Oscars 2024: Inclusivity wins ahead of March 10 broadcast

From left, Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King and Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin in ‘Rustin.’
From left, Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King and Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin in ‘Rustin.’ (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

When the curtain goes up on the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 10, audiences will see the most racially diverse and most queer Oscars in history. There are actors of color in each of the four acting categories and queer actors in three of those categories with a straight actor nominated for playing gay in the fourth. There are also queer nominees in Best Song and some of the short film categories.

Lily Gladstone. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Lily Gladstone made history as the first Native American nominated for Best Actress, for her role as Mollie Burkhart in the Martin Scorsese crime thriller “Killers of the Flower Moon.” She became the first Native American to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and Gladstone is a heavy favorite to win Sunday. In an incredibly moving speech, she began by addressing the crowd in her Native Blackfeet language.

Gladstone, who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns explained, “In most Native languages, most Indigenous languages, Blackfeet included, there are no gendered pronouns. There is no he/she, there’s only they… my pronoun use is partly a way of decolonizing gender for myself.” Gladstone identifies as “middle-gendered” and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Philadelphia native Colman Domingo is the first Afro-Latino nominated as Best Actor for his extraordinary performance in the biopic “Rustin” in which he plays the title role of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay civil rights activist who was Martin Luther King Jr.’s close advisor. 

In 2022, Domingo won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as the recovering drug addict Ali on the queer-centered HBO series “Euphoria.” He had previously received Tony Award nominations as Best Featured Actor in a Musical and Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical. Domingo has been described as “the first Black gay movie star.”

Domingo told Deadline, “It’s very important for me, especially after a film like ‘Rustin,’ that [Bayard Rustin] is pulled out of the shadows of history, and he’s taken his rightful place in the center of his own story.” Domingo is only the second openly gay man to earn an Oscar nomination for playing a gay character, following the 1999 nomination of Ian McKellen for his leading role in “Gods and Monsters.”

Jodie Foster. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Nyad,” about the lesbian long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida. Foster plays Bonnie Stoll, Nyad’s best friend and swim coach. Foster is the first out woman to be nominated for playing an explicitly gay character. Previous Oscar winner Annette Bening is nominated for her portrayal of Nyad. This is Foster’s fifth nomination. Foster came out publicly in 2007 in a speech at The Hollywood Reporter’s “Women in Entertainment” breakfast honoring her and again in 2013 when she was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 70th Golden Globe Awards.

Domingo and Foster (“Nyad”) also made Oscar history: It’s the first time two openly LGBTQ+ actors have been nominated for playing LGBTQ+ characters.

America Ferrera received her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress, the only Latina nominated. Her powerful feminist speech in “Barbie” made audiences cry and cheer. 

In that same category is Philadelphian Da’Vine Joy Randolph, for her role in “The Holdovers.” Randolph received the Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In a Supporting Role Award for her performance as Mary Lamb at The 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Danielle Brooks is another woman of color nominated in that category for her role in the musical, “The Color Purple,” based on the novel by Black lesbian writer Alice Walker.

From left, Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein and Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre in Maestro. (Photo: Jason McDonald/Netflix)

Philadelphian Bradley Cooper is nominated for Best Actor for his role as bisexual composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro,” which he also produced and directed. “Maestro” is also nominated for Best Picture. Cooper worked on the film for several years and learned how to conduct for the film as well.

Sterling K. Brown is nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “American Fiction,” in which he plays Clifford “Cliff” Ellison, a recently divorced gay man. Brown has previously won three Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.

Billie Eilish, nominated for Best Original Song for “What Was I Made For,” recently came out as queer. 

“Nimona,” an LGBTQ+-inclusive animated film based on the graphic novel on the same name, is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. The film stars LGBTQ+ actors Eugene Lee Yang, Chloë Grace Moretz and RuPaul Charles.

“The ABCs of Book Banning,” which follows the banning of LGBTQ+ books in schools, has been nominated for Best Documentary Short Film. The film looks at restricted, challenged and banned books in American schools. The film shows kids giving their thoughts after reading some of the books banned as inappropriate for them.

“When we finished the film in August of ’23, there were approximately 2,000 banned books in 38 states. Currently, there are 6,000 banned books in 41 states. So this is moving swiftly,” co-director Trish Adlesic told ABC New York. Among the books are one by poet and activist Amanda Gorman, the anti-war novel, “Slaughterhouse Five,” “The Hobbit,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning post-civil war novel, “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison and books about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

One child in the film says, “Do you feel like Rosa Parks is a bad person? Do you feel like her legacy — people should not know about her legacy? Why do you choose to do this? I’m just curious.”

First-time director and screenwriter Celine Song made history as the first Asian woman nominated for Best Original Screenplay for “Past Lives.” There are two other women in that category: Justine Triet for “Anatomy of a Fall” and Samy Burch for “May December.” Adapted screenplay has only one nominated woman — Greta Gerwig from “Barbie” (along with Noah Baumbach).

And there is only one woman director nominated — Triet for “Anatomy of a Fall,” which features a main bisexual character. Gerwig was not nominated for “Barbie,” the biggest box office hit of 2023 and the first film directed by a woman to make over a billion dollars.

“Oppenheimer” is the top-nominated film of the year, with 13 total nominations. “Poor Things” has 11, “Killers of the Flower Moon” has 10, “Barbie” has eight and “Maestro” has seven.

The 96th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air on ABC at 7 p.m. EST on March 10. Prior to the awards show, a pre-show will take place at 6:30 p.m. EST.

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