Why Did the Oscars Ignore Jennifer Lopez in ‘Hustlers’?

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: the “Richard Jewell” actress Kathy Bates, who fronted a much weaker movie but is, at least, a former Oscar winner.

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.”

Had Lopez been more available this season, time could have been spent emphasizing 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.

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.

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