Having long been criticised for its lack of diverse representation, the Academy Awards went under a major reconstruction in 2021, with many significant strides made, none more so than Chloé Zhao becoming the first woman of colour ever to win Best Picture. Announcing in 2020 that the awards show had doubled the number of female members from 1,446 to 3,179 and had tripled their members of colour from 554 to 1,787, it appeared as though the Academy Awards had turned a significant corner.
One year later and it’s not clear just how far the standards of the Academy have come, with a range of positives and negatives to take from the 2022 list of nominees. Whilst the 2021 awards show showed the most ethnically diverse list of nominees in the history of the Oscars, with nine non-white performers featuring as part of the 20 nominated actors across all four categories. This year the statistics aren’t quite as glorifying, with only four non-white nominees out of 20, including Will Smith for King Richard, Denzel Washington for The Tragedy of Macbeth, Ariana DeBose for West Side Story and Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard.
Elsewhere, other notable nominees include Jane Campion in the director’s category, nominated as the only woman after both Emerald Fennell and Chloé Zhao were given the nod in 2021. Despite this, Campion has made history by becoming the first woman to earn repeated nominations for Best Director, with her film The Power of the Dog being recognised in 12 categories including this one.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s road movie Drive My Car also made history for the awards show earning four Oscar nods including for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best International Feature and Best Director. As a result of this noteworthy nomination in the directing category, Hamaguchi has become the third Asain filmmaker in a row to be nominated for the award following Bong Joon-Ho in 2020 and Zhao in 2021, and more significantly became the first Japanese director to be honoured since Akira Kurosawa in 1986.
Despite such strides, many remain critical of the Academy which is still adamant about slowly shifting toward improvement rather than hastily changing its outdated values. As industry employment lawyer and mediator Angela Reddock-Wright told USA Today: “We don’t see any movement this year,” making reference to the many steps back the Academy have taken since 2021. Continuing, Reddock-Wright added, “We don’t see them advancing the ball in terms of ensuring that people of colour and women are, at least at the director level, are at the centre of opportunity”.
Though beyond the conversation of race and gender, major strives in disability and sexuality diversity have also been made, with CODA being particularly significant as the first film with a predominantly deaf cast to be nominated for Best Picture. In addition to this, Troy Kotsur also became the second-ever deaf actor to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, 35 years after Marlee Matlin won an Oscar for the film Children of a Lesser God.
Queer representation also had some success to shout about with both Ariana DeBose and Kristen Stewart being recognised for Best Actress in their respective films Spencer and West Side Story. Feature films also saw decent representation too, with the queer refugee story Flee earning three nominations in Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature Film and Best Animated Feature.
Though the list of 2022 Academy Award nominees won’t go down as a landmark year of diversity, unlike the 2021 lineup, the collection of film creatives and actors does represent an improvement from the stagnant attitudes of the industry back in 2020 and beyond. Besides, there’s no knowing who might take home the awards themselves and with no outright frontrunner, who’s to say Drive My Car won’t nab Best Picture?