On Jan. 14, movie buffs and casual watchers alike checked to see if this could be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year to finally win an Oscar. In the 88th year of the Academy Awards, Leo received his fifth nomination, but minority actors and actresses were absent from recognition for the second year in a row. This information surfacing just days before the country’s biggest celebration of diversity, equality and inspiration on Martin Luther King Jr. Day left many flabbergasted by the seemingly blatant racism.
To say I disagree with the nomination list would be an understatement, but from a talented group with a black female president, it is not a product of racists— rather an out-of-touch ‘Academy.’ The voting group consists of over 7,000 directors, actors and producers, and in 2012, the median age of members was 62 years old. Just a quick refresher about the definition of median, this statistic means that half of Academy membership is over the age of 62, and if we continue to let the Oscars set a standard for cinema quality, we need to expect those who make selections to be spry enough to stay awake through the movies. For example, Vin Diesel expected Furious 7 to win Best Picture “unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever,” and as it appears, they don’t.
“Straight Outta Compton” received one nomination this year, in the category of screenwriting, but the movie that made over $60 million in its opening weekend was nowhere else to be found in the list of nominees. “Compton” seemed to be an award-winning recipe, covering topics as controversial as the classic musical “Rent,” a production containing an impeccably produced soundtrack and showcasing talented actors who performed a well-written script. Unfortunately, the ‘Academy’ was allergic to the modern ingredients, and this hip-hop biopic was not directed toward the senior discount crowd, but instead (and appropriately) toward Generations X, Y and Z. The film’s marketing was largely over social media, including a fabulous teaser trailer on the one-and-only Beyoncé’s Instagram, but resulted in no excitation for the older crowd who would later release an all-white list of nominees.
While Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee may be boycotting the ceremony, let’s use this as an opportunity to make next year’s academy a more productive and relevant one. To truly select the best talent of each year, the membership must become a better reflection of this country’s all-around demographics, and there is plenty of exceptional performers and producers within the industry to fulfill this need. In these modern-times, the secrecy of an elite Academy has become a marker of social status rather than the ability to capture the essence of a year in cinema. Cheryl Boone Isaacs herself noted that the past four years have been some of diversifying within the Academy, but let us not focus simply on race with this year’s upcoming (and hopefully intense) membership review because the generation gap may be the bigger issue.
Sarah Howard is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. Her column runs biweekly.