The Academy Awards: same strife, different decade

Nora Miller, A&E Editor

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Producers, directors, actors and even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are seemingly taking steps forward to widen the perspective of how awards are given. Following the #OscarsSoWhite critiques in 2014, the Academy made attempts to diversify its membership, particularly expanding its mission to include more women and people of color, as reported by NPR.

This year’s nominations embrace the lives of prominent race car drivers, war heros and even a tag team of 1970s actors. While the performances are nuanced, and the editing, writing and visual components are breathtaking, almost all of them happen to focus on the trials and tribulations of white, cis-gender men. Even though Hollywood has been perpetuating this dilemma for decades, I was hopeful for this year’s nominations considering this year’s award season thus far. As I viewed the nominations in mid January, the divide between films spotlighting underrepresented perspectives and films centering what has been the “norm” since the birth of the awards, is clear. Having been nominated at the Golden Globes, Hollywood Critics Association and the Critics Choice Awards, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell should have been nominated for an Oscar as well, yet is not being considered for any category at the Academy Awards. Similarly, Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet and Jay Roach’s Bombshell culminate in dynamic and dramatic actors and storylines and follow similar patterns visually, yet are not nominated for the Best Picture award.

Don’t get me wrong, I was attracted to Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Scorsese’s The Irishmen who, along with a number of their competitors, focus on pivotal, historic moments with fictional takes, yet there are only two films up for nomination that do not concentrate heavily on the white male perspective: Little Women and Parasite. With Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit including the white male narrative and different points of view, these two movies happen to be my favorite of the bunch, particularly because of their explicit themes considering what it means to hold an identity historically “othered.”

In contrast to their contested Best Picture nominations, the academy has made moves to include films considering youth outlook. This year’s nominations also gather youth voices in films about divorce, war and poverty, such as in Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, 1917 and Parasite. The Academy of Arts & Sciences has shaken things up by introducing the “Most Popular Film” category, but is not including this award this year. Critics argued this award lacked depth, and is too similar to how People’s Choice Awards are given.

Ultimately, how the Oscars is introducing influential societal events depend on which movies are given the most attention, and which films ultimately win largest film accolade of the year, Best Picture. Did they show a broad range of perspectives, maybe not, but the diversity within the judges allows for me to argue that these may have been the most well made movies of the year. Intentions might be there but there is significant work to be done for the Academy to truly diversify how it examines film.