It couldn’t happen again, could it? In a year with several brilliant performances by non-white actors—in films like Beasts of No Nation, Creed, and Straight Outta Compton—every single Oscar acting nomination went to a white person.
For the second year in a row.
Idris Elba, who gave arguably the best film performance of 2015 in Beasts of No Nation, was supposed to be a lock for a best supporting actor nomination. His performance was lauded by critics. He had been nominated in most other awards before the Oscars, including last week’s Golden Globes. He wasn’t a longshot, he was one of the favorites.
No black acting nominees two years in a row is the first time that’s happened since 1997-98–so more a dip than a longstanding pattern.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) January 14, 2016
It is unconscionable for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to not nominate Elba. Not nominating a single non-white actor two years in a row is beyond ridiculous. To the Academy’s credit, it’s trying to embrace diversity, or at least give the impression that it is. The Hollywood Reporter explains:
The Academy has made a concerted effort to diversify its own membership, inviting 322 new members this past July that included Selma star David Oyelowo, British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who appears in Concussion, andCompton director F. Gary Gray. And Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has also announced a new initiative called A2020 to further diversify the Academy itself and also encourage the industry to open up more opportunities for women and minorities.
However sincere the Academy’s motivations, the results speak for themselves. Elba wasn’t the only non-white actor deserving of a nomination. Here are some others:
Idris Elba! Michael B. Jordan! Jason Mitchell! Mya Taylor! Tessa Thompson! Benicio Del Toro! Abraham Atta! Will Smith! Like… really?
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) January 14, 2016
Michael B. Jordan, the titular character in Creed, wasn’t nominated. Neither was the movie’s director, Ryan Coogler, who is also black. But, somehow, Sylvester Stallone got a supporting actor nomination for his role in the film as an aged Rocky Balboa. Jordan was every bit Stallone’s equal in that film, and arguably better.
To be clear, black actors shouldn’t be nominated just to satisfy some imaginary racial quota. The Academy’s job is to nominate the best performances of the year. But some of the best performances of 2015 were very clearly made by people of color.
It’s a shame, because the rest of this year’s nominations were pretty exciting. In a return to glory for the action film, the thrilling, visually audacious Mad Max: Fury Road was nominated 10 times (behind only The Revenant), including for best picture. Great films like The Martian, Room, Spotlight, and The Big Short were recognized. Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens got some love.
But non-white actors didn’t. The only notable nomination at all for a non-white person was Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s nod for best director (an award he won last year for Birdman). Straight Outta Compton, a film about legendary hip hop group N.W.A., earned a nomination for best original screenplay, but it was written by white people.
Here is the full list of nominees. The Oscars will be broadcast Feb. 28 on ABC in the United States. This year’s host is comedian Chris Rock, who is black.
Welp, I guess at least Chris Rock will have a lot of material to work with.
— Alison Willmore (@alisonwillmore) January 14, 2016