Film Forward

How 3 People Are Making History With Their Oscar Nominations

Remember their names — you'll be seeing them a lot.

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The Oscars is celebrating a big birthday this year — hosting its 90th ceremony — and yet the Academy Awards are still honoring some important firsts. Last year was a landmark one in terms of diversity, and rightly so after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and this year is also proving to show that, though we have a long way to go, progress is being made little by little.

In an effort to achieve equality within the organization itself, the Academy has vowed to double the women and minority membership by 2020 — to fix its reputation of being full of White men. Just last year it made headway on that promise, inviting the largest and most diverse class ever. Girls Trip's Tiffany Haddish and motion capture actor Andy Serkis (from the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes franchises) announced nominations this morning, which you can peruse in full here or watch for yourself here, so let's take a look at what made history and why.

Greta Gerwig

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Greta Gerwig becomes just the fifth woman nominated for Best Director in the 90-year history, thanks to solo directorial debut Lady Bird. She is also nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category. In the history of the Oscars, the previous women to be nominated in this category were Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1975), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), and Kathryn Bigelow — the only one who won — for The Hurt Locker (2009). In honoring a year that saw the rise of #MeToo and Time's Up, it was great to see another woman breaking barriers in a male-dominated field. Lady Bird is also the 13th film directed by a woman to be nominated for Best Picture, showing that women are capable of accomplishing amazing things in the director's chair if they're just given the opportunity.

Jordan Peele

Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Similar to Gerwig's situation, Jordan Peele is just the fifth Black man nominated for Best Director in 90 years thanks to Get Out. The Black men previously nominated in this category include John Singleton for Boyz N the Hood (1991), Lee Daniels for Precious (2009), Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave (2013), and Barry Jenkins for Moonlight (2016) — none of whom won for their directing work. Again, like Gerwig, Peele is also nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category, proving that the two of them are true auteurs. 

With these two directors, it shows that giving women and people of color opportunities, something that's not done nearly enough, can pay off in many ways — be it at the box office or in regards to awards recognition. Peele also has the distinction of being the third person to have their first feature snag them Best Picture (he is a producer) as well as directing and writing nominations. Warren Beatty and James L. Brooks did so with Heaven Can Wait (1978) and Terms of Endearment (1983), respectively.

Rachel Morrison

Photo Credit: Rachel Morrison
Photo Credit: Rachel Morrison

While Gerwig and Peele are among the few women and Black men, respectively, to score nominations in their respective categories, there is one important first. Rachel Morrison, a cinematographer known for films like 2014's Cake and 2015's Dope (and the upcoming Black Panther movie), is the first woman nominated for Best Cinematography ever for her work on Mudbound. Yes, in 90 years there has been no woman to ever receive this honor and she is opening the door for others. This is on the heels of Morrison becoming the first woman to be recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers. There aren't enough women — or people of color — in behind-the-scenes positions such as this, and for Morrison to be recognized is hopefully acknowledgment that they will be seen and recognized for the great work they do.

We can't wait to see what the results are when the Oscars air on Sunday, March 4, at 8 p.m. ET.

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