For Your Consideration: Five Things We Need to Reconcile About #OscarsSoWhite

For the past week, my mind has been racing back and forth about the climate we live in, both ideologically and industrially, and what the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag really means to all of us. George Clooney pointed it out, and a slew of celebrities have considered not attending, so I’d like to follow up on their comments. I feel that we’ve all been pointing fingers, but in the wrong directions; I’m disappointed in the Academy, of course, but what’s more, disappointed in my generation, that’s butchered the nuances that make this issue so complex. This is why I’ve decided to do some feather ruffling.

#oscarssowhite for your consideration

There seem to be six notable films featuring people of color that were worthy of Academy recognition for their acting but did not receive any. As tough as it is, I’m going to deliver some harsh truths that have more to do with industry bias than racism among Academy voters, explaining why each of these films were largely ignored:

TANGERINE: Released in July, too far from awards season and far too lo-fi of a film to afford a promotional campaign large enough to gain Academy attention. TANGERINE is a great film and we should be happy it received so many nominations for the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON: Released back in August, this rags to riches tale fell out of the spotlight quite quickly. But even if it hadn’t, there are a number of notable performances in other films that are objectively more deserving of recognition (Oscar Isaac in EX MACHINA, Michael Shannon in 99 HOMES, Ben Mendelsohn in MISSISSIPPI GRIND, Steve Carell in THE BIG SHORT, Géza Röhrig in SON OF SAUL, and Michael Caine in YOUTH come to mind). For God’s sake it wasn’t even the best music biopic that came out this year (LOVE & MERCY was).

SICARIO: Despite being a bleak, nihilistic trip that was released quite early in the fall season, SICARIO still received its deserved recognition for cinematography, but expecting a best actor nod for Benicio Del Toro is absurd, because his performance, although confident, suffered from being little more than a modernized Eastwood-esque “man with no name”.

BEASTS OF NO NATION: The only true snub of this year goes to Cary Fukunaga’s war epic, and let’s face it, this was the first time that Netflix was gunning for Oscar attention in the narrative category. Considering that the industry probably doesn’t want to promote an online streaming service over the classic idea of cinema, I’m not really all too surprised, although it’s still extremely unfair.

CONCUSSION: Yes, Will Smith was good as Dr. Bennett Omalu, but you know what wasn’t good? The rest of this entire film. CONCUSSION was not competent or big enough to make a case for Academy recognition. Although Will Smith certainly deserved a nomination over Matt Damon, THE MARTIAN’s marketing campaign left CONCUSSION deep in its shadow.

CREED: “The seventh installment to a boxing franchise scores big at the Academy Awards” is a sentence that will never be uttered, ever. CREED’s strongest asset is showcasing that Stallone can kind of, maybe, act, but Michael B. Jordan isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary here, and apart from some nifty camerawork, CREED is still miles behind RAGING BULL, a film that predates it by a good four decades. The only way we could justifiably cry foul about the omission of Michael B. Jordan is if Jake Gyllenhaal had been nominated for SOUTHPAW.”

#oscarssowhite oscars so light

Even the dark side was omitted #OscarsSoLight

Having said all that, this isn’t meant to excuse the whiteness of this year’s nominations. My concern is that the industry at large is more to blame than Academy voters, and that the awards season has become much like a presidential race, fueled by money and connections. The problem is quite simple really: actors of color aren’t being intentionally ignored by the Academy, but they are being cast in films that are less likely to succeed come awards season, either due to their release dates, advertising campaigns, or being left in the shadow of colossal productions like THE REVENANT and THE MARTIAN. The economy of your individual attention span is important, too, because if you didn’t actually watch BEASTS OF NO NATION, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, or TANGERINE, you’re part of the problem!

Our generations endless sharing and hashtagging of fluff pieces has virtually eradicated the conversation that we should be having about this issue. I’m sorry to break it to you, but we can’t just call Academy voters racists annually and think that next year they might have learned a thing or two. Literally the only person who can still salvage the pointless noise we’ve all caused is this year’s MC, Chris Rock, the only African-American that will be in the spotlight, who wields the auditory power to bring down the house on this hot-button issue.

#oscarssowhite Actor/comedian Chris Rock addresses the audience during the 2014 Governors Awards on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“Can all the black actors in the house stand up for a second?”

