The 91st Academy Awards will be a slight departure from what we are used to seeing every award season. With no host and honors for some categories (cinematography and editing were cut and then promptly re-introduced into the televised portion of the show), no one is sure what could happen in the days leading up to the Academy Awards, much less, during the show itself.
But in lieu of these changes, there are some very notable strides taking place. Take the nominees for Best Picture, which are historical. Black Panther is the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture, while Roma is the first Netflix-produced film ever nominated for an Academy Award. This will also be Spike Lee’s first nomination for Best Picture during his 30 year tenure in the industry.
There are also a number of notable women up for honors in various categories. From newcomers christening their acting debuts with nominations for Lead Actress, and the first African American nominated for Best Production Design, we are excited to see each of these nominees make history on Sunday night.
Read on below for some of our favorite performances and behind the scenes contributors from this year’s Oscar hopefuls.
It is no secret that Lady Gaga is a great performer — did you see her 2017 Super Bowl halftime show? But Lady Gaga’s fans perhaps weren’t prepared for the level of acting chops she showcased in her movie debut. The success of A Star is Born unequivocally rests on the acting performance of the beloved singer and if Lady Gaga takes home the award Sunday night for Best Lead Actress, it will be deservedly so.
However, if the award should go to any of the other women also nominated this year, Gaga will have another shot to take home an Oscar as she is also up for Original Song for the single “Shallow” which was the musical backbone of the A Star is Born soundtrack. We’re all excited to see how this actress on the rise does this weekend, but even if her night does not result in an Oscar win, it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing a lot more of the triple threat in theaters going forward.
In another acting debut, Yalitza Aparicio stunned audiences with her performance in the Netflix-produced, Roma. With no formal acting training and a background in early childhood development, Aparicio’s brought a level of honestly and poise to her performance far beyond her years. The actress had to learn an entire language for the role and only had a few hours at a time to prepare to deliver her lines before each shoot — a feat that deserves some serious recognition.
From Aparicio’s performance, you would never guess that acting felt unnatural. But in many press interviews, following the film's release and success, the 25-year-old star confided that many aspects of performing in front of the camera made her uncomfortable and she relied heavily on her own mother’s experience as a maid to bring the role of Cleodegaria to life.
Aparicio has stated that she would be interested in acting again but she “would need to take acting classes” first. If she wins on Sunday, not only will she be the first Indigenous person of North America to win an Academy Award for Lead Actress, safe to say, she will also be the first actress to then take formal acting classes after winning one of Hollywood’s highest honors — another one for the history books.
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“I don’t know how somebody can look at somebody, without knowing anything about them, and just project all this negativity that then turns into hate,” she says. “It’s hard for me cause I just don’t get it because I don’t look at anybody and feel that way.”
Unlike Lady Gaga and Yalizta Aparicio, Regina King is no stranger to the film industry. She received recognition for her performance in the critically acclaimed film Ray, and has shared the screen with other notable actors and actress such as Cuba Gooding Jr., Sandra Bullock and Kerry Washington, to name a few.
Her most recent role as the familial matriarch Sharon Rivers in If Beale Street Could Talk is culturally palpable if not politically significant. The central plot of the film shares the story of a young, African American man falsely accused of a crime, placed behind bars and torn from his family and girlfriend (expecting a baby).
The cultural significance and success of films like If Beale Street Could Talk and Blakkklansman that take on the conversation of race in an honest and unapologetic way, coupled with talented performers like Regina King, who are able to breathe such life into their roles marks a trend in a more inclusive direction that is long overdue.
The deck is stacked against If Beale Street Could Talk in the category of Best Supporting Actress due to the fact that two actresses, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, are both nominated from The Favourite. But King is due for Academy recognition and we can't wait to see the results for Best Supporting Actress.
British actress, Olivia Colman, is up for her first Academy Award nomination this Sunday for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite. The film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos has received a fair amount of positive attention for innovative cinematography and a haunting soundscape. And seamlessly mixed into the sensory experience of this film is Olivia Colman's palpable, and often hard to watch, performance as Queen Anne at the end of her incredibly tragic life.
It is widely known that Queen Anne struggled with infertility; she miscarried six times and lost ten children to complications during pregnancy. Less known, however, is that Queen Anne was also an exceedingly shrewd monarch responsible for creating alliances with the Netherlands, the Holy Roman Empire and later foraging the Union with Scotland that helped curb fierce, growing tension between Britain's two major political parties. As a result of these political gains, art, poetry and economics prospered under Queen Anne's reign.
While much of the film did not focus on this aspect of Queen Anne's legacy, Colman's performance carries such depth that it almost becomes an indirect reference to the Monarch's political savvy. Olivia Colman's win for Best Lead Actress will not only be a testament to a great acting performance, but it will also raise awareness on the greater achievements of Queen Anne.
As the daughter of an interior designer, it is no wonder that production design felt like a natural career path for Hannah Beachler. With an incredibly impressive resume ranging from Beyoncé's Lemonade to films Black Panther, Creed, Moonlight and Fruitvale Station, Beachler has cemented herself as the go-to person in Hollywood for creating and managing a beautiful and dynamic set.
For the 91st Academy Awards, Beachler is getting recognition for her stunning work on Black Panther. As the first female production designer on a Marvel film, Beachler didn't leave a single detail of Wakanda on the table, designing everything from the color and shape of the rocks to the type of water the characters might see inland versus the coast.
There is no denying that her design concepts successfully captured the imagination of many and brought Wakanda to life. Beachler is the first African American ever nominated for Best Production Design at the Academy Awards and her win would be as equally deserved as it would be historic.