the all-time most-nominated living person, for scoring Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
In a year when the Golden Globes were roundly criticized for omitting female directors (most notably, Greta Gerwig for the critically acclaimed Little Women) from the nominee list, the Academy followed suit. Actors of color are also little in evidence on this year’s ballots, and the most-nominated film is Joker, an appalling glamorization of an insecure white guy lashing out with deadly violence. But hey, Judy Garland!