By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced and almost immediately #OscarsSoWhite started trending on Twitter. That’s because the nominations look about as white as a wedding cake.
Only two of the 20 nominations for acting went to people of color. Only two of the nine best picture nominees were directed by a woman or person of color. There were no women nominated for best director. The United States, meanwhile, is made up of 50% women and 40% people of color.
This isn’t an issue of affirmative action. People aren’t pleading for the Oscars to feature movies and performances by non-white non-males for the sake of representation — there were legitimately good movies made that should be recognized on merit.
“Little Women” was directed by Greta Gerwig and was a crowning achievement in adapting one of the most popular books of the last few centuries to film. Awkwafina earned the best performance by an actress in a motion picture – musical or comedy award at the Golden Globes but failed to garner a nomination for the Oscars.
In 2016, the Academy set a goal to double the number of diverse members by 2020, but according to CNBC and The New York Times, as of just last year, the 9,000-member body was made up of just 32% women and 16% people of color. That was up from 25% and 8% in 2015.
The most confusing part of these nominations is the praise for “Parasite.” Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely think it is deserving of all the praise it has gotten, but why has a film from South Korea, built on and around the performances of minorities, broken through, but not performances like Awkwafina’s or Lupita Nyong’o’s from “Us”? The Oscars also shut out the acting performances from “Parasite” while nominating its director, so let’s not get too excited.
The increase in Academy representation just hasn’t translated into more nominations. People make fun of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts due to its history of discrimination, but the Oscars are well on their way to that kind of ridicule.
So where does the Academy go from here? Last year the ratings for the awards show went up for the first time in five years. Much of that was due to the intrigue behind a hostless Oscars — who knows how well the same stunt will work a second time? Without a host to drive popularity and without diversity on their side, my best guess is that the Academy is in for a walloping.
The Academy needs to come around to the times. Find a good host — maybe even someone funny. It needs to start nominating movies and performances that matter. All of them. It also needs to recognize movies people care about. The highest ratings of the past 25 years were when Titanic won best picture in ‘98. Can you imagine the buzz if “Avengers Endgame,” the highest-grossing film ever, was nominated now?
It’s time for the Oscars to take a step forward. Even if it won’t jump into the 2020s, it can at least come to the 21st century.