We are officially clear of 2015’s kickoff #OscarsSoWhite catastrophe.
But let’s not let Hollywood off the hook: The number of Oscar nominations that minorities received Tuesday for acting remains off-kilter.
True, “Roma” stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira saw love from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the lead and supporting actress categories, respectively. And Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”) and Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) were both nominated in supporting categories.
But Asian actors have zero nominations across acting categories this year, and the popular “Crazy Rich Asians” was shut out of best picture. The highest profile nomination for an Asian film this year is “Shoplifters,” an acclaimed Japanese film from director Hirokazu Koreeda, nominated for best foreign language film.
“While representation for African-American and Latinx films and actors was decent this morning, Asian performers missed out on best picture inclusion for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and a supporting actress nomination for co-star Michelle Yeoh,” says IMDb.com correspondent Dave Karger.
Biggest snubs including Bradley Cooper, Emily Blunt and ‘Crazy Rich Asians’
‘Roma,’ ‘Favourite’ lead with 10 noms; ‘Black Panther’ up for best picture
See the full list of nominees
To drag those numbers in broad daylight:
- Not one of the eight best picture nominees centered around an Asian storyline. A decade ago, the Academy expanded the number of nominations for best picture from five to a possible 10 films, in a bid to increase the presence of blockbusters in the Oscar mix.
- Only four of the possible 20 acting nominations this year went to people of color.
- That’s still just 20 percent. According to recent Census estimates, 40 percent of the U.S. population identifies as non-white.
- Not one film nominated for best picture was directed by a woman.
Oh, and not one woman was nominated for best director.
“We can still count on one hand the women who have been nominated for best director,” tweeted Hollywood activist Melissa Silverstein.
That’s after 2018 wrought what IndieWire hails as career-best work from directors including Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”), Tamara Jenkins (“Private Life”) and Chloe Zhao (“The Rider”).
Only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won best picture. She won in 2010 for “The Hurt Locker.”
The underlying problem is perception, says USC professor Stacy L. Smith. “The default position for having a female director seems to be when the story is about a girl or a woman – we know that there are fewer movies made with female leads than male leads each year. White male directors, however, do not face this constraint,” says Smith, who authored a January study that found out of the 100 top-grossing films of 2018, just four women were at the helm.
“Until female directors are considered and hired to tell female- and male-driven stories, we will only see small steps toward equality.”
It was a good year for Spike Lee, who received three nominations in major categories for his “BlacKkKlansman” (the film earned six overall), including best director. But a best director nomination for “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler was MIA. Both films are up for best picture. (Amazingly, these are Lee’s first best picture and directing nominations.)
“The diversity at the Oscars this year is much more evident in the best picture category than in any other category,” says Karger.
The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study found that studios have begun hiring a greater percentage of black directors to helm top-performing films – and yet, women and Asian directors continued to see no change.
A second study released in January found that female directors actually lost ground over the past year. The percentage of women working as directors on the 250 top-grossing films in 2018 dipped from 11 percent in 2017 to 8 percent, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found.
As the Academy itself continues to diversify, what are the lessons to be gleaned?
If we’re talking show business, diversity actually brings a boon. “Films with casts that were from 21 percent to 30 percent minority enjoyed the highest median global box-office receipts and the highest median return on investment,” UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report found.
But “until women, people of color, the LGBT community, and people with disabilities are considered for leading and supporting roles in every story, we will continue to see an imbalance of perspectives in film,” says Smith.