Oscars. Oscars. Oscars. Everyone is talking about the Oscars and in particular their lack of diversity. But then again, when has the lack of diversity ever been not discussed? It happens practically every year, so what else is new?
Ironically, the current president of Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, no doubt a month ago felt that she was making real strives in making the Oscars this year more diverse, with Reginald Hudlin as the awards show co-producer this year, and Chris Rock hosting. Then Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith had to open their mouths and ruin the party.
A question – Is Spike going to give back that honorary Oscar he got a few months ago?
But the the latest controversy surely has taken Boone and The Academy by surprise, and the New York Times reports that the organization is planning to take immediate steps by as early as next week, to rectify the problem.
First is to reinstate the 10 film field for the best picture category they had back in 2010 and 2011. Although the idea has been met with controversy from many insiders arguing that the hard 10 picture rule was pandering especially to fanboys miffed that their beloved comic book movies have been getting the short shrift when it comes to their genre of movies. However, if they had brought back the 10 picture rule this year, it would have certainly meant that "Creed" and possibly (but not entirely) "Straight Outta Compton" would’ve been nominated for best picture.
The second change that is being considered, and one that had already been under discussion for sometime, is to increase the best actor and actress award categories from the current and long established 5 nominees, to 8 or possibly 10. If that was done this year then no doubt both Idris Elba and Benicio Del Toro would have gotten best supporting actor nominations, and a good chance that Michael B. Jordan would’ve been nominated for best actor.
But if these changes do go through, will they solve the problem? The bigger issue is whether the awards are really all that important in the first place? Is being nominated or winning the Oscar really the be-all and end-all? Why do we keep complaining about the lack of Black Oscar nominees as if white validation is so important? Is that a good black film isn’t good enough until white people say it is? A brilliant performance by a Black actress isn’t brilliant enough until she gets an Oscar nomination from the overwhelmingly white and male Oscar voters?
This all reminds me that the Williams sisters never appeared on any cover nor had a major article written about them in any black publication until Elle put them on the cover of their magazine several years ago. Months later, finally, Essence followed suit, but they waited until the sisters basically got white approval that they were important and attractive enough to appear in their magazine.
And judging from the list of black films this year, it looks like there will be even less potential Oscar material among films and the actors to be seen in 2016. Though of course that could definitely change by the end of the year. But what will happen next year at this same time when people start to complain again about the lack of diversity among the 2017 nominees?
And remember there is such a thing as the "Oscar curse" – actors who have won the Oscar only to see their careers fizzle afterwards. What ever happened to F. Murray Abraham after he won the Best Actor Oscar for "Amadeus" in 1985? Mo’Nique has been basically missing in action since winning her Best Supporting Oscar for "Precious;" and Halle Berry’s career hasn’t reached spectacular heights since winning her Best Actress Oscar in 2002. Maybe actors, and especially black ones, are better off NOT winning an Academy Award. Let’s be honest, you can win all the acting awards you want, but you’re sill a black actor in a business that doesn’t respect black talent all that much.
But do these proposed changes the AMPAS could make lead to important steps to correcting the diversity problem, or is it too late? Or maybe you just don’t care…