If the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was guilty of breathing its own rarified air for many years, times have changed.
The outside world – and particularly the Twitterverse – have been banging on Oscar’s door for the past few years. And if the Oscars aren’t 100 per cent “woke” just yet, #MeToo, #TimesUp and #OscarsSoWhite have certainly roused it from its slumber.
Here’s my hot take on how those three hashtags may have affected this year’s nomination announcement for the 2018 Oscars.
All The Money In The World would not have been in the Oscar race if it hadn’t been a focus of controversy with Christopher Plummer pulling off those miracle re-shoots of Kevin Spacey’s scenes. This nomination is a great big kiss to Plummer from the Academy. Ironically, the movie has shade on it since, with the news of the huge pay gap between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams.
James Franco went from hero to zero in two weeks, thanks to a bunch of tweets that were sent out even as he accepted his Golden Globe for Best Actor. Irrespective of karma, his performance as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist was the best work of his career, but he is persona non grata at the Academy Awards.
Dropping Franco made room for Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq. – a movie that made no money, divided the critics and really was not given much of an awards season push. But though he can be grumpy with the press, Washington carries no hint of scandal. And if you’re going to drop a white actor, replacing him with a legend who’s also a person of colour is a no-brainer.
The Golden Globes got fried (including on-air by Natalie Portman) for ignoring two eminently qualified directors who didn’t happen to be white males – Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig and Get Out’s Jordan Peele. Both made the Oscar list, deservedly. In less “woke” years, those two spots would likely have gone to Steven Spielberg for The Post and Martin McDonaugh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
And in an ironic twist, Mudbound, which deserved a best picture nomination, was treated like damaged goods after the Sundance film festival because another period film about racism in America – last year’s Birth of a Nation – was crippled by a decades-long rape allegation against its director Nat Parker. Netflix saved Mudbound (prompting some to complain about a cable movie being up for awards). In a perfect world, director Dee Rees would have been the first black woman to be nominated for a directorial Oscar. (Mudbound still did garner a supporting actress nod for Mary J. Blige and an Adapted Screenplay nomination).
Having said that, a concerted online effort by social warriors to tag Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as racist for its portrayal of a “redeemed” unrepetent racist cop (an Oscar-nominated performance by Sam Rockwell) clearly didn’t take hold. The film is up for Best Picture, Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and has two supporting actor contenders (Rockwell and Woody Harrelson).
An offshoot of both #metoo and #oscarsowhite has been the ongoing membership drive by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to make it less … well, old, white and male. The old guard is still kicking though, judging by the fact that TWO films about the events surrounding the evacuation of British troops at Dunkirk during the Second World War were nominated for Best Picture (Dunkirk and Darkest Hour). Either that, or Winston Churchill skews younger than we thought.
On the other hand, consciousness of Oscar’s gender gap didn’t do much for Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who some thought had an outside nomination chance for proving a woman could direct the most successful superhero movie of the year. For that matter, the expanded Best Picture list was supposed to make room for a box office hit or two (couldn’t hurt the ratings for the awards, after all). Wonder Woman would have been a worthy addition.