Is the Time's Up Movement Impacting the Oscar Race?

Nominees weigh in on whether the most competitive best picture race in years is being influenced by the current climate.

Every year delivers a similar analysis from awards experts, and it usually goes something like this: "It's a wide-open race with no clear frontrunner, making for the most competitive season in recent memory." While that takeaway certainly applies to this year's crop of contenders, there's another subject of conversation dominating talk between trophy gurus and Hollywood insiders: how the (necessary) talk happening about everything from #MeToo and Time's Up to President Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein is impacting the race. Emily V. Gordon, nominated for original screenplay for The Big Sick with her husband, Kumail Nanjiani, says that while she can't speak to how voters' minds work, there seems to be a tie between IRL events and those onscreen.

"Maybe in the past, we thought of these movies as just entertainment, but now we're realizing everything is connected," she says. "These issues are not disconnected from the movies being made, and they are not disconnected from the conversations about the movies."  It's the new way of life in Hollywood, she adds, which is "a more interesting way to live over all."

Filmmaker Joe Wright, whose Darkest Hour snagged six noms, including one for best picture, says his film may have benefited from being in the right place at the right time and these "very important" conversations. "It's an exciting time to be engaged and be engaging with the world at large," he says. "The work should speak for itself, and people can project their own feelings and imagination onto the work. We started work on [the film] prior to any of the stuff that was hap­pening in the world. It's taken on this kind of relevance as a portrait of leadership and what that looks like. That's great, but that's something that the audience is doing. That's not something we forced, and that's important"

Having a glitzy and glamorous awards show at a time when the culture is experiencing massive shifts may not seem appropriate, but Film Independent president Josh Welsh notes that seeing these conversations cut into the awards race is most certainly appropriate. "This is a transformative movement," says Welsh, whose organization puts on the Spirit Awards honoring independent cinema. "And is it affecting awards season? Honestly, for me it does. I love the awards. We put on a big awards show, but on some level, the awards can feel like a frivolity when this incredibly important stuff is going on. So, if people take the moment, seize it and shine a light on these pressing issues, that's great."

Not everyone in the hunt is convinced. "I don't think it's affecting the races," says Judd Apatow, who produced The Big Sick. "In a lot of ways, our business is in a mode of transition. There's a lot of chaos, but something must be going right if there are this many brilliant movies this year."

Still, it may be months before there's a clear answer on the impact of Hollywood's sexual abuse and harassment scandals on this year's race, says Sean Baker, whose Florida Project star Willem Dafoe was nominated for best supporting actor: "Probably next year you'll be able to look back and see with clearer hindsight. All I know is it's a good thing these conversations are happening and that change is coming about in this industry. It's a wonderful time for the industry."

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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