Blame Hollywood, not the Academy
Nobody was more disappointed than I when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts revealed the nominations for the 88th Oscars Jan. 14.
It was disheartening to learn that “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed” were snubbed when it came to the Golden Globes, but to see the same thing happen at the Oscars was just as off-putting. “Straight Outta Compton” didn’t earn a nomination for Best Picture. Samuel L. Jackson of “The Hateful Eight”, Michael B. Jordan of “Creed” and Will Smith of “Concussion” were not nominated for Best Actor, and Idris Elba didn’t receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Beasts of No Nation.”
Each was worthy of recognition. With this news, many automatically accused the Academy of being a racist organization, and I understand why people would jump to that conclusion.
This is the second year in a row where not one of the five directing nominees or the 20 acting nominees was black. For example, last year’s biggest snubs were “Selma” director Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo. Hence, the popular Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was born. But, I feel compelled to speak up in defense of the Academy. I believe the Academy is not at fault about this; the root of the problem is the film industry as a whole.
In 2015 and what has already premiered of 2016, very few people of color directed or starred in a major movie. That is the result of decisions made by the studios that finance and produce the movies, not the Academy. When that is all Hollywood is producing, it leaves the Academy with a pool of options lacking diversity, in terms of eligible films and individuals and in terms of whom the Academy can invite to become members, as to become a member, one must have a considerable amount of work to even be considered. Yet, last December, the cast for the “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” play was revealed. Fans were in an uproar because Noma Dumezweni, a black actress, was cast as Hermione. Although it was never stated in the book what Hermione’s skin color is, fans were upset about the casting decision. No matter the situation, no one is going to be happy.
Under the administration of Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs (a black woman), the Academy has been trying to make great efforts to address these problems, with Boone Isaacs saying she hopes the studios can be more open-minded in their hiring process. On Jan. 18, Isaacs released a statement where she talked about how heartbreaking it is to see the lack of diversity in the nominees this year and encouraged Hollywood to make diversity of all sorts — race, gender, age and nationality — a higher priority. Isaacs also shared that the Academy is working on changing their voting requirements from now on.
For the movies in consideration this year that starred an actor of color, I personally didn’t think of them as slam dunks going into the nominations. This was a very competitive year for film. “The Revenant” is absolutely phenomenal, and “Room” is simply outstanding. To put it simply, it was a fantastic year for actors, lead and supporting. I do believe that Jordan deserved a nomination, but I don’t think he was going to walk away with a win. Unfortunately, the distributor of “Creed” didn’t advertise it and treat it as an awards contender until it was very late in the game.
As for Elba’s film, it was released in a never before tested platform with the Academy. The film had just a handful of theaters across the country release it, but it also debuted on Netflix the same exact day. As for Smith and Jackson’s films, the Academy wasn’t too crazy for them to begin with. The directors and screenwriters didn’t even get a nomination. As for the celebrity backlash, that needs to stop. Not only is it highly disrespectful to question the nominations voted on by a prestigious organization made up of actors and critics who have really impressive resumes, but they’re also embarrassing themselves.
Jada Pinkett Smith was one of the first to come out and say that she will be boycotting the show and was followed by Spike Lee and Tyrese Gibson. What’s even more outstanding is that Lupita Nyong’o is one of the celebrities that is boycotting, and she won an Oscar back in 2014 for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “12 Years a Slave.” The bottom line is, I understand why everyone is upset about this year’s nominations. Unfortunately, the anger is directed toward the wrong thing. I genuinely don’t believe racism was a factor in the nominations this year at all.
No matter whom the Academy chose to be nominated, someone was going to be upset. But, if it’s any consolation, Jordan, Smith, Jackson, Elba and the “Straight Outta Compton” team are in pretty good company because Ridley Scott, Johnny Depp, Quentin Tarantino and Michael Keaton were also denied nominations this year.