The Academy Responds to Oscars Diversity Criticism

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

#OscarsSoWhite sparks race, gender debate.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first black woman at the helm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the trade organization that produces the Oscars.(Photo: Chris Pizzello, Invision, via AP) In an interview with the Associated Press that appeared over the weekend, Boone Isaacs said this year’s all-white Oscar acting nominations have inspired her to accelerate the academy’s push to be more inclusive. “In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Boone Isaacs said. 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.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.

This was different than what she said Thursday when the Oscar nominations were announced and she was quoted saying she doesn’t think the academy has a diversity problem “at all.” “The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it’s being discussed, and it’s helpful so much for talent — whether in front of the camera or behind the camera — to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter,” she told New York Magazine’s Vulture blog. 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. At the Critics’ Choice award, another Selma actor, Wendell Pierce, said there would be “amazement” Oyelowo was not nominated once people saw the film. 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. While Selma snagged a best picture nomination, it was ignored in every other significant category (including actor and director, where a nomination was likely).

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. David Oyelowo, the star of Selma, and the film’s director Ava DuVernay, both failed to garner nominations despite having been nominated for Golden Globes for their parts in the movie about African-American civil rights activist Martin Luther King jr. Congratulations, @TheAcademy for taking several steps backwards. #OscarsSoWhite pic.twitter.com/SNhDw9TmbL — Nerdy Wonka (@NerdyWonka) January 17, 2015 A 2012 survey by the Los Angeles Times found the academy was 94 per cent white, overwhelmingly male and with a median age of 62. 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.

Some on Twitter noted it might take some time to get full diversity in the academy because it reflects the film industry in general, which surveys show is largely white. 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. Boone Isaacs declined to address whether she and the academy were embarrassed by the slate of white Oscar nominees, instead insisting that she’s proud of the nominees, all of whom deserved recognition.

Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. She explained that while each branch comes up with its own criteria for excellence and each nominates its colleagues, all voting is individual and confidential.

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. It’s an award that showcases the talent of everyone involved in the production of the movie Selma.” Boone Isaacs says the five best actor nominees — Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Michael Keaton (Birdman) — “are all at the top of their game”. “This is a membership organisation, so we are all involved in this discussion and moving the subject of diversity forward,” she said. “It’s very important for us to continue to make strides to increase our membership and the recognition of talent.” “It behooves Hollywood as an economic imperative, if not a moral one — to begin more closely reflecting the changing face of America,” the statement said. 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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