It’s the time of year that many Award Shows start announcing their nominees. The highlight of the year is for many the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. The nominations were announced on January 14 and after that moment nobody could stop talking about it, and not particularly in a good way. For many years, there are complaints about the quantity of white actors and films made by white people that get nominated and eventually win an Oscar. At the expense of the black actors and their films. The Hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has brought into life on Twitter to show the Academy they have to make a change and add some diversity. Famous actors like Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith have decided to boycott this year’s Oscars to make a statement. I wonder if the lack of diversity within the nominations is the Academy’s fault or maybe because white actors are better? I seriously doubt that, but maybe better films must be written and made, which is the job of the film studios.
Let me start by saying I haven’t seen the films which are nominated for Best Picture, except Bridge of Spies, so I can’t say anything about the quality of those films or the performances. However, the trailers of those film did give a strong impressions and made me interested to see more of it. The people are mad about the lack of nominations for the film Creed and Straight Outta Compton. These two films are succesful in cinemas and both films have a black actor to play the lead role. Creed tells the story about the young man Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) who wants to step in his father’s footsteps with the help of other box legend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Many people think it’s curious that Stallone got nominated for Best Actor in a supporting role, but not the film nor Jordan. Hiphop film Straight Outta Compton is only nominated for Best original script. I haven’t seen these two films, which is also because I am not really interested in the story. This has obviously to do with personal preference. Where one doesn’t like romantic films, I’m less inclined to watch a hip-hop and boxing film. A film that I did miss among the nominees is Netflix’ Beasts of no Nation with Idris Elba, about child soldiers. Elba did won two awards during last weekend’s Screen Actors Guild Awards. He won an award for his part in Luther and Beasts of no Nation.
But this isn’t the first complain about this matter within the Academy Awards and the numbers don’t lie. Between 2005 en 2014, of the 200 nominations only 34 times a non-white or a female was nominated. The film 12 Years a Slave, which starred a few amazing black actors and is made by the black director Steve McQueen, is the most recent non-white film to win the Oscar for Best Picture in 2014. The problem lies more with what the film studios have to offer. But it’s not only the non-white artists who are disadvantaged in this industry. Also women are getting less roles and money compared to their male colleagues. Actor George Clooney was in a Dutch television program and also added that there are almost no women or non-white people in the management teams of film studios. Which is a shame and has to change. Helen Mirren also joined the discussions and thinks it’s unfair to attack the Academy.
“The issue we need to be looking at is what happens to the film before it gets to the Oscars. What kind of films are made. And the way in which they are cast. And the scripts. And go all the way back to the writing of the scripts. It’s those things that are much more influential ultimately than who stands with an Oscar.”
However, there are also other opinion. Actrice Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) feels this discussion is racism against white people and Michael Caine (Inception, The Dark Knight) says you can not vote for an actor/ actress simply because he or she is black. To get nominated your performance has to be on a certain kind of level. The best advice comes from LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea, NCIS: LA).
“Don’t get bitter, get better. Is there room for improvement? Yes, but let’s just put the work in. And ultimately, if the work is good enough, and it’s great enough and there’s enough of it, the door gets kicked in.”
Following this discussion, the Academy promises change. Their goal is to double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy, said the following:
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
It’s clear what the discussion entails and changes must be made. We need more diversity in both the organization of the Academy as in the film productions. The non-whites and women in the film industry should be given more opportunity to develop themselves and be seen for a wider audience. The large film studios focus, in my opinion, way too much on the big money and thus too little on original and interesting stories with unknown actors. Like many others, I have a few favourite actors – of different origin – that makes me interested in a film faster than when only unknown actors have a part in it. However, this is never a reason to completely ignore that film.
An unknown writer or director has never a real influence on my choice whether or not to watch a film. Although there are filmmakers who have left their mark on a particular genre or method, which I very much like and makes me interested in their new films. Think of Alfred Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron and Woody Allen. Additionally, you can always wake me up for a new Disney film, whoever has a part in it. My advice for my fellow film fans: watch film trailers to see what you like and found out what you’re interested in. But never watch too many trailers, something with spoilers 😉 Also, do not be biased.
The Oscars will be presented February 28, hosted by the hilarious black comedian Chris Rock. Rumours are Chris even changed his speech to dwell on this issue. For the Dutch fans among us, the Oscars will be broadcast live on Film1, but hopefully there is a stream as well. Are you going to watch the ceremony or will you boycott the show just like Will Smith and his wife? Let me know in the comments who you think should win the gold statuettes!