The reaction to the 87th Academy Awards in 2015 was swift, truthful, and best encapsulated in the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. The 87th Academy Awards lacked diversity, but the 2017 Oscar nominees are slightly less white. However, that doesn’t mean that black and brown actors, directors, and writers will get the credit they deserve.
The 89th Academy Awards, airing tonight, February 26, 5:30 pm (PST), features more films with black and brown people than in previous years, but being nominated certainly isn’t the same as winning. This dynamic was abundantly clear during the 2017 Grammy awards when Adele won “Best Album of the Year” over Beyonce’s Lemonade, an arguably more expansive and artistic album.
The same sentiment can be seen in Drake’s win for “Hotline Bling.” “Hotline Bling” won “Best Rap Song” during the 2017 Grammy’s, but as Drake pointed out during an interview with Britain’s DJ Semtex, the win felt wrong. According to Billboard, the Grammy award winner stated, “I’m a black artist, I’m apparently a rapper, even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song,” Drake said to DJ Semtex. “The only category that they can manage to fit me in is in a rap category, maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m black.”
If the Grammy’s are any indication of how the 89th Academy Awards will go, audiences may see another #OscarsSoWhite backlash. There are several movies nominated for prestigious categories, best picture, best actor/actress in a leading role, and best directing. However, as is common for Oscar hopefuls, many media and news agencies have already predicted the Oscar winners, which are still blisteringly white.
NPR reported their Oscar predictions, which fall in line with the history of the Academy Award’s previous winners. La La Land is slated to win “Best Picture,” because Hollywood loves to reward films about actors, Hollywood, or the movie making process. This trend can be seen most recently in the 2016 Oscar winner for best picture, Spotlight, and the 2015 winner, Birdman.
Although La La Land is the predicted winner, Moonlight is edging out the star-studded Hollywood meta film. Moonlight is a moody, beautiful story about a Chiron, a young African American boy who comes to understand his sexuality in a time lapse view through his childhood, teenage years, and eventually his adulthood.
Moonlight has already won a Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture-Drama” and a slew of other awards, but if it’s edged out by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling co-opting Jazz for two hours in La La Land, the Academy Awards will have to face some serious questions about their choice.
Although the “Best Picture” is being hotly debated between La La Land and Moonlight, the category has one of the most diverse movie listings the Academy Awards has ever seen. Hidden Figures, the biopic about African-American female scientists who helped launch the first manned space mission is also nominated, alongside Fences with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and Lion, the only film nominated for “Best Picture” which features a leading Indian actor, Dev Patel.
#OscarsSoWhite is still burning in the Academy Award’s periphery, but some of the categories have people of color as the majority of the nominees. “Actress In a Supporting Role” has nominated three African American women, Viola Davis for Fences, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures, Naomie Harris for Moonlight. This is a step in the right direction from the strictly white nominations the Oscars have presented in the past, but it remains to be seen if inclusion is the same as giving deserved credit.
As Vanity Fair reported, six out of 20 nominated performers at the 89th Academy Awards are black, which is a significant increase. However, although there are more African American people nominated, there is still a startling lack of Latino/a artists present, prompting the LA Times to ask: Where are the Latinos?
Progress made is not always progress kept, but if the Academy Awards learned from their #OscarsSoWhite bungle from 2015, there may be a foothold to increase the diversity of the Oscars and give black and brown artists the accolades they appropriately deserve. However, it’s important to be cognizant of what the Academy is saying. Hopefully the Academy Awards don’t make the same mistakes as the Grammy’s, giving awards that are neither accurate or appropriately represent the art of their recipients.
[Featured Image by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images]