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article imageOp-Ed: Oscars ignore black talent but may finally reward DiCaprio

By Darragh Roche     Jan 15, 2016 in Entertainment
The Academy Award nominations were criticized again this year for snubbing black actors and directors. With the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending for a second year, is it time for change at the Academy?
The Academy Awards have failed to nominate any ethnic minority actors or directors in its premiere categories for a second year, earning outrage online and in newspaper columns. All 20 nominees for acting Oscars are white, despite a number of African-Americans in leading roles and successful movies with minority casts. #OscarsSoWhite is once again lighting up Twitter with jokes, outrage and some serious questions about the nominating process.
The failure to acknowledge any ethnic minority talent was widely predicted following last year's spectacular snow storm of nominees. The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore aired a segment the day before the nominations were released, accurately skewering how the Academy was about to overlook black contributions. Last year's public uproar has had no effect on Academy Awards voters. One major snub was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, despite its massive box office success.
A report by the Atlantic in 2014 revealed that Oscars voters were 94 percent white, overwhelmingly male and an average age of 63. The composition of Academy voters has hardly changed over the last two years.
A scene from  The Danish Girl
A scene from 'The Danish Girl'
Universal Pictures
The Academy has often been accused of elitism and sexism, failing to recognize women in innovative roles and instead rewarding stereotypical performances. Though there is some positive news from this year's nominations. Eddie Redmayne's nomination for Best Actor in The Danish Girl is a victory for transgender characters in mainstream entertainment. Redmayne won the gong last year for playing scientist Stephen Hawking in The Imitation Game, which may count against him this year. Leonardo DiCaprio has received a nod for The Revenant and as the most overlooked white actor in Hollywood, this might be DiCaprio's year to finally land that Oscar. That will at least put a popular Internet meme to an end. However much DiCaprio may deserve it, this year's best actor category is a strong field featuring audience-favourite Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame, Matt Damon's triumphant performance in The Martian and Michael Fassbender for his Steve Jobs biopic. The category would have benefited from Michael B. Jordan for his brilliant portrayal of a young boxer in Creed but he suffered the same snub as the rest of the non-white field.
The nominees for Best Actress have a striking homogeneity, though that's the theme of the year. Movie fans have jokingly pointed out that the Academy has picked five people who look like the same woman at different ages. Alicia Vikander will probably pip it for playing off Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. If Sylvester Stallone wins Best Supporting Actor for Creed it will only highlight the Michael B. Jordan's absence, while the smart money is on Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies, a Cold War drama where a cold jumps from actor to actor.
The last big question for this year's Oscars is if the Academy will give animation Inside Out the recognition it deserves. The Disney/Pixar movie starring comedian Amy Poehler is up for Best Original Screenplay, a prize is unquestionably deserves. The Academy has a history of snubbing American animation, no matter how critically acclaimed. If Disney's story about the emotional struggles of a little girl wins anything but Best Animated Feature Film, it will be a major achievement.
There will be disappointment at this year's Oscars just like every other year but the Academy's decisions have already left millions of fans feeling like the Academy voters are out of touch. Critical acclaim seems irrelevant to the rarefied grandees who draw up the nominations. It's hard to ignore the persistent lack of diversity with its uncomfortably racial tinge. Black actors seem to only win nominations when they play slaves or otherwise oppressed characters. Years of jilting Leonardo DiCaprio have dented the Academy's credibility almost as much as ignoring ethnic minorities and the Oscars' snobbish approach to popular movies like science fiction and animation re-enforce the argument that the voting process should be changed. In spite of the Oscars' many problems and gales of criticism, millions will still tune in to watch the 88th Academy Awards.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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