By Jarod Todeschi
On March 4, the red carpet will rollout at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA for the 90th annual Academy Awards. Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the ceremony aims to honor achievement in film this last year. As historic white-washing and lack of intersectional inclusion in film continues to be a major problem in the movie industry, this year’s pool of nominees seem the most encompassing in years.
Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” leads the list with 13 nominations, including best picture, director and screenplay for Del Toro, as well as leading and supporting actress nominations for Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer. With this nomination, Spencer becomes the first black woman to follow up an Oscar win — for 2011’s “The Help” — with two more nominations, for “The Shape of Water” and last years “Hidden Figures.”
Jordan Peele also celebrates a historic moment with his film “Get Out,” as he became the first black person to receive best picture, best director and best original screenplay nominations in the same year. He is also only the fifth black director to be recognized in the category.
Greta Gerwig joins Del Toro and Peele in the directing race, similarly as only the fifth woman to ever be nominated in the category for her ode to Sacramento, “Lady Bird,” which also earned nominations for its central mother-daughter duo, in Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, respectively.
Rachel Morrison becomes the first female cinematographer ever nominated for Netflix’s “Mudbound.” For the same movie, Dee Reese is the first black woman nominated in the adapted screenplay category, and Mary J. Blige is the first performer to ever be nominated as an actor and singer for her best supporting actress and best original song contributions.
Further, Yance Ford is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary “Strong Island.” The documentary category also contains the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar, Agnes Varda, for their film “Faces Places” at 89.
While Del Toro is favored to win best director for “The Shape of Water,” his socially complex sea monster espionage love story, the Oscars can be known for upsets and switch ups from predictor shows like the Critics Choice, British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) and Golden Globe telecasts. If those award shows hinted at anything with near certainty, however, it might be the four acting categories.
Gary Oldman, considered an industry veteran is largely favored to be honored with his first trophy for leading actor after portraying Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour.” Celebrated and decorated television comedian Allison Janney might also add an Oscar to her cabinet for her supporting take as Tonya Harding’s allegedly abusive mother in reputation redemption biopic “I, Tonya.” For “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Frances McDormand, who also won for “Fargo” in 1996, and first time nominee Sam Rockwell are expected to take the leading actress and supporting actor prizes.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “The Shape of Water” have emerged as the two films likely contesting for the top picture honor, one year after the infamous “Moonlight,” “La La Land” envelope mix-up. Many hopefuls won’t count “Get Out” or “Lady Bird” out either. The remaining films, “The Darkest Hour, ” “Dunkirk,“ “Phantom Thread,” “The Post” and “Call Me By Your Name” complete the years best picture nomination.
Many considered “Call Me By Your Name” snubbed in the supporting actor category for performances by Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg, though newcomer Timothée Chalamet — who also appeared in “Lady Bird” — was recognized along with the adapted screenplay.
Other public disappointments included no recognition for the mega successful “Wonder Woman,” or breakout performer Tiffany Haddish in all female buddy comedy “Girls Trip.” James Franco was also absent from the nominations despite early award season wins and predicted successes. In the week leading to the announcement of nominations, Franco was accused of sexual misconduct on multiple accounts. Last year’s best actor winner, Casey Affleck, who usually presents the next years actress accolade, allegedly withdrew from the ceremony, perhaps due to misconduct allegations that accompanied him prior to last years win.
Though Hollywood’s issues of inclusion are far from fixed, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has had to take the fall for the timeline of institutionalized power politics in the movie industry. While the blame is misplaced, the organization has done their best to influence greater change for the bigger picture. 90 takes in, the Oscars are pushing to give everybody a fair shot.