×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars: With Massive Invite List, Academy Redirects Diversity Debate

This year’s robust class of Academy invitees is an exciting first step in addressing the industry’s diversity problem. Yet it’s one already being criticized in some quarters, with the rage pendulum having swung from “too exclusive!” to “too inclusive!”

Certain names, whether they made their mark in television or trigger a “too soon” response, are already being targeted. But you can’t really point a finger at presumably dubious choices while acting like the bar for inclusion hasn’t been notably low for long stretches of the Academy’s history, stretches some might say have led to the org’s currently problematic social makeup.

You also can’t argue that TV-heavy resumes ought to rule out inclusion. TV is where the opportunities are. Should working artists with the kind of worldview sorely needed in the Academy really be punished for that? Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs long ago said the org “is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.” What did you expect?

But these arguments are really beside the point. It’s silly to hold your measuring stick for merit against the Academy’s, though it is entirely fair to note that the Academy has pretty much shaken off the onus of owning the #OscarsSoWhite scandal in one fell swoop, and that that is, by definition, public relations.

With the inclusion of 683 names (the most ever by more than double), 283 of them “international members” from 59 different countries, the Academy has opted for a big splash. But they also want to make sure you understand the metrics that make it more like a drop in the bucket.

The new class is 46% female, 41% people of color, and the Academy has very explicitly laid out what that means to its membership bottom line — i.e., not much. Overall female representation climbed by a mere two percentage points, while people of color moved three percent.

Part of that, it should be noted, is because this was less an infusion than an acceleration. After all, the number of white males granted entry this year far outpaces any other year. But regardless of that fact, it would be difficult to point to too many names representative of “diversity” that ought to be invited at this point.

With that in mind, let’s flash forward to January. What happens if…

Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation,” despite a big Sundance splash and a year-long campaign of educational screenings and appearances, fails to make the Academy’s best picture nominations list. Parker and his cast, including buzzed contenders like Aunjanue Ellis and Aja Naomi King, don’t crack the acting ranks. Yet another film proves it can’t transcend the Park City bubble.

“Moonlight” — an indie from Barry Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy”) with a heartfelt push by A24, hot off the success of “Room” — slides out as well. Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, they never quite break out beyond Gotham and Spirit Awards recognition.

Despite a swell of top notices out of Cannes, Ruth Negga misses the cut for Jeff Nichols’ low-key “Loving.” Will Smith, in a comedy from the director of soft-but-pleasing fare that never translates to awards, is passed over for “Collateral Beauty” (sorry, Jada).

Maybe Denzel Washington’s “Fences” catches a stride on the back of revered source material, with Viola Davis and Washington himself turning up lead acting notices — but maybe not. Maybe Paramount does what it can to balance a big slate that also includes films from Martin Scorsese, Robert Zemeckis and Denis Villeneuve in addition to Washington’s adaptation, but can only do so much.

(All of this before getting to the fact that females end up grossly, as always, underrepresented in the directing, writing, cinematography, sound and visual effects categories.)

I haven’t seen any of these films, but I already empathize with them greatly. The spotlight could not be harsher and the expectation could not be more loaded. If they make the Oscar cut, some will no doubt argue it comes at the cost of a meritocracy. “The Affirmative Action Oscars.” If they don’t, the Academy is somehow yet again to blame — or at least that’s the talking point corpse the media will attempt to reanimate.

If indeed next year’s list of Oscar nominees is deemed far too beige once again, despite the efforts of the Academy to change its internal makeup, then will the crosshairs finally fall on the root of the problem? Will the idea that the industry itself is the actual #SoWhite culprit take hold? Or will we play the hashtag game all over again?

I’d say this was a pretty definitive “not it” from Isaacs’ Academy.

More Film

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA Plans March 25 Member Vote on Talent Agency Rules

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America plan a March 25 vote for members to decide whether to implement tough new restrictions on how Hollywood talent agencies as operate as agents for writer clients. The vote comes as the guild is in the midst of pitched negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents to renew [...]

  • Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'Wandering

    Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'Wandering Earth'

    Global streaming giant, Netflix has bought rights to “The Wandering Earth,“ the smash hit film which is pitched as China’s first mainstream sci-fi movie. The film was the sleeper hit of Chinese New Year — it opened in fourth position on Feb. 5 — but climbed to the top spot and has not yet relinquished [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan's Hitman Drama 'Silver Bear' Gets Director

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan’s “The Silver Bear” finds a director, biopic “Running for My Life” is in the works, Fox is using new trailer compliance software and the 14-hour “La Flor” gets distribution. DIRECTOR ATTACHMENT Gerard McMurray, director of “The First Purge,” will write and direct Michael B. Jordan’s thriller “The [...]

  • Kevin Costner Diane Lane

    Kevin Costner, Diane Lane to Reunite in Suspense Thriller 'Let Him Go'

    Focus Features has tapped Kevin Costner and Diane Lane to star as a husband and wife in the suspense thriller “Let Him Go.” The two also collaborated on “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” as the parents of Superman. Thomas Bezucha (“The Family Stone”) is set to direct his own screenplay, [...]

  • Chris Hemsworth Hulk Hogan

    Chris Hemsworth to Play Hulk Hogan in Biopic for Netflix

    Netflix is in the early stages of developing a Hulk Hogan biopic with Chris Hemsworth attached to star as the wrestling legend and produce. Netflix has obtained the exclusive life rights and consulting services from Terry Gene Bollea AKA Hulk Hogan. Todd Phillips, whose credits include “War Dogs” and “The Hangover” trilogy, is attached to [...]

  • Rooftop Films Announces Filmmakers Fund Grant

    Rooftop Films Announces Filmmakers Fund Grant Winners

    Swedish documentary filmmaker Anastasia Kirillova and “Negative Space” co-directors Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter are among the filmmakers who will receive grants from Rooftop Films to help complete their upcoming projects. Kirilova will be awarded $20,000 to finish her film, “In the Shadows of Love,” while collaborators Kuwahata and Porter will receive $10,000 for “Dandelion [...]

  • Jim Gianopulos

    Paramount Chief Jim Gianopulos Unveils Diversity Initiative

    Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos has announced that all studio productions will be required to complete a plan to enhance diversity. Wednesday’s reveal follows Paramount’s commitment to participating in Time’s Up and Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s 4% Challenge. The name is derived from women having directed only 4% of the country’s top grossing movies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content