×

This Year’s Oscar Nominations Revealed an Academy in Flux

The evolving group of voters accented an eclectic mix of contenders

The nominations for the 91st Academy Awards were ultimately a striking illustration of an organization in flux. As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to diversify its ranks, aggressively adding hundreds upon hundreds of new members each year at an increasing rate (many of them from overseas), this will be the ongoing story: The collective taste of a cinema institution is shifting.

This year’s lineup has something for just about everyone:

Are you eager to see continued support for filmmakers and stars of color after those embarrassing #OscarsSoWhite years? “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman” landed in the best picture lineup, with Spike Lee landing a directing nomination (his first) for “Klansman,” in addition to an adapted screenplay notice, with Kevin Willmott. Barry Jenkins (adapted screenplay) and Regina King (supporting actress) were recognized for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” as was “Green Book” star Mahershala Ali. “Roma” saw Alfonso Cuarón (director, cinematographer, original screenplay), Yalitza Aparicio (lead actress) and Marina de Tavira (supporting actress) secure bids.

Speaking of “Roma,” looking for international flavor? Two of the directing nominees, Cuarón and Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”), were cited for foreign-language films, while a third (“The Favourite” helmer Yorgos Lanthimos) hails from Greece. Aparicio became the first Mexican indigenous actor to be nominated for an Oscar, joining de Tavira on the short list of Latinx nominees, while Cuarón’s film joined two other foreign-language entries — “Cold War” and “Never Look Away” — in the cinematography category, a first there.

Interested in LGBTQ inclusion? Seven actors were nominated for playing, and three best picture nominees centered on, queer characters.

Were you a fan of the ill-fated “best popular film” Oscar? The average global box office tally of this year’s best picture nominees is north of $340 million, even when including “Roma,” which has reported no official box office figures. “Black Panther” is also the biggest hit to be nominated in nearly a decade, since James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Or do you just want good old-fashioned prestige awards bait that sends you home on a cloud? “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book” each weathered their detractors to receive five nominations apiece, including best picture. Winners of the top prizes at the Golden Globes, they could still be threats to take home the gold at the Oscars in a race that’s still very much up for grabs.

It really was a fascinating set of nominations to look through. It’s not quite “old Academy,” not quite “new Academy,” and certainly not a mirror of the British Academy across the Pond. It’s a sui generis blend, and there’s something a little exciting about that. There was a time when Oscar voters were easy to nail down. Not any more.

“The Academy is changing and still taking shape as a vast, international group of film professionals.”

From here, campaigns all across the industry will pivot for the win, aiming to engage voters with unique messaging. “Black Panther,” for example, will continue to trade on its “build bridges not barriers” mantra, cribbed from a line of dialogue in the film. That’s going to be potent in the middle of a government shutdown due to a dispute over funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Roma” will tread similar waters, while also playing on ideas of invaluable working-class contributions to society. “BlacKkKlansman” will engage the zeitgeist, and the rise of the alt-right, with a call to “infiltrate hate,” as its tagline says; “Green Book” will shoot for the heartstrings with popular notions of setting aside racial differences and learning from one another.

That’s just to name a few. There will be plenty of time to dissect the trend going forward, but the key observation for now is that the Academy is changing and still taking shape as a vast, international group of film professionals. Voters’ choices this year have reflected that. And with another several hundred more members set to be invited later this year, one wonders how next season will continue to tell this story — and the season after that, and the season after that…

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Inside an Inox Leisure multiplex in

    India's Inox Multiplex Chain Reveals Ambitious Growth Plans

    Indian multiplex chain Inox Leisure has revealed ambitious plans to more than double its existing screen capacity of 600. The company is planning to add 900 more screens across the country over the next decade. “That’s the realistic answer, but my desire is to do it over the next five years,” Siddharth Jain, director, Inox [...]

  • Joker

    Why 'Joker' Is About All of Us (Column)

    Take a look at the photo above. It’s the most poetic image to have emerged from Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” and the reason I say “poetic” isn’t just because the shot has that caught-in-action indelible vibe of a quintessential movie poster: graphic, hauntingly composed, a bit shocking (at least, the first time you see it). It’s [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Rules International Box Office With $117 Million

    Though Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” stumbled at the domestic box office, the Angelina Jolie-led sequel enjoyed a far stronger start overseas. The follow-up to 2014’s fantasy adventure inspired by the “Sleeping Beauty” villain took off with $117 million from 56 international markets. In North America, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted with a meager $36 [...]

  • Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s

    Box Office: 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Dominates With Soft $36 Million

    Five years after Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” cast a spell over the box office, the villainous enchantress has returned to the top of domestic charts. Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s fantasy adventure based on the “Sleeping Beauty” sorceress, flew lower than the original and debuted to a disappointing $36 million from 2,790 [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]

  • Film Republic Adds Further Sales for

    Film Republic Inks Further Deals for 'God of the Piano' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sales agent Film Republic has closed further territory sales on “God of the Piano.” Film Movement previously picked up North American rights to the film, as reported exclusively by Variety. Mont Blanc Cinema has taken the rights for Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Limelight Distribution is looking after the Australian and New Zealand releases, Hualu [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content