When the Golden Globes crowned Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody earlier this month, it made us question everything we know about movies, good taste and the universe itself. “Thank goodness for the Oscars,” we thought, which would surely restore order to a head-scratching awards season.
The racially charged period piece feels retrograde, and has been the center of various controversies, thanks to some anti-Muslim tweets from writer Nick Vallelonga, and very public criticisms about the film’s veracity from the real-life family of Mahershala Ali’s character, Dr. Don Shirley. As expected, Ali scored a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and was joined by Viggo Mortensen, who was nominated for Best Actor, and Vallelonga, who managed a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The good news for Green Book’s critics—and they are legion—is that director Peter Farrelly was snubbed, despite being recognized at every other major award show this year.
Coogler’s absence was even more jarring after Black Panther was recognized in nearly every technical category, earning nods for Costume Design, Production Design, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Kendrick Lamar and SZA were also nominated for the song “All the Stars.” But despite all the well-deserved love for Black Panther, which rode its status as a cultural phenomenon all the way to $1.3 billion worldwide, the Coogler snub feels perplexing.
Barry Jenkins also missed out on his second Best Director nod for his gorgeous Moonlight follow-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, which was was also surprisingly left out of the Best Picture race. The Academy is only a few years removed from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and the omissions of Jenkins and Coogler do feel like a step backward. But thanks to the inclusion of Spike Lee, who shockingly earned his first ever Best Director nomination for BlacKkKlansman, as well as Cuaron’s Best Picture nod, there are signs of progress.
After Greta Gerwig's nomination last year, there was hope for greater gender parity, especially behind the camera. But the Academy’s total lack of acknowledgment of female directors suggests otherwise.
It’s easy—and valid—to gripe about the Academy’s slow crawl toward better representation, but celebrating the diversity that we did see today is also worthy. After all, a black-and-white foreign movie with no bankable names, about an anonymous Mexican family, is maybe going to win it all.