Read about The Badger’s opinion’s on this year’s Oscar nominations.

Progress for Disabled Representation – by Georgia Shakeshaft

On the day the nominations for this year’s Oscars were announced, you couldn’t be a disabled person on the internet without seeing widespread celebration for the nomination of Crip Camp for Best Documentary Feature. The Netflix film released last year, directed by Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht, chronicles the life of disabled teens at a New York summer camp in the 1970s doing what most young people in the 1970s were doing – making music, having sex and doing drugs. We see the teenagers realise their political power, the film culminating in a retelling of the activism that forever connected them long after they stopped attending Camp Jened. 

The nomination was so monumental for disabled communities not only because it’s an exceptional film worthy of celebration but because it’s a story told from the inside. It’s not often that stories about disabled people are created by and feature disabled people themselves, and those that are usually aren’t Oscar-nominated. According to disabled actor and filmmaker John Lawson, in 93 years of the Oscars, there have been 61 nominations for actors portraying disability. Of the 27 actors who won, only 2 were people with disabilities. All recent examples were abled actors who wore disability as a costume, including Eddie Redmayne in 2015 and Jamie Foxx in 2005. 

The issue with telling stories about us, without us, is that often the actors and filmmakers rely on the tropes of disability that they’re familiar with – the inspiration, the object of pity, the vengeful villain, to name a few. What makes Crip Camp spectacular is that it’s not an uplifting story about overcoming hardships but a real story of awkward teenage years, of friendship, discovery and power. What Camp Jened provided for the young people who went there was a space to navigate growing up without the weight of an abled society, with all its flaws and stereotypes. 

What’s more, Crip Camp documents an often forgotten history. We see a month-long protest against the Nixon administration led by a young Judith Huemann, now a disabled icon. We watch the power of changemakers in wheelchairs or with crutches fight for what eventually resulted in the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and join forces with The Black Panthers, Gay Men’s Butterfly Brigade, United Farm Workers and other organisations. Crip Camp will make you laugh and make you angry at how often disabled people are left behind. As a community, we can only hope that the nomination will lead to more people engaging with disability activism and promote more authentic disabled stories.

Overlooking Female Talent – by Emily Hyatt

When people think of The Oscars, they think of yet another awards ceremony that is plagued with gender diversity issues. Over the years, actors have spoken up about the lack of female directors being nominated, with only one woman winning the Best Director award (Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009) since the ceremony first began in 1929. 

This year marks a special occasion as two women have been nominated for Best Director in the same year: Chloe Zhao for Nomadland and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman. Even though they only represent ⅖ of the category, it’s unfortunate that it’s taken the Academy Awards this long to get this far. There were so many outstanding female directors that deserved to be nominated for Best Director this year, such as Regina King (One Night in Miami), Alice Wu (The Half of It), Tayarisha Poe (Selah and the Spades), Autumn de Wilde (Emma) and Beyoncé (Black is King). Female directors work tirelessly, just to get annually snubbed by the Academy Awards. The Best Director category is still heavily male-dominated, leaving female directors with barely the chance of a look-in.

Unfortunately, for women to ever get a fair opportunity, there has to be the introduction of a Best Female Director category. But even if such a category were to be introduced, it would still be highly problematic because white women are more likely to win over women of colour. This year women of colour represented ⅕ of leading and supporting actress roles, whereas men of colour represented ⅗ of the nominees for leading and supporting roles.  This is a success for men of colour as they’ve taken over their white counterparts, but it highlights how far The Oscars still need to go to close the gap for women of colour. 

If the Academy doesn’t wake up and realise that all women need to be recognised and rewarded for their work, then the Oscars should be scrapped. The lack of female director wins spreads the message that women, especially women of colour, have to work ten times harder than men to get recognised, let alone rewarded. This shouldn’t be the case.

Horror is Snubbed Again – Emma Frith

Without a doubt, some of the most thought provoking and well-made films in recent memory  have come from the horror genre. In the last few years alone, we have seen audiences petrified by Jordan Peele’s Us, Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar, and Luca Guadagnino’s chilling Suspiria remake. Given the acclaim these movies received, it is astonishing that none of them, nor the people who created them, were recognised for their brilliant work at the Academy Awards. 

Historically, horror has always struggled to squeeze its foot in the door at the Oscars. In the 93 years the awards have existed, only 6 horror films (The Exorcist, Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, Get Out) have been nominated for best picture, and it is debatable as to whether some of these are even really horror (Silence of the Lambs and Jaws are both arguably more thriller than horror). That being said, Get Out was nominated in four categories at the 2018 Oscars, and won Best Original Screenplay. Does this mean times are changing and horror is finally starting to get the awards recognition it deserves?

Last year, only one horror film was nominated across all categories (The Lighthouse for Cinematography). This year was worse still, with no horror nominated in any category. Regardless, 2020 saw some incredible horror releases despite the pandemic: most notably Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor and Rose Glass’ Saint Maud. 

The former follows an assassin who takes over the bodies of others, using them as flesh weapons to carry out her kills. It is highly stylised, with lots of deliciously disturbing imagery and creative use of colour draped over dark existential and psychological themes. The latter is a British horror which centres around themes of religion, loneliness and how the two can intertwine. Morfydd Clark was astonishing as the lead, doing a wonderful job at creating an unbelievably tense and sinister atmosphere. 

Both films brought something new to the table. They were beautifully made and had stellar performances, yet neither got any recognition in this year’s nominations. Although this could be interpreted as offering a bleak future for horror’s mainstream recognition, horror films have only gotten increasingly better and more interesting as the years go on. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time until we see the likes of brilliant horror films such as Possessor and Saint Maud written in gold on the nominee cards.  

Image – Flickr @Domenicovescio

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