Oscars embrace the #MeToo moment with a nomination for Greta Gerwig — and a snub for James Franco

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The national reckoning taking place over gender inequality and sexual harassment has indeed taken hold in establishment Hollywood, signaled by Tuesday’s Oscars announcements.

BEST DIRECTOR -- Greta Gerwig, right (with Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan),
BEST DIRECTOR — Greta Gerwig, right (with Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan), “Lady Bird.” (A24)

The slate of #MeToo-positive nominees included, among other people, “Lady Bird’s” Greta Gerwig being honored with a nomination for directing and a woman, for the first time in the Academy Awards’ 90-year history, receiving a nomination for cinematography.

The Academy also chose to nominate women in other categories, such as screenplay, that are often dominated by men and to honor actresses in leading and supporting categories for embodying a variety of strong, unique and multi-faceted female characters.

That includes Frances McDormand’s vengeful, grieving mother in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Saoirse Ronan’s teen rebel in “Lady Bird,” and Meryl Streep’s courageous Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in “The Post.” Streep’s nomination, by the way, is her 21st.

The Oscars also avoided an #OscarsSoWhite controversy in the women’s category by giving nods to Mary J. Blige for her dignified matriarch in “Mudbound” and Octavia Spencer for her compassionate friend in “The Shape of Water.” Blige also received a nomination for best original song, making her a double nominee.

Courtesy: A24 FilmsDave Franco as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in
Dave Franco and James Franco ‘The
Disaster Artist.’

Notably left out of the nominations for best actor was James Franco for “The Disaster Artist,” a choice that could be the result of momentum around the Time’s Up anti-sexual harassment initiative.

Up until two weeks ago, the Palo Alto-born actor, director and writer had been a strong contender for a best actor nomination, and he won Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards for best actor earlier this month. But he soon became mired in a sexual misconduct scandal, with multiple women telling the Los Angeles Times that he had engaged in sexually inappropriate or exploitive behavior, mainly at two Los Angeles film schools he taught at.

Mary J. Blige, left, and Carey Mulligan in
Mary J. Blige, left, and Carey Mulligan in “Mudbound.” (Steve Dietl/Netflix)

Of course, it’s difficult to say whether the allegations came in time to influence voters. But it’s possible that enough realized that it wouldn’t be good optics to give Franco a nomination in this era of Time’s Up and #MeToo.

For her first solo outing in directing her coming-of-age feature “Lady Bird,” Gerwig became one of five best director nominees. She is joined by Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk,” Jordan Peele for “Get Out,” Paul Thomas Anderson for “Phantom Thread” and Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water.”

She also beat out other male directing heavyweights: Steven Spielberg for “The Post” and Martin McDonagh for “Three Billboards.”

Since the first Academy Awards in 1929, only four women before Gerwig have been nominated for the best director Oscar, including Jane Campion for “The Piano” and Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The only woman to win was Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker,” back in 2010.

With Gerwig’s nomination, it’s possible that the director’s branch, known to be dominated by older white males, heard Natalie Portman’s quip at the Golden Globe Awards when announcing nominations for best director.

Portman’s comment came at an awards ceremony marked by female stars voicing support for the Time’s Up initiative. Five men were nominated for directing awards at the Golden Globes, and Portman couldn’t let that fact slide just before she announced the men’s names. “And here are the all-male nominees,” she began.

Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon -- screenwriters of
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, screenwriters of ‘The Big Sick.’ (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/File)

The names of two other women had been in the mix for possibly scoring best director nominations: Patty Jenkins for “Wonder Woman” and Dee Rees for “Mudbound.” However, Gerwig was the only woman with a realistic shot, given that the Academy tends to not get too excited about honoring crowd-pleasing superhero movies like “Wonder Woman.” Meanwhile, “Mudbound,” was critically acclaimed, but as a Netflix feature, it never received wide release.

The Sacramento-reared Grew also receive a nomination for best original screenplay. Other female screenplay nominees are Emily V. Gordon (with husband Kumail Nanjiani) for “The Big Sick” and Dee Rees, with Virgil Williams, for “Mudbound.”

The truly historic nomination goes to “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison.

She is the first female director of photography to receive an Oscar nomination, Variety reported. Morrison also was the director of photography for Ryan Coogler’s 2013 feature, “Fruitvale Station,” and just completed work on his big budget superhero film “Black Panther.”

view The Mercury News
#academy awards oscars
#sexual assault