Critics loved Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Hustlers’ turn, so why the Oscar snub?

Jennifer Lopez as Ramona in "Hustlers," a critically acclaimed performance that earned her Golden Globe and SAG nominations.
Jennifer Lopez as Ramona in “Hustlers,” a critically acclaimed performance that earned her Golden Globe and SAG nominations.

The 2020 Academy Award nominations are in, prompting the annual maelstrom of mixed feelings over nods, snubs and shutouts. One of the biggest disappointments of the day: No love for J. Lo at the Oscars?!

To be sure, there were plenty of letdowns. No Alfre Woodard for “Clemency”? Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name”? Lupita Nyong’o for “Us”? Anything for “The Farewell”? Did the Safdies cut all those gems for nothing?

J. Lo fans had high hopes for what would have been her first Oscar nomination after earning Golden Globe, SAG and Spirit Award nominations for her widely praised turn as the leader of a con ring in Lorene Scafaria’s crime story “Hustlers.”

Lopez nabbed her first Golden Globe nomination for her starring turn in 1997’s musical biopic “Selena.” The actress, producer and recording superstar also served as producer on “Hustlers,” which grossed more than $157 million worldwide.

She brought star power, complexity and showstopping physicality to her “Hustlers” role as the veteran exotic dancer-turned-con woman who invites Constance Wu’s Destiny into her fur coat, and into an escalating moneymaking scheme. The turn earned her near universal rave reviews, arguably the best of her career.


Writing for the L.A. Times, critic Justin Chang called it Lopez’s best turn since 1998’s Oscar-nominated “Out of Sight”: “As Ramona, a one-woman supernova who reigns over a New York strip club, Lopez gives her most electrifying screen performance since ‘Out of Sight,’ slipping the movie into her nonexistent pocket from the moment she strides out onto a neon-lighted stage in a rhinestone bodysuit.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences instead nominated work from Kathy Bates for “Richard Jewell,” Laura Dern for “Marriage Story,” Scarlett Johansson for “Jojo Rabbit,” Florence Pugh for “Little Women” and Margot Robbie for “Bombshell” in the supporting actress category, all praised by critics as well albeit in more traditionally Oscar-recognized genres.

Additionally, this year the Academy nominated only one performer of color, “Harriet” star Cynthia Erivo, across four acting categories.

Ahead of Monday’s Oscar nominations, Lopez took the stage at the annual Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Awards to accept the group’s supporting actress prize. With her “Hustlers” writer-director Scafaria in attendance, she lauded Ramona as the kind of character actresses rarely get the opportunity to play.

“Ramona, like so many of us, was a mass of contradictions,” she said. “Mentor, manipulator, lover, fighter, entrepreneur and a hustler. A siren seducing all into her web. A female character with a type of depth that is usually reserved for the men in Hollywood... Mmhmm. I said it!”

Lopez also won supporting actress honors from critics groups in Austin, Texas; Nevada; Oklahoma; San Francisco; and Seattle, among others.

Oscar nomination or not, Lopez remains in contention for the supporting actress Spirit award, in the independent film honors doled out the day before the Oscars. And she’s set to headline the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 2, one week before the 2020 Academy Awards ceremony.