Welcome to 2016! I can’t believe that we are now closer to 2020 than we are to 2010. Time is a mysterious thing, my friends, and its constant and steady progression never ceases to freak me out. I’ve recently arrived back in London to begin the second half of my year abroad. While I’m excited to begin the adventures that await me here, I’d like to step back and appreciate winter break. For three glorious weeks, I was able to lie on my couch, hang out with my mom, and not cook for myself. I ate Mexican food six times, trying to get my fill because there is no good Mexican food in England. I saw the Broadway show “Hamilton,” which was a masterpiece of musical theater and a life-changing experience. I also saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens no less than three times, and The Big Short, a fantastic film which details the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Speaking of The Force Awakens and The Big Short: the nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards, which will air on February 28, were announced earlier this month. The Force Awakens has been nominated in the fields of Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. If 2015 hadn’t seen such upper echelon science fiction films as The Martian and especially Mad Max: Fury Road, I do believe that The Force Awakens would have been nominated for more awards other than in the technical arenas. But, given the former two’s popularity and critical buzz it was inevitable that they would be the only blockbusters honored with the Academy’s highest award, Best Picture. The Big Short is also nominated for Best Picture, along with nominations for Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. If you want to see the complete list of nominees, it’s available here.
The Revenant—which has been considered by many to be an aesthetically pleasing snoozefest—received the most nominations, with 12, followed by Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m excited that Mad Max: Fury Road, which I considered to be a near-perfect action movie with delightful feminist undertones, has received so much appreciation from the Academy. I’m also interested that The Martian received so many nominations—it was a very good film, but I maintain that the book was better.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this year’s race is the lack of diversity amongst the nominees. I wrote a pretty bitter blog last year about the monochromatic white maleness of last year’s Oscar race, and this year is hardly any better. In the Best Picture pool, three out of the eight nominees have female protagonists (Brooklyn, Room, and Mad Max: Fury Road); the rest are overwhelmingly filled with white and male casts. As with last year, every single nominee in the acting fields is white. Every single one. Every single director nominated is male.
The Academy Awards continue to disappoint in this arena. There were plenty of fantastic films that easily could have been nominated. There was the summer biopic Straight Outta Compton, Spike Lee’s Chi-raq, Ryan Coogler’s Creed. Sure, Sylvester Stallone was excellent in Creed and deserves his nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but the movie’s star Michael B. Jordan was just as good. Maybe Star Wars: The Force Awakens was too mainstream for the Academy to appreciate, but none of its three protagonists were a white male, and the Oscars could have shown it more appreciation.
This year will be the 88th Academy Awards, and they are about as self-congratulatory and fearful of change as any actual 88-year-old (apologies to the chill, non-racist 88-year-olds out there). There has been a downturn in Oscar viewership in the past few years, and I believe that’s primarily because it’s an awards ceremony that refuses to leave the 20th century. Why should I care about a ceremony that doesn’t appreciate the changing times? The Academy Awards made limited progress this year, and it wasn’t enough—if America’s oldest awards show doesn’t start appreciating a more diverse pool of movies and filmmakers, then it won’t only lose viewership, but it will lose its niche in American culture and society.
Author’s Note: If I were able to write a second blog today, I would write it on Alan Rickman. He was a truly phenomenal actor who influenced my childhood and my generation in many ways, especially with his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series. I will also always love him for his performances in Galaxy Quest and Die Hard. Rest in peace, Alan Rickman.