Oscars 2017: History made, but we're not done yet | Film

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By Claire

For the past three years, I have taken to writing my reactions to the Academy Award nominations, pointing out triumphs, snubs, and always arguing for more diversity/inclusivity in nominations. I do this, because I get very intense around awards season (say what you want about the high-brow elitism of award shows, Academy Awards nominations and wins literally define careers) and because the conversation needs to be had every single time.

The Academy Awards are considered the most prestigious of awards. Major studios and production companies look to what is and isn’t being nominated, what is and isn’t winning, to determine what type of films are worth investing in. In effect, if straight white male filmmakers continue to be celebrated, these are the stories that will continue to dominate the box office even though they do not accurately represent the world. There needs to be more recognition for inclusive stories being told authentically by the people who live their individual experiences.

Every year rightfully deserving inclusive performances and filmmaking are ignored by The Academy, and we need to call it out. Hopefully one day, things will improve.

In 2015 and 2016, The Academy Awards have been on the receiving end of #OscarsSoWhite backlash. In both of these years, out of all twenty acting nominations, all were white people. This is despite Ava DuVernay’s Selma being nominated for Best Picture in 2015. 

This year, four out of nine films nominated for Best Picture are about people of colour: Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Lion. After the last two years, this feat seems unimaginable. In response, many are quick to declare #OscarsSoWhite is no more.

Hidden Figures has received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting actress (Octavia Spencer, right)

For actors, the Supporting Actor category include Mahershala Ali for Moonlight and Dev Patel for Lion. Patel is only the third Indian actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. Following is Denzel Washington nominated for Lead Actor in Fences.

History is being made in the Supporting Actress category, with three out of five nominees being African American women. Viola Davis, making this her third Academy Award nomination and becoming the first AfricanAmerican woman to receive the honour, for Fences. Naomie Harris for Moonlight, and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures. As for Lead Actress, Ruth Negga is nominated for her role in Loving.

Other wins for inclusivity include Joi McMillion (Moonlight) who is the first African American woman to be nominated in the editing category.

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight, which has received eight Academy Award nominations

Ava DuVernay is the first African American female director to be nominated for Documentary Feature (13th, available on Netflix), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight),the first African American writer-director to be nominated individually for Best Director and Best Screenplay for a film which is also nominated for Best Picture, and Mica Levi, the only female composer nominated for Best Score for her work on Jackie.

However, with no women nominated for in the fictional direction or screenwriting categories, it seems we can only focus on combating one issue at a time.

This year is a triumph for African American filmmakers, actors and actresses, but we can’t be too quick to dispel #OscarsSoWhite.

In an article posted on USA Today, Maria Puente highlights that diversity is not a black-or-white issue. This year, we see no nominations for Latinas and Latinos. Dev Patel is the only one with an Asian background.

Dev Patel in Lion

This is not to mention the horrifying inclusion of Casey Affleck as a Lead Actor nominee and Mel Gibson for Best Director. Acknowledging and awarding sexual abusers and racist, sexist bigots does nothing to take the issue seriously, and perpetuates repeat offenders. Because as long as you’re white and famous (or come from a famous family: let’s be real Casey Affleck, no one knew who you were before this year), you can get away with anything. Lest we forget 2016’s Birth of a Nation director Nate Parker, who was ostracised for his sexual abuse allegations, despite his film being one of the most anticipated of the year. Yet now, no one has heard a thing about the film, and there is no mention of Nate Parker’s name anywhere near this award season. And it’s hard to accept this as anything but a race issue.

It was worse enough when Casey Affleck was awarded the Golden Globe for his performance in Manchester By the Sea. Presenter Brie Larson’s disdain for his win was clear when she begrudgingly handed over his award, but for Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu, this Academy Award nomination is the last straw. Taking to Twitter, Wu expressed her anger at the development, and I have got to say, I am with her all the way.

Brie Larson's face after announcing Casey Affleck's win at this years Golden Globes

Discussions of representation aside, I honestly feel Jackie should have been nominated for Best Picture, and while Hell or High Water is a decent film, it’s nomination slightly confuses me. Why is Meryl nominated For Lead Actress for Florence Foster Jenkins, but Amy Adams isn’t for Arrival?

Despite my personal connection to La La Land, I honestly hope it doesn’t win many awards. The film is not director Damien Chazelle’s, Emma Stone’s nor Ryan Gosling’s best work, and while I find it to be a ray of light at the end of the dark and long Pursuing a Career in the Arts tunnel, we need to call it out for what it is: nothing more than good old Hollywood nostalgia and spectacle, which has swept up Hollywood because Hollywood loves itself.
With two songs in the running for Best Original Song, as much as I love Broadway’s new song writing darlings Pasek and Paul’s work, City of Stars is nothing new and Audition Song is full of clichés. I just want Moana to win because the movie is fantastic, and Lin Manuel Miranda needs to EGOT.

But that’s just my opinion. 

You can find a full list of records being broken at the 2017 Oscars here


Cause a Cine do not own any of the images used in this post. 
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