White House to host ‘Selma’ screening on MLK Holiday after Oscar snub

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Selma’ left out: Why assume it was racism?.

LOS ANGELES: Within minutes of the announcement of Academy Award nominations on Thursday, up popped a Twitter hashtag to frame a fresh debate about the lack of diversity in Hollywood: #OscarsSoWhite. The Oscar nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced yesterday, and despite most us knowing who would get nominated, there were a couple of surprises which ended being those who were snubbed.To the editor: The article declares that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has “mostly overlooked” the film “Selma.” The very same Hollywood types that are regularly criticized for their liberal leanings are now accused of turning a blind eye to minorities. (“Oscars 2015: Diversity is the biggest nomination snub,” Jan. 15) The story is front-loaded with quotes from the director of UCLA’s Ralph J. For those who don’t know what ‘snub’ means in the awards season, it’s when a recipient, film or TV show deserved a nomination, but ended up being rejected for it. Of course Al Sharpton wants an emergency meeting with “Hollywood leaders.” The last several paragraphs cover the many other possible scenarios of this outrageous omission less than a year after “12 Years a Slave” had three black acting nominees and won the best picture award.

This snub was seen coming as DuVernay and her film Selma were snubbed in other prominent awards such as the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America. If the math doesn’t work out to an equitable allocation of diversity, do we have to assume it to be racially motivated rather than something more benign?

Academy branches, such as for actors and directors, nominate for their categories, and everyone can nominate best picture contenders. “The Academy is about 90 per cent white and 70 per cent 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. Among the other snubs Selma received, Oyelowo’s nomination was one of them despite the high praise and several nominations from other award organisations. 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. 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. 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.

Many thought that Aniston would take that fifth slot for her performance in Cake as the actress received a nomination at almost every major award organisation. She explained that although each branch comes up with its own criteria for excellence and each nominates its colleagues, voting is individual and confidential. “There is not one central body or group of people that sit around the table and come up with nominations,” she said. “It really is a peer-to-peer process.” In the early days, filmmakers had to be careful not to offend Southern sensibilities; now, with the nation still polarized, Hollywood is still risk-averse. Some historians had 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.

The film scored a best picture Oscar nomination, and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs — who herself made history as the first black female president of the organisation — drew attention to that. “I am extremely happy to note that Selma is up for best picture, which means the talent that it took to bring Selma to the screen was recognized, and I think that’s important,” she said. Probably the biggest snub and surprise was The LEGO Movie who despite being critically acclaimed by critics and general moviegoers alike who both deemed it the best animation film of 2014 received no love from the Academy whatsoever. But Selma’s exclusion 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. “Critics proclaimed it’s the best movie of the year and the Oscars shunned it in most categories, so that means something’s wrong,” he said. Sadly, the legendary David Fincher never made the cut for Best Director for the well-received Gone Girl, but luckily the Golden Globes and some other award institutions acknowledged him. 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.” Diversity outreach is spread among the academy’s 17 branches, she said, because existing members recruit new ones. “This is a membership organization, so we are all involved in this discussion and moving the subject of diversity forward,” she said.

In its Friday statement, the Asian Pacific coalition said the responsibility for diversity in film should be industrywide. “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. 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 — were male-driven stories with male-dominated casts. Boone Isaacs said as the academy “continues to make strides toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization, we hope the film industry will also make strides toward becoming more diverse and inclusive.”

Why are Californians — most of whom, according to the census, are people of color — subsidizing an industry that consistently and without excuse continues to snub them and avoid its responsibility to be inclusive?

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