This year's diversity in Oscar nominations extended beyond actors and filmmakers to media platforms. Amazon, ESPN and Google are not names one normally associates with the Academy Awards but they may find themselves being thanked from the podium this year, and not just for gift cards in presenter swag bags.
Amazon dropped $10 million at Sundance last year for distribution rights to "Manchester by the Sea," an investment that certainly paid off -- on Tuesday, Amazon became the first streaming service ever to produce a film nominated for best picture.
Netflix, which tried to break through last year with "Beasts of No Nation," once again had a documentary nomination in Ava DuVernay's "13th," but "Manchester's" six nominations -- best picture, actor (Casey Affleck, who won the Golden Globe), actress (Michelle Williams), supporting actor (Lucas Hedges), director and original screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan) -- mark streaming's first foray into features.
Protesting President Trump's executive order banning Syrian refugees and citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, Asghar Farhadi, the director of the Oscar-winning film from Iran, "A Separation," and this year's Oscar-nominated film "The Salesman," has decided that he will not be attending the Oscars -- even if he were granted an exception to do so.
We understand that not every Oscar nominee wants to get on the phone with real, live reporters to give a real, live reaction to news about, oh, one of the most exciting honors a creative person can receive. But the growing trend of publicists dispensing pre-written statements after awards-show news does a disservice to the many entertainers perfectly capable of speaking to the press with charm and wit.
Consider the seemingly canned statement we received from Justin Timberlake's camp after his original song Oscar nomination for "Can't Stop the Feeling" from "Trolls":
"I am speechless, and humbled. Working on this film, and writing 'CANT STOP THE FEELING!' with Max Martin and Johan Schuster was such an amazing creative process. Thank you so much to the Academy for this nomination. What an honor to be among these talented nominees."
I am truly humbled by the news this morning, and I thank the Academy for this recognition, which I share with my co-collaborators Jeff Nichols and Joel Edgerton. It has been such an honor to have been given the opportunity to tell the incredible story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who serve as an inspiration that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Ruth Negga, Academy Award nominee for lead actress
To be sure, “Manchester By the Sea,” up for awards including lead actor, lead actress and director, is not streaming yet on the Amazon Prime service. Unlike Netflix, Amazon’s movie business follows the traditional windowing model where movies run exclusively in theaters before landing on home video outlets.
In the Oscars' animated short category, one film, "Pearl," brings a new technical twist to the party: the Google 360 experience.
"Pearl," the story of a father and daughter who travel the country in pursuit of their dreams, takes place entirely inside the family car, which the viewer experiences sitting passenger side throughout the whole story.
The immersive, 360-degree animated Google Spotlight Story, which allows a viewer to look up, down and all around to see different parts of the story, was directed by Patrick Osborne.
With an Academy Award nomination for documentary feature in hand, does this disqualify Ezra Edelman's epic, zeitgeist-capturing "O.J.: Made in America" from Emmy contention?
Turns out it doesn't, and we could very well be hearing Edelman's name again when the Emmy nominations are announced this summer.
Exploiting a loophole that makes any film that debuts in theaters eligible for Oscar recognition, ESPN Films premiered all 7 1/2 hours of Edeleman's film in theaters in May before its TV premiere in June.
My thanks to the Academy for amplifying the injustices of mass criminalization and mass incarceration that we chronicle in '13th.' Now more than ever, it is important to educate ourselves, explore our shared history and elevate our awareness about matters of human dignity.
Ava DuVernay, Oscar nominee for her documentary "13th"
Five years ago, Disney veterans Byron Howard (“Bolt,” “Tangled”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”) were heartened when their bosses lent support to “Zootopia,” about an enthusiastic female rabbit who dreams of becoming a police officer, defying the odds and prejudices of a socially divided animal kingdom.
“When you say you want to make an animated movie about bias, it doesn’t sound like something that’s going to make a lot of money or be very popular,” said "Zootopia" director Howard with a laugh on the phone from his home in Glendale, near Disney’s headquarters. “But support came from [Disney Chief Executive] Bob Iger and [Disney Chairman] Alan Horn and everyone at the studio, I think, because they saw that the world needed it.”
The urgency of “Zootopia’”s underlying exploration of racial, class, and gender bias within systems of power – led by a chipper bunny rabbit named Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin – crystallized even more as the Black Lives Matter movement dominated headlines, sparked by the killings of black American men at the hands of police officers across the country.