Over the years, The Oscars have gained a reputation for nominating films that typically feature stories about North Americans and Europeans. It’s not just the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that are creating the problem, it’s a systemic issue that is plaguing Hollywood and North America in general.
Lisa France a Senior Writer for CNN explains: “More diversity behind camera… that translates to more diversity onscreen. Projects directed or written by women, cast more women… and projects directed by ethnic minorities, close to half of the onscreen characters are also ethnic minorities.” Women and ethnic minorities are out numbered in Hollywood, so films that showcase these groups become limited.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter, #TimesUp, #MeToo, and #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy Awards have finally chosen some Best Picture nominees that reflect our modern society. This year’s nominees for best picture feature diverse films that showcase many different genders, orientations and races.
Here is a look at the nominated Best Pictures:
Call Me By Your Name
A LGBTQ film about a romantic summer fling between a 17-year-old (Elio played by Timothée Chalamet) and 24-year-old master’s student (Oliver played by Armie Hammer) who spends a summer with Elio’s family at an Italian villa. Riddled with sexual tension and short glances it shows the blossoming courtship between these two men. Timothée Chalamet is nominated for Actor in a Leading Role. The film is also nominated for Best Original Song: “Mystery of Love”, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
This movie is about a teenage girl (Lady Bird, played by Saoirse Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) as Lady Bird reaches the age where she is seeking independence and is trying to push away for her family. It’s directed and written by Greta Gerwig who is nominated for both Original Screenplay and Directing. Saoirse Ronan is nominated for Actress in a Leading Role and Laurie Metcalf is nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role.
A non-linear film that portrays the events at Dunkirk in World War II. It follows the stories of the men trapped on the beaches, to the British Commanders and fighter pilots as well as the civilians who took the call to arms to sail the channel. The film is also nominated for Best Film Editing, Musical Score (Hans Zimmer), Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Best Director (Christopher Nolan).
A couturier fashion designer (Daniel Day Lewis) falls for a young waitress who becomes the designer’s muse. Their relationship becomes manipulative and toxic. The film shows how beauty and physical attraction is not as important than personality and loyalty. Daniel Day Lewis is nominated for Actor in a Leading Role and Lesley Manville is nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role. The movie is also nominated for Costume Design, Directing (Paul Thomas Anderson) and Musical Score (Jonny Greenwood).
A psychological thriller that presents issues on ethics, race, technology and the perception of others. The film follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man who spends the weekend at the house of his white girlfriend’s parents. Chris soon uncovers a secret about her family that he wished he never knew. Daniel Kaluuya is nominated for Actor in a Leading Role, and Jordan Peele is nominated for Directing and Original Screenplay.
A historical drama about Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of the Washington Post and her executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). The Post tells the story of how Graham and Bradlee uncover incriminating documents regarding the 30-year involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep (as always) is nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
The Darkest Hour
Another historical drama set in World War II from the perspective of Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as Nazi Germany was seizing control of Western Europe. The film shows the struggle between those who wanted to make peace with Nazi Germany versus Churchill who chose to fight. Gary Oldman is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Roles and the movie is also nominated for Best Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling and Production Design.
The Shape of Water
This is a fantasy film about a mute custodian (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with a humanoid- amphibian that has been captured by a high-security laboratory. The film presents themes of disability and otherness throughout the movie. It’s nominated for 11 Academy Awards some are Sally Hawkins for Actress in a Leading Role, Richard Jenkins for Actor in a Supporting Role, Octavia Spencer for Actress in a Supporting Role and Guillermo del Toro for Directing.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
This is a film about a mother (Frances McDormand) who rents three billboards to call attention to the unsolved investigation into her daughter’s rape and murder after several months with no news about the case. This causes tensions for the Sheriff (Woody Harrelson) as well as the other citizens of the town of Ebbing. Frances McDormand is nominated for Actress in a Leading Role and Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are both nominated for Actors in a Supporting Role. The movie is also nominated for Film Editing and Original Score.
Upon reviewing the films nominated for Best Picture, one of them showcases an LGBTQ couple, four have women as the main character, one initiates a dialogue about disability, one discusses issues on race and the final three feature stories about Europeans. While the 90th Academy Awards have taken steps to honour some diverse films, the question is really: will this trend persist? Ideally one would also want to see the Academy go further when choosing and scrutinizing future films.
Darnell Hunt, coauthor of the Annual Diversity in Hollywood Report, spoke with the blog Moneyish in the wake of Black Panther’s success, saying: “People want to see their images and their stories on the screen…it’s just good business.” As of Monday February 26th, 2018 Black Panther has made $404 million at the domestic box office, and it’s obvious there is a market for more diverse storytelling.
Audiences must continue to watch films and question why they are considered the best movies of that year. The beauty of film is that it creates a discourse between movie goers. By showcasing some of the best stories, they can help us understand our past and present, and inform us on how to navigate the future.
For more information on this year’s Oscar nominees visit Oscars Website.