The Academy Awards are on Sunday, February 28, and host Chris Rock will certainly have a lot to say about the controversy Twitter hashtagged #OscarsSoWhite. Indeed, this year’s acting nominees sadly reflect not a single person of color, and Rock will likely, and rightly, lambaste the voters for showing such little diversity in their voting. Yet, he could also draw attention to 10 marvelous milestones that make this Oscars truly something special. Here are 10 facts that should be lauded, and would portray the awards in a positive light:
With his nomination for the score of the new “Star Wars” sequel, John Williams now has earned 50 Oscar nominations, the most of any living nominee. Only Walt Disney received more in his time with 59.
The veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins received his 13th Oscar nomination (“Sicario”) which is a record for a living Director of Photography.
The five nominations that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” received has enabled the franchise to now tie the “Lord of the Rings” series as that with the most nods ever at 30.
At the age of just 25, Jennifer Lawrence is now the youngest actor ever – male or female – to earn four Oscar nominations. She’s up for Best Actress this year for her serio-comic work in “Joy.”
Leonardo DiCaprio now joins Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino as an actor who has received five nominations by the age of 41. He garnered his fifth this year for “The Revenant”, of course.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“The Revenant”) is the first director since David Lean to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Director the year after he won both awards in the previous year’s competition. (And he’s expected to win too after taking the Golden Globe, the DGA and BAFTA.)
Emma Donoghue (“Room”) became the first female writer to earn a screenplay Oscar nomination for adapting her own work.
“Ex Machina” is the lowest budgeted film ($15M), adjusted for inflation, to have received a Visual Effects nomination. And its AI character effects are not only stunning, they’re seamless.
Cate Blanchett (“Carol”) and Kate Winslet (“Steve Jobs”) join the exclusive club of actresses who have received seven Oscar nominations. Amongst those who have? The tony company of Meryl Streep, Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Jane Fonda, Geraldine Page, Judi Dench and Katharine Hepburn.
“Bridge of Spies” earned six Oscar nominations, so Steven Spielberg directed films have now earned 128 nominations which is the most by any director. He breaks the previous record of 127 held by William Wyler.
And the Academy can and should be proud that three of their nominees for Best Picture this year have female protagonists. “Room”, “Mad Max Fury Road”, and “Brooklyn” all have female leads. And the Oscars even saw fit to nominate a sci-fi movie (“The Martian”) and a dark comedy (“The Big Short”) for its top prize this year. That’s more than a bit unusual. And it’s also wonderful to see those niche genres get some real Oscar love.
So, yes the Oscars need to broaden many of their diversity horizons. But the sad truth is that every year there are many outstanding actors and actresses that fail to make the cut of five in each of the acting categories, no matter what their ethnicity. Last year, the Academy failed to nominate such superlative lead actor performances as Ralph Fiennes for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Jake Gyllenhaal for “Nightcrawler”, David Oyelowo for “Selma”, Ben Affleck for “Gone Girl”, Ellar Coltrane for “Boyhood” and Miles Teller for “Whiplash.” Indeed, it’s sad that Will Smith’s terrific performance in “Concussion” was passed over, but at least he’s in good company in the world of Oscar’s omissions.
Still, there is much to celebrate beyond the obvious names that will be read from the secret envelopes. Here’s hoping that the Academy and its host Chris Rock mention some of the milestones that make this year an outstanding one, despite the obvious controversies.