The Oscar nominations have finally been announced, and while there were some surprises throughout the categories, things are basically as expected when it comes to the Best Picture noms. And things being as expected is pretty damn great when it comes to representation. More than half of the 2019 Best Picture nominees are lead by non-white actors, the most in Oscars history.
On Tuesday morning, we learned that there are eight nominees for Best Picture this year and five of them star non-white actors: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book, and Roma. The remaining nominated films are The Favourite, A Star Is Born, and Vice. An argument could be made that Green Book doesn’t count as Mahershala Ali was nominated for Best Supporting Actor while Viggo Mortensen was nominated for Best Actor, but they both star in the film and Ali’s character is very much at the heart of the movie. (Some other arguments could be made about Green Book‘s place as a film being counted towards representation… but I’m just looking at the statistics here, and it does star a black actor.)
If you look at other recent years, the number of non-white actors leading Best Picture nominated films have been much lower. Last year, it was one film (Get Out) out of nine. In 2017, four (Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion) out of nine. In 2016, zero out of nine. In 2015, two (Selma, Grand Budapest Hotel) out of eight. And in 2014, one (12 Years a Slave) out of nine. (For the record, Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave both won.)
It’s no surprise, but the further you go back in film history, the lower the number of movies led by non-white actors goes, when it comes to the Best Picture nominees and the films being produced overall. And because prior to the 2010 Oscars ceremony, there were five nominees for Best Picture each year until you get all the way back to 1944, this year marks the most nominations for Best Picture nominees lead by people of color ever.
This year’s Best Picture nominees also include another history-making fact. The awards for Best Picture go to the producers of the film, and more diverse nominees can also mean more diverse producers. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Gabriela Rodriguez, who produced Roma along with Alfonso Cuarón, is now the first Hispanic woman to be nominated for Best Picture.
The movies nominated for Best Picture this year are wins for representation on their own, but hopefully a sign of more non-white led casts to come. 2018 was a banner year for films starring people of color having great box office and critical success. Crazy Rich Asians, the first Asian-led film from a major American studio since The Joy Luck Club in 1993, made $175 million domestically, and was nominated for two Golden Globes and a Screen Actors Guild award. (But unfortunately shut out of the Oscars.) Black Panther, which is now nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, made $700 million domestically and $1.3 billion worldwide.
Clearly, movies lead by non-white actors can be box office hits and critically successful, so hopefully, this year won’t be an outlier when it comes to future nominations for Best Picture. More importantly, more movies that are representative of our world should be made in the first place, and these nominations make a great argument for that. As for who’s going to win this year? Maybe the first Hispanic woman to win Best Picture will be another history-making moment.
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