The Oscars have yet again polarized the masses. For the second year in a row, the entire nominee lists in acting categories are completely white. Resurrecting the #OscarsSoWhite on twitter, fans and celebrities alike are calling out the Academy for snubbing many noteworthy actors and actresses of color. Jada Pinkett Smith, film star and wife of newly snubbed Concussion actor Will Smith, boycotted the ceremony and neither Smiths will attend the award show. Nominated for her role in 45 Years, Charlotte Rampling (a 69 year old white woman) has taken it upon herself to say the unpopular opinion, claiming that the Oscar boycott itself is “racist against white people.” Much like Miss Rampling’s beliefs, the Oscars are a sign of older times that has become unnecessary and only a cause of irritation. Stephen Geller, a screenwriter and member of the Academy’s writer’s branch, claims, “There is no reason whatsoever to penalize the Academy member for the state of the industry, or for nominations for an award by the separate Academy branches. It is bizarre to assume that, by its voting, each Academy member represents the decisions of studios, networks and talent agencies to produce films.” Mr. Geller’s quote reveals many little-known truths about the academy. The voting parties are broken up by categories, so the decisions on the actor ballots are not at the fault of the entire organization.
However, what’s more jarring is the blame placed on “the decisions of studios, networks and talent agencies to produce films.” Ultimately, the decision for a movie to be considered worthy of Oscar contention comes from the marketing and the literal political campaign curated by the film’s sponsors. It is entirely possible that a film like Ryan Coogler’s Creed (singularly recognized for Sylvester Stallone’s supporting role) was underscored by its production company, New Line Cinema. OR, New Line Cinema didn’t have the budgetary means of giving Creed as big of an Oscar push as all of the flashy names involved in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, produced by Regency films (who have also produced Best Pictures 12 Years a Slave and Birdman in back to back years). (Not so) coincidentally, Creed was distributed by Warner Brothers Studios, who also produced this year’s dark horse, Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s possible that the distribution company sought to make Mad Max their film with the momentum it had, thanks to unexpected box office success and incredible critical acclaim.
Meanwhile, Sean Baker’s Tangerine (a groundbreaking indie-festival film that was expected to make some sort of splash) didn’t receive a wide box office release or an Oscar nomination. Does this justify the ignorance of demographics? Absolutely not. In a study done after the announcements of last year’s nominations, it was revealed that “the overall academy is still 93% white and 76% male” with an “average age of 63.” Even with the installation of a more ethnically diverse and youthful group of voters into the academy, the more popular and lauded films will overshadow indie gems and low-budget masterpieces. This is why the Oscars have become obsolete. For the thousands of voters and billions of viewers of the award ceremony, ultimately, an award that once stood for artistic merit has become more of a reason to vilify movies than to appreciate them. All the while, the Screen Actors Guild are nominating and awarding Idris Elba best supporting actor for Beasts of No Nation, an indie film airing on Netflix (of all places). In this case, progressivity doesn’t fall on the shoulders of racial recognition; it’s attributed to an awards show that gives awards based on quality rather than “buzz.”
By ALEXANDER KEEL / Intern Writer