The glow from James Franco’s best actor win at the Golden Globes didn’t last long. Shortly after Franco accepted the prize for his role in “The Disaster Artist” this month, several women tweeted allegations of sexual misconduct, casting a pall over his victory.
It looked like it would happen twice. But the Academy Awards on Tuesday snubbed Franco despite him being a supposed lock for a best-actor spot.
How much of this came as a response to allegations — a Los Angeles Times report featuring five Franco accusers was published a day before Oscar voting closed on Jan. 12 — is difficult to quantify. But the omission underscored the extent to which the Time’s Up initiative, Me Too movement and general woke culture now permeate Hollywood.
Only four previous times in history had Oscar voters nominated a woman or an African American for best director. This year they nominated one of each: Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird” and Jordan Peele for “Get Out.”
“This is representative of a shift,” Gerwig said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “The recognition for all the amazing women who worked on my film is bringing us closer to the idea of 50-50 [academy gender parity] in 2020. It hopefully brings us closer to half of all films directed by women, which I think should be the goal.”
“Lady Bird” actresses Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf also received nominations for the semi-autobiographical mother-daughter tale, as did the movie’s producers for best picture. Gerwig received an original screenplay nomination.
The star of “Get Out,” Daniel Kaluuya, was nominated for best actor, while the film landed on the best picture list. Peele drew an original screenplay nod as well. The Oscars are set to take place on March 4 in Los Angeles.
The nominations provided a bookend of sorts to a wave of sexual-misconduct scandals that began in October with wide-ranging allegations against the former movie producer Harvey Weinstein and proceeded to rock nearly all layers of Hollywood, including TV executives, media personalities, talent agents and actors. With allegations mounting, the industry seemed to struggle to rebut the claims and send a message that it wasn’t the disease-riddled den of misogyny the scandals suggested.
On Tuesday, it finally broadcast that signal. Branches in the 8,500-member Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voted for a woman for the first time for best cinematography, designating a slot for “Mudbound’s” Rachel Morrison. That film’s writer-director, Dee Rees, became only the second African American woman ever nominated for a screenplay award. Those choices were especially notable because the movie came from Netflix, a company with which many Oscar voters have an ambivalent relationship because of the firm’s resistance to theatrical releases.
Even Christopher Plummer, who stepped in on a moment’s notice to replace disgraced star Kevin Spacey in the historical drama “All the Money in the World,” was handed a supporting actor nomination, a remarkable turnaround from just two months ago when Plummer wasn’t in the movie — and an apparent message from the Motion Picture Academy that it would reward those who sought to atone for Hollywood’s many sins of sexual misconduct.
Plummer himself seemed taken aback by the nomination.
“It was quite unexpected but incredibly gratifying,” he said in a statement. “Everything has happened so quickly of late that I am still a trifle stunned but excited by it all.”
These choices were greeted warmly by the veterans and observers of Hollywood who have been calling for change. Beginning in 2015 and 2016, the academy came under harsh fire from a grass-roots “#OscarsSoWhite” movement that charged the academy with underrepresenting people of color. The efforts began paying off last year as “Moonlight,” the coming-of-age story of a young gay African American. This year’s nominations saw multiple African Americans nab spots in both the lead actor and supporting actress categories.
The 2018 Oscars ceremony is likely to be imbued with ideas from both Time’s Up and #OscarsSoWhite. That diversity could, among other things, help the Oscars blunt the barbed feel of the Globes, where Natalie Portman presented the director category by sharply noting the “all-male nominees.”
The different look to Tuesday’s nominee group was a function of a different mind-set but also of different nominators. The makeup of AMPAS has changed in the years since #OscarsSoWhite began, with a drive to increase the proportion of women and people of color. In June the group allowed in a record 774 new members, nearly a third of them people of color.
“The academy did a very smart thing in recruiting the biggest class of diverse newcomers to the group,” Peele said Tuesday. “We’re seeing that in the nominations and we’re seeing it paying off in today’s political climate, which is facing and moving backward. It’s up to the artistic community to move it forward.”
Peele noted that he thought the newcomers were also more open to new voices; he and Gerwig, after all, had achieved the rare feat of a director nomination with a debut film.
Gerwig was feeling the kinship with Peele, too. Right after she called her mother Tuesday with the news that she was nominated both for director and original screenplay, she called Peele. His response: “I was just about to text you.”
Meanwhile, Franco, who has denied the allegations, was keeping mum. The star, a typically ubiquitous presence around industry functions in New York and Los Angeles, had campaigned heavily for his fact-based filmmaking comedy, which he also directed. But he has not spoken publicly since the Los Angeles Times report. He has been absent this week from Sundance, whose screenings and tech events he often attends.
The Oscar omission does spare — both the academy and Franco — the awkwardness of an accused harasser at the Oscar telecast and the sparkly events that precede it, such as next month’s nominees luncheon.
Representatives for A24, which released both “The Disaster Artist” and “Lady Bird,” declined to comment on the Franco snub. Franco’s assistant did not respond to a request for comment from the actor.
Others were more vocal Tuesday. One group, the feminist advocacy organization UltraViolet, used the nominations to call for an all-female presenting corps at the March telecast.
“This year especially, the Oscars need to step up and demonstrate their commitment to women in Hollywood — and one, urgent and important step they can take is to commit to only having women present the awards this year,” Karin Roland, the group’s chief campaigns officer, said in a statement.
Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night personality who will preside over the show for the second straight year, says that he will seek to tackle the issue of gender inequity and sexual harassment, even if he’s not sure yet how.
“The problem is it’s two months from now, so it’s almost like getting into a hot tub: You can’t really know what the temperature is until you get there,” he told reporters at the Television Critics Association gathering in Pasadena, Calif., earlier this month. “Suffice it to say, I am sure that it will be part of the subject matter of the show, unless there’s a nuclear weapon headed toward Sacramento that night.”
Even with the increased attention, some continued to say the change was cosmetic. The triumph of period British drama “The Phantom Thread,” an upstart that scored best picture and supporting actress nominations over the interracial romance of “The Big Sick,” was cause for some fans and activists on Twitter to say the academy still clings to its ways.
Some also lamented the largely snubbed “The Florida Project,” a female-centric story of the American underclass.
Whether “Get Out” or “Lady Bird” can actually win the top prizes of picture or director remains to be seen. Some pundits have dismissed the possibility on historical grounds — horror movies and indie coming-of-age films don’t fare well with the academy.
But the improbable rise of each had others saying not to rule them out. The year’s best picture race is considered more open than others, with two different movies, “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” respectively splitting the top precursor prizes of the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild awards last weekend.
Whichever of the nine movies pulls out the win, the new nominees say they hope their influence can be deeply felt at the ceremony.
“I wanted to be a director for a long time, and what gave me the courage to try was seeing all the great women who came before me,” Gerwig said. “Seeing Kathryn Bigelow win that directing award [in 2010] and Sofia Coppola nominated for it [in 2004] meant the world to me. And what I hope at this moment is that women and girls of all ages watch the show and feel inspired to make their movie the way I was inspired by all of those brave women.”