Mudbound cinematographer Rachel Morrison has made history as the first female director of photography to earn an Oscar nomination. The film swept a number of important categories, representing a breakthrough for its distributor Netflix. The film is also a cultural and historic breakthrough for the academy between Morrison and Dee Rees, who also took home an impressive nomination as the first black woman to be nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
Mudbound tells the story of two families in an America post world war two, one black and one white. Both families are reeling from the war effort and ultimately end up tied together through an unspeakable yet wholly real tragedy. Tackling topics like racism in the south, the film paints a brutal and truthful portrait of a divided country. Director Dee Rees brought together an incredible ensemble cast and Morrison helped bring the film to the screen by painting a portrait of a harsh and brutal reality navigated by human beings who are just trying to get by in a world that is often extremely cruel.
This is the first nomination for Morrison, who is also the first woman in the academy's history to be nominated for Best Cinematography. The statistics are grim for female cinematographers in the industry. According to IndieWire, only 3% of the 250 top grossing films were shot by female cinematographers and prior to Morrison, no other women had been nominated in the Academy Awards' ninety years of existence. The cinematographer's previous work includes other critically acclaimed films such as Fruitvale Station and Any Day Now. Morrison also worked on the upcoming Black Panther, where she reunited with Fruitvale Station writer/director Ryan Coogler behind the camera.
An Oscar nomination may be an incredible honor in and of itself but Morrison is up against some stiff competition. Other nominees include Darkest Hour from Bruno Delbonnel, Dunkirk from Hoyte van Hotema, The Shape of Water from Dan Lausten, and Blade Runner 2049 from renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins. Each film brought something unique to filmmaking. Mudbound, however, has broken ground on multiple levels - from its other nominations to the fact that it's an Oscar-nominated film released by a streaming service.
Deakins is Morrison's biggest competition. Blade Runner 2049 is widely lauded as one of the best looking movies of 2017, despite being considered a box office disappointment. It was also a major dud in China, a second major market that has saved films like 2017's The Mummy. Blade Runner 2049 garnered some nominations for visual effects but i's bloated storyline and runtime may be the defining factor in it losing ground at the Oscars. Time will ultimately tell.
Deakins' stunning futuristic dystopian future against the grim and gritty past of Mudbound will be one of the must-watch races of Oscar Award season. Whatever happens between the two, Morisson has already made history by winning the nomination, opening the door to other creative individuals who might feel underrepresented by the system and want to see their art on the big screen. It's a tough race with potentially historic cultural implications between two artists who are both deserving of a win here.
The 90th Annual Academy Awards ceremony airs Sunday, March 4.
Source: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
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