One of the moments that generated the most excitement during the 90th Academy Awards happened during a commercial break. For this year’s Oscars, Walmart enlisted three directors — Dee Rees, Nancy Meyers and Melissa McCarthy — to make one-minute ads inspired by the company’s blue shipping boxes.
Rees, who co-wrote and directed Mudbound, nominated for four awards Sunday night, directed the ad based on a sci-fi concept in which a young woman is fighting a blob-like monster while an evil commander, played by Best Supporting Actor nominee Mary J. Blige, gives orders. Filmed by Best Cinematography nominee Rachel Morrison, the ad’s two action stars turn out to be, in fact, little girls playing make-believe inside a blue Walmart box, and the monster — warning that bedtime is close — is their mother.
The ad’s sweetness and clever premise weren’t the only things winning over audiences. It also puts young black girls at the center of a sci-fi narrative, where they’re rarely situated (with the exception of A Wrinkle in Time, which opens next week). What’s more, it also casually depicts a black lesbian couple, at home with their kids in an everyday domestic scene — a sight rarely depicted onscreen, especially in front of an audience of millions.
Viewers took to Twitter to praise the ad (even if not all had praise for the company that commissioned it).
The next order of business is a directive to Hollywood studios: hire Dee Rees to direct your next big-budget sci-fi movie.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated who directed the commercial. It was Dee Rees, not Rachel Morrison, who was the cinematographer for the commercial.