Let’s get down to it.
The Oscar noms are always a bit of a mess. In 2016, in response to the #OscarsSoWhite movement started by April Reign, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its intention to revamp its voting body to better reflect public identity and opinion. It planned to invite 683 potential new members to join its ranks, individuals who hailed from or identified with marginalized communities — people of colour, women, so on and so forth.
Now, nearly four years on, has that revamp brought forth any real fruit of change?
Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in Us was easily one of the most talked-about showings of the year for any work of media in any genre. In Jordan Peele’s doppelgänger thriller, Nyong’o pulled double duty as sensitive protagonist Adelaide and her chillingly hostile shadow, Red. She did so with flawless strength and grace, turning in a harrowing, nuanced performance for the ages.
Disappointingly, Nyong’o’s outstanding achievement was snubbed in the Oscars’ Leading Actress category, a group that doled out recognition to a bevy of white women and Cynthia Erivo. A Black British actress who has come under fire for her elitism against Black Americans while enjoying a slew of awards attention for playing an iconic Black American character.
Like the conversation that surrounded 12 Years a Slave’s (2013) awards recognition, it’s especially glaring that the Academy chose to, yet again, heap what little dues it reserves for Black art onto works centred on Black pain. Despite Nyong’o’s impressively layered performance (in a Black-made movie based on a truly unique concept), she didn’t receive any sort of recognition at all.
Parasite was a hot Internet favourite but still a relative underdog, so its six nominations were a pleasant surprise (including Best Picture and Best Director for Bong Joon-Ho).
However, it must be noted that all the Parasite actors’ names were conspicuously absent from all the acting categories despite outstanding performances from the entire cast, especially Song Kang-ho and Park “Jessica. Only Child. Illinois, Chicago” So-dam.
The nominations for Joker and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood are so undeserved, it’s almost astounding.
Joker was a mess, full of pacing problems and a severe lack of real plot progression and character development. A case can certainly be made for lead actor Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, but the movie somehow managed a nomination for Adapted Screenplay — for a script where nothing actually happens.
All award shows and voting bodies need to face up to their chronic, long-standing problem that can only be described as professional nepotism. It speaks volumes that a film as devoid of both emotional and intellectual impact as Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood received as much attention as it did, and it can only be concluded that the sole reason for this is the name attached to it. If Tarantino’s name were nowhere to be found on this project, no doubt the awards attention paid to it would have been significantly reduced.
Lastly, the biggest and arguably most-discussed issue with the Oscars and every other awards show nominations this season: the sidelining and outright rejection of women directors.
Little Women director Greta Gerwig was, for the second time, nominated for Best Picture but snubbed in the Best Director category. It’s starting to become a pattern, and one can’t help but ask: Why is the Academy so averse to recognising Gerwig’s individual achievement as a filmmaker, even as they give her work itself its due recognition?
With The Farewell, Lulu Wang created one of 2019’s most heartfelt films. Snubbed.
Olivia Wilde reinvented the buddy comedy genre with the hilarious, thought-provoking coming-of-age film Booksmart. Snubbed.
Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria, Honey Boy’s Alma Har’el, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’s Marielle Heller.
All solid works helmed by women, all worthy of achievement and recognition. All snubbed.
For all the Academy’s promises of change and progression, year after year, its “revamped” voting body seems to be exercising the exact same ideals and values it has for decades.
Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the Oscars aren’t just “so white,” but also overwhelmingly male, pale and stale — and for all their talk, it seems that they want and intend to stay that way.
Edited By: Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka