There's less than a week to go for the red carpet to be rolled out outside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles for the 90th Academy Awards. After a turbulent year in Hollywood, it's obvious that the industry's steps towards inclusion and progress are under scrutiny. The trend for this award season has been the empowerment of women. The Golden Globes put women front and center and now all eyes are on the year's main event " the Oscars.
Could the nominations for this year's awards be harbingers of permanent change?
The biggest prize on Oscar night is the Best Picture Award and it's very rare that films with a female point of view are celebrated in this category. This year, out of the nine films in the running, four " Ladybird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water and The Post " are stories with women playing the lead characters, rather than playing second fiddle to a central male character.
Get Out, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name reflect the diversity in Best Picture nominations at this year's Oscars.
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) have been nominated in the Best Actress category. If either of these films wins in both categories, this would be the first time in 13 years since Hillary Swank and Million Dollar Baby won in both categories.
In the history of the Academy Awards, only one woman " Kathryn Bigelow (for The Hurt Locker) has won the Best Director Oscar. It's taken the Academy eight years to include another woman in their list of nominees in the category. Debutant director Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director. What makes Gerwig's nomination even more special is that Lady Bird is a film about the inner lives of girls and women, which is not considered typical Oscar fodder. She also received her first nominations for Original Screenplay, a category that includes two other women " Emily V Gordon (along with Kumail Nanjiani for The Big Sick) and Vanessa Taylor (along with Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water).
Her inspired work in Netflix's searing post-World War II drama, Mudbound got Rachel Morrison a nomination in the cinematography category. As the first female Director of Photography to get an Oscar nod, she's already broken a glass ceiling. The film has earned three more nods including Adapted Screenplay for Dee Rees (along with Virgil Williams). Mary J Blige earned her first acting Oscar nomination in the Supported Actress category for Mudbound and is also nominated for Original Song (along with Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson).
The Academy's attempt at increasing diverse nominations was not limited to women. Get Out's Jordon Peele is only the fifth black director to be nominated. Yance Ford, the director of the powerful documentary Strong Island, is the first openly transgender director of an Oscar-nominated film.
These nominations aren't just token nods under pressure from the cultural zeitgeist, but worthy contenders who would have probably been ignored in the past by the Academy's predominantly white and male members. In recent years, Hollywood has been repeatedly under fire for its lack of diversity. In 2016, the acting categories didn't include a single actor of colour which triggered the #OscarSoWhite controversy. The Oscars have been on the correction course since. Being nominated is no guarantee of actually winning on 4 March but at least women are in the pool, a crucial step given the near shutout in important categories dating back decades and as recently as the Golden Globes earlier this month. At least, people of all identities are a part of the Class of 2018. Just that is a crucial step forward.