88th Academy Awards: A Blast From the Past


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Chris Rock hosts the 88th Academy Awards on Feb. 28, 2016, in Hollywood. The Oscars broadcast did not see a significant decline in African-American viewers from 2015.

Carlos Almeida, Staff Writer

The 88th Academy Awards was the center of  much heated debate, with focus shifting from colors besides gold.

When the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced on January 16, there were protests concerning the diversity of the nominees, especially in the acting categories. This year’s 88th Academy Awards seemed to not only carry the criticism of the lack of diversity of the nominees in 2016, but also the criticism from the previous year’s Oscars.

This year’s Academy Awards seemed to parallel last year’s as the criticism focused mainly on the Best Picture, Best Director, and acting categories.

In the Best Picture category, it was last year’s Oscar nominee Selma, that paralleled this year’s Oscar snub Straight Outta Compton. Both films featured a predominantly African-American cast, and both dealt with key moments in America’s history concerning African-American freedom. While Selma focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to bring freedom and equality to African-Americans, Straight Outta Compton focused on the beginnings of N.W.A and their search for freedom in the form of music. Both films were heavily talked about in the news concerning the Best Picture nomination, but only Selma received that nomination, while there was backlash from Straight Outta Compton’s snub, despite its nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

In the Best Director category, there was some backlash concerning Ryan Coogler’s snub in the category for directing the film that revived the Rocky series, Creed. Similarly last year, the Academy faced some criticism concerning Ava Duvernay’s lack of a nomination for directing Selma. Though both directors had large expectations to fulfill, Duvernay in having to capture the legacy and impact of one man into less than three hours, and Coogler in having to revitalize a Best Picture winning series that some believed has overstayed its welcome, there are only five nominations, and the criticism seemed to be focused more on the director’s skin color than their expertise.

In the acting categories, many viewed Will Smith’s performance in Concussion, as well as Idris Elba’s performance in Beasts of No Nation, to be Oscar worthy. Just as David Oyelowo’s snub for his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma received criticism, so did these. Will Smith’s performance as a doctor challenging the NFL to save the lives of its players, and Idris Elba’s performance as the Commandant of rebel soldiers in Africa were seen by many as Oscar worthy performances, all four acting categories were full of ‘white’ actors.

Though some may argue the Academy is biased towards actors, directors, and other Hollywood workers of color,  one must look at the heft of the performances and directors themselves. Will Smith’s performance in Concussion against Leonardo’s Oscar winning performance in The Revenant shows Leo’s full embodiment of the character and the physical and emotional acting Leo gives versus Will Smith’s accent. Similarly in the Best Supporting Actor category, Idris Elba embodies the accent and role of a commandant, but winner Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies adds multiple layers to his performance and turns a foreign spy into a sympathetic character.

In conclusion, before jumping to one conclusion on why an actor, screenwriter, director, etc. does not get nominated, one must view  it beyond one spectrum.