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5 reasons to be unapologetically thrilled about this year’s Oscar nominations

The nominations for the 96th Academy Awards were revealed last week and – as they so often do – caused quite a stir.

The omission of “Barbie’s” director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie from their respective individual categories – best director and best actress, respectively – and the best supporting actor nomination scored by male costar Ryan Gosling certainly opened the doors to plenty of on-the-nose memes.

Those slights aside, there’s still reason to look at this year’s nominees and see artists who stand to have standout (and in some cases, history-making) moments at this year’s show.

Here are five reasons we’re unapologetically excited about the Oscars:

Justine Triet leads the charge for foreign films

Director Justine Triet, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anatomie d'une chute" (Anatomy of a Fall), poses during the photocall after the closing ceremony of the 76th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 27, 2023. - Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters
Director Justine Triet, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anatomie d'une chute" (Anatomy of a Fall), poses during the photocall after the closing ceremony of the 76th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 27, 2023. - Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters

After writer-director Justine Triet won the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival for the searing French courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall,” all eyes were on how the acclaimed film would fare come Oscar nomination day. Sure enough, Triet became the eighth woman to achieve recognition in the best director category, and while that remains an alarmingly paltry number – and at least three of her female contemporaries from last year were unjustly shut out of the running – her accomplishments should be celebrated.

Co-written and directed by Triet, “Anatomy of a Fall” is nominated for five Oscars this year in total, including for best original screenplay and best picture. The film’s star, German actress Sandra Hüller, is also up for an Academy Award, and she is featured in another foreign movie up for best picture – “The Zone of Interest” (which, as it happened, came runner-up to “Fall” at Cannes).

And while it remains unfortunate that more women were not on the shortlist next to Triet for best director, overall, three of the films nominated for best picture this year were helmed by women, which is a record. (“Barbie” and the bilingual Korean-American film “Past Lives” join “Anatomy of a Fall” in the category.)

Colman Domingo has already made history

Colman Domingo, left, as Bayard Rustin in "Rustin." - David Lee/Netflix
Colman Domingo, left, as Bayard Rustin in "Rustin." - David Lee/Netflix

A seasoned actor who has received praise and accolades for eclectic roles in projects like HBO’s “Euphoria” and Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Domingo delivered a powerhouse performance as unsung activist Bayard Rustin in last year’s Netflix film “Rustin.” With his nomination, Domingo is the first Afro-Latino to be nominated for a best lead actor Academy Award. He is also only the second openly LGBTQ+ actor to be nominated for playing a gay character – Ian McKellen was the first, 25 years ago, for 1998’s “Gods and Monsters.”

Jodie Foster also earned a nomination in the best supporting actress category for her portrayal of Bonnie Stoll in “Nyad.”

In a statement to CNN, Anthony Allen Ramos, GLAAD’s vice president of communications and talent, said their achievements “are making LGBTQ and film history while serving as examples for LGBTQ talent all over that living your life authentically can and should be met with great success.”

Ramos also acknowledged that the Academy “recognizing two out actors for playing real-life LGBTQ icons reminds the industry at large that queer stories resonate with audiences at large, and are worthy of celebration on a global stage.”

Cord Jefferson owns his unique perspective as a Black writer and artist

Writer and director Cord Jefferson on the set of his film "American Fiction." - Claire Folger/Orion Releasing
Writer and director Cord Jefferson on the set of his film "American Fiction." - Claire Folger/Orion Releasing

In the film “American Fiction,” a biting commentary on racial representation, Jeffrey Wright as a frustrated Black novelist who plays into stereotypes in a throwaway joke book that he submits to his agent, only to see if become a bestseller. Filmmaker Cord Jefferson’s rise has ignited the film world not unlike how the central, satirical novel in his movie ignites the literary world.

Jefferson explained to Esquire last year that the experiences he recounts in the film are close to ones he’s lived himself, as a former journalist turned television and film writer. “It was about how I had reached a point in my journalism career where on a weekly basis, people were saying to me, ‘Do you want to write about Trayvon Martin being killed? Do you want to write about Mike Brown being killed?’” he explained.

“Then when I got into film and television, it was people asking me, ‘Do you want to write this movie about a teenager being killed by a police officer? Do you want to write this movie about a slave?’” he continued. “Even in the world of fiction where we can write anything, there’s a limited understanding of what Black life can look like. Those were things I’d been thinking about for decades.”

The film has now been nominated for five Oscars – including two for Jefferson, as writer of the adapted screenplay (based on the book “Erasure” by Percival Everett) and producer in the best picture category – along with acting nominations for lead actor Wright and supporting actor Sterling K. Brown.

John Williams enters the record books

Composer John Williams performs onstage at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on December 8, 2016 in Hollywood. - Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Composer John Williams performs onstage at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on December 8, 2016 in Hollywood. - Michael Kovac/Getty Images

At 91 years old, John Williams – the iconic film composer who is responsible for the themes to countless movies including “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Superman,” “Jurassic Park” and so much more – is the oldest nominee in a competitive award category, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Academy Awards.

With his nomination this year for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” Williams earned his 49th Oscar nod for original score, bringing his total number of Oscar nominations throughout his career to 54, including some for best original song. That gives Williams more Academy Award nominations than any other living person.

According to the Academy, the late Walt Disney holds the overall record of career nominations, with a grand total of 59. Still, 54 is none too shabby for the decorated nonagenarian.

5. Danielle Brooks shines in a role that was all but predestined for her

Danielle Brooks, center, in "The Color Purple" (2023). - Eli Ade´/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Danielle Brooks, center, in "The Color Purple" (2023). - Eli Ade´/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

After routinely stealing the show and being among the best parts of hit series “Orange is the New Black” (who could ever forget Taystee?!) and “Peacemaker,” Brooks not only rose to the occasion of playing the boisterous Sofia in the cinematic adaptation of Broadway musical “The Color Purple,” but soared with it. And it was no easy feat – one of the principal producers on the project was none other than Oprah Winfrey, who launched her film career (and clinched an Oscar nomination in the same category) playing the same character in 1985 with the Spielberg-helmed original “Purple” film, based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker.

Still, it seemed to be a role destined for Brooks, who received a Tony Award nomination in 2016 for playing the same character in the Broadway revival of the musical. But the destiny extends even further back.

Brooks explained at a screening for the film in November that seeing the original 2005 musical on Broadway “changed my world,” as it was the first time she “saw people that looked like me” on stage. Coincidentally, as a student, Brooks was enrolled in the prestigious acting conservatory Juilliard in New York City with Corey Hawkins, who would go on to play her character Sofia’s husband Harpo in the new movie.

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