I am sure everyone is sick of talking about this and it probably has been talked about to death. But I thought I would give my two cents.
When the Oscar nominations were announced there was an almost instant uproar about the nominees. Shortly after the announcement #OscarsSoWhite started trending on Twitter. For the first time in over 15 years the 20 actors and actresses nominated were all white. People started talking about how the Academy is made up of a majority of older white men. An accusation that is not without merit and something people have been complaining about for a long time. But what does that have to do with this year’s nominations? Is the Academy ignoring great performances of non-white actors?
So what did happen this year? A lot of the ire is over the lack of nominations for “Selma”. A movie that got a lot of praise from the critics and was expected to score several nominations including Best Director for Ava DuVernay who would have been the first black female nominated in that category and David Oyelowo who played Martin Luther King Jr. was expected to get a Best Actor nomination. So why did “Selma” get snubbed? I have not seen the movie yet and have no opinion on the quality of the movie. But, there are many reasons why it didn’t get more nominations and probably the least of them is racism. While we would all like to believe a movie should be nominated based on quality I think everyone knows that getting an Oscar nomination is a political process of campaigning. The first problem with “Selma was that it came out too late. They were finishing editing the movie late into the year and only finished right before the release date of Christmas. Meanwhile other movies had already been released or were playing at Festivals and getting the some early buzz. Getting that early buzz and keeping the conversation going is the key to getting a nomination. With the late finish the studio had to rush out screeners to the voting members of the Academy and the movie was one of the last screeners to arrive. The screeners didn’t get there in time for a lot of the guild awards like the screen actors or directors guild and a movie needs those nominations to help build momentum. I think the fact that it got a Best Picture nomination is pretty impressive considering everything else.
So, if your case against the Academy is that one movie didn’t get nominated I don’t think you have a good argument. If there were other films that got snubbed it would be a stronger case. The biggest issue is that there is just not enough high quality films being made featuring a diverse cast. Besides “Selma” there weren’t too many movies that looked like they had the potential to get Oscar nominations. “Get on Up” was a long shot at Best Actor and “Beyond the Lights” got lots of good reviews but never really had that Oscar push. I think the lack of diversity is a big problem with Hollywood in general. There needs to be more diverse casting in movies and definitely more diverse representation behind the camera. The Academy can still improve things by having a more diverse membership which would hopefully lead to more diverse nominees. The president of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first black female president of the Academy and she herself has said the Academy is looking to increase that diversity. So, while we can complain that certain movies we wanted didn’t get nominated to make this a racial issue I think is a mistake.
On a side note I think the issue is more than just race but also about sex. It says something that four of the five best actors nominees are in movies nominated for Best Picture but only one of the Best Actress nominees is in a movie nominated for Best Picture. There aren’t a lot of strong roles for women in the film industry and it would be nice to see more female directors get nominated but I will save that rant for another day.