Oscar Night Review
By Diana Cheng
The Time’s Up movement pushing for equality and diversity was the thrust at Sunday night’s Academy Awards.
Time’s Up, a movement addressing the ‘Oscars So White’ phenomenon, calls for an end to gender inequality and to promote diversity in the film industry and beyond. The movement showed that it is a force to be reckoned with at the 90th Oscars by breaking new ground in various categories. In a video shown at the ceremony highlighting the trailblazers of the Time’s Up campaign, Actor-screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani puts it succinctly:
“Some of my favorite movies are movies by straight white dudes about straight white dudes. Now straight white dudes can watch movies starring me and you relate to that. It’s not that hard. I’ve done it my whole life.”
The Pakistan born, star and co-writer of “The Big Sick” was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay together with his wife Emily V. Gordon. The movie is a heartwarming cinematic rendition of their own mixed-race courtship and marriage.
While Nanjiani and Gordon did not win, new ground was broken as Jordan Peele garnered the award, becoming the first black screenwriter ever to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with the race-confronting horror feature “Get Out”. Peele also got the entry into a small group of black filmmakers having their feature nominated for Best Picture.
Another record set in the Time’s Up front is Dee Rees, director of the race relation film set in post-WW II American South “Mudbound”. Rees is the first black woman to be nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for her adaptation from the book by writer Hillary Jordan. “Mudbound” also touts Cinematographer Rachel Morrison as the first woman ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography. As well, singer actress Mary J. Blige is honored with double nominations in the same ceremony: Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song.
The Time’s Up movement is definitely a force to be reckon with, not just at the Oscars. With this momentum, it is exciting to look to the future as Asian American filmmakers, directors, and actors riding the tides of change. The night before the Oscars ceremony, the Film Independent Spirit Awards saw several Asian representations in the smaller budgeted film industry.
Chinese American director Chloé Zhao was honored with the Film Independent’s inaugural Bonnie Award, given to recognize a mid-career female director. Zhao’s second feature “The Rider” was a Best Feature nominee and herself in the Best Director category at the Spirit Awards. For the Best First Feature race, two are by Asian filmmakers, Kogonada’s Sundance acclaimed “Columbus” with John Cho, and Atsuko Hirayanagi’s “Oh Lucy!”. At the Spirit Awards, these Asian names are in the same playing field as other Oscar nominated talents like Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, Dee Rees, and Nanjiani, just to name a few.
The paradigm has indeed begun to shift positively at least in the indie film industry. With the boost from last night’s Academy Awards, more diversity and equality would be an expected change that’s long due.