February 6, 2020
Recently on the blog, we shared an opinion piece about the NBA All-Star rankings. In the post, one of our staff writers, Swain, passionately denotes statistics and historical data to support his thesis, which is that putting the power into the hands of fans to make decisions about who the best in the league is can be detrimental. He goes on to say fans often look at popularity and name recognition in lieu of looking at what should matter most, which in the case of the NBA is how great of a player they’re voting for. If you want to read more about this theory, hop on over to the blog post “Seeing Spotlights, Not Stars” part one. This blog post is part two, and it will focus more on the upcoming Oscar nominees. This year, just like every year, the Oscar nominees are never unanimously praised. In recent years, many issues like race for nominees overall, gender of director nominees, and snubs for Best Picture have come to light, raising the question each year of “who is this Academy made up of anyway?”. And should they be making decisions year after year for the greatest award a film or individual could win?
Here’s a little background information for you – the Academy Awards (aka, the Oscars) are decided upon by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are approximately 8,000+ men and women who “recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences”, according to Oscars.org. There are many different branches in the Academy, ranging from Actors to Costume Directors to Production Design and so much more. Requirements for even just being eligible to be considered a part of the Academy is to have “achieved unique distinction, earned special merit, been nominated for an Academy Award”, etc. They don’t just let anybody in!
You may be thinking what I’m thinking – how do we know anything about the 8,000+ people who are involved in the Academy decisions? Unfortunately, there isn’t a list of every person in the Academy, but from this article published on January 22, 2018, the average Academy voter in 2014 was “on average 63 years old, with 76% of the members being male and 94% of the members being white”. Of course, that was six years ago, making it difficult to know if those numbers have changed much at all.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the most nominated films for the 2020 Oscars. The top spot is taken with 11 nominations by Joker, followed closely by Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Irishman and 1917 with 10 nominations. Here are some snubs everyone has been talking about:
There are more snubs, of course, but these are the ones that are being discussed the most. Many commentaries have been released after the Oscars nominations came out on January 13, and many of them have caused movie fans to question – should the Academy have this much power? Are they making the right decisions when it comes to awarding the people who deserve it? Or are they looking through biased lens, especially when the top four movies that are nominated are, in my opinion, a bit more interesting to males? I mean come on – Joker is about a criminal mastermind, 1917 is a war movie, The Irishman is a post-war movie about organized crime, making Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood the most “sentimental” of the top four movies (and it still includes action and violence). Sure, films that may seem to appeal to women more such as Little Women and Marriage Story each have six nominations, but the odds for a Best Picture win aren’t necessarily in their favor. To me, this is because the Academy is a group of people that are dominantly male and, as aforementioned, in the age range of the 60s.
This is the question that can be posed: does the Academy just see spotlights, not true stars? This isn’t to say that anyone nominated shouldn’t have been; instead, there are many people and films that should have been. But what does the Academy make this all about – true talent, or their own bias and subjectivity? And finally, is it even possible to choose films that should win categories without a little bit of bias?
Don’t get me wrong, there has to be a group of educated, qualified people who make the decisions for the Academy Awards. Can you imagine if fans were the voters? That sounds like an absolute disaster, and I can say pretty positively most people would agree with me on that one. Therefore, my best suggestion (which is idyllic and will come off quite naïve, but oh well) is one I believe many people would suggest themselves – to push the Academy towards including more diverse members when it comes to race, gender and age. This is something that seems to be actively happening, but with any change in a group of 8,000+, the steps we will take to get there will expectantly be slow.
At the end of the day, we’re silly to think we don’t see spotlights instead of stars. Our celebrity-obsessed culture makes it difficult to recognize true talent, whether it manifests itself in NBA stars or Oscar nominees. And when you’re not one of the people who make the big decisions, it can feel like your opinion doesn’t matter anyway. But there are ways we can show support to the true stars we care about. Purchase tickets to the movie you want to win Best Picture – go see it multiple times! Support starts from us, and we can show it in small ways effectively.
What do you think about the Oscar nominees? What is your favorite Best Picture nominee?
Written by: Erin Cleveland
Erin is an Assistant Director of Student Activities. She has a B.A. in English. Erin plans and oversees the execution of mid-scale events and concerts on the Student Activities calendar. She is the direct report for the event supervisors and event staff. Erin approves all content that is published and promoted from social media to the SA blog.