Selma Stars Have a Message For Hollywood and Oscar Voters

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

#OscarsSoWhite sparks race, gender debate.

Los Angeles – Within minutes of the announcement of Academy Award nominations on Thursday last week, up popped a Twitter hashtag to frame fresh debate about the lack of diversity in Hollywood: #OscarsSoWhite.

“Saturday Night Live” returned from vacation last night with an uncharacteristically sincere cold open: a high school student explaining the state of race in America to the bemused ghost of the Rev.If the Academy Awards are supposed to reflect the cream of the crop of mainstream filmmaking, then British actors (especially those playing scientific geniuses) had a banner year.

Lucas, 70, was responding to ‘CBS This Morning’ host Gayle King’s question about whether he saw the all-white categories as a snub of eligible black actors, like Selma’s David Oyelowo. The slate for the 87th Academy Awards was a reminder of the glacial pace of change in Hollywood’s film industry, even after what looked like progress for black actors and film-makers last year stemming from the best picture winner, 12 Years a Slave. That was the main takeaway after actor Chris Pine, directors JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron announced this year’s nominees on Thursday: white dudes as far as the eye can see. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has about 6 000 members who are selected for the quality of their work and recommendations by existing members. “The Academy is about 90 percent white and 70 percent male and we’re seeing the sad result of that in voting,” said Tom O’Neil, founder of awards tracker Gold Derby, referring to figures from a 2012 Los Angeles Times study on Academy voters.

Then he depresses King further by explaining how protests work these days: “You just push this Twitter button then type in #IamFerguson or #We’reAllBlack or #Blessed.” The bit comes off as surprisingly snark-less — more like a wry acknowledgement of a problem than biting mockery. While Selma snagged a best picture nomination, it was ignored in every other significant category (including actor and director, where a nomination was likely). I think David, who was in (Lucas’ 2012 film) Red Tails, is truly one of the great actors of all time. “And you know, the director, Ava, is amazing… I think they’re very, very talented people. Race and gender are not considered, although behind-the-scenes, members say there are debates at branch level about how to make membership more diverse. It’s a big letdown for those clamoring for a more diverse Hollywood, especially with the announcement coming less then a week after the Golden Globes honored projects about people from a variety of racial, sociological and economic backgrounds.

No actors of color were nominated for either a starring or supporting role, and the list of nominated directors and writers includes only men; from “Selma,” neither star David Oyelowo or director Ava DuVernay got a nod, as many critics had anticipated. “I get it that it’s hard to pronounce a lot of these names,” he says, gesturing toward a graphic showing actors Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Barkhad Abdi and Quvenzhane Wallis. Some historians said the film misrepresented President Lyndon Johnson’s stand on voting rights, but critics were quick to point out that Selma was only the latest historical picture to draw scrutiny over its accuracy.

But exclusion of Selma in all the other key Oscar races and in the director, producer, actor and writer guild awards is likely to hurt its chances at winning best picture on Oscars night, said O’Neil, the awards tracker. All of this year’s best picture nominees – American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash – have male-dominated casts. So I don’t start doing backflips when it happens.” There is the theory that a late December release and historical inaccuracies prevented Selma from making a bigger showing. Despite a heavy PR push all awards season, and a Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild nomination, Jennifer Aniston was passed over for her work in Cake.

Jake Gyllenhall and Amy Adams didn’t make the cut, even though they earned rave reviews for their performances in Nightcrawler and Big Eyes respectively. In other words, as long as the decision makers – directors, producers, executives – are predominantly white and male, the work being produced is going to reflect that.

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