Oscar nominations 2018: greater diversity, better films?

From major nods to Get Out and Lady Bird to the first ever woman shortlisted for cinematography, the first post-#OscarsSoWhite nominations are surprisingly pleasing. Could it be that the newer members of the Academy have impeccable taste?

Nick James

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Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out is nominated for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out is nominated for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Original Screenplay

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences initiated its drive last year to make their membership more diverse, did it consider that the nominations for Oscars might become not only more inclusive of diverse talent but also far less conservative in taste?

Given the nominations announced yesterday, you’d have to conclude they got the diversity element right. The Oscars now make the Golden Globes voters – despite the ceremony’s black dress campaign and Oprah Winfrey’s rousing speech – look distinctly out of touch.

That the Best Director nominations included Greta Gerwig (for Lady Bird) and Jordan Peele (for Get Out) is only the first indication. One of the biggest cheers should be reserved for Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography – for her work on Dee Rees’s Mudbound. Rees might have made Best Director, but I think the five nominated just shade it. The producers of Mudbound may feel aggrieved at not making the Best Picture list, however.

Dee Rees’s Mudbound is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay

Dee Rees’s Mudbound is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay

Another wonderful coup is to see 29-year-old Daniel Kaluuya get a Best Actor nomination for the marvellous Get Out (Sight & Sound’s Film of 2017), and Denzel Washington is there too, for the film Roman J. Israel, Esq. (which I’ve had no opportunity to see yet). This all seems like virtue rewarded in a way we’re not used to.

There are always complaints on social media, though – you really can’t ‘win’, no matter what you do – and the absence of Wonder Woman from the nominations, in the year when diversity has been top of the agenda and everyone praised Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins, gives a clue to what I mean about taste. Superhero movies never make much of an Oscar impact, perhaps because if they did, Hollywood would make nothing else, but Wonder Woman might have been the exception in this particular year if the Academy membership hadn’t also upped its game in terms of critical judgement. What these nominations say more than anything is “We Want Adult Movies”. That’s hard on Paddington 2 and Logan as well as Wonder Woman.

Guillermo del Toro ’s The Shape of Water is nominated for 13 awards, including Best Film, Actress, Director and Original Screenplay

Guillermo del Toro ’s The Shape of Water is nominated for 13 awards, including Best Film, Actress, Director and Original Screenplay

What will win Best Picture is anybody’s guess. The Golden Globes momentum behind Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems to have faded; The Shape of Water is now the front-runner. Films that came out a long while ago, like Dunkirk, never seem to win, but with the Academy’s new membership, Get Out may have a chance.

With all due respect to the other noms, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour still looks like a cert for Best Actor and Best Actress looks a two-horse race between Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards). I wouldn’t want to have to decide between them.

But I would choose Coco for Best Animated Feature Film, Faces Places for Best Documentary – just for the kick of seeing Agnès Varda and JR accept the award and to add a little lightness to what promises to be a very serious evening. Between A Fantastic Woman, Loveless, On Body and Soul, The Square and The Insult, Best Foreign Language Film is too tight to call.

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