After ‘Moonlight,’ Oscar Season Faces Another Diversity Roadblock

Oscars 2018: Will It Be #OscarsSoWhite
Andrew H. Walker/REX/Shutterstock

On the heels of a landmark year for diversity at the Academy Awards, the upcoming season may be hurtling toward an  #OscarsSoWhite scenario once again.

Other than Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Reginald Hudlin’s “Marshall” — all more likely to be fringe possibilities rather than the heavy hitters “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” were last year — contenders from filmmakers of color are going to be lacking.

F. Gary Gray (“The Fate of the Furious”) and Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) will have blockbusters in the marketplace, but they aren’t expected to be Oscar players.

On the acting front, Jason Mitchell is in the mix for “Mudbound,” as well as Kathryn Bigelow’s untitled Detroit project, which also features John Boyega and Anthony Mackie. Chadwick Boseman could make a case for his work as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.” Daniel Kaluuya and Betty Gabriel would be inspired considerations for “Get Out,” while Idris Elba — passed over for a “Beasts of No Nation” nomination the year #OscarsSoWhite really took hold — could be someone to watch in Hany Abu-Assad’s “The Mountain Between Us.”

But again, the thread runs out rather quickly. And that’s to say nothing of the lacking representation from Latino and Asian filmmakers and stars, etc.

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Last season saw many exciting firsts: A film with a predominantly black cast, from a black writer/director, won best picture (“Moonlight”); seven actors of color were nominated; two won (Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis); a black film editor was nominated (Joi McMillon); an African-American cinematographer was nominated (Bradford Young); a black female documentary director was nominated (Ava DuVernay); and three black producers were nominated for best picture.

Elsewhere, three other black filmmakers were nominated for documentary. Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney became just the third and fourth black screenwriters to win. Jenkins was only the fourth best director nominee ever. It was, all in all, a banner year at the Oscars for inclusion on the screen and behind the camera.

This year? Barring any unforeseen acquisitions that change the landscape, it’s going to feel like a backslide. Currently stirring awards buzz are movies from Todd Haynes (“Wonderstruck”), Alexander Payne (“Downsizing”), Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (“Battle of the Sexes”), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) and Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”).

Moreover, the paltry list of names mentioned at the top pretty much makes the point about the industry status quo being the culprit. Despite the Academy’s dramatic gestures in cleaning its own house, nothing will change as long as the pool from which voters are asked to pull is so comparatively small.

Two thousand sixteen may have been a high-water mark for diversity, but it was by no means a victory lap.

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  1. Jimmy Simard says:

    Not that whining again… Good fricking Lord, the Oscars aren’t an “everybody’s a winner” competition.

  2. anthonyi says:

    the lack of contenders that may be diverse may be because of the lack of quality contenders. affermative action for the academy awards ? give me a break . if the films are good they deserve to be there. you shouldnt push garbage to the top because a group isnt represented.

  3. Pedro says:

    You seemed to have equated diversity to Black yet again. There will be plenty of films where latinos, Asians and many other ethnicities will direct and star. Stop with #OscarsSoBlackAndWhite

  4. sandra says:

    this site blows…nothing but race this race that, whites are evil, trump bad….samantha bee and lena dunham that…….complete bull, and i can see that all the way over here in europe.
    i believed this was a entertainment site, guess not…it’s mostly political

    • Vicki Takacs says:

      sandra Everything but everything here is pc. The Liberals have ruined this country. We have fake news, fake movies, fake government, fake healthcare, and fake people.

  5. Lymon DeKokonut says:

    How about giving awards for TALENT and not skin color.

    • Vicki Takacs says:

      The Academy Awards are too “pc” for me, along with MTV and commercials, just to name a few. Talent has no place in Hollywood anymore so they won’t be getting ticket money from me. They can’t even cast characters the way authors portrayed them in books.

    • Just FYI, any and every version of this particular comment when it comes to this particular conversation makes the person saying it seem incredibly dense as the point of the discussion sails right past them.

      LOVE the username, though.

      • Jimmy Simard says:

        Just like every article on that subject make Variety sound like a SJW dumb pamphlet and not the great cinema informations source it was some time ago.

