The Drudge Report notes the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times carries panic that all 20 best-acting Oscar nominees are going to be insufferably white again.
Glenn Whipp began: “As Motion Picture Academy members cast their ballots for Oscar nominations this week, the biggest issue for many voters isn't about who might be nominated but about the diversity of this year's acting class. Their fear: The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite will be trending on social media again.”
So who might benefit from the revelation that an actor of color needs to be nominated?
This year's prominent contenders of color include Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Will Smith (Concussion) and Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight). Gray's Compton, nominated in December for a SAG Awards ensemble prize, is also in the mix, as is transgender actress Mya Taylor, who earned a Spirit Awards nomination for her turn as an L.A. prostitute in the indie film Tangerine.
Whipp included debate from both sides in Hollywood:
"If it's all-white again, nobody's going to be happy and there might be a growing perception that the academy is out of touch," said USC history professor Steve Ross, author of several books about Hollywood politics. "It has to be a good performance, but, for some, if they're deciding between Will Smith and somebody else, they might just go for Will Smith because of what happened last year."...
"I don't see how you can nominate another group that doesn't include any actor of color and think you'll be taken seriously," one actors branch member said.
F. Gary Gray, director of the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton who joined the academy this year, offers a different view.
"I'm not going to allow politics to influence my judgment because then that defeats the purpose," said Gray, who is African American. "That's not how I make movies and it's not how I'll vote. If something moves me and touches me, that's probably the direction I'll go."
"You definitely want the people who decide these things to reflect society," said Creed writer-director Ryan Coogler. "There's empowerment in representation. It means so much when you see somebody who's like you up there on that stage."
The academy responded to the #OscarsSoWhite criticism in June, inviting 322 new members, its largest class ever. The demographically broad group reflected a concerted move toward "a normalization of our membership to represent both the industry and the country as a whole," academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs told The Times in an interview at the time.
The academy also announced an initiative to advocate for an "industry-wide commitment" to partner with the academy to "hire, mentor, encourage and promote talent in all areas of our profession." But some black activists (not very credibly) proclaim they don’t even care for the Oscar affirmation:
DuVernay was a central part of last year's Oscar protest after academy members awarded Selma two Oscar nominations — fewer than many had expected. But she says her company's focus is completely divorced from the Oscars.
"The OscarsSoWhite hashtag is what people want to hear about," DuVernay said. "But it's a privileged point of view to think that everyone's end goal is to be in that fancy room. This work needs to be done so people of color can see themselves as real people on screen. That's an issue of survival, essential to our personhood and our humanity and our dignity. It has nothing to do with those hashtags."