So the #OscarSoWhite hashtag is back for the second year in a row, with no African American, Asian or Latino actors up for acting honors, and “Revenant” director Gonzalez Inarritu the only non-Caucasian nominee in the major behind-the-cameras categories.
Oscar-worthy films and performances by non-white talents were snubbed — Idris Elba (above) for “Beasts of No Nation,” to name one. And there were particularly nasty stings, such as Sylvester Stallone getting a nomination for “Creed” — while the young black director who made the film work, Ryan Coogler, was ignored, as was lead actor Michael B. Jordan.
And yet … the Academy Awards show has diversity aplenty, with Chris Rock back as host, Reginald Hudlin as one of its producers, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences led by an African American woman, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, its president.
Boone Isaacs has been working hard to diversify the Academy membership since being installed in her job in 2013. She put an end to the membership cap that had effectively kept the Academy old, white and male. She launched mentorship programs, and last year started an initiative called A2020 that included a five-year plan to focus on industry hiring practices.
It’s a shame none of this effort is showing up where it counts most: on the world stage with Oscar nominations.
You have to know that the nominations announcements stung. Boone Isaacs admitted to Deadline’s Pete Hammond that she is disappointed — although she was quick to acknowledge the quality of the films that did get nominated.
She also pointed out, “We have got to speed it up” when it comes to diversifying the Academy. Yup. Oscar voters as of 2013 were 94 percent white, 76 percent male — with an average age of 63. Since then, the Academy has reached out and invited 593 industry members to join in an effort to diversify its membership. Even if each and every invitee accepted and each one was a minority or female, the impact would be comparatively small within the 5,783 body.
Academy Members, it appears, want it both ways. They’d like to appear forward-thinking and desirous of diversity, so they elected a black woman president. But that spirit is obviously lacking when it comes to the nitty gritty of casting votes or making changes that go beneath the surface.
While it’s easy to point fingers at the Academy, the problem goes deeper. For all its professed liberalism, the film industry itself remains an old boys’ club — as study after study shows. White men directed 82.4 percent of the 347 feature films released in 2013 and 2014, according to one released by the Directors Guild of America. Non-white men directed 11.2 percent, white women directed 5.1 percent and non-white women directed 1.3 percent.
The DGA has also made moves to diversify under the leadership of its president, Paris Barclay, who is also African American.
How much difference has it made? How much difference have Academy efforts made? In the last two Oscar years, change appears to have stopped.
So the Academy parallels the mainstream film industry — while both become ever-more out of step with the culture around them.