The Academy Awards is one of the most revered and anticipated film awards ceremonies in the United States. Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science choose the nominees and winners, which are viewed as the best films and talent of the year. But its winners and nominations seldom reflect the broad range of cinema the world has to offer.
The #oscarssowhite campaign brought the lack of diversity and intersectionality in the Academy Awards to the public consciousness in 2015. Created by activist April Reign through Twitter, #oscarssowhite raised awareness of the high number of white, male nominees and winners at the Academy Awards.
Injustice within the award ceremony has existed since its origination. According to the database Statistica, 99 percent of Best Director winners at the Academy Awards from 1927 to 2015 were white. From 1928 to 2015, 98.9 percent of Best Actress winners and 93.2 percent of Best Actor winners were white. In 2015, the Academy made plans to double its number of women and people of color by 2020. However, a year later in 2016, 91 percent of members were white and 76 percent of members were male.
While the Academy Awards has made the aforementioned efforts to increase inclusivity within its membership and nominees, they only began these actions after negative publicity. The Academy Awards has struggled with viewership as of late, with a loss of 19.83 million viewers from 2000 to 2018.
The Academy Awards has a history of making drastic changes to increase viewership of the awards ceremony, such as the proposal of a most popular movie category this year, which was later rejected due to critical unpopularity. Many critics and members of the Academy, such as Laura Dern and Steven Spielberg, are uncomfortable with the inclusion of this category. This move is viewed as a ploy for more viewership of the Oscars, ignoring the quality of the content over box office numbers and possibly snubbing deserving films of a Best Picture nomination. The suggestion was scrapped for this year by the Academy due to the high number of such complaints. With the American political climate becoming increasingly intersectional through equality movements such as #timesup and #metoo, it is advantageous for the Academy Awards to embrace equality, even if their publicity doesn’t reflect their actions.
The Academy Awards are also problematic conceptually. Cinema is subjective and highly biased, and producers use a variety of tactics to influence voters. Many films and filmmakers promote their material for the Academy award, sending screeners to members of the Academy. But independent films may not have the finances to promote their films to the extent of larger-budget movies. The Oscars are a financial business, rather than a creative one, from their choices in nominees to high profile hosts.
Host choice has historically been an issue at the Academy Awards. Kevin Hart recently stepped down as host from the 2019 Oscars amid controversy regarding past homophobic comments. In an interview with Ellen Degeneres, Hart became emotional, claiming that the reemergence of the tweets were meant to “destroy me” and, “this was to end all partnerships, all brand relationships, all investment opportunities, studio relationships” and so on. While Hart does apologize in the interview, he emphasizes that the tweets were from “10 years ago” and claims that no one will accept his apology. Instead of explicitly apologizing to the LGBTQIA3+ community, Hart used his platform as a paranoid self-defense mechanism. Hart consequently quit the Oscars, and this year’s Academy Awards officially has no host for the first time in 30 years.
This is not the first time the Academy has chosen problematic hosts, such as 2013 host Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane was known to make sexist and racist jabs in his television programming, so his blackface joke, song “We Saw Your Boobs” and various offensive quips throughout the ceremony should not have been a surprise to the Academy. Not only does the Oscars rarely nominate minorities in its categories, but its hosts are often in poor taste. A simple Twitter search could have revealed Hart’s homophobic comments, yet the Oscars only seems to value the maintaining of household names.
There is still hope on the horizon for the Oscars, with some encouragingly intersectional nominations this year. Best picture nominees “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman” blossom with Black pride in their cast, crew and thematic message. Best picture nominees “The Favourite” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” both include LGBTQIA3+ characters. “Roma,” tying the pack with “The Favourite” for 10 nominations, is one of the few foreign language films to be nominated for best Best Picture and Best Foreign Language film and is most likely to win both. The film highlights the life of an indigenous Mexican woman, a subject rarely explored. And lastly, Hannah Beachler is the first African American woman to be nominated for production design.
However, much controversy abounds with the “Bohemian Rhapsody” nomination, as director Bryan Singer is accused of sexual assault. The film is also poorly critically received, with a 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is factually inaccurate in its depiction of events surrounding Queen and Freddie Mercury. “Green Book” is also somewhat lackluster in its depiction of race relations, never making a concrete stand on police brutality through the basic idea that there are good and bad cops.
