In Oscar nominations, fresh voices lead the way
NEW YORK — The Academy Awards showered outsiders, on screen and off, with milestone-setting nominations that celebrated Guillermo del Toro’s full-hearted ode to outcasts “The Shape of Water,” embraced first-time filmmakers like Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, and made “Mudbound” director of photography Rachel Morrison the first woman ever nominated for best cinematography.
In nominations that spanned young and old, studio blockbusters and passion-fueled indies, the 90th annual Academy Awards on Tuesday gave many who have long been shunned by the movie business — women directors, transgender filmmakers, minority actors, even Netflix — something to cheer about.
Leading all nominees with 13 nods, including best picture, was “The Shape of Water,” by veteran Mexican filmmaker del Toro, whose Cold War-era fantasy is about a mute office cleaner (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with an amphibious creature. But the nominations also carried forward some of the ongoing reckoning of the Me Too movement that has been felt especially acutely in Hollywood, where male filmmakers outnumber women by a ratio of approximately 12-to-1.
Gerwig, the writer-director of the nuanced coming-of-age tale “Lady Bird,” became just the fifth woman nominated for best director, following Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow, the sole woman to win, for “The Hurt Locker.” Speaking by phone Tuesday from Los Angeles, Gerwig said the distinction was extremely meaningful.
“When I think about Kathryn Bigelow winning and me sitting there watching it and feeling suddenly like, ‘It’s possible,'” said Gerwig. “To be nominated as the fifth woman, I hope that what it does is that women of all ages look at it and they also find the spark within themselves that says: ‘Now I have to go make my movie.’ That’s what I want. And I want it selfishly because I want to see their stories.”
Morrison posted Twitter of her nomination: “I hope it tells all the dreamers out there (especially the young girls with cameras in their hands) that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”
In what’s been a wide-open awards season, Oscar voters chose nine best-picture nominees, including four with female protagonists: “The Shape of Water,” ”Lady Bird,” Martin McDonaugh’s rage-fueled comic drama “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jordan Peele’s horror sensation “Get Out,” Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill drama “Darkest Hour,” Steven Spielberg’s timely newspaper drama “The Post,” Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic “Dunkirk,” Luca Guadagnino’s tender love story “Call Me By Your Name” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s twisted romance “Phantom Thread.”
One of Gerwig’s first calls of congratulations was to another first-time filmmaker, Peele. The two have been brought together by Hollywood’s months-long Oscar campaigning and their mutual rookie status. (Gerwig previously co-directed a small feature.)
Peele becomes the fifth black filmmaker nominated for best director, and the third to helm a best-picture nominee, following Barry Jenkins last year for “Moonlight.” He’s also the third person to receive best picture, director and writing nods for his first feature film after Warren Beatty (“Heaven Can Wait”) and James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment”).
“I’m going to write. I’m now going to get hard at work on the next one,” Peele said by phone. “One of the greatest things that I get from this whole process is this faith in my voice. It’s like jet fuel. It makes me want to make as many movies that I can in my life.
“The Shape of Water” landed just shy of tying the record of 14 nominations, scoring a wide array for nominations for its cast (Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer), del Toro’s directing, its sumptuous score (by Alexandre Desplat) and its technical craft. Del Toro said in an interview Tuesday that he would celebrate with an extra chicken sausage for breakfast: “That will be my indulgence for the day.”
“You realize that we are all, in some way or another, a bit of an outsider in different ways,” said del Toro of his film’s resonance. “Not fearing the other but embracing the other is the only way to go as a race. The urgency of that message of hope and emotion is what sustained the faith for roughly half a decade that the movie needed to be made.”
All of the acting front-runners — Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards”), Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”) — landed their expected nominations. But there were plenty of surprises and more than a few landmarks in the nominations announced from Los Angeles ahead of the March 4 ceremony, to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.