One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s Oscar nominations is not the tally of which films have the most votes, but what those votes say about the changes undertaken in recent years to improve diversity within the Academy. Two years of #OscarsSo-White and the current #MeToo revelations have politicised the awards in a good way, so it’s a relief to see great films that are relevant to the current moment being taken as seriously as traditional Oscar-bait.
Martin McDonagh’s spiky tragicomedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the most obvious example, especially Frances McDormand’s blistering lead performance. But it’s good to see that Greta Gerwig’s wondrous female-fronted coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird and Jordan Peele’s racially charged horror comedy Get Out haven’t just picked up token best screenplay nods.
In addition to their respective leads (Saoirse Ronan and Daniel Kaluuya) being recognised in the acting category, both are nominated for best film and best director. Indeed the director category is actually pretty telling this year. Thanks to Guillermo Del Toro’s nomination for The Shape of Water (itself a pretty outré front-runner — it has 13 nominations in total), white male filmmakers are actually in the minority for the first time. No bad thing in an industry in which women and filmmakers of colour are still rare.
The prominence of Dee Rees’s excellent, Netflix-backed Mudbound - which has four nominations including, at long last, the first ever for a female cinematographer (Rachel Morrison) - is another positive sign of change within the industry. It’s the first time the streaming service has made a significant dent on the nominations and has done so by backing the vision of an up-and-coming black American female writer/director.
As for Meryl Streep breaking her own record with her 21st nomination for The Post, maybe in these times the Academy should rename the Oscars in tribute. Winning a Meryl has a nice ring to it.