Much is being made about the lack of diversity in this years Oscar nominations with hashtag movements being created, angry articles being written, and every one from Al Sharpton to Jessica Chastain calling for more diversity. So with all the hubbub being generated by what is “the whitest Oscars since 1998” I was curious as to just how diverse could the nominations have been?
The Best Director category is one big sausage party full of white dudes (even though everyone seems to just being ignoring the fact that Alejandro González Iñárritu is Mexican) and the thing that is the most glaringly obvious an omission on that list is that SELMA director Ava DuVernay got snubbed. SELMA is almost universally well-reviewed (its sitting at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes with only 2 bad reviews out of 148) and DuVernay showed an amazing gift behind the lens with this movie. Sadly, the backlash over what critics call a hatchet job on Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson may be the reason why DuVernay got snubbed. The Academy is made up of a bunch of old white guys, most of whom are liberal, and they probably all were a tad perturbed that one of their liberal icons was not show as a total paragon of virtue. Of course the LBJ controversy is insanely overblown and anyone who as actually taken the time to see the movie would honestly only have one moment of creative license to be genuinely angry about. I think that a bigger reason may be that Paramount dropped the ball when it came to disseminating the SELMA screeners to the right people that the movie and its director would have needed to get a Best Director nod, namely not making the film available to the various guilds and only sending screeners to Oscar and BAFTA voters.
But who else besides DuVernay was out there that could have gotten a Best Director nomination? Angelina Jolie springs to mind for UNBROKEN but the movie got mixed reviews despite being a pretty decent moneymaker at the box office. And even in favorable reviews no critics seemed to be exceptionally impressed by Jolie’s skills as a director.
So who else? Of the major studio releases (including their boutique studios) this year there have been very few directed by women or people of color. And of those movies even less would be what anyone consider “Oscar worthy”. I would say that the only other diverse picks for a directors nomination would be two more black women…Amma Asante who directed the critically acclaimed but little watched period drama BELLE and Gina Prince-Bythewood who directed the quasi-melodrama BEYOND THE LIGHTS.