Many of this year’s most brilliant performances and films have been snubbed, mainly due to their independent statuses. These films have very little opportunity to promote themselves within the Academy. Independent films “Blindspotting,” “You Were Never Really Here,” “Revenge,” “Madeline’s Madeline,” “The Rider,” “Vox Lux” and “Oh Lucy” exhibited some of the most innovative cinematic work of the decade, yet weren’t recognized. Mainstream projects “Eighth Grade,” “Widows” and “The Tale” also received no love.
Despite the lack of recognition, it has truly been a remarkable year for female actors, with the best performances of the year all contributed by women. Some excellent performances tragically ignored by the Academy include Elsie Fischer (“Eighth Grade”), Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki (“Widows”), Laura Dern (“The Tale”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Kindergarden Teacher”), Natalie Portman (“Vox Lux”), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“All About Nina”) and Regina Hall (“Support the Girls”). Daniel Kaluuya has also proven his incredible range this year, with scene-stealing moments in “Black Panther” and “Widows.”
The Academy Award nominations prove yet again that the Oscars are simply a publicity stunt to gain recognition for the top filmmakers and actors in the industry, rather than support raw talent. While the Academy attempts to increase its diversity, the very concept of choosing films is arbitrary, due to personal bias and the objective nature of enjoyment.
“A Star Is Born”
What will win: “Roma”
What should win: “The Favourite”
Although “Roma” is the favorite, with seasoned director and cinematographer Alfonso Cuaron at the helm for his gorgeous cinematography and direction, the film lacks the deep character development invested into “The Favourite.”
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
Who will win: Rami Malek
Who should win: Christian Bale
While Rami Malek does an excellent job transforming himself into the role of Freddy Mercury, Christian Bale’s spot-on performance as Dick Cheney, beset with exact mannerisms, is the clear relic. However, “Vice” is a highly contentious film and Cheney is known for transformative performances, while it’s Malek’s first time in such an impressive role.
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Who will win: A toss up between Glenn Close and Olivia Colman
Who should win: Melissa McCarthy
Glenn Close and Olivia Colman both provide outstanding performances in their respective roles, testing the limits of acting. Even so, Melissa McCarthy wins the spotlight for her quietly moving performance that deviates from her usual characters.
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”
Who will win: Mahershala Ali
Who should win: Sam Elliott
Although Mahershala Ali is a brilliant actor, he doesn’t have much to work with in “Green Book’s” cliched script. However, he is the rumored favorite who won the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe this year. Sam Elliot provides another nuanced performance in his underrated acting career which should be acknowledged.
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
Who will win: Regina King
Who should win: Regina King
Regina King is far and above the clearly deserved winner in this category for her movingly genuine acting chops.
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Paweł Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
Who will win: Alfonso Cuarón
Who should win: Yorgos Lanthimos
This category all comes down to the rivalry between “Roma” and “The Favourite” in regards to personal preference. “The Favourite” is the weirder film and although more deserving, won’t win against crowd pleaser “Roma.”
Best Documentary Feature:
“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Who will win: “RBG”
Who should win: “Minding the Gap”
“Minding the Gap” is one of the best documentaries to come out in decades, portraying the everyday lives of the director’s childhood friends with insights on oppression, race, poverty and violence against women. “RBG” will most likely win due to the popularity of its subject matter, but “Minding the Gap” should not be ignored.
Best Foreign Language Film:
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
Who will win: “Roma”
Who should win: “Shoplifters”
“Roma” is the overall favorite film of 2019 and a sure win for Best Foreign Language Film. Character study “Shoplifters,” is the the more nuanced and retrospective film, a love story about the broken bonds of a chosen family.
Former University of Oregon Oscar winners: James Ivory (Best Adapted Screenplay - “Call Me By Your Name”), Jake Swantko (Best Documentary - “Icarus”), Richard Hoover (Best Visual Effects - Blade Runner 2049) and others!
This article has been corrected to be more factually accurate.