QJ Pop: Hubbub over Oscar nomination snubs

The Golden Globes have come and gone, filling their role as the slightly more casual (and much more drunken) precursor to the Academy Awards.

With this brief glamour aside, all eyes may now turn and bask in the golden glow of Oscar, and await the biggest night in Hollywood.

As is the case every year, the nominations incited a veritable firestorm of controversy, but this year, the chorus of commentators seems particularly vehement.

In a year teeming with dialogue about the role of race and gender in systems of privilege, power and representation, the Oscars have disappointed audiences increasingly ready and eager for diversity.

All 20 performance nominees are white and all 15 writing and directing nominees are male.

After the announcement, the Twitter-verse exploded with angry responses, including the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Unquestionably all of the nominees in performance categories are worthy contenders, but the Academy’s snub of all Selma actors is emblematic of the industry’s predominately white, male perspective.

Since Halle Berry’s beautiful, tear-stained acceptance of her best actress award in 2001, not one woman of colour has taken the trophy home. Similarly, only four African-American men have won best actor since the Academy’s inception 87 years ago.

In the past 10 years, virtually no one of Latino, Asian or Aboriginal descent has won in any performance category.

The stats for the representation of women in all creative, technical and production categories are similarly unsettling.

That’s not to say Birdman or Whiplash weren’t the most excellent, artistic and creative films of 2014. These statistics are simply glaring reminders of the relatively narrow opportunities for great films and roles available to people of colour.

The most nominated films were Birdman and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, with each movie garnering nine nominations. Richard Linklater’s ambitious Golden Globe-winning portrait of family life Boyhood remains the favourite for Best Picture.

Coming in at eight nominations is the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game, starring the infamously named Benedict Cumberbatch. The film bears striking generic similarity to The Theory of Everything, which follows the early life of Stephen Hawking.

Both movies are emotional British biopics of geniuses overcoming adversity, with fantastic performances by their male leads and supporting actresses.

Another male-driven story with a troubled protagonist nominated for best picture is the controversial American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood.

American Sniper has received broad and intense criticism for being “propaganda” and glorifying military violence.

Considering one of the film’s most passionate advocates is Sarah Palin, you have to wonder what the Academy was thinking. Other questionable decisions include the devastating snub to the delightful Lego Movie for best animated feature.

The passionate backlash arising from the Academy’s nominations is a testament to the power and popularity of the institution to make, validate and endorse popular culture.

And in 2015, no matter how much they love Meryl Streep, people are tired of the sea of white faces on their televisions every awards season.

They’re ready for a future of more diverse storytelling.


Academy Awards, Nominations, Oscars

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