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I'm Dreaming of a White Oscars

What does Stephen Hawking, the godfather of computer science, a hotel manager breaking out from prison during the first World War, a young boy and his family growing up through 12 years and the battle of wills between a aspiring musician and his near-abusive professor have in common? On the surface, these are different films ranging in different subjects. But when you look at the people who stared, wrote and directed these various movies, A few patterns begin to emerge:

1. The cast is predominately white.

2. The story mostly centers on a male protagonist.

3. The filmmakers behind the project are white and male.

And all of those films I've mentioned: The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood and Whiplash - have all been nominated for Best Picture for this year's 87th annual Academy Awards.

Before I go any further, I just want to say that this is not an attack on the films themselves. Most of the films mentioned I really enjoyed and deeply admired. My frustrations are being laid out to on the Academy members themselves, who simply didn't include any persons of color or gender to this year's nomination ceremony.

Let's start with the most egregious snub of all, Best Director:

Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater - Boyhood
Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum - The Imitation Game

In the 87 year-history of the Academy, there has never been a woman of color nominated for Best Director Oscar. There have only been four female directors to have been nominated for the honor: Lina Wertmuller in 1978 for Seven Beauties; Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano; Sofia Coppola in 2003 for Lost in Translation; and Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for The Hurt Locker; the latter of which finally broke over and won the prize. Simply put: a black woman has never been nominated for the prize, and the Acadey could have made history by nominating Ava DuVernay's brilliant, urgent, angry and hopeful civil rights drama Selma. I say this, not because she is a woman of color and therefore, should be included, but because her direction was more than worthy to be nominated for the award. Yes, she took some historical liberties detailing the relationship between Dr. King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson when it came to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but then again, all directors have to take certain liberties to fit a dramatic narrative. Without conflict, there is no drama, period. Spielberg took liberties with Schindler's List, and he wasn't brutally attacked people people who outright said that the film should be banned from awards season. Hell, if any one of the four directors had done what DuVernay had done, the outrage wouldn't be as bad or as loud as it was. I'm happy for Bennett Miller getting in, but if the choice came to Tyldum and DuVernay, the clear choice would be DuVernay. Extremely disappointing Oscar couldn't see it.

Now, onto Best Actor:

Steve Carrell - Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton - Birdman or(The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

I get this has been another competitive race for five slots, but again, I feel Oscar fucked up. Did they not see David Oyelowo's transformative and magnetic performance as Dr. King and not think "this one's a no-brainer - lock him up for Best Actor!"? It might have been an uphill battle to knock off Keaton, but hell, it would have been an excellent inclusion. And let's just ignore Chadwick Boesman's terrific performance as the Godfather of Soul in the musical biopic Get on Up, because, sadly, not enough people bothered to watch it. I like Bradley Cooper, but are you fucking kidding me??? Same with Redmayne, but that's just I feel Theory is the most overrated movie to come out of Awards season, and it sucks even more that Jake Gyllenhaal got snubbed for his career-best performance as creepy sociopath Lou Bloom in Nightcralwer. 

Best Actress:

Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore - Still Alice
Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon - Wild

All I'm going to say on the matter is this - Gugu. Mbatha. Raw. They probably haven't heard of her, despite having a huge breakout year with two excellent films in Belle and Beyond the Lights.

In fact, if you go down the list of Supporting Actor and Actress, you'll notice one disturbing pattern: there isn't a person of color anywhere. In fact, it hasn't been this whitewashed since 1995. Despite living in 21st century America, where minorities are making strides, having more serious conversations about domestic violence, feminism and gender equality, etc, it's troubling that the Academy simply doesn't reflect what's going on in our society, due to being stuck in what they like as films and as art, or because they simply have their collective heads shoved up their ass.


  1. I really really liked Selma, and especially what David Oyelowo brought to it. Especially when you consider he's British, he mastered that southern drawl and he brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to life. I also want to give credit to how great Carmen Ejogo, Oprah Winfrey, and my favorite of the female performances, Lorraine Toussaint.

    I would have nominated Chadwick Boseman also. He had to do almost everything in Get on Up, the dancing, yelling, singing (or at least, I think he sang), and showing every range of emotion. If that's not Oscar worthy, then I don't know what is...

  2. That's partly it, that they are forgetting what's worthy. We watch as many films as we can, this is what they should be doing. Campaigns and negative journalism are making voters lazy. Not enough original honest thoughts and diversity.

    Great piece though Jonathan. I'm still compiling my 2014 lists and Gugu Mbatha-Raw is mentioned as are others the Academy don't have the capacity to acknowledge. Shameful.


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