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Oscars 2020: Did The Academy Do Enough To Silence ‘White Oscars’ Critics?

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On screen, Hollywood has embraced diversity. However, the progress is slower behind the curtain. In recent years, the Oscars Academy has been making efforts to present itself as gender-balanced, racially-inclusive, as well as younger. However, when John Cho and Issa Rae announced the nominations for the 92nd Oscars on January 13, the reality was different.

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) was the only non-white actor out of the twenty acting nominations. For the directing slot, Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) was the ‘odd’ one. None of the five directing nominations was a woman. In a sublime show of disgust, Rae said, “Congratulations to those men”. Inasmuch as there is no front runner in the campaign, Hollywood has a diversity problem.

The first public outburst of this unequal representation was in 2015 when #OscarsSoWhite trended on Twitter. That year, there was not a single non-white actor nominee in all of the four acting categories. The trend repeated the following year. The actors are not oblivious to this problem. While accepting a BAFTA award, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) said,

“I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I don’t think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, although that’s what we give ourselves every year. However, I think people want to be appreciated and respected for their work.”

The probable cause of the problem

When it comes to the Oscars Academy, nominations and who wins boils down to who votes. However, the composition of the Academy member is still predominantly white, old, and male. Thus, the decision-making process is largely a matter of taste and preference. With this category of judges having the numbers, it is easy to predict where the mallet will strike. DeVon Franklin, an African-American film producer and one of the three governors at-large on the Academy’s board of total 54 governors view it from a different angle. He said,

“No matter what, getting an Oscar nomination is a huge achievement. Every year, with every awards show, there are always going to be surprises and snubs. This season was no exception. For me, they are a reminder that there is still more change to be done for the industry at-large.”

However, in a desperate bid to ensure diversity of equal representation, the temptation of tokenism has to be avoided. If this happens, genuine recognition based on merit will gradually fade away. Consequently, this will create far bigger problems. Inasmuch as recent data shows that the industry is more diverse than ever, it is hard to tell if the nominations are based on merit or the ‘white preference’ of the predominantly white judges.

Did Oscars Academy do enough to silence the critics?

On Sunday 9th February 2020, the 92nd annual Academy Awards was held. Unlike many expected, the biggest winner of the night was South Korean movie, ‘Parasite’. The movie was nominated in six categories including the ‘Best Picture’ which is considered the biggest for the night. Consequently, ‘Parasite’ won four out of the six nominations including ‘Best Original Screenplay’, ‘Best International Film’, ‘Best Director’, and ‘Best Picture’. The director, Bong Joon Ho, could not hide his joy as he was caught staring lustfully at the award. It is the first time that a non-English movie was winning the biggest award at the Oscars. He said,

“When I was in school I would always study Martin Scorsese films. Just to be nominated is a huge honor. I never imagined I would win.”

Another category that tried to encourage diversity was the ‘Best Animated Short’. The award went to ‘Hair Love’. The short animation is practically about how to style the natural black hair. Black hair is often seen as not beautiful. This stereotype affects how young African women view themselves. Many go to great lengths to kill the natural kink. Receiving the award, Matthew A Cherry and Karen Rupert Oliver said,

“There are so many filmmakers that worked on this. And it was a labor of love and it was because we have a firm belief that representation matters deeply especially in cartoons. Because, in cartoons, that is how first we see our movies and shape our lives—and how we see the world.”

Unlikely Presenters

It seems the Oscars Academy desperately wanted to make amends for its racial exclusion. Perhaps, this affected their choice of presenters, talking about Steve Martin and Chris Rock. The duo did not disappoint. Joke after joke, they got their audience reeling in laughter. The duo took turns to pick on some of the guests including Jeff Bezos and made them the butt of their joke. Maybe, some people might say that this was enough to wipe the ‘sins’ of the Academy.

All the Oscars Award Categories and Winners

While the issue of diversity seems to have a business undertone, we would like to hear your opinion. Do you think the Oscars Academy did enough to silence their critics? Please, leave your thoughts in the comment box below. In case you missed the award, here is a recap of all the award categories and winners. You can also see a short video of all the winners and their acceptance speech.

Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite

Best Actress

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Best Director

Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

Best Supporting Actress

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Animated Feature

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Best Animated Short

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Best Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

Best Live Action Short

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

Best Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite

Best Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

Documentary Short

In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Cha-Cha

Sound Editing

Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford v. Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Best International Feature Film

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Misérables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

Best Original Score

Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Best Original Song

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You,” Breakthrough
“Into the Unknown,” Frozen II
“Stand Up,” Harriet

Watching the award winners, did you feel Oscars deserve to do more in terms of diversity or do you think the Academy did enough to silence their critics? Let us know your opinion in the comment box below.

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