Oscars So White? Or Oscars So Dumb? Discuss.
By MANOHLA DARGIS, WESLEY MORRIS and A. O. SCOTT JAN. 15, 2016
Are these the whitest Oscar nominations ever? Or just the most recent Academy Award whiteout? For the second year in a row, the nominations failed to recognize any minority actors. Movies about black lives like “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” did receive recognition, but their nominations were for either white writers (“Compton”) or a white performer (Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”). The black directors of each movie along with their nonwhite actors were shut out.
DARGIS Oh, I never thought “Straight Outta Compton” had a real shot for a best picture nod, even with the Academy’s recent — and laudable — attempts to diversify its membership. There’s just too much cussing, for starters, and the average age of the 94 percent white membership is 62 (as of 2012). And I’m guessing that when these dudes (77 percent) were teenagers, they were listening to the Beach Boys (nothing wrong with that!), whereas a new Academy member like Ava DuVernay knew exactly who Dr. Dre and N.W.A were when she was growing up around Compton. My point being that the lived, embodied experiences of the membership greatly matter and that sometimes even the most well-intentioned white people just don’t see the racism and sexism in front of them.
As I wrote last summer:
Granted, comparing Straight Outta Compton to Love & Mercy on aesthetics is like contrasting “F*** tha Police” and “No Vaseline” to “God Only Knows” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” But the hip-hop film, directed by veteran black hired gun F. Gary Gray (who also helmed Ice Cube’s Friday and Mark Wahlberg’s The Italian Job), is competent enough to trigger feelings of entitlement. As last year’s black complaints about Selma being handed one only Oscar suggested, when the Academy gave the Best Picture award a couple of years ago to 12 Years a Slave, it didn’t succeed in assuaging black demands for a few years as hoped. Instead, 12 Years’ Oscar seemed to convince racial spokespersons that blacks deserve to win Best Picture every year.