“Be careful, don’t diss Lady Bird in front of Maia,” one of my classmates joked the other day as we sat around talking about the Oscar nominations. People at CalArts know I’m obsessed with Lady Bird because I grew up in Sacramento, the city the film is based on, and went to the same high school as its director, Greta Gerwig. I don’t blame people for assuming my personal connection to this film would skew my ability to look accurately at this year’s Oscar nominations and have genuine, unbiased discussion. But it’s really just not the case.
I don’t believe Lady Bird is necessarily better than the other great films of 2018, though I’m confused at how feeling this way is possible after I cried multiple times in multiple screenings of it and can’t stop sharing its articles on my Facebook page. I guess that’s just how special the nominated films are this year—they’re so good that love for a perfect movie about my hometown isn’t enough to win me over completely.
Movies I have nothing to do with are keeping me awake at night, as I think about their most beautiful and terrifying moments, key themes, and the important questions they pose to the world. I’ve been grappling with the disturbing Get Out since last spring—the Jordan Peele film about Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) who’s stuck in his racist/psycho girlfriend’s parent’s house—and its implications about the silencing of the marginalized.
Further, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is the most accurate depiction of love I’ve ever seen, though oddly enough, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) falls for a water creature, defying all conventional rules of relationships. The film with the greatest impact on me was Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, where Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) seeks revenge for her daughter’s unsolved rape and murder.
Lady Bird is highly praised for its ability to be real, but it seems that every other film nominated for Best Picture has the same quality. Call Me By Your Name, The Post, Darkest Hour—these films show people searching for love, for truth, for justice, as nothing more than honest human beings (as do all the nominations, except for The Shape of Water, I guess).
Most importantly in regards to being real, the nominations this year finally depict our world as it actually is: diverse in talent. Two African American women are nominated for Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water) and Mary J. Blige (Mudbound). Greta Gerwig is the fifth woman in history nominated for Best Director. Jordan Peele is the fifth African American nominated in the same category. Peele’s star in Get Out–Daniel Kaluuya– has been nominated for Best Lead Actor.
A Fantastic Woman, a film about a transgender singer, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and transgender director Yance Ford’s Strong Island was nominated for Best Documentary. Many of the films this year feature gay characters, like Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and Lady Bird.
Though I wouldn’t say we’re perfect when it comes to inclusivity in these kinds of awards shows, the progress made this year is inspiring, and makes us hopeful for more of the same in the future. Lady Bird pulls at my heart strings because of where I’m from, but there’s no denying the other films nominated this year aren’t incredible.
It’s quite difficult for a coming of age story to compete with films dealing directly with such large, relevant topics of today. It may make me a terrible Sacramentan for saying all of this, but I’m just trying to keep it real. And that’s what the Oscars seem to be about this year. They’re about the reality of the world, and the proud representation of it.