And the Oscar Goes to a Bunch of Straight White Men

by Stacy Lambe 11:58 AM PST, January 15, 2015
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Update: Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs reacted to diversity criticism Thursday, telling Vulture, "The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it's being discussed, and it's helpful so much for talent — whether in front of the camera or behind the camera — to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter."

Despite a diverse year in film, the pool of Academy Award nominees is very narrow. That is to say most of the nominees are straight white men.

Even more disappointing is the fact that not one person of color was nominated for an acting award. David Oyelowo, who earned tons of accolades and praise for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, was snubbed in the Best Actor category. His co-star, Carmen Ejogo, who was considered a long shot for Best Supporting Actress, also failed to pick up a nomination this year.

Outside of the acting categories, Selma was ignored in almost every other major category. Best Director featured Mexican director Alejandro G. Inarritu alongside four white men (Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Bennett Miller, and Morten Tyldum) but overlooked Ava DuVernay, who would have been the first African American woman ever nominated in the category. Before DuVernay, only Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen, and John Singleton have ever been contenders.

Oscars: The Complete List of 2015 Nominees

It’s an outrageous oversight that comes after a year of racial tensions surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. (Add to the fact that the GRAMMYs top categories were mostly white performers.)

DuVernay’s snub was also a dismissal to female filmmakers, who are constantly shut out. No love was extended to Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken which, after initially earning tons Oscar buzz, also failed to pick up any nominations at the Golden Globes.

Despite eight nominations for The Imitation Game, there was a serious lack of recognition for LGBT films or out gay filmmakers/actors. (It should be noted that no one nominated for The Imitation is openly gay.) The only openly gay filmmaker that might walk the stage during the ceremony is Dean DeBlois, director of How to Train Your Dragon 2 and nominee for Best Animated Feature.

Though, gay-related films were recognized tangentially. Still Alice, which earned Julianne Moore a Best Actress nomination, was directed by real-life couple Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland and Into the Woods, which earned Meryl Streep her 19th nomination, was helmed by Rob Marshall.

Oscars: Interesting Facts You Need to Know About the 2015 Nominees

This all follows last year’s incredibly diverse ceremony, which handed out awards to Lupita Nyong’o, John Ridley, and Steven McQueen for 12 Years a Slave and also included an acting nomination for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Additionally, Dallas Buyers Club and Philomena were up for the top prize while Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took home trophies for their roles in the former.

In 2013, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Django Unchained were nominated for Best Picture while Denzel Washington and Quvenzhane Wallis were recognized in acting categories. (Though, neither one took home a trophy.) In fact, five of the past six ceremonies, African Americans have been nominated in one of the four acting categories. The 2011 Academy Awards were the last all white Oscars.

The about face from the past three years is extremely disappointing, especially when it becomes clear that the Academy is largely made of white men. According to the Los Angeles Times, the makeup of eligible voters is mostly white (94 percent) men (77 percent) with an average age of 62.

Those voting are clearly not in sync with those watching (or starring in) movies. Maybe if they just watched Selma (or even Dear White People) they would have a clue.