Academy Award nominations, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, actors, actresses, ava duvernay, best picture, david oyelowo, diversity, felicity jones, gender, oscars, selma, the theory of everything
With the Academy Award nominations for the 2015 ceremony announced, I’ve begun my usual routine of diligently writing lists of the ones I want/feel I ought to see, the ones that are still in theaters, etc.
Going by my past track record, I’m unlikely to get to most of them. But it always makes me feel involved, somehow, to make the lists and actually get a hold of two or three of the nominated films.
I’ve actually got enough experience paying attention to how these big awards ceremonies tend to go that I could probably predict a reasonable number of the big-ticket nominations ahead of time and go to see the movies when they come out, but I don’t. It’s a seasonal thing, I guess.
I like to joke that the Oscars are my Superbowl, and while I’m not as partisan as many football enthusiasts, the comparison isn’t entirely inappropriate. A lot of my friends and acquaintances like to watch the Oscars for the fashion, or for the red carpet interviews. I enjoy the fashion, and I enjoy the red carpet, but I’m actually interested in where the awards go and what that says, culturally speaking. That’s one of the reasons I did my Best Picture Project – I want to understand why a certain film won in the year it did, in spite of some other films being now more famous, like CITIZEN KANE or any of Alfred Hitchcock’s films.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not the ultimate cultural indicator, but it’s one I find interesting. In my lifetime particularly the votes have seemed to lag a few years behind what I see as the current trends. I still think BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN should have won for Best Picture, for instance. But it’s important to take the context of the Academy itself into account – it’s easy to dismiss them as a lot of old rich white men, but I think that’s an oversimplification. I don’t know the demographics of the Academy voters.
There’s a lot of yelling this year about how overwhelmingly white the nominees are, but I read an editorial on the subject that pointed something out – these are, for the most part, the same voters who went gaga over TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE last year. It’s easy to shout racism, and as a white person I am perhaps overstepping my bounds here, but I like to think that most actors and filmmakers would prefer to be nominated for their work, not as some kind of Affirmative Action intentional diversity thing. I imagine it must be a source of insecurity at times for those involved.
There are eight films nominated for Best Picture. There are five nominations for Best Director. Ava DuVernay should probably have been among them (I have not yet seen SELMA, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but from what I’m reading and hearing in reviews). I’m not as convinced about David Oyelowo, based on the reviews. He sounds like he gives a strong, complex performance, but so do all the men nominated for Best Picture. So yes, it’s a very white lineup this year, which feels odd and uncomfortable, but maybe it’s a casting issue rather than a nomination issue? Anyway, next year may be different.
I find the gender issue more upsetting. All but one of the actors nominated for Best Actor is in a film nominated for Best Picture. Only one of the lead actresses nominated is from a Best Picture nominee, Felicity Jones from THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.
Do you know why?
Most of the films nominated for Best Picture don’t HAVE a lead actress role. They’re predominantly about loner males doing their loner male thing, from math geniuses to angry actors to military servicemen. Where’s the Best Picture nomination for WILD? Or STILL ALICE? Or GONE GIRL? And who’s even heard of the film Marion Cotillard is nominated for, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT?
But again, that’s hopefully just a quirk of this year.