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Oscars respond to “so white” criticism


Oscars respond to “so white” criticism

Last year, the near-monopoly of white actors among the nominations for the Oscars prompted something of an outcry in Hollywood. Despite the wealth of black and minority talent on screen in 2015/16, non-whites were massively under-represented when it came to the Academy Awards.

So how do this year’s nominations compare?

As far as nominations of black actors and films go, the Academy certainly seems to have listened to its critics.

Veteran star Denzel Washington picks up his 7th nomination, this time in the Best Actor category for his role as Troy Maxson in ‘Fences’ (which he also directed). Washington has won twice previously, for Best Supporting Actor in ‘Glory’ (1990) and as Best Actor in 2002’s ‘Training Day’.

In the Best Actress category, Ruth Negga picks up her first Oscar nomination for her role as Mildred Loving in ‘Loving’- a tale of interracial marriage in 1950’s USA, which led to the Loving couple’s banishment from the state of Virginia.

The Best Picture category is of course the blue ribbon event in the Hollywood film industry, and in 2017 the nominations are significantly more varied than in previous years.

Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris star in ‘Moonlight’, the story of a young gay black man in Miami. Ali and Harris have also picked up ‘Best Supporting’ nominations for their performances.

‘Lion’ is also given a Best Picture nod. It is the story of an Indian man, adopted at an early age by a white Australian family, who tracks down his family using Google Earth. Dev Patel, who found fame in Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, is also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this role. He is the first Indian actor, or actor of Indian descent, to be nominated for an Oscar in 10 years.

‘Hidden Figures’ is the story of three black women, played by Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer (who is also nominated for Best Supporting Actress), and Janelle Monae, who worked on the launch of NASA’s successful space missions in the 1960’s.

Directed by Theodore Melfi, it has been described as a window into history, and specifically black American history.

Finally, ‘Fences’, which has propelled its star and director Denzel Washington to a Best Actor nomination is another film about black or minority characters to receive a Best Picture nomination.

Along with Washington, co-star Viola Davis is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for this tale of a struggling family in a time of strained race relations in 1950’s Pittsburgh.

While there has been appreciation of the Academy’s choices this year, many see the progress as part of a process.

The originator of the hashtag that gained so much attention last year, “#OscarsSoWhite”, says that the activism that she began and so many others adopted is the reason behind the change.

But the mood on social media was not one of satisfaction.
Many noted that the change was small, and white actors still heavily outnumbered nominations of people of colour.

And others wondered if the nominations were a mark of respect shown toward black actors, or simply a stunt to avoid a repeat of last year’s controversy.

But not everyone agreed that last year’s protest hit the right point:

And others were cautious not to celebrate too early:

Read more about the nominees for the 2017 Oscars here.