By the time this article is printed, two white actors and two white actresses will have won Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.
The Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris on Feb. 22, was expected to be one of the most entertaining nights on television.
It also had the distinction of being the whitest Oscars since 1998. For the first time since that year, the four acting categories were occupied solely by white actors and actresses.
This extended to the Best Director category, with the exception of “Birdman” director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who hails from Mexico.
The actors up for the awards, which included Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”), JK Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”), were all worthy of nomination.
But public outcry came when actors and directors such as David Oyelowo (“Selma”), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Belle”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Oscar Isaac (“A Most Violent Year”) and Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) were snubbed and ignored by the Academy.
The Academy’s choice of nominations has even inspired the Twitter hashtag #oscarssowhite, which features angry tweeters boycotting the Oscars, pointing out the hypocrisy of the award show, and calling out the Academy for their alleged racism.
Recently, an anonymous academy voter posted their ballot on The Hollywood Reporter, giving us a look into the thought process of the Academy. The anonymous voter explained their picks and had this to say about the accusations that the Academy was racist this year:
“First, let me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about ‘snubs’ – I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason. What no one wants to say out loud is that ‘Selma’ is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of ‘Deliverance’ – they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it?”
The ideology that the Academy doesn’t have to pander to people of color in terms of nominating or voting on films and actors seems to be something that many people agree with, if box office numbers are anything to go by.
In lieu of attacks on supposed historical inaccuracies in “Selma” over the portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson, viewers and voters have been showing more love instead to another film with alleged historical inaccuracies itself: “American Sniper.”
While “Selma” earned over $49 million, “American Sniper” eclipsed it, earning over $428 million (and counting). It goes to show that while people take issue with the historical inaccuracies of “Selma,” they have no issue with the historical inaccuracies within “American Sniper.”
As it stands, “American Sniper” is the highest grossing film Best Picture nominee this year. It’s no surprise, the people and audiences of America have voiced their opinion on what was the best film this year.
But what does this mean exactly in the grand scheme of things? Can the accusations that the Academy are racist be true?
Many people will argue that the Academy isn’t racist since they awarded “12 Years A Slave” the Best Picture award last year. But despite popular opinion, that happens to be the exception to the rule.
While previous Academy Awards have been given to Alfonso Cuarón, Lupita Nyong’o, Ang Lee and Octavia Spencer, it doesn’t make up for the countless times the Academy has overlooked solid performances, like Sidney Poitier for “In the Heat of the Night,” Danny Glover for “The Color Purple” and Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett for “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
The Academy has seemed to want to take a step forward in terms of diversity with their recognition of actors, writers and directors, but this year the Academy took ten steps back.
Maybe next year, it will do better. Maybe.