As you probably know, the nominees for the 2015 Oscars were announced today.
As you also probably noticed, the internet is pretty upset about the intense lack of diversity in the nominations. Various excuses have come forward, from the homogeneity of the selecting voters (an overwhelming majority are male and white), to the selection of an African-American Cheryl Boone Isaacs as president in 2013.
These excuses excuse nothing. These nominations prove that, even after a year of intense racial, gender and class conflict, nothing has changed. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, an organization of esteemed filmmakers, actors and cultural icons who deeply influence the evolution of American society, still don’t give a damn about black people or women.
This is a problem.
The Wikipedia page for The Oscars list the awards as “an annual American awards ceremony honoring cinematic achievements in the film industry.” What defines these achievements?
Did not Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, deserve recognition for her bold and poignant exploration of the Civil Rights Movement, during this time of reopened wounds of racial inequality? The film has a 99% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, a virtually impossible ranking to achieve. Doesn’t showing the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr., the biggest civil rights hero in American history, count as “elevating film-making?”
No. Instead, the academy prefers Budapest Hotel, a beautifully-shot but totally culturally disconnected film about a fictional hotel and a man who likes perfume too much.
Did not Laura Poitras, the director of Citizenfour, deserve recognition as a director considering she literally cannot reenter the United States for fear of government seziures due to her connection to Edward Snowden? She sat in the room with Snowden as he described what is arguably the most important governmental scandal of the decade. Citizenfour is in the running for Best Documentary, hardly the esteem it deserves.
You could argue “But the academy is actually picking good movies! Look at American Sniper!”
I would argue these awards are just as symbolic as they are literal. Look at how Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize — that award was an effort by the Nobel Committee (and the entire European continent) to show their approval for Obama’s initiatives. (They’ve since asked him to return it, further proof of it’s symbolism.)
Has the academy not seen the year we’ve had? The people who have died in Ferguson, New York and recently Nigeria as a result of racial inequality? Has the academy not seen what’s happened to free speech in Syria, Paris and our own country?
I’m not asking the academy to throw their votes. I’m asking them to recognize the influence of film-making on our world and to respond in kind.
I’m asking the academy to recognize their roles as social influences, as leaders who drive the cultural discussions in this country, to take responsibility for improving the world around them. I’m asking them to take responsibility for the influence they have to make this world a better place.
In that regard, they clearly don’t care. So continues the Wes Anderson Hollywood Love Train.