The directors branch has been among the most profoundly diversified by the academy’s push, and though this year’s crop of best-director nominees still lacked a woman, it notably eschewed homegrown Hollywood auteurs like “A Star Is Born’s” Bradley Cooper and “Black Panther’s” Ryan Coogler in favor of Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma” and the Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War.” Germany’s foreign-language contender, “Never Look Away,” even managed a cinematography nomination, one of Tuesday morning’s most surprising inclusions.
With #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo, there is still work to do
These two hashtag-driven campaigns for social change became major movements in part because of award season. Do this year’s nominees indicate that Hollywood has taken their lessons to heart?
Yes and no. On the #OscarsSoWhite front, several actors of color were nominated, and “BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee earned his first long-overdue nominations for best director and best picture. In the less prominent categories, nominees of color included “If Beale Street Could Talk” writer Barry Jenkins; “Black Panther” production designer Hannah Beachler — the first African-American ever nominated in her field; and Domee Shi, who directed the animated short “Bao” for Pixar.
But when it comes to #MeToo, it’s another story. The day after the Oscar nominations were announced, The Atlantic published an explosive article containing multiple accusations of rape against Bryan Singer, the credited director of the best-picture nominee “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Singer, who on Wednesday called the article a “homophobic smear piece,” has long been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct. He’s also missed work, which got him fired from “Bohemian Rhapsody” with just weeks left in the shoot. (He was replaced by Dexter Fletcher.)
“Bohemian Rhapsody’s” star, Rami Malek, who is nominated for best actor, has deflected questions about Singer in interviews, instead crediting the producer Graham King for getting the film made. Malek also told The Los Angeles Times that he was unaware of a high-profile lawsuit with allegations against Singer when the director was releasing the 2014 “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” (The lawsuit was later dropped.)
But if the industry takes #MeToo as seriously as it has claimed, this can’t be a cause that stops at red-carpet ribbons and mild expressions of support. The academy is a big organization with several thousand members, so the same group that expels Harvey Weinstein for accusations of sexual harassment and assault can also include members willing to look the other way when nominating artists like Mel Gibson and Casey Affleck, both of whom have been the subject of troubling accusations.
Singer was not nominated himself, but his name is still on a film that scored five Oscar nominations. Though Malek would prefer not to have his best-actor bid tarnished by Singer’s involvement, a lot of tough conversations need to be had in the coming months about what people in the industry are willing to tolerate when it comes to the pursuit of gold.