The nominations for the 90th Annual Academy Awards were released last week and met with mixed reactions. Some were ecstatic, others were disappointed, but how many were surprised? The Academy has been attempting to present itself in a new light in the years since a slew of all-white nominees was presented in the Best Actor category at the 2015 ceremony. Despite the #OscarsSoWhite movement that followed, the same thing happened the next year, sending organizers into a furor that found them completely revamping the membership list in the hopes of getting more diversified nominations. Although the 89th ceremony saw some changes in terms of the voting body, it seemed more like a desperate attempt to show change rather than a legitimate attempt to actually change. Now, in the age of #MeToo, this year’s nominees also fell shy of expectations.
While the acting categories are indeed pretty mixed, with Denzel Washington and Daniel Kaluuya receiving Best Actor nods, and Octavia Spencer and Mary J. Blidge receiving nods for Supporting Actress, nominations in other categories still reflect industry firsts. Rachel Morrison is the first woman to ever be nominated for Best Cinematography, while Dee Rees has become the first black woman to be nominated for Best Screenwriter in 45 years. Additionally, Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele are only the fifth woman and fifth black man, respectively, to ever be nominated for Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the award for The Hurt Locker in 2009, but Peele would be the first black person to ever win the award). It’s also worth noting that Martin McDonaugh, whose Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been the expected favorite for the awards season, is absent from the Best Director nominees.
Other landmarks that are up for recognition at this years ceremony include the critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name, which earned a nomination for 89-year-old screenwriter James Ivory, as well as director Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick. The latter was written by real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon about their courtship and inherent struggles they encountered from their families and respective backgrounds. Unfortunately the fate of director Guillermo del Toro’s new drama, The Shape of Water, which received 13 nominations (including Best Original Screenplay) remains uncertain after David Zindel, son of the late Pulitzer prize-winner Paul Zindel, came forward with claims that del Toro plagiarized his father’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper.
So what can we take away from the Academy’s nominations list for 2018? If not an all-around change, at least a small step in the right direction. Unfortunately the Academy still has a long list of firsts to get passed, which will likely be extended into next years ceremony, seeing as there can be only one winner per category. Perhaps we’ll see a different picture once the winners are announced on March 4th.