But what we all seem to be willfully ignoring is that none of this injustice is happening because the voters are fat, old racists. Blasphemy, you cry! I know, you probably think I’m one of them, but hear me out.


To put it mildly, the Academy Awards do not celebrate the best films of the year, but rather the best expensive films. Because of this, the Oscars have never really meant much to cinema, but a lot to Hollywood. However, that still makes them important, because equality in the film industry is a serious issue. The Oscars are notoriously disappointing, having annually ignored seminal classics since the early days of cinema and allowing lesser deserving films to win (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN losing to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN to CRASH, or PULP FICTION and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION to FORREST GUMP).

#oscarssowhite lego movie

Also, don’t get me started…

This is an issue that lies predominantly in how the industry functions, using money and personal ties to advertise to voters. The corporate level of the awards season is ultimately what inhibits the celebration of selfless art, as studio execs insert themselves into the voting process, causing honors to be given to big-budget productions that are often less deserving of praise. This is important to note, because…


It’s true; Academy voters are predominantly older, white men. The reason for this is honestly quite simple. The film “industry” isn’t even really 100-years-old yet and the people who spearheaded this billion-dollar artistic industry back in the 1920’s and onwards were white men. We’re really only talking about two-to-three generational gaps since the dawn of corporate cinema and as a result many of the people voting are descending directly from this young industry.

What Academy voters also make sure to do is watch the films made by their best friends…as well as the films that slap a “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” advert in the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, LA Weekly, or ASC Magazine

That doesn’t make all current voters racist, but it does make many of them old, because many need to work half a lifetime to earn the privilege to vote. I play a game with my father (who incidentally is roughly the age of many Academy voters) every winter and summer vacation. When our break comes to an end, I gather up a list of all the films we watched in the theatres during the past two months and read out the names to see which of the films he remembers. Every year, without fail, he has difficulty remembering the majority of the names I read out that aren’t blockbusters. This isn’t because he’s senile, but because something that isn’t a highly publicized triple-A release with a catchy title doesn’t really linger in the mind of someone over 50.

#oscarssowhite academy voter

Hey, Mr. Academy voter, you could go watch TANGERINE for 10 bucks at the local theater, or you could come over and watch THE REVENANT a month prior to its official release at the DGA’s VIP Academy Voters screening, free of charge!” YOU SEE WHAT I’M GETTING AT?!

Now, as much as I wish that these old industry professionals would take their time to watch every film released in 2015, I seriously doubt that they do that, because, let’s face it, the core difference between industry professionals and film critics is that the latter have no choice but to watch everything that is released. Therefore, Academy voters are more likely to watch (and vote) for JOY over MISTRESS AMERICA or DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, because the former is by a well established director with a thorough marketing campaign. What Academy voters also make sure to do is watch the films made by their best friends (cinematographers watch SICARIO and directors make sure to check out BRIDGE OF SPIES), as well as the films that slap a “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” advert in the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, LA Weekly, or ASC Magazine (something that can cost you upwards of 15,000 USD). Yes, it’s shameful, but also not surprising. That is why…


When Will Smith or Idris Elba loses out a nomination to Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston, or Tom Hardy, it’s because the latter three actors are Jason Bourne, Walter White, and Mad Max. Sure, you could say that the Fresh Prince is popular too, but he hasn’t really been much of a hot commodity on a financial level for a few years now. Furthermore, the marketing campaigns for THE REVENANT and THE MARTIAN were titanic, even going as far as posting “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” adverts all over Facebook. A film like CONCUSSION or BEASTS OF NO NATION simply doesn’t have the financial backing to launch that type of campaign.

#oscarssowhite sad will

Sorry to break it to you, Will, but when I Google Image search “Concussion” the film doesn’t even show up, and when I Google Image search “Concussion Film” a Lesbian drama shows up first.

