This year’s Oscar nominations have shown us that change is coming. From Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele being the fifth woman and black man, respectively, to be nominated for Best Director to having the first female cinematographer ever to be nominated, there will be a lot to discuss come March 4. I couldn’t be happier with everything happening for Jordan Peele, but I’m also so proud and excited to see women blazing a trail through these categories and helping to pave a way for more in the future. And though I have so much love and admiration for the women in front of the camera, I wanted to introduce you to all of your nominees working behind it.
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay – Lady Bird
A beautiful love letter to the bumpy relationships between mothers and daughters, Lady Bird was one of my absolute favorite movies from 2017. Gerwig is the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director category in eight years, and the fifth woman to be nominated overall. The last time a woman was nominated (and won) was in 2010, with Kathryn Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker. In total, Lady Bird has five nominations, including Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.
Emily V. Gordon
Nominated for: Best Original Screenplay – The Big Sick
The Big Sick is the true story of the relationship between Emily V. Gordon and her husband, Kumail Nanjiani. They wrote it together as a way of not just sharing their story, but also being able to work through the situation that happened as a form of therapy. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gordon explains that “you can’t be precious with your own history,” and that writing this story was something that needed emotional distance but also equal amounts of dedication. They’d write and then share what they wrote and learn about each other’s perspectives on it.
Nominated for: Best Original Screenplay – The Shape of Water
Vanessa Taylor co-wrote The Shape of Water alongside Guillermo del Toro. The film is an homage to one of his favorite monster movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon, but Del Toro wanted help from Taylor because he was a big fan of her contributions as a writer and producer on episodes of Game of Thrones that wound up earning Emmy nominations. Taylor had the drive, personality, and spunk to help give the story of The Shape of Water exactly what it needed. She loved the fairytale aspect, and she and Del Toro began exchanging drafts and rewrites back on forth — without speaking. The silence wasn’t intentional, it just happened during the creative process. With 13 Oscar nominations earned for their work, Taylor and Del Toro definitely did something right!
Nominated for: Best Adapted Screenplay – Mudbound
We have another big first for this year’s award season! Dee Rees has made Oscar history by becoming the first black woman to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. (And she’s more than deserving of it, because Mudbound is absolutely incredible.) Rees collaborated with Virgil Williams on the script based off the book by Hilary Jordan. The Sundance breakout has four other nominations as well, including one that’s breaking down even more barriers for women in cinema, which I’ll be bringing up again later. I’m shocked to not see Rees up for Best Director, but I have my fingers crossed for her next feature.
Nominated for: Best Documentary (Feature) – Faces Places
Agnès Varda was one of the leading figures in the French New Wave era of filmmaking, and she’s still directing at the age of 89! Her film Faces Places was directed by her and muralist JR, and explores the villages all around France and the lives of the people within them. It’s a touching story about friendship, humanity, and the beauty of genuine connection.
Nominated for: Best Documentary (Short Subject) – Edith + Eddie
Not only was the documentary short Edith + Eddie directed by Laura Checkoway, but it was also produced and edited by her. The film follows Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison, America’s oldest interracial newlyweds, and their eventual fallout due to a family feud. It’s a story about two people who were truly in love and wanted nothing but to spend their lives together.
Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Nominated for: Best Documentary (Short Subject) – Heroin(e)
Another win for Netflix! Elaine McMilion Sheldon is a filmmaker with a desire to be close to her subjects. She believes that proximity to the story is a crucial part in telling it. Her doc Heroin(e) covers the lives of three women in Huntington, West Virginia, that are battling the opioid epidemic. Sheldon wanted to get the real and genuine reactions of these women she was seeing, so she stuck around to get all the footage that she could. Eventually Netflix helped to craft it into the Oscar-nominated project it is now!
Nominated for: Best Documentary (Short Subject) – Traffic Stop
Another nominee from a streaming service — I like this pattern! HBO was the one who picked up the documentary short Traffic Stop, which tells the story of a 26-year-old African American school teacher from Austin, Texas, whose routine traffic violations escalated into an arrest from a white police officer. It’s here to tell a story about racism and the need for social change, which is something Davis is very passionate about. She hopes people can take great things away from this short film, and I think they will.
Nominated for: Best Live Action Short Film – Watu Wote / All of Us
Katja Benrath has made many short films, but this is her first film to be based upon a true story! Watu Wote / All of Us tells the story of a group of terrorists called the Al-Shabaab targeting Kenya for almost a decade, causing a growing anxiety-ridden atmosphere amongst Muslims and Christians. That is, until December 2015, when Muslim passengers on a bus showed that solidarity can prevail. The film doubled as Benrath’s graduation project for her master studies from Hamburg Media School. Talk about a win-win!
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature Film – The Breadwinner
Another film that tackles some heavy political issues, The Breadwinner tells the story of a young Afghan girl who poses as a boy to help her family survive under threat from the Taliban. Twomey said in an interview with IndieWire that she was drawn to the young girl in the story, Parvana, because “she’s going through extraordinary circumstances at an extraordinary time in an extraordinary country, and, for me, the challenge of bringing that to the screen was a privileged position to be in. I wanted to make a film about a young girl who loves her dad, who has arguments with her big sister, and is just driven by this incredible spirit.”
