Some movies just pop out of the movie screen, and absolutely capture your mind. No matter the race, background, age, or even heritage, there is that one movie that’ll pull you in just based off of how amazing it is. 2013’s 12 Years a Slave is that movie. The performances, cinematography and overall message the film displayed was more than worthy of an academy award nomination. From Lupita Nyongo’s intense beatings on screen to the horrific realization of just how hard it was to be a slave in that time. “12 Years a Slave” now just captured the Best Picture award at the 86th annual Academy Awards, but captured the attention of a lot of people who were revolutionizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yet, this was only the beginning, the very next year, the Martin Luther King heavy pic “Selma” came to the academies attention. An all African american cast making another big picture nomination gave African Americans a sense of balance in the polling, and consideration from the Hollywood Foreign Press. Both of these films found a way to change the landscape of what it meant to be equal with not just entertainment films, but beautiful bio-pics and cinematographic masterpieces. Both films won a majority of the awards they were nominated for. This includes the award for ‘Best Original Score’ given to artists John Legend & Common for the movies score entitled “Glory”. In society today, seeing equality in such a high praise of film is absolutely amazing. Knowing that our favorite films with our DiCaprio’s, Depp’s, De Niro’s and McConaughey’s get nominated are one thing; but something about seeing other races films up there too make the world seem balanced.
That was until the 88th Academy Award nominations list was released. On January 16th, 2016, the world was pleased to see the complete list of the nominees. Intrigue, early predictions of winners and of course the question everyone wanted to know “Is this the year Leo finally wins?” However, the first thing everybody noticed, was that the nominee pool was heavy on one particular race. In this case, it being Caucasian. Not a single actor of really African american decent or other was in the running for any award actually. This has happened before, but in much earlier years. This year was different. The reason why is because of movies such as “Straight Outta Compton” which was only nominated for it’s white writers. Will Smith’s “Concussion” seemed to be a shoe-in, but received absolutely nothing. This provoked Will’s wife Jada to actually boycott the Oscars intentionally, bringing up the situations of people of color no longing having to “beg” for the attention of the media art they produce.
You can see her video here:
After this, and Straight Outta Compton’s one nomination brought to attention, the #OscarsSoWhite began to trend on twitter from the later part of January leading into the show itself. The only thing that made it pause, was the announcement of it’s host, none other than African American comedian Chris Rock. The biggest swerve of 2016 came in this way. When the entire list of nominees for the awards itself was white, the host was black, what? This was so weird, and almost came off as a cheap way to give black people a sense of value in this award show. It almost became a conversation of “Oh here, blacks don’t get any nominees, but at least you have the host.” When in reality, this was the absolute right move as Chris Rock was able to be given power to address the Oscars’s all white nomination panel and more. Hollywood at this point was not in good light, and Chris Rock had an entire 3 and a half hour show to entertain the audience using real life controversy. This actually created a sense of understanding for how out of control something like a list of people can be. Chris made the entire fiasco seem like a simple mistake on Hollywood’s’ radar, knowing that not everything is perfect, and that black people will have their voices heard no matter what.
Here is the opening monologue of the 88th Annual Academy Awards:
Unfortunately, all the controversy would expect the 88th annual Academy Awards to spike viewership, when actually, it became the 3rd lowest in Oscars history and went down 2% from the prior year. This evidently means that those who were boycotting the viewership of such a white heavy telecast actually got what they wanted. Yet, that’s not really the point of it all. If the Hollywood Foreign Press only puts colored actors in for ratings, then that’s even worse than none at all, it’s just using diversity as a media plug. Actually, the Hollywood Foreign Press should evaluate just how equal a ballot must be to understand the importance of diversity in today’s society. The H.F.P itself should be the most diverse of anyone, so multiple people can both agree and disagree on films based on not just there backgrounds, but the beauty the art of cinematography possess itself.
All in all, films like “12 Years A Slave”, “Selma” and even 2011’s “The Help”, elevated the importance of diversity in film art and made it to where you cannot simply have an all white Academy Awards nomination panel and get away with it so easily. If it wasn’t for these films both winning and receiving so many nominations and so much praise, diverse films may never have the voice they have today.