  6. GUEST says:

    If Mr. Tapley believed in diversity, he would resign from his job so it could be given to a person of color. You would criticize a christian who didn’t tithe the ten percent, so live what you say you believe. Your privileged white male perspective doesn’t lend anything worthwhile to diversity issues.

    • Vicki Takacs says:

      What planet do you live on? White males support most of the world and most are not privileged, but you keep right on whinging about them and maybe they will give you that too.

  7. Anna says:

    I understand the difficulty with the majority of Hollywood writers and producers hating Christians and black America and latino America being 98% Christian. Kind of hard to atheist wash that and keep any believably.

  8. Tender Puppy! says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Mary J. Blige. Isn’t she considered one of the top early contenders in the supporting actress race? I hope MUDBOUND could generate the same type of momentum that MOONLIGHT and other indies from festivals obtained, because it sounds terrific. That film, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (perhaps only a contender for Hammer and screenplay, Idk..), + DARKEST HOUR are 3 of my most anticipated thus far. (It’s early, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Oldman wins the Oscar. Would be great to see KST nominated, and Hurt obtain one final nod as well.) Back on track though, I know Hedlund is widely discussed as a possible nominee (unclear whether he’ll be campaigned lead or supporting), but Blige has received much praise. So immediately, I began to think, perhaps they’re going to push her to repeat Mo’Nique’s successful trajectory? We shall see, I guess, how they campaign this film and whether it will go the way of MOONLIGHT, or fall short like other highly praised features such as ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (which I loved).

    • Tender Puppy! says:

      For what it’s worth, DUNKIRK, THE GLASS HOUSE, Bigelow’s Detroit Riots project, P.T. Anderson’s London Fashion movie, and MOLLY’S GAME (rooting for Chastain) are also on my most anticipated list. The crop this year looks promising.

  9. spencer shannon says:

    This is getting ridiculous Who ever turns in the finest work should be in “THE GOLDEN RACE”

    • Sean C. says:

      Er, nobody was saying otherwise. The point is that Hollywood doesn’t give non-white actors the same volume (even on a percentage basis) of platforms to turn in the finest work.

  10. If I may, Taika Waititi isn’t black. In fact, he’s of Jewish heritage and his father is of a Polynesian culture off New Zealand. I’m not sure if that was your intention to group him as such but based on the order of filmmakers you mentioned, that’s what I gathered from your article in the way he’s placed dead smack in the list of black filmmakers and actors. With all due respect of course.

    • Of course he’s not. The preceding sentence ends with: “…contenders from filmmakers of color are going to be lacking.” Wouldn’t you consider a filmmaker of partial Maori descent to be a filmmaker of color?

      • And just to make sure I don’t come off as antagonistic, I only say this to enforce your point of distinguishing those of color so each of their culture’s is vividly represented. Waiti is a very special mix there and he’s left quite an impression with his first few films so “Thor: Ragnarok” could be the one that gets his name out there where he could get award attention down the line. So, in defending your point for a need for diversity…let it be known what a unique director you have there! :)

      • I would but the subtext of your article flow implies otherwise. The entire first half of your article speaks strictly of black and African-American actors and filmmakers before then switching to other nationalities with the sentence “But again, the thread runs out rather quickly. And that’s to say nothing of the lacking representation from Latino and Asian filmmakers and stars, etc.” followed by mentioning all the first black winners at the last Oscar show. So while you say “filmmakers of color”, your entire article speaks only of black artists so putting Waiti in the dead center of it is just somewhat confusing as not everyone is going to look all these names up or is familiar with most of these people like I am but that’s because avidly follow movies. I say it with respect that someone might take it the wrong way that you essentially grouped him with list of black filmmakers and actors which some might consider insensitive. I know he’s not black, not everyone else will.

      • To your point, Dee Rees and Reginald Hudlin are less familiar to general readers than Waititi, and they lead off the “filmmakers of color” section. I’m good with it. I think you’re over-thinking it. But no worries, no antagonism taken.

      • Perhaps I am, but if the argument is fighting for diversity, I’d say that, as the writer of this article, you should point out the diversity of filmmakers you have there. Have an excellent weekend sir.

