For a second year in a row, the nominees for the 2016 Academy
Awards were largely a pool of straight, white people. Most notably, not a
single black or LGBT person was nominated in the four acting categories while a
total of 20 straight-identifying, cisgender white people were recognized.
In addition to the lack of diversity in the acting
nominations, Straight Outta Compton, a story about the founding of
iconic rap group N.W.A.,was largely overlooked. The film picked up a
Best Original Screenplay nomination, but failed to get recognized for Best
Picture or any nominations in the music categories. The film was on the
Academy’s radar; it has earned several accolades, including a nomination for
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors
Guild Awards. Additionally, Creed director Ryan Coogler did not crack
the mostly white pool of nominees. The Revenant director, Alejandro G.
Iñárritu, who was also nominated and won last year for Birdman, is of
Meanwhile, transgender actress Mya Taylor, who would have
made history if nominated, was not recognized for her work in the
critically-acclaimed Tangerine. The Academy did, however, opt to
nominate last year’s Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne, for his portrayal of
transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl.
“One thing that has
become apparent to us as we look at this stuff, it seems that the TV Academy
has embraced what’s happening in the Trans movement with Transparent and Orange
is the New Black,” Mark Duplass told Varietywhen it launched an Oscar
campaign for Taylor and her co-star Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. “We feel that the
film Academy is a little behind on that front.”
As for gay nominees, Lily Tomlin (Grandma) and Sarah Paulson (Carol)
were also overlooked while filmmaker Todd Haynes, who was thought to be a
shoe-in for Carol, was snubbed in the
directing category. The film also failed to get nominated for Best Picture,
which it was largely considered to be a lock for.
“Of course it's disappointing,” Academy President Cheryl
Boone Isaacs told ET on Thursday. “[There were] a lot of tremendously good films.
There's Straight Outta Compton, Concussion, Creed, [2014’s] Dear White
People, Dope, OK? I hope this
isn't discouraging for anybody and for filmmakers in particular. You just keep
moving along. You keep out there. We will keep out there. We will keep pushing
that pedal. We're going to keep pushing it.”
Despite efforts to diversify, the demographic makeup of the
Film Academy is still predominantly older white men, and admission to become a
voting member of the Academy requires a personal recommendation from a current
member. Hollywood is notoriously an old boys club, and 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.
Color of Change, a civil rights group, immediately called out Isaacs and the Academy for its largely white membership,
which many believe has led to the lack of diverse nominations in the past.
“We would like to acknowledge and congratulate the
filmmakers behind Straight Outta Compton
and What Happened, Miss Simone who
picked up nods in Best Original Screenplay and Featured Documentary,
respectively. But as we all saw today, the Academy continues to have a problem
-- and the integrity and legitimacy of AMPAS is at stake if they don’t come up
with any answers,” Executive Director Rashad Robinson said in a statement. “It
just doesn't make sense that in a country where well over a third of the
population are people of color, our art and innovation continues to be ignored
by the Academy even as we make billions for their members. Though we commend Isaacs for finally admitting that there needs to be a diversity
initiative -- something she denied this time last year -- there are clear
loopholes in the process that without a sound plan will continue to yield the
same results year after year.”
All of this is a step back from two years ago, when the 86th
Academy Awards’ were celebrated with an incredibly diverse ceremony that 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, LGBT films Dallas Buyers
Club and Philomena were up for the top prizes.
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 Hollywood Reporter
reports that the Academy has made efforts to diversify its membership by
inviting Selma star David Oyelowo, Concussion actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Compton director
F. Gary Gray to join in July 2015. Isaacs also announced a new initiative
called A2020 to further encourage more opportunities for women and minorities.
However, some groups, like Color of Change, do not think it’s enough.
“Right now, AMPAS continues to rely on an ‘old boys'
network’ -- where only members can sponsor new members, and specifically a director
can only nominate directors, actors nominate actors, etc. This means that the
membership continues to rely on personal and social connections, giving no
indication that AMPAS still won't look 90% white and male 100 years from now no
matter what Boone Isaacs intentions may be,” Robinson said. “There is no reason
to believe that the people who keep the power structure going have any vested
interest in seeing something different.”
The 2016 Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, will air live on Sunday, Feb. 28 on ABC.