‘Whiteout’ heating up the Oscars
Last month, one of the few things that made January worth bearing came to light: the announcement of the Oscar nominations. Sadly, amidst the various surprises, something stood out glaringly. For the second time in a row, the thousands of Academy members failed to nominate a single actor or actress of color, and the only director of color was once again Alejandro González Iñárritu. We know that Hollywood loves sequels, but this is more than ridiculous.
As a response to the first whitewashing, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite went viral and deservedly so. You can’t give every acting nomination to only white people and not think that the public wouldn’t notice. Now, as a white person, I understand that I run the risk of “whitesplaining” this issue. However, as an avid moviegoer, this is something that not only I can feel angry about but everyone should.
For the more obvious reason for anger, all it takes is looking at two of the most prominent black/race issue films of the last year, “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton.” The near-shutout of both films for nominations has eerie similarities to that of “Selma” the quite excellent MLK drama concerning the fight that resulted in the Voting Rights Act. However, both of last year’s films have the dubious distinction of not only getting one nomination each, but the people who were nominated were white! Clearly, the Academy lacks self-awareness when it comes to optics. (For “Creed,” it was Best Supporting Actor; for “Straight Outta Compton” it was the writers for the original screenplay.)
Not only does this almost-complete whiteout by the Academy make them look bad, it’s insulting to the intelligence of the audience. Does the Academy truly believe that the people they chose for nominations are more worthy than the myriad of other performances displayed last year? Best Supporting Actor, in particular, is truly unforgivable. This year’s field is weird, if only for the fact that Tom Hardy, while usually intense, got a nomination for “The Revenant” despite sporting some form of American accent. What makes it beyond hope is the fact that Idris Elba, who gave a powerful performance in “Beasts of No Nation,” was shut out despite not only getting both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, but also winning the SAG award! (Though, he won this award after the Oscar nominations were released.) Let me put it another way: a documentary called “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” which followed the rise and fall of legendary singer Nina Simone, and was also released by Netflix (though “Beasts” also scored a theatrical run thanks to film company Bleecker Street), scored a nomination for Best Documentary, so the Academy isn’t completely averse to Netflix. And yet, “Beasts of No Nation” got nothing. Not even a nomination for Elba, despite the wide acclaim he’s received for that performance. THAT’S why #OscarsSoWhite matters.
However, it’s been circulated that the Academy will double its share of women and minority members by 2020. But despite this, how much more condescension from the Academy can we take? I mean, the event will likely be fun (and if for nothing else, watch it just to see Chris Rock lacerate the Academy for this crap). However, if the Academy still manages to pretty much give people of color the cold shoulder, then the boycott won’t be a fluke. The Academy doesn’t have a monopoly on giving actors and other filmmakers recognition for their work in movies. The worst thing it can do is make a mockery of itself by removing much of the prestige it has built up over the years, simply because its members won’t recognize the achievements that people of color accomplish in movies.