  11. thatsfeffedup says:

    Give me a break. The industry is cyclical. People are getting jobs, and we’ll paying ones if they’re in “less quality” blockbusters. Stop muckraking on the subject and wait to see how the year plays out. Christ, the Oscars were barely a month ago, do we already need to start worrying?

  12. Jan Erik Kollstrøm says:

    As a foreign viewer the fact that unconscionable crap like Hidden Figures and a nothing movie like Fences can be nominated for Oscars and people see this as a success is insane. Moonlight is the only “diverse” nominated movie that deserved a nomination (Loving was very good too) but probably not the win (though it is no scandal that it did win, the good parts were great). The problem is of course that great diverse movies generally are not made in Hollywood today and awarding undeserving movies solves nothing; it makes people feel good but if this makes for example Denzel think that he is a good director you will have done him a disservice and make it less likely that he will become a good director and learn from his mistakes…

  13. Desirae says:

    If there are a lack of films with black actors to nominate than it doesn’t sound like it’s the academy’s fault. It’s Hollywood’s fault.

  14. cadavra says:

    Thank you for correctly observing that the fault isn’t the Academy’s, but of the studios who continue to ignore minorities in movies. Though to be sure, when the movie-going public turns its collective nose up at quality films like RACE, SELMA, GET ON UP, etc., can the studios be blamed for playing it “safe?”

    • Sean C. says:

      Selma made $52 million domestic. It was quite successful for an adult drama, particularly one that didn’t end up getting much awards heat. Race and Get On Up don’t merit being mentioned in the same breath as Selma; they were dismissed by critics.

      • cadavra says:

        Meanwhile, in the real world, RACE scored 60% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, while GET ON UP was way up at 80%. Doesn’t sound like “dismissed by critics” to me.

      • Sean C. says:

        60% on RT is not a good score.

        80% is, though its average rating was 6.9/10 (I see it had a 71% on Metacritic, which is a solid rating). So on the latter case, I’d say it had decent reviews; I had misremembered there.

  15. tlsnyder42 says:

    Oscars are terrible. They nominate movies that the American public doesn’t really like or want. They nominate fringe movies unworthy of an Oscar statue. If black directors are making blockbusters, why NOT consider those blockbusters as contenders for best picture. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR was clearly one of the top five movies of the year. It should have been nominated and been a major contender, but the Academy went with their politically correct leftist lunacy and picked a movie about some boy confused about his God-given destiny and his inherent heterosexual nature (Biology 101: Man + Woman produce Child = Family). Instead of supporting the Family, the Academy members are adopting the Anti-Family, Christophobic, Anti-American, and anti-capitalist stance of the communist infiltrators and leftist liars in our midst. Hollywood should follow the Bible and the United States Constitution instead of the radical rants of the Frankfurt School and the corrupt Neo-Marxist and fascist crypto-communists leading the “Democratic” Party. They say they support free speech, but that’s not really true. They only let YOU talk if they agree with you!

  16. Haz says:

    It’s not even April for crying out loud!

  17. LV says:

    Can people please stop thinking that when a movie has a black actor or when an award ceremony has a black winner then it’s considered diverse?! Black people only represent black people. They don’t represent other ethnic groups. There are so many out there: Asians, Indian, Middle Eastern, Arabians, South American, etc.

  18. I hope variety edits my comment to be grammatically correct. “Is Hollywood gonna lower the bar to get them contending??? Hmm…”

  19. The funny part is, there’s a number of “black films” like Slight and Imperial Dreams coming out, but the fact of the matter fact is, they are not Oscar worthy. Will Hollywood gonna lower the bar to get them contending??? Hmm…

  20. Pedro says:

    This article represents a lot of what is wrong in diversity: ‘diversity’ doesn’t just mean ‘Black’.

  21. The problem isn’t the Oscars are so white they should pick movies and actors because there are black people in them, it’s they clearly were overlooking performances pf people of color. That was the issue.

  22. Awards based on skin color ….

    Seems like a bad way to go.

  23. harsh parmar says:

    P.T.Anderson’s film would be a contender too.

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