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature Film – Loving Vincent
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I STRONGLY recommend it. What started as a passion project for Kobiela of painting each scene herself for a short film, turned into a full feature length film with 125 individual painters crafting each scene. In collaboration with Hugh Welchman, Kobiela directed Loving Vincent and released it in 2017, but the film was originally conceived as her own short film back in 2008.
Nominated for: Best Animated Short Film – Negative Space
Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter co-directed Negative Space, an adaptation of a poem by Ron Koertge that explores how children connect with adults in small fashions. In this case, it’s through packing. Kuwahata found the story very personal as her father was an airline pilot. She connects childhood memories through objects, textures, and everyday routines, which is what made the short so special.
Nominated for: Best Foreign Language Film – On Body and Soul
Ildikó Enyedi is best known for her 1989 debut feature film called My Twentieth Century, but this film has been viewed as a comeback of sorts for the filmmaker. On Body and Soul is a misfit romance that’s equal parts whimsical and brutally honest. Enyedi won the Golden Bear in Berlin this year for this film, which is her second film-based award that she’s won next to the Camera d’Or at Cannes for My Twentieth Century.
Nominated for: Best Cinematography – Mudbound
We have ANOTHER first for the list! Rachel Morrison is officially the first woman to be nominated in the Best Cinematography category. This is a milestone on its own, but it’s made all the more special when remembering Morrison also won the New York Film Critics Circle’s cinematography prize in December and was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award. I love all of these shattered glass ceilings.
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer
Nominated for: Best Production Design – Beauty and the Beast, Darkest Hour
These two lovely ladies worked together on both Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour in 2017. Sarah Greenwood is a production designer and Katie Spencer is a set decorator, making them a dynamic duo. The two work cleverly off each other to help ensure that the background and surrounding match the tone of the films they’re working on. These ladies have locked up two nominations in their category!
Nominated for: Best Production Design – Blade Runner 2049
Alessandra Querzola worked alongside Dennis Gassner on Blade Runner 2049 and, my GOD, the outcome was incredible. Her creativity, mixed with director Denis Villeneuve’s vision and Roger Deakins’ camera work, helped bring the stunning dystopia of Blade Runner 2049 to life. It was easily one of the most gorgeous films I had seen on an IMAX screen in years. Previously, Querzola has done work on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Skyfall, and many other films, so she was bound to snag an Oscar nom at some point!
Tatiana S. Riegel
Nominated for: Best Film Editing – I, Tonya
Tatiana S. Riegel admits that taking on this project was a challenge, but she loved the film’s complex tone. She worked her editing of I, Tonya around keeping a serious tone when it was needed and knowing when a comedic side would be appropriate. Riegel has worked with direct Craig Gillespie before on Lars and the Real Girl, so their creative chemistry was great from the get-go. She’s also someone that works with a great deal of admiration and respect to the material that she’s given, and that shows in I, Tonya.
Nominated for: Best Costume Design – Beauty and the Beast, Darkest Hour
Each of Jacqueline Durran’s 2017 projects — Beauty and the Beast and The Darkest Hour — took months of research, preparation, and on-set work. Both movies had vastly different styles, but the same amount of hard work and dedication. For Beauty and the Beast, it was an 18th-century world of lush colors and patterns, whereas Darkest Hour had more of a focus on the oppulence of Churchill’s family during World War II. Durran has an individual style for each that shines through!
Nominated for: Best Costume Design – Victoria & Abdul
Consolata Boyle likes to begin with a completely blank slate when she works. In an interview with EW, she said that she wants to “investigate the social, political, and creative mood” of the time period that she’s working with. Boyle finds an importance with working with every creative head on set to bring about the best vision for the film, a dedication that definitely paid off with Victoria & Abdul.
Nominated for: Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Darkest Hour
With the help of Kazuhiro Tsuji and David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick accomplished one of the greatest cinematic feats this year: Gary Oldman’s transformation into Winston Churchill for Darkest Hour The three artists truly pulled off something fantastic; Oldman absolutely unrecognizable in the film. I would be shocked if Tsuji, Malinowski, and Sibbick didn’t win this award.
Mary J. Blige and Taura Stinson
Nominated for: Best Original Song – “Mighty River”
Mary J. Blige and Taura Stinson’s song “Mighty River” was absolutely perfect for Mudbound. It was written at the end of filming, and is a powerful tribute to the tone of the film. Speaking with EW, Blige said that it’s “really good and therapeutic to write a song like this for this movie” mainly because while you’re watching it “all you see if the lyrics in the song.”
Kristen Anderson- Lopez
Nominated for: Best Original Song – “Remember Me”
“Remember Me” STILL makes me emotional, and I’ve seen Coco four times already. It’s a beautiful song that maintains strength throughout the film even as its tone changes. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her co-writer Robert Lopez did an absolutely incredible job nailing down the heart of the film with this song.
Nominated for: Best Original Song – “Stand Up for Something”
Diane Warren worked alongside Common for “Stand Up for Something” in Marshall. The song is a brilliant and incredibly relevant tune for, not just the movie, but our society today. It expresses the importance of having a voice. As Warren said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “I hope it makes everybody stand up and not take any of this shit.”
Mary H. Ellis
Nominated for: Best Sound Mixing – Baby Driver
Baby Driver has a fantastic musical flow from the second it starts. Mary H. Ellis is the sixth woman nominated for sound mixing, and this is also her first Academy Award nomination! She worked alongside Julian Slater and Tim Cavagin on this film, and their collective work helped to bring it full circle and make it sound killer.