In the wake of the #MeToo, #TimesUp and #OscarsSoWhite movements, Hollywood is under immense pressure to be more inclusive, and we were eager to see that reflected at the Academy Awards this year. As Maxwell Strachan noted in Huffington Post, it’s clear that “the fundamental structures of power remain firmly in place in Hollywood.” However, some notable milestones were reached this year that are certainly worth celebrating.
Jordan Peele became the first black writer to win best Original Screenplay
Jordan Peele didn’t think Get Out would ever get made, but the film earned him three nominations and a win at the Oscars on Sunday night. Dee Wrees, the director and writer of Mudbound, was also the first black woman to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Activist April Reign put it well when she said on CNN, “We have some record nominations this year for the black community, but the fact that we are still talking about firsts in 2018 means there’s a lot more that needs to be done in our community as well.” With films like Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time bringing more racial diversity to the screen, it’s clear that a shift is happening.
Rachel Morrison was the first woman nominated for Best Cinematography
We’ve already mentioned our excitement about Rachel Morrison changing history with her nod for Mudbound (filmed on a Arri Alexa Mini). If you missed it, our list of 5 female cinematographers who also deserve an Oscar nomination highlights some of the many women who have been doing award-worthy work for decades. Though Morrison didn’t take home the Oscar, we hope her nomination paves the way for more awards for women in the future. It was also great to see Roger Deakins finally win for Bladerunner 2049. 14th time’s a charm!
James Ivory became the oldest Oscar winner in history
Proving that success knows no age, 89 year old James Ivory won Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name. It was his first win after three previous nominations in the directing category for films A Room with a View, Howard’s End, and The Remains of the Day. Ivory formed his company Merchant Ivory Films in 1961 along with partner Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who he memorialized in his speech. Ivory’s win shows that you can live out your dreams at any age and should serve as encouragement for those who are starting out in this industry later in life.
Yance Ford was the first transgender nominated director
The Oscars are finally becoming more representative of the LGBTQ community. Call Me By Your Name, which explores a romance between two men, received several nominations and Yance Ford made history with his nomination for feature documentary Strong Island. Actress Daniela Vega also became the first openly trans presenter, but she made it clear that she prefers to be recognized for her acting first. Vega told the Holly Reporter, “I feel that I’m really an actress. I don’t feel like I’m a symbol of anything—I’m not an activist.”
Icarus was the first Oscar winning Netflix feature
In recent years, Netflix has proven their ability to compete with the traditional theatrical experience. Their film Icarus, which exposes widespread doping in Russian athletes, was awarded Best Documentary Feature. Director Brian Fogel praised Netflix for “single-handedly changing the documentary world” and noted that they release in 190 countries. With Amazon and Hulu also being recognized for their original content, we should expect to see more awards for films produced by streaming services.
These firsts, including a few that were truly unexpected, suggest that the Academy’s efforts to diversify are paying off in interesting ways. While it’s exciting that the Oscars have come so far, they still have a long way to go to become more representative. CNN pointed out that only five Hispanic-Americans and two Asian-Americans have won awards. As April Reign said, “Until we have more representation of marginalized communities, #OscarsSoWhite is not finished.”