5 ways women and POCs already broke records for this year’s Oscars
After the 2016 debacle that was #oscarssowhite, it seems like the Academy really is serious about putting together an inclusive and diverse roster of Oscar nominees.
The nominations for this year’s Oscars came out this morning. Four black performers were nominated in acting categories: Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out,” Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” Octavia Spencer for “The Shape of Water,” and Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig infiltrated the Best Director category, which is normally all-male and all-white, as Natalie Portman pointed out at the Golden Globes.
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Here are all the broken records and first-time-evers from this year’s list of nominees.
1. Jordan Peele is the first black filmmaker to be nominated for directing, producing and writing in the same year.
Jordan Peele is only the third director whose debut film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. He’s the fifth black director ever to be nominated. And he’s the first black filmmaker to hit the trifecta of directing, producing and writing nods in one year.
There had never been any black directors nominated for Best Director until 1991 and none of them has won, but it’s looking like Peele is the front runner and that could change this year.
“Get Out” really beat the odds this awards season. It’s easy to imagine “Get Out” being snubbed if it had come out in previous years.
Not only does it prominently feature people of color, but “Get Out” is a horror film. This genre is typically not taken seriously by the Academy. Only a few horror films have been nominated for Best Picture.
Also, “Get Out” tells an original and modern-day story about people of color. Typically, movies featuring POCs will only receive Oscar recognition if they’re biopics or period pieces about slavery or civil rights. For a modern-day tale about the struggles faced by people of color right now to be recognized by the Academy is a huge deal.
And last but not least, it came out in February of last year. The Oscars usually favor films that come out right before awards season.
2. Greta Gerwig is the first female director to land a Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture nomination for her directorial debut.
“Lady Bird” is a coming-of-age tale with women at its center. While the Academy loves to lavish praise on male-centric movies like that (remember how everyone busted a nut over the totally mediocre “Boyhood”?), it’s rare for movies like “Ladybird” to get acclaim from the establishment. “Juno” is a similar movie that comes to mind and received four Oscar nominations, but it was directed by a dude and only won for Best Screenplay.
It also matters that “Lady Bird” was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay. All too often, the Academy Awards will award women for their performances, but the female-centric movies that lead to those performances are left out of the conversation. Take a look at lists of nominees from previous years, and you’ll notice that many of the films featured in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories don’t show up in any other categories, like Best Screenplay or Best Picture. This is because the Academy has historically valued women’s stories less — let alone women of color’s stories.
Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director and the only one out of five nominees this year, which is a joke, but hopefully it’ll even out more as the years go on.
3. A woman was nominated for Best Cinematography for the first time ever.
Rachel Morrison is the first and only woman ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography. She shot Dee Rees’s “Mudbound.” The Oscars have been around for 90 years, and a woman has never been nominated for Best Cinematography until now. So wack! But congrats, Rachel!
4. Mary J. Blige is the first person to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress and Best Song in the same year.
Mary J. Blige not only performed in “Mudbound” as an actress, but also did the movie’s song, “Mighty River.” Let’s hope she wins for one of these categories, and she’ll only be an Emmy and a Tony away from EGOT status.
She’s also the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a movie directed by a woman of color. How many white men have been nominated for acting awards in movies directed by white men? LOL, LIKE ALL OF THEM.
Like I said, even though women are awarded for their onscreen performances, female directors, writers and producers have historically been denied behind-the-scenes accolades — especially women of color — because the powers that be don’t value women’s stories as much. So for women to be telling their own stories is a huge deal.
5. Octavia Spencer is now tied with Viola Davis as the most nominated black actress ever.
Now that Octavia Spencer has picked up her third nomination, for “The Shape of Water,” she’s tied with Viola Davis as the most-nominated black actress in history.
She’s also the first black actress to be nominated in back-to-back years after a win.
In the entertainment industry, women and people of color are held to a higher standard. We see this at every stage of development — from getting funding for a project all the way to award season. It matters that the Oscars are making more of an effort to recognize groups that have been snubbed and undervalued in the past. When a movie like “Get Out” or “Lady Bird” is nominated for Oscars, it encourages studios to fund similar films in the future.
There is still more work to be done. But if the Oscars continue to level out the playing field in terms of who’s awarded each year, we could get closer to an entertainment landscape that reflects the diversity of the moviegoing public.