The Academy Awards, like many award shows, have been under criticism the last few years because of its lack of diversity in nominees and winners. While there has been some improvement, there has also been a good amount of stagnation. The 92nd Academy Awards, which happened Sunday, Feb. 9, are no exception to that rule. Although it seems like they have made a lot of progress this year, there are major areas where progress isn’t visible at all.
The biggest stride for the Academy Awards was changing the “Best Foreign Language Film” category to “Best International Feature.” Instead of othering the films in the category with the term “foreign,” it insinuates a future where international films are celebrated just as much as American films. This change was further impacted by the winner of Best Picture, “Parasite,” a Korean language film about class struggle.
Although I loved a lot of the winners this year, the nominations as a whole felt lacking in diversity. Women were notably absent from the major categories, despite the growing number of female directors creating award-worthy films including Greta Gerwig for “Little Women” and Lulu Wang for “The Farewell.”
“Hair Love,” a heartwarming story about a father trying to do his daughter’s hair for the first time, won for “Best Animated Short.” It not only features black characters in the film, but the writer and director, Matthew Cherry, is black as well. However, there was only one black nominee in the major categories, which was Cynthia Erivo for best actress. With the past years of Oscar nominations being a bit more diverse, the 92nd Academy Awards felt more white than ever.
I think the newest concern of mine regarding the Oscars is its treatment of lesser known awards. Three different presentations of awards seemed to disregard the impact of those roles in filmmaking. Rebel Wilson and James Corden presented the award for visual effects dressed in their characters’ costumes from “Cats.” They joked about the failure of visual effects and the importance of good visual effects, but it seemed like a strange choice. Instead of blaming the production as a whole, or even mentioning the subpar writing and directing in “Cats,” they used visual effects artists as a scapegoat to be the butt of a joke in the presentation of their own award. Even the Visual Effects Society saw the potential issues with the segment and voiced their concerns. The “Best Visual Effects” winner was “1917,” which used the same Visual Effects house as “Cats,” Moving Picture Company.
Similarly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell presented the awards for cinematography and editing, acting as though they had no idea what those roles did. Although the two were undeniably funny, it felt a bit disheartening to see such big, influential actors laugh about the anonymity and apparent “irrelevance” of film industry people that are integral to the filmmaking process. Especially since certain awards, including the cinematography award, were almost taken off air last year, the joke felt insensitive to the underdogs of filmmaking.
Overall, I don’t think the Academy is learning its lesson. They have a particular idea of what an “Oscar winner” is, and the film industry is moving to a place where that is no longer acceptable. They also don’t show respect for people in the film industry that don’t have notable fame. The Academy Awards are supposed to reflect the film industry, and if they don’t change their mindset soon, they will lose that respect.