The 2018 Oscar nominations dropped this morning, and as Film Twitter picks apart individual categories and nominees, it’s a good time to take a step back and ask: What are the big-picture takeaways here? Are genre movies no longer persona non grata? Are we that much closer to making #OscarsSoWhite a thing of the past? Does the inclusion of a female director and a female cinematographer – and the exclusion of some #MeToo offenders – mean the glass ceiling just cracked a little bit more? While the Academy goes to the sunken place and falls in love with a fish man, here’s what we learned from this year’s nominees.
#OscarsSoWhite No More(-ish)
Almost a year to the day after the Sundance sneak-peek premiere of Get Out, Jordan Peele made history this morning, becoming the first black director nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay for his debut film. Thankfully, the headslapping Golden Globe snub in the Best Director category, which led some to worry that he wouldn’t be the fifth black nominee in this category in Oscar history, was a one-off snafu. In fact, only one Directing nominee this year is a white, American male – and non-white performers appeared across the acting board, including Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer, Mary J. Blige and Daniel Kaluuya. Remember 2015, when all 20 acting nominees were white? It sparked a campaign that is still referenced today, and helped raise awareness enough to wake people up to decades of overwhelming disparity.
Horror Gets Invited to the Party
Any genre fan worth his Fangoria subscription will tell you that horror is constantly being pushed aside in favor of “more serious movies.” (You think scaring people is easy?!) But Jordan Peele and Guillermo del Toro showed us how to do it well, and how to get voters’ attention by imbuing their nightmares with social subtext. It wasn’t that long ago that something Oscar bait-y like Victoria & Abdul would have been a lock for Best Picture and movies like Get Out and The Shape of Water would have never even been considered in the conversation; now they’re both heavily favored nominees. The genre tide is turning, and the film world is way better for it. (Trivia: The last time a film was nominated for Best Picture that was released as early in the year as Get Out was also one of the last times the Academy truly recognized horror: The Silence of the Lambs.)
#TimesUp for Some Folks
Speaking of turning tides: This is the first Oscars in a generation that doesn’t have the sweaty thumb of Harvey Weinstein pushing down on it. It creates a very different atmosphere on nomination morning, and there were a few nominations that felt like direct responses to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. First, James Franco saw his runaway train of an awards season derail when assault allegations arose just as Oscar voters were turning in their ballots. And Christopher Plummer’s work replacing Kevin Spacey has to be the “most-recently shot” nomination in Oscar history – while also feeling like a bit of a “thank you” for helping to erase a real-life villain from a major movie. And we’re not that far historically from when the year’s annual Woody Allen movie would have at least been in the conversation. That’s never gonna happen again.
Female Filmmakers are Finally Getting More Recognition
No, really guys, women can direct and shoot movies too! Not that you’d ever know it from Oscar’s controversial history in Best Director and Best Cinematography – two categories in which the Academy has almost always gone with five guys. Not this year, thankfully. Greta Gerwig became only the fifth woman ever nominated for Best Director for her deeply personal Lady Bird, while Rachel Morrison made history with the first nomination ever for a female cinematographer for Mudbound. (We would have loved to have seen that movie’s director Dee Rees, or even Wonder Woman‘s Patty Jenkins, nominated as well, but we’ll take what we can get.) The love for stories driven by women even applied to the Best Picture category, with four of this year’s Best Actress nominees fronting films there (The Shape of Water, The Post, Three Billboards, Lady Bird), which isn’t often the case with Oscar. It’s usually the guys’ stories that get the bulk of the attention. No more.
The Academy Loves The Shape of Water – A Lot
When the Academy falls for a very pretty movie, they fall hard. And this year’s prettiest invitee to the ball was Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, appearing in 13 categories, almost running the table technically, and beating second place (Dunkirk) by a sizable five nominations. It’s this year’s Titnic or La La Land – a movie that voters clearly adored from every single angle. And Guillermo del Toro could make a trifecta, with his “Three Amigo” buddies Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman and The Revenant) having already won Oscars for directing. It’s worth noting that those gentlemen also won for very visually sumptuous, very technically challenging films – and it feels like it’s time for Mr. del Toro to join that exclusive club.