The Oscar Race Problem
|Yes, the name of this post is a pun.|
I won't speak to the quality of Selma (I haven't seen it) or say that it deserves directing and acting nominations over the other nominees, though I will say that its lack of recognition and the lack of recognition of ANY minority actors in the four main categories is something to be concerned about. As a movie that deals with racial issues without the use of a white protagonist (opposed to previously nominated films such as The Help or The Blind Side...two pretty terrible movies IMO) is curious. The same can be said when compared to this years other nominees, particularly The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything: all three are biopics (which is why, to be honest, I don't find any of them all that compelling and why I haven't seen them yet), yet the two about the white British guy received more recognition.
Sidebar: you don't get any whiter than Benedict Cumberbatch. Seriously, look at this guy. I'm still angry about that whole Star Trek Into Darkness thing and was really hoping for an Asian actor for Doctor Strange. I guess he was a pretty good dragon though.
|Also prominent in this year's nominations: movies with posters featuring close ups of people's heads.|
The winners of the Academy Awards are arguably arbitrary (why hello, alliteration). Like all televised awards shows, the ceremony is overly glorified. If your only goal as a filmmaker is solely to one day get an Oscar, you shouldn't be a filmmaker. Not only will you likely never get it with that mentality, it also means you're probably kind of a dick. Looking at Sundance and the Spirit Awards, etc. are just as important, if not more so, than looking just at the Academy's nominations, particularly in finding films that feature edgier storytelling and a more diverse voices.
The bigger issue and that studios view these films as risky. The fact that 12 Years a Slave and Selma were even made is an accomplishment. This is basically an affirmative action issue. We need to promote equal opportunity for filmmakers of color and female filmmakers to yield equal results. Right now they're not getting the same opportunity within the system. There are several things in place such as diversity requirements in tax incentives, etc. but looking at a major event such as the Oscars and their lack of diversity would not show it. There are many aspects to the process of getting an Oscar nomination, from submitting the film, release date, promoting the film with screeners to Academy voters, etc. As with looking at all things scientifically, the specific snub of Selma in the acting and directing categories this year does not point to a specific problem. But within the context of this year overall, in which DuVernay and Oyelowo received several nominations in other ceremonies, and previous years, in which recognition of minority filmmakers remains very limited, there does exist a problem. People want to hear new stories and new voices in the mainstream and not the same tired plotlines. As I've said previously, a good place to start might be with superheroes.