The 90th annual Academy Awards are set to make history this year. The Oscars telecast will air on Sunday, March 4, 2018 on ABC and this year’s Oscars will mark a number of important firsts for the annual movie celebration. From representation from new voices in the industry to honors for underrepresented filmmakers, here are some milestones to get excited about:
Daniela Vega will be the first transgender Oscar presenter
Actress Daniela Vega, who starred in the the Best Foreign-Language Film nominee A Fantastic Woman, will become the Academy Awards’ first transgender presenter. Daniela, who only appeared in one small film before director Sebastian Leilo’s film, is also the only openly transgender actress in Chile. Vega told The Guardian that she originally told Leilo he was “crazy” for wanting to cast her but then she accepted the role of Marina, a waitress and singer who gets involved in a relationship with an older man named Orlando.
We’ve seen plenty of straight/cisgender actors receive Oscar attention for playing gay or transgender characters, such as Felicity Huffman in Transamerica and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. But the tide is turning, and we’re finally seeing trans actors take center stage. Their involvement on film sets can help to bring viewers an authentic transgender perspective on roles normally played by cisgender people.
“She was mind-blowing in ways that pushed our relationship, and that pushed the boundaries of what the film could be,” Leilo said of Vega in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Meanwhile, Vega’s appearance on the Oscar stage can pave the way for more transgender actors and greater visibility. When asked whether the Academy is ready for a trans drama starring a trans actress, she responded, “the world is ready, not just the Academy.”
Jordan Peele is the first African-American with the “big three” nominations
It’s been a pretty good year for Jordan Peele. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 39 year-old writer-director of Get Out is only the third person in history to earn Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director for a directorial debut. (He joins Warren Beatty for Heaven Can Wait and James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment). He’s also the first African-American to accomplish this feat. And, if Peele wins Best Director, he’ll be the first African-American to do so.
Additionally, Get Out, which made $254 million at the box office, is notable as a February release that’s gotten a lot of Oscar attention (usually, Oscar-worthy films are released in the fall and winter). The film is also one of few horror films to be nominated for Best Picture. Maybe its 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes helped launch it to Oscar stardom?
Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever nominated for cinematography
It’s hard to overstate how male-dominated the field of cinematography is. This year, Rachel Morrison made history as the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography for her work on the civil rights drama Mudbound. She’s expected to have a good shot at winning, too, since she won the New York Film Critics Circle’s cinematography prize back in December. She was also nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award and received accolades from film critic organizations in Chicago and North Carolina.
“DPs, I think by nature, like to hide out behind the camera, out of the spotlight, so it’s definitely a new experience on every level,” Morrison said of her Oscar attention in an interview with Deadline. “I never really thought about it in terms of breaking barriers or anything like that. For me, it was always just putting my head down and doing the best work that I possibly could. But I guess I’m realizing that suddenly I’m a role model, which is exciting, just the idea that there are and will be more of us for people to look to on their way up. There’s been a dearth for so long, and hopefully it’s just the beginning.”
“I’m glad that people are recognizing the craft of it and not making decisions based on tokenism,” Mudbound director Dee Rees said on an episode of the podcast Playback. “Rachel’s work is on the screen.”
In fact, you can see even more of her work on the screen right now, since she’s also the cinematographer behind superhero hit Black Panther.
Dee Rees is the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay
Dee Rees has her own nominations to celebrate, too! Along with her co-writer Virgil Williams, the writer-director was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Mudbound, which is based on the novel by Hillary Jordan. Deadline reports that Rees is the first African-American woman ever to be nominated in this category. Suzanne de Passe is the only black woman to ever be nominated for Best Original Screenplay (not adapted) for her work on the 1972 film Lady Sings The Blues.
Mudbound also received Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song (Mary J. Blige is up for both categories).
Regardless of the winners, this year’s Academy Awards are a victory for inclusion. Let’s celebrate a film industry that keeps evolving through diversity. Which artists are you rooting for when it comes to the Oscars 2018? Let us know in the comments!