Since 1929, the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, has become a yearly highlight in the entertainment industry and serves to recognize some of the most influential and popular films of the past year. The Oscars have also served as reflections of the societal changes occurring in the industry. As more women and minorities have excelled in the entertainment industry, the red carpet has exploded with diversity, including the addition of the Best Foreign Language category in 1957.
Race and gender equality have remained a powerful force in the 21st century, as proponents have strived to infiltrate the entertainment, workforce and education industries. More women and minorities have been fighting for equal opportunities and recognition, and powerful strides have been made as more women and minorities have received higher education and earned high-profile jobs.
Amidst such societal advancements, the 2015 Oscar nominations appear to have taken a step backwards. Many women and minorities in the entertainment industry are voicing their opinions concerning the overwhelming nominations for white men. Every nominee for best actor and best actress is white, and every nominated screenwriter and director is a white male.
While many films have received as many as nine different nominations, one of the year’s most acclaimed films, Selma, has only received two – best picture and best original song. Selma follows Dr. Martin Luther King for three months in 1965 as he marched from Selma, Alabama to Washington D.C. before President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Selma was directed by African-American director Ava DuVernay and featured renowned actors such as Oprah Winfrey.
The lack of nominations for Selma and DuVernay is extremely disappointing, particularly in the Best Director category. It is very unlikely to see a movie about civil rights to have a minority director, and even more so to see a woman direct such a high-profile film. The entertainment industry considered the lead actor, David Oyelowo, a strong contestant for a Best Actor nomination. However, he lost to actors such as Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch – both of whom are not even American actors.
It is also strange that a film nominated for Best Picture received almost no other nominations, except for Best Original Song. A film with a powerful, relevant message surely has multiple factors that warrant it a Best Picture nomination, but it was not recognized for nay of those.
Children and adults alike are also highly disappointed that The Lego Movie did not receive a nomination for Animated Feature Film. The film appealed to anyone who grew up—or is currently growing up—playing with Legos. The film followed a loveable, innocent Lego man named Emmet as he sought to save the world from Lord Business. The film brought back many historical Lego figures such as the Spaceman from the 1970s space collection, members from the NBA collection, William Shakespeare, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars characters and many others. The message of The Lego Movie encourages adults who grew up with Legos to embrace the creativity and artistry they cultivated as a child and share it with their children. However, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Boxtrolls, Big Hero 6, Song of The Sea and The Tale of Princess Kuyaga beat out The Lego Movie’s playful ode to a timeless childhood joy.
Every film nominated for Best Picture is a drama that follows a male lead through a difficult period of opposition and strife – except The Grand Budapest Hotel. Instead, this film takes place as a flashback to a time when the hotel was a lavish place for the world’s most elite and wealthy. The plot is much lighter than other nominees such as American Sniper and The Imitation Game, which are set during different wars and place the characters in life or death situations. This difference might give The Grand Budapest Hotel an edge and allow it to be easily distinguished from the rest. However, American Sniper is extremely relevant to our time, especially to those who have served in the current war.
Boyhood is also extremely unique. It was filmed over twelve years and follows one boy and his family through the trials of growing up as a boy in modern America. Coming-of-age films are nothing new, but one that is twelve years in the making is truly unique. Young adults can particularly relate to this film, as many of them experienced many of the same challenges the main character faces growing up. The dedication and patience in filming Boyhood makes it a likely choice over the other nominees.
Despite controversy over the nominations, every Best Picture nominee carries a powerful story and message, and speaks to different aspects of human nature – growing up, war, relishing the past, accepting our limiting circumstances and fighting to achieve greatness. The Oscars air on ABC February 22, at 7:00 pm.
By MEREDITH MANK / Contributing Writer