Os­car nom­i­na­tions.

A dan­ger­ous dis­con­nect be­tween Hol­ly­wood, real life

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wen­zel

A dan­ger­ous dis­con­nect be­tween Hol­ly­wood, real life.

Much is al­ways at stake when Os­car nom­i­na­tions are an­nounced, from box­of­fice and ca­reer prospects to in­dus­try pres­tige and the di­rec­tion of Hol­ly­wood to come.

This year the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­tures Arts and Sci­ences can add its own fu­ture to the list. For a dis­heart­en­ing se­cond year in a row, the all- white nom­i­nees in the ma­jor cat­e­gories— ac­tor, ac­tress, sup­port­ing ac­tor, sup­port­ing ac­tress and di­rec­tor— threaten to ren­der the Os­cars ir­rel­e­vant to the au­di­ence it so des­per­ately needs to stay alive.

Race, and specif­i­cally the com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship be­tween Amer­ica’s white ma­jor­ity and its black mi­nor­ity, has de­fined the news cy­cle for the past two years. Prob­lems that some Amer­i­cans hoped were a thing of the past have re­vealed them­selves to be deeply em­bed­ded in the coun­try’s cul­ture and con­scious­ness, de­mand­ing a re­newed soul- search­ing amid painful protests, damn­ing dash­cam videos and other de­bates about polic­ing and equal­ity.

Over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of white faces ( or voices, as is the case with the car­toon­ishly ir­rel­e­vant Gram­mys) among the lauded ig­nores not only the sim­ple de­mo­graphic re­al­ity of the United States but the topic on ev­ery­one’s minds.

Is “The Revenant,” which landed 12 nom­i­na­tions on Thurs­day, a grip­ping, art­ful film? Is Jen­nifer Lawrence a great ac­tor? “Mad Max’s” Ge­orge Miller an in­ven­tive di­rec­tor?

Un­doubt­edly. But they’re not the only praise- wor­thy things out there— con­trary to what the nom­i­na­tions might lead you to be­lieve. Sa­muel L. Jack­son car­ried much of Quentin Tarantino’s bru­tally el­e­gant “The Hate­ful Eight,” Michael B. Jor­dan an­nounced him­self as a con­fi­dent new star in the “Rocky” re­boot “Creed,” and Idris Elba de­liv­ered a haunt­ing per­for­mance in “Beasts of No Na­tion.”

That’s not to men­tion John Boyega’s im­pos­si­bly charis­matic turn in “StarWars: Episode VII— The Force Awak­ens,” Will Smith in “Con­cus­sion” and N. W. A. biopic “Straight Outta Comp­ton,” which was named best pic­ture by the African Amer­i­can Film Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion.

For­get Ri­d­ley Scott get­ting snubbed for di­rect­ing “The Mar­tian.” Where’s Chi­we­tel Ejio­for’s sup­port­ing nom for car­ry­ing the emo­tional weight of nearly ev­ery non­space scene in the film? Or any men­tion at all of “Tan­ger­ine” or “Chi- Raq”?

Maybe there just weren’t that many wor­thy movies with black ac­tors this year, some might say, speak­ing truth to the fact that black ac­tors and di­rec­tors re­main un­der­rep­re­sented in most film of­fer­ings.

An­other pos­si­ble ar­gu­ment: Why should we force academy vot­ers to en­dorse some­thing they didn’t like? To­kenism for its own sake solves noth­ing.

Per­haps, but this year’s nom­i­na­tions over­look films that are crit­i­cally ac­claimed and top- earn­ing— and that hap­pen to fea­ture plenty of ac­tors of color ( see above).

Last year’s lily- white nom­i­na­tions made it clear the Os­cars needed to evolve. This year, it’s blind­ingly ob­vi­ous that the nomi-

na­tions are at best tonedeaf and, at­worst, dan­ger­ously ig­no­rant and sup­pres­sive in an in­dus­try that helps shape how we see the world.

In­di­vid­ual vot­ers­may be con­sci­en­tious and well­con­sid­ered, and the academy it­self is reactionary by de­sign. But the sys­tem is bro­ken.

Some­thing needs to change. It needed to change last year, and this year it’s at a cri­sis point.

The com­po­si­tion of the vot­ing academy ( which hands out life­long mem­ber­ships) is a good start, invit­ing peo­ple with more di­verse back­grounds and tastes that are at least more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple pay­ing to see movies in this coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by the Los An­ge­les Times, academy vot­ers are 94 per­centwhite, 76 per­cent men and an av­er­age of 63 years old.

Much like the Best Pic­ture cat­e­gory, which was ex­panded from five films to 10 in 2009 to make way for more pop­ulist fare, the act­ing, di­rect­ing and writ­ing cat­e­gories could open up to show us more of what’s out there— not be­cause con­tri­bu­tions from ac­tors of color should be fur­ther down the list but be­cause the academy seems for now in­ca­pable of con­sis­tently ac­knowl­edg­ing their ex­is­tence.

The dis­con­nect be­tween what’s been hap­pen­ing in this coun­try for the past two years and­who the Os­cars have cho­sen to rec­og­nize only re­in­forces neg­a­tive stereo­types about Hol­ly­wood. Chiefly, that it’s com­posed of priv­i­leged elite who are out of touch with “real” Amer­ica.

Film nom­i­nees

BEST PIC­TURE “The Big Short” “Bridge of Spies” “Brook­lyn” “Mad Max: Fury Road” “The Mar­tian” “The Revenant” “Room” “Spot­light” AN­I­MATED FEA­TURE FILM “Ano­ma­l­isa” “Boy and the World” “In­side Out” “Shaun the Sheep Movie” “When Marnie Was There” Com­plete list of nom­i­nees at den­ver­post. com/ ex­tras

Not just the pro­test­ers in Fer­gu­son, Mo., Chicago and other cities torn apart by racial strife, but all of us.

It’s the rea­son last year’s # Os­carsSoWhite was trend­ing be­fore lunchtime Thurs­day. The rea­son­why deliri­ously tal­ented di­rec­tors like F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Comp­ton”) and Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) won’t even get the chance to ac­cept an award on stage at the Os­cars this year.

De­spite a pledge not to re­peat last year’s all- white nom­i­na­tions, the Os­cars seemut­terly dis­con­nected once again. And the shame is that the academy is pulling the plug on it­self.

BEST SUP­PORT­ING AC­TRESS Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh, “The Hate­ful Eight”

Chris­tian Bale, “The Big Short”

BEST SUP­PORT­ING AC­TOR

BEST DI­REC­TOR AdamMcKay, “The Big Short”

Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”

BEST AC­TOR

Cate Blanchett, “Carol”

BEST AC­TRESS

Ale­jan­dro G. Iñár­ritu, “The Revenant”

Ge­orge Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

TomMcCarthy, “Spot­light”

Lenny Abra­ham­son, “Room”

RachelM­cAdams, “Spot­light”

Ali­cia Vikan­der, “The Dan­ish Girl”

Jen­nifer Lawrence, “Joy”

Mark Ruf­falo, “Spot­light”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Mark Ry­lance, “Bridge of Spies”

Brie Lar­son, “Room”

Saoirse Ro­nan, “Brook­lyn”

RooneyMara, “Carol”

TomHardy, “The Revenant”

Char­lotte Ram­pling, “45 Years”

Ed­die Red­mayne, “The Dan­ish Girl”

Matt Da­mon, “The Mar­tian”

Sylvester Stal­lone, “Creed”

KateWinslet, “Steve Jobs”

Micheal Fass­ben­der, “Steve Jobs”

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