Think about it: why do this year’s Film Independent Spirit Awards seem to honor more deserving films than the Oscars? Everyone seems to know that TANGERINE was worthy of some recognition, certainly more than THE DANISH GIRL. But for an indie film to crack Academy recognition you need cash, which is why ROOM is really the only independent film that got the Academy’s attention, thanks almost entirely to A24’s commitment to advertising the film left and right. The scope of this problem makes something even more pressing clear: the fact that the industry and the voters are two different problems, and that therefore we…


How many black actors can you name off the top of your head? Probably a solid amount. How many female directors? Can you even make it to five? In the last couple of days I’ve seen videos and articles shared by friends that have unsettled me. People apparently love to make the comparison that the absence of people of color receiving Oscar attention is the same problem as the absence of female directors being nominated.

This is a terrible statement to make because it assumes that there are just as many female directors that are getting a fair shot in Hollywood as there are male directors. That is obviously not true. Women are currently suffering from a sexist culture that prevents them from even making Hollywood films in the first place. For Heaven’s sake, not even Sofia Coppola is constantly in the limelight, and she has a huge heritage going for her. People of color on the other hand are losing out on nominations due to an influenced voting panel. The former issue is societal, the latter is rooted in the industry.

Even the most lauded feminist films of the year, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, ROOM, MISTRESS AMERICA, MAGIC MIKE XXL, JOY, CAROL, and BROOKLYN were all directed by men.

Plenty of talented black actors had a chance at Oscar gold this year, and as already mentioned above, many didn’t get nominated because their marketing campaigns were meager or because their performances were objectively weaker than their contemporaries (or something far more complicated like the conflict of interest between Netflix and Hollywood). Far too little women even got a chance to direct content that could be possible Oscar material, not because women are presumably “less bankable” directors, but because we live in a society that discourages women from taking on such competitive positions. DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL came close to scoring big this year but no woman got the chance to direct triple-A Oscar bait like BRIDGE OF SPIES.

Even the most lauded feminist films of the year, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, ROOM, MISTRESS AMERICA, MAGIC MIKE XXL, JOY, CAROL, and BROOKLYN were all directed by men. That doesn’t make those films bad; they’re all great, but it illuminates a more pressing issue about the absence of female directors being given a shot to make films like this. Claiming that people of color and women suffer from the same broken system is undermining the fact that there are two different issues affecting race and gender ‒ people of color aren’t being nominated because voters are being told what to vote for via million dollar marketing campaigns for white-centric films, whereas women suffer from a far more reprehensible concern of rampant gender-bias within our society, keeping them just shy of high-profile job opportunities.

5. #SpiritSoBlack

What’s disappointing is that at the end of the day, people of color have the cards stacked against them when it comes to being cast in Oscar-quality material simply because the industry lives under the illusion that minority actors aren’t as profitable. Films where race is irrelevant have a tendency to cast Caucasian actors for worldwide appeal (Matt Damon in THE MARTIAN is a perfect example). To see a change in that aspect of cinema we need more John Boyegas in films like STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, but what’s more, the industry needs to start trusting that people of color can spearhead productions that are not well-established franchises.

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I agree it’s disappointing, but let’s actually try and figure out how to fix this, okay?

Yes, I was also surprised and disappointed with some of the Oscar nominations this year, most notably the inclusion of BROOKLYN over CAROL for best picture, but if you take a minute to examine our Oscar predictions that were published the day before the announcement, you can tell we were pretty much spot on for the most part. This isn’t because I’m one of the “racist” Academy members. On the contrary; I just realized that among thousands of voters I can’t expect all of them to have watched TANGERINE, but I sure as Hell can be sure that they followed up on what Eddie Redmayne would act in after his Oscar win for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

I think it’s unfair to undermine the great performances of this year by crying out that actors of color did a better job. What we should be doing instead is promoting a system that allows for an industry to exist where a black lead gets a shot to do a one-man show in space or a Hispanic actor can fight for his life in the American frontier. The only way to fix the Oscars would be to change industry standards ‒ no “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” adverts, no Harvey Weinstein schmoozing up to voters in order to land a nomination, a diverse and equal group of voters, and most importantly, a slew of financially successful films that are brave enough to cast people of color instead of Caucasians. Until then, I suggest you all watch the Film Independent Spirit Awards this year, because #SpiritSoBlack.

"When I make love, I realize eating steak was the preferable alternative." Sergio is the Crossfader Film Editor and a film connoisseur from Romania. He pretends to understand culinary culture enough to call himself an LA foodie, but he just can't manage to like scallops.

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