The Oscar nominations arrived yesterday, and ongoing problems of representation are showing little sign of being solved.
The nominations are in, and we’re all so very tired. Another directing category with no women, another snub for The Farewell, the annual war movie, and Joker in the lead, what is it going to take to change?
After the BAFTAs disappointed with an unsettlingly white nominations list, people were rightfully angry. The BAFTAs even suggested that they are too, explaining how ‘the industry must change,’ seemingly forgetting that their awards are the industry, or at least a very big part of it.
But we all held out hope that the Oscars would do better, because they must. After years of backlash, including #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy altered its membership and promised change. There was hope, too, when Moonlight surprisingly picked up a deserved Best Picture win. Yet one year on from Green Book taking the top prize, that long-lasting change looks no closer.
This year’s nominations – in spite of one of the most varied fields of choice in years – brought with them another year of male directors and another year of white actors and actresses. Sure, Cynthia Erivo received a nomination for her performance in Harriet, but why do we only reward black performers when they play slaves?
Why have we ignored an incredible duel role from Lupita Nyong’o in Us, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, Kelvin Harrison Jr. in both Luce and Waves, Awkwafina in the hilarious and moving The Farewell, and Jennifer Lopez in Lorene Scafaria’s dazzling Hustlers? As has been pointed out of Lopez, she was hardly a leftfield, hidden, indie choice. She gave a brilliant performance in an acclaimed box office hit!
As you can see, this article could easily turn into a list of all the incredible people the Academy opted to ignore because they don’t fit into their very strict mould, so I’ll have to restrict myself. But it’s fair to say the Oscars performative diversity has not gone unnoticed.
After that historical and well-deserved win for Moonlight in 2017, a film about a young black teen coming to terms with his sexuality, it’s almost as though being told, ‘okay you’ve had your turn, back to normal now.’ It’s tossing us crumbs, it’s a cruel tease. To then award Green Book the following year, in which a black man’s story is told via a white protagonist, and then this year to snub any non-white stories completely? It’s becoming a not funny joke.
It’s never that these films aren’t there or that they aren’t good enough. Instead, a problematic voting system and pure ignorance are the ongoing culprits.
On the upside, at least: congratulations must be extended to Bong Joon Ho and Parasite, the first ever South Korean film to be nominated at the Academy Awards. Equally Rian Johnson’s Knives Out for Best Original Screenplay and Florence Pugh’s Best Supporting Actress nod for Little Women are brilliant to see.
It’s also encouraging to see the Oscars open up a little to genre films, seeing as though they historically have an aversion to horror, by nominating Jarin Blaschke for his cinematography work on The Lighthouse.
But it’s all a little bittersweet. In Greta Gerwig’s beautiful Little Women (rightly nominated for Best Picture, but where on the planet Earth is her directing nom?) the character of Amy March comments that stories are important because we write them. All are important, not just the small few that the Oscars deem fit. We must take the wins where we can, but never stop being vocal about what must change.
It’s going to take years to see it happen, but the more we support the work of independent filmmakers, women filmmakers, black filmmakers, asian filmmakers and anyone else who breaks the mould, the more likely it’ll come.
Like Issa Rae said as she read out the nominations, “congratulations to these men,” but it’s not good enough.
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