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A friend is boycotting the Academy Awards because his favourite film of 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, didn’t make the Oscar’s Best Picture list.
The awards, he says, aren’t relevant because they ignore genre movies and in this particular case, have snubbed the most financially successful film of the year. In fact, the old canard that the Academy doesn’t honour genre movies with Best Picture nods has been shot down this year with nominations for The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road.
The Oscar folks also gave The Force Awakens five nominations and in recent years Inception, Avatar, District 9, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Django Unchained have all earned top nods with LOTR taking home the gold.
Genre movies do just fine with the Academy. No need for C-3PO to cry little metal tears. To the Academy’s credit, not recognizing the year’s box office behemoth while giving Room, a modestly grossing movie, Best Picture, Actress, Directing and Adapted Screenplay nods, actually suggests the Academy will not be wowed by wheelbarrows of cash.
Perhaps the truth is that the Oscars, and awards shows in general, are only as relevant as you want them to be. Are they as important as the Republican debates? It’s all just show biz, so maybe. Ultimately, unless you’re an actor, a director or a shareholder in a nominated film the Oscars are probably not extremely significant to your life. I pay attention to them as a function of my job, and I enjoy them, but this year I’m on board with my friend but for different reasons.
I’m disappointed in Oscar’s failure to acknowledge diversity. For the second year in a row all 20 acting nominations went to white actors. To be clear I’m not implying the Academy is overtly racist. There are too many voters for there to be a conspiracy to keep actors of colour out of the headline categories. Have you ever gone to a restaurant with more than 10 people and tried to get everyone to agree on an appetizer for the table? It’s nearly impossible. Now imagine trying to arrange collusion between 6,000 members of the Academy. Totally hopeless.
So if it’s not a conspiracy why were stellar performances from Creed’s Michael B. Jordan, The Hateful Eight’s Samuel L. Jackson, Sicario’s Benicio Del Toro, Beasts of No Nation’s Idris Elba or any of Straight Outta Compton’s top line cast not nominated? I think it’s a combination of studio decision makers, who tend to be white, male and older coupled with the same demographic of voters at the Academy.
It’s a systemic issue being addressed by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ effort to mould the Academy’s membership to be more in line with the population.
Until the Oscars represent the full width and breadth of the best in Hollywood, regardless of race or gender, they will continue to slide toward irrelevancy. My guess is that the most interesting part of this year’s ceremony won’t be who wins Best Actor but host Chris Rock’s opening monologue, which, if the movie gods prevail, will address the situation in no uncertain terms. It’s a speech I’m predicting will be just as entertaining and provocative as any of the nominees, Star Wars: The Force Awakens included.