The Oscars Can Learn A Lot From The SAG Awards 2016

Diversity reigned supreme on stage during the 2016 SAG Awards, leaving the Academy Awards with a lot to learn about the appreciation for everyone’s art. When the Oscar nods were released weeks ago, there was a few glaring omissions – color. Leave it to the 2016 SAG Awards to save face.

Oscar nominations were few and far in between when it came to diversity being represented. Highly rated films such as Beasts of No Nation, Concussion, Creed, and Straight Outta Compton went virtually unknown. This does not include the well-deserved Supporting Actor nod for Sylvester Stallone from Creed and the Original Screenplay nomination for Straight Outta Compton. The problem here though, neither Stallone or the brilliant writers credited for Straight Outta Compton are minorities.

The Oscar nominations for this year proved to be a failed opportunity by the Academy to acknowledge great films and the work done by minority actors and actresses. The SAG Awards 2016 nods (courtesy of Variety) went to a vast collection of films and performers.

Viewers and interested spectators should consider the 2016 SAG Awards a celebration of cinema, no matter what color the performers are, who the target audience is, or the subject matter of the film. The message that the SAG Awards 2016 left was simply this – if your film was great, or the performance was exceptional, you will be acknowledged.

The acknowledgement of actor Idris Elba generated some of the biggest buzz of the 2016 SAG Awards.

Us Magazine recognized Elba receiving two SAG Awards for his role in the television show Luther and the movie Beasts of No Nation as one of the highlights of SAG Awards 2016.

Once Idris Elba won his SAG Awards, followed by Uzo Adouba, Viola Davis, and Queen Latifah also taking home SAG Awards trophies, Twitter went abuzz with the biggest statement of the night. The trend was #SAGSoBlack, which is a stark contrast to #OscarsSoWhite.

In Idris Elba’s case, if he wanted to take some solace for getting recognized by the Screen Actors Guild, though not the Academy Awards, the Academy does not include films which went straight to Netflix. “Beasts of No Nation” was a Netflix exclusive.

How exclusive is the Academy nomination process? The Academy Awards is the only major entity which grants awards to include films that were released in movie theaters only. Given the progression of motion pictures and television, where theaters are just one of several outlets used to showcase cinema. The fact that the SAG Awards 2016 gives movies for all outlets credence shows that the Academy needs to take notes.

Exclusion of films because they were original releases on Netflix, Hulu, cable television or straight to DVD and Blu-ray can mostly be explained by suggestion that the films were not theatrical releases. The downside to the exclusion is because many of the films and performers which the Oscars recognize are scarce in movie theaters. This disallows moviegoers to judge for themselves which movies are great and which actors and actresses deserve the recognition.

For every person who has seen the movie Brooklyn in the theaters, there are thousands who has viewed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The access to the latest installment in the “Star Wars” series was astounding in comparison.

According to Forbes, The Force Awakens opened to over 4,000 screens. Conversely, Brooklyn opened in 111 theaters. No one will confuse Star Wars: The Force Awakens as an Oscar-worthy product. In fact, it did not register a SAG Award 2016 nomination. Brooklyn received one with Soairse Ronan getting nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.

Opened accessibility of a film has to be something that the Academy must consider going forward. While the SAG Awards acknowledges all film and television, regardless of what platform the release is on, the Academy keeps a blind eye on brilliant work.

Beast of No Nation was a success on Netflix, but because of the rules set by the Academy, that success could not be acknowledged as a whole.

Of the diversity which was on display during the SAG Awards 2016, only Straight Outta Compton would have qualified for an Oscar nomination with the current rules in place. With the calls for a more diverse group of Oscar nominations, that would happen if the entire pool of movies were considered.

SAG Awards 2016 included the best in film and on television in a massive celebration of what is great about cinema. Because of its rules of excluding films which were not released on the big screen, the Academy Awards is so far behind. The Oscars could learn a lot from what the SAG Awards 2016 had to offer. Once the rules evolve, there will be more diversity recognized by the Oscars, especially given the fact that the majority of films featuring minorities do not always make it to the theaters.

[Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images]