The odd smile and moment of satisfaction does come when looking over this year’s Academy Award nominations. It is a rare occurrence that those achieving recognition appear to be more in line with audience opinion compared to most years. Recognised British talent also offered a number of heart warming surprises. It nevertheless remains that #OscarsSoWhite which characterised the Academy Awards a couple of years ago was a symbolic reflection of the systemic and institutional racial bias within Hollywood. Hollywood politics has now heightened in recent months to intertwine more specifically with gender. Since the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke #MeToo has once again placed women at the forefront of the conversation within Hollywood regarding power relations and equal opportunities. This year might very well suggest that change is being consolidated amongst Academy voters.
It was no doubt a joy for many to see thriller favourite Get Out gain four nominations; years of Daniel Kaluuya’s under the radar grafting in the acting world have finally paid off with a Best Leading Actor nod. While Gary Oldman is likely to pick it up more as an acknowledgement of his impressive career rather than for his portrayal of Churchill in Darkest Hour, it’s overdue for such a talent. Christopher Nolan, a relentlessly consistent director, finally got his first nomination for Dunkirk. A film which topped many people’s ‘best of’ lists for 2017 was Call Me By Your Name, propelling young star Timothée Chalamet to the acting A-list with his first nomination at just twenty two years old. The film has been celebrated as a modern LGBT narrative where the morality of the central relationship is not the central conflict of the plot but instead simply the emotional core of a film that is beautifully made and movingly romantic. This is all exciting despite the obvious exceptions.
Greta Gerwig cemented her place in history as only the fifth woman in the Academy’s ninety year history to be nominated for Best Director. It’s an effort from the Academy, but before shoulders are patted too soon, many have been left dumbfounded by Patty Jenkins exclusion from the race for Wonder Woman which has been considered a major snub this year. Gal Gadot won over millions of cinema goers last year with her portrayal of the famous superhero, storming ahead with a big box office draw facilitated by a well directed, well acted film from the struggling DC cinematic universe. It was socially groundbreaking, proving there was a strong appetite for female superheroes. With women currently at the forefront of Hollywood, this lack of recognition has been considered a failed opportunity to celebrate the achievement of women in film.
Evermore the Academy Awards have become more about topical political conversations than the films being recognised. Hollywood has a history of reflecting the society in which its films are made and progress should be rewarded. Of course talent will continue to be recognised. The Shape of Water clocked up thirteen nominations and will likely win a great many of them, a win for fans of Guillermo Del Toro. Nevertheless, the Academy Awards as a platform for social and political conversation is able to highlight uncomfortable truths. This year’s nominations are still far from where they should be, but they are certainly a step ahead from what we had a couple of years ago.