Every Oscar ceremony brings its firsts. Sometimes those firsts are in categories that a lot of people pay attention to, like when Halle Berry became the first black woman to win Best Actress 20 years ago. More often, those firsts happen in categories where too much ground has yet to be broken. (Did you know that a woman still hasn’t won Best Cinematography, and only two women have ever been? nominated for that price?)
But viewers are also increasingly aware of how many opportunities are simply not available to the various artists and craftsmen who have the potential to make history. And even if we disregard the idea of breaking new ground for diversity, we’re left with a lot of questions about who wins awards in a rapidly changing industry. As watching movies at home via streaming services becomes increasingly important to how many of us consume film, the Oscars are reluctant to embrace that change, even as more and more streaming movies are nominated for major awards.
With that in mind, here are three firsts marked by the Oscars of 2022, two thanks to people who broke longstanding barriers within the Academy, and one thanks to changing business models that the Oscars eventually begrudgingly recognized.
Ariana DeBose becomes the first openly colored woman to win an acting Oscar
The Exciting Turn of Ariana DeBose as Anita in West Side Story won her a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award and now an Oscar. Before West Side Storyshe was a Tony nominee for Summer: the Donna Summer Musicala member of the original Hamilton ensemble, and a participant on So you think you can dance† (She was quickly eliminated. Injustice!)
DeBose is also openly queer and has spoken extensively about making it as a queer woman in the entertainment industry, especially in the lead up to her Oscar win† She is also in a relationship with another woman. That makes her the first queer woman to win an acting Oscar while being open about her queer identity.
The nature of DeBose’s historic first is vague, simply because queerness isn’t something to be watched closely. But for me the openness is important. Other queer women have won Oscars for acting — Jodie Foster, for example, has won Best Actress twice — but they weren’t publicly queer at the time they won. In addition, DeBose, who has Puerto Rican, African American, and Italian ancestry, was the first openly queer colored woman ever. nominated for an acting Oscar, much less winning.
And DeBose nodded at all of that in her acceptance speech, pointing to her existence as an openly queer, Oscar-winning Afro-Latina woman and hoping this would give hope to others like her who may not see a way forward yet. . “To anyone who has ever questioned your identity or found yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this — there is indeed a place for us,” she said.
Troy Kotsur is the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar
Troy Kotsur’s work as Frank, a deaf father trying to keep his business afloat while supporting his hearing teenage daughter’s dreams of becoming a musician turned out to be a Best Picture winner’s highlight. CODA† It was the culmination of a long stage career, including several productions with Los Angeles’s Deaf West Theater, where I saw him several times. (He’s a great stage actor.) CODA however, did not let him break through to a wider audience on his own. It also earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Kotsur is the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar and only the second deaf man to win, after his CODA co-star Marlee Matlin, who won Best Actress for her work in 1986 Children of a Lesser God† Actors in the disabled community are too rarely allowed to play disabled characters, because those roles often go to able-bodied actors hoping to win an Oscar. And indeed, the producers of CODA struggled to find funding for their film when they insisted on casting only deaf actors as deaf characters.
see CODA now it is impossible to imagine anyone other than Kotsur in the role of Frank as he brings such warmth and beauty to the role. I’m not the biggest in the world CODA fan, but when Kotsur started winning awards for his work, even I said: Class† He’s great in the movie.
Kotsur’s speech was an emotional highlight of the Oscar night, culminating in a tribute to his father. “My father, he was the best signer in our family, but he had a car accident and was paralyzed from the neck down and could no longer sign,” Kotsur said. “Dad, I’ve learned so much from you. I will always love you. You are my hero.”
CODA is the first movie from a streaming service and the first movie to debut on Sundance to win Best Picture
The Sundance favorite has been a staple of the Oscars for years and years. From Little Miss Sunshine nasty Beasts of the Southern Wilderness and from Splendid nasty winter boneMany films that have been nominated for and even won major Oscars have made their debut at the January Film Festival that celebrates independent film. But none of those movies won best photodespite the fact that Sundance has been around since 1984.
Likewise, movie streaming has made a huge dent in the Oscar race in recent years, with Netflix contenders Rome (2018) and the Irishman (2019) as major contenders at the Oscars. But a movie released by a streaming service has not yet won an Oscar for Best Picture. (I’m sure some will squabble over Searchlight’s Best Picture 2020 winner nomad land technically debuted on streaming alongside a theatrical release, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Searchlight is not a streaming company.)
But here is CODAthis year’s big winner who is somehow both the first movie to win Best Picture after a Sundance debut, and the first movie to be supported by a streaming company (Apple TV+) to win Best Picture.
One could argue about the fact that CODA is a festival asset, and that was not specific made by Apple in the way that, say, Netflix directly provided a substantial amount of funding to get co-nominees The power of the dog made. It’s also a bit rich how CODA — which, admittedly, is an independently produced Sundance film — turned into a scrappy underdog against the Netflix behemoth when his Oscar campaign was endorsed by Apple, the world’s largest company.
But none of that matters. Netflix and Prime Video have both snapped shots for Best Picture wins and come up short. Apple beat them to their limits — and with a movie that’s had to stick around all year since the Sundance festival in 2021, no less. CODA is a rather modest film to make so much history, but it did make so much history.