Though the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has been attempting to turn the Oscar ceremony around with the all finesse of rotating a bull in china shop, AMPAS picked up some much-needed praise January 23 with its 2018 nominations. The new slate of contenders is a noble effort to reverse the Academy's #OscarSoWhite controversy of 2016, when people of color were locked out of the acting categories, and the #OscarSoAwkward debacle of 2017 when the wrong Best Picture winner was announced to a worldwide audience.
Once upon a time, producer Harvey Weinstein lorded over the Oscars as a steady stream of actors and directors bowed to his power and thanked him for their great fortunes. The allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein triggered the current #MeToo movement—first introduced by civil rights activist Taran Burke in 2006 to "raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society." Since then, Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey has been accused of sexual harassment, Oscar-winner Woody Allen has faced new molestation allegations from daughter Dylan Farrow, and James Franco, who was considered a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination this year for his performance in The Disaster Artist, was shut out after a Jan. 11 report in The Los Angeles Times detailing allegations by five women of his sexually inappropriate behavior. Franco was even photoshopped out of the Vanity Fair annual Hollywood cover story, which hits newsstands this week.
The good news is the number of female Oscar nominees is up modestly from a year ago. Rachel Morrison (Mudbound) is the first woman to receive an Oscar nomination for cinematography. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) is only the fifth woman in the 90-year Oscar history to be nominated for directing. Mary H. Ellis (Baby Driver) is the sixth woman in history to earn a sound-mixing nomination, and first-time director Elaine Sheldon (Heroin(e)) earned a nomination in the Documentary Short Subject category; Her film also features an all-female cast. Jordan Peele (Get Out) became the fifth black person ever nominated for Best Director. He is also only the third person in Oscar history to be nominated in three categories: directing, best original screenplay and producing. Plus, Get Out earned a Best Picture nomination, which is all the more interesting because the movie was released in February 2017, making it the first February release to secure a Best Picture nod since The Silence of the Lambs won 26 years ago.
Still, when the ceremony takes place Sunday, March 4, it probably won't be #OscarSoRight. The National Hispanic Media Coalition is targeting the Academy Awards to protest "the chronic under-representation of Latinos in on-screen and behind-the-camera roles in motion pictures."
"We're serving notice to the motion picture industry that we're not asking for equity anymore. We're demanding it," wrote NHMC president Alex Nogales in a statement.
None of the 2018 nominees for acting are Latino, but Guillermo del Toro, who was born in Mexico, is nominated for Best Director and Original Screenplay for The Shape of Water, which leads the field with a total of 13 nominations.