Oscars: Academy Avoids #OscarsSoWhite Reprise

Kaluuya, Washington, Mary J. Blige and Octavia Spencer-Getty-H 2018
Michael Kovac/Getty Images; George Pimentel/WireImage; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

This year's directing nominations were especially diverse.

As it unveiled its nominations for the 90th Oscars today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences avoided a reprise of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag it earned when the noms were announced in 2015 and 2016, when all the actor and actresses nominated were white.

This year's acting nominees aren't quite as diverse as last year's, when, thanks to movies like Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures, seven of the 20 acting nominees were people of color.

But four black actors were included in the acting categories this year — Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out and Denzel Washington for Roman J. Israel, Esq. for best actor, and Mary J. Blige for Mudbound and Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water for best supporting actress.

But while April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, observed that it "remains as relevant as when I created it in 2015. I am pleased with some of the nominations, most specifically the best screenplay nomination for Jordan Peele for Get Out. It’s a classic film that’s already being taught in colleges and universities, so it should have been nominated there. We are seeing yet again a number of firsts this year so that tells me #OscarsSoWhite remains relevant — the first female cinematographer in Rachel Morrison for Mudbound. The first black women nominated for best screenplay in Dee Rees for Mudbound. But until we can get to a point where we are no longer talking about firsts and we can no longer count contributions to a specific category by a traditionally underrepresented community on our fingers, we still have work to do. After 90 years — Hollywood puts out 300 films a year, so that’s 27,000 films over the Academy’s history — the fact that we are still celebrating firsts means there is more work to be done with #OscarsSoWhite, and I’m energized to do that."

While the Academy, which remains 87 percent white and 72 percent male, has made a concerted effort to diversify its membership in recent years, only a handful of movies focused on black characters became part of the awards conversation this year, including Peele's racially charged horror story Get Out, which did earn a best picture nom as well as an original screenplay citation. And while Mudbound, the story of two families, one black, one white, in the Jim Crow South, did not make it into the best picture circle, it was recognized for adapted screenplay, song and cinematography. In a breakthrough for diversity, Morrison, its cinematographer, became the first woman ever nominated in that category.

The Academy's progress toward diversity was particularly evident in the nominations for best director. Mexico-born Guillermo del Toro was nominated for his romantic fantasy The Shape of Water, which led the field with 13 nominations overall. Get Out’s Peele, who scored a directing nom, as well as an original screenplay nomination, became the fifth black director to be nominated. And Greta Gerwig became only the fifth woman nominated in the category for her coming-of-age tale Lady Bird, for which she also earned an original screenplay nom.

"As I’ve often said, #OscarsSoWhite is non-binary, so it’s not just about race, it’s also about age and sexual orientation and people from the first-nation community and women in gender-neutral categories," Reign added. "I do believe some of the things we are seeing this year are a direct result of the Academy becoming more diverse, that’s because, at least in part, of the pressure placed on it by #OscarsSoWhite. We have more people of color in the Academy, more women in the Academy, and the demographic is becoming slightly younger as well. Because these folks are newer to the Academy, it stands to reason that they will be more interested in viewing films outside of their comfort zone. We’re seeing more diversity than we have in the past, but there’s still a long way to go."

Jan. 23, 8:47 a.m. Updated to include comments from April Reign