A year after host Neil Patrick Harris quipped that the Oscars were honoring Hollywood’s “best and Whitest,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled a slate of nominees Jan. 14 that once again included no Black actors or directors, prompting a dismayed revival of the “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag.
Many also expressed regret that the highly admired N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton” failed to score a best picture nod, despite being recognized in other contests. In acting categories, omissions included Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” and Will Smith in “Concussion.” Director Ryan Coogler of the successful “Rocky” spinoff “Creed” also failed to make the cut.
Those voicing disappointment included the academy’s president herself, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
“I really was disappointed,” Ms. Isaacs told the Associated Press when asked about “Compton,’’ which received only a screenplay nomination Theater shooter thanks man accused of Black church slayings (for, some noted on Twitter, its White screenwriters, not its Black cast or director.) “Fabulous movie, fabulous movie.’’
But Ms. Isaacs, who is Black, added that the Oscar nominations are part of a much broader conversation in the entertainment industry about diversity—and that change would happen, albeit slowly.
“What is important is that this entire conversation of diversity is here and we are talking about it,” Ms. Isaacs said. “And I think we will not just talk, because people will say, ‘well don’t just talk, you gotta do,’ (but) talking gets to the doing, and we are going to do … It is an industry-wide situation and we need to continue this conversation. We need to bring in new talent, to nourish the talent, to allow it to flourish and to give us all the diversity of storytelling which is what the motion picture business is all about.”
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee vowed to boycott the Oscar ceremony Feb. 28. There was widespread surprise that the lack of diversity persisted despite the huge backlash a year ago when all acting nominees were White and there was only one director of color, Alejandro Inarritu (also nominated Jan. 14). The omissions that caused the most consternation involved the lauded civil rights drama “Selma;” both its director, Ava DuVernay, and its star, David Oyelowo, were snubbed.
“It’s business as usual at the academy,” said Gil Robertson, president of the African-American Film Critics Association. “We’ll have to try again. After the whole debacle with ‘Selma’ and Ava DuVernay, you would have thought some lessons would have been learned. Nothing for Will Smith. Nothing for Idris Elba. Irony of ironies, the only actor who received a nomination for ‘Creed’ is White.” (He was referring to Sylvester Stallone, who got a nod for supporting actor for reprising his role as Rocky Balboa.)
Many tweeted their disapproval. “I love (at)TheSlyStallone,” wrote indie director Joe Carnahan, “but Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson & Ryan Coogler don’t get noms for CREED!? Come on Academy.”
“Zero nonwhite actors have been nominated for Oscars,” tweeted the Tribeca Film Festival. “There’s no excuse.”
“Compton” scored a screenplay nod, and one if its nominated writers said she sees hope for change on the diversity issue in Hollywood. “I was actually at a town hall meeting on diversity last night, and I think it’s an exciting time to be having this conversation in Hollywood,” said writer Andrea Berloff. “It is not being ignored, and there’s a lot of us working at a more grassroots level to try to turn the tides.”
Ms. Berloff added that there was a key positive note for women in the nominations list: four women nominated for their screenplays this year.