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#OscarsNotSoWhite, or Male, This Year

"Get Out" director Jordan Peele, left, and lead actor Daniel Kaluuya at the National Board of Review Awards gala in New York on Jan. 9. (Evan Agostini / Invision / AP)

Two years ago, in a move that polarized members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs took strides to make membership more diverse. Isaacs was responding to the 2015 nominations, which prompted a tweet by April Reign noting that the Oscars were so white that Academy members asked to touch her hair. Reign branded that year’s Academy Awards “#OscarsSoWhite.”

Isaacs’ objective is fulfilled, in part, by this year’s nominations, announced Tuesday morning. Call it #OscarsNotSoWhite. Among the best picture contenders are the fantasy “The Shape of Water” (13 nominations in all), directed and co-written by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and the social satire “Get Out,” with four nominations, including best picture plus best screenplay and best direction by African-American filmmaker Jordan Peele.

In this year of #MeToo, it’s fitting that Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age story Lady Bird received five nominations, including nods for Gerwig’s original screenplay and direction.

Yes, the other six nominated best picture nominees—“Call Me by Your Name,” “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” “The Post,” “Phantom Thread” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”—were directed by white men. But it is another mark of change that, of the nine top films, Peele is only the fifth African-American director whose film has been a best-picture nominee and Gerwig the 12th female director so honored. If Peele wins, he’ll be the first African-American director ever to take home the coveted gold statuette.

Among the more surprising best picture statistics: Five of the nine nominees have at least one female producer, and five have a female lead.

African-American actors took 20 percent of the 20 acting nominations: In the best actor category are Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out” and Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”; in the supporting actress category are Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound” and Octavia Spencer for “The Shape of Water.” Blige garnered a second nomination for the song she wrote for Dee Rees’ film.

For her role as Katharine Graham in “The Post,” Meryl Streep received her 21st acting nomination, an Academy record. Should either she or Daniel Day-Lewis, nominated in the best actor category for “Phantom Thread,” win, their categories, the three-time Oscar winners would tie Katharine Hepburn for most acting Oscars ever won.

Female scribes took or shared four of the 10 writing nominations, and African-Americans two. Greta Gerwig was nominated for best original screenplay for “Lady Bird”; Emily V. Gordon (co-writer with Kumail Nanjiani, one of the few Asian-Americans nominated this year) for “The Big Sick”; and Vanessa Taylor, with del Toro, for “The Shape of Water.” Jordan Peele was cited for his “Get Out” original screenplay, and Dee Rees, also African-American, co-wrote “Mudbound,” which is nominated for best adapted screenplay. She’s already made history as the first black woman nominated for an adapted screenplay; should she win, she would be the first black woman honored in that category.

Rachel Morrison became the first female nominee for best cinematography, for her atmospheric landscapes and portraits in “Mudbound,” a sign that women are getting recognition in categories that have long been males-only clubs.

A handful of women have won awards for editing. Tatiana Riegel may join them, having been nominated for her work on “I, Tonya.”

In the category of production design, Sarah Greenwood earned two nominations, competing against herself for her work on “Beauty and the Beast” and “Darkest Hour.”

Apart from del Toro, other prominent Latino nominees are Carlos Saldanha, director of best animated feature nominee “Ferdinand,” and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, writers of original song nominee “Remember Me” from “Coco.”

And while many of this year’s nominees, like Peele and Gerwig, are in their 30s, this year the Academy also boasts its two eldest nominees: Agnes Varda, 89, director of best documentary contender “Faces, Places”; and James Ivory, also 89, adapted screenplay nominee for “Call Me by Your Name.” Varda is a week older than Ivory, but who’s counting?

Carrie Rickey
Contributor
In addition to writing film reviews and essays for Truthdig, Carrie Rickey has been a film critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Village Voice and an art critic at Artforum and Art in America. Rickey has…
Carrie Rickey

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