Kendra Coburn is a mathematics junior and a Mustang News columnist. The views expresssed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
With the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony just around the corner, it’s that time of year again for us to marvel at the glamour of the Hollywood elite while they congratulate themselves on another year of predictable, uninspired filmmaking.
OK, maybe I’m coming off a little spiteful here. Who am I, some college kid from some place called San Luis Obispo, to call “The Post” predictable? What gives me the right to dismiss “Dunkirk” as uninspired? The reason moviegoers tune into award shows every season is because we have a genuine, emotional interest in the films that are nominated and the people who made them.
My criticism of the 2018 Academy Awards nominees doesn’t stem from those films and filmmakers that are nominated for Oscars. Surely, “Dunkirk” and “The Post” are competently-made historical dramas. And with 92 percent and 88 percent ratings on Rotten Tomatoes respectively, it’s hard to deny they are worthy nominees for Best Picture. However, I believe an obvious lack of diversity in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the approximately 7,000-member committee that chooses the annual Oscar nominees — limits opportunities for filmmakers in underrepresented groups to be recognized for their work.
2017 was a fantastic year for horror movie fans. We were treated to compelling, original films like “A Ghost Story” (91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and “Raw” (90 percent). We also got remakes and sequels that added new layers of complexity to their franchises, such as “It” (85 percent) and “Creep 2” (100 percent), the latter of which is one of my favorite films of the year.
Yet despite this ample demonstration of talent, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (99 percent) — an exceptional film in its own right — was the only horror movie nominated for Best Picture this year. Perhaps one might argue that only one film of each genre — the best of the best — needs to be represented in each awards category. Then why are five out of nine of the nominees for Best Picture historical dramas based on true stories? Further, why are seven out of nine of the nominees period pieces?
Again, maybe I’m letting my personal film preferences obscure what I’m trying to convey. Not everyone is a fan of horror movies and that’s fine. But personal preferences aside, the Academy Awards have demonstrated a long legacy of non-inclusion. Although Best Picture nominee “Call Me by Your Name” marks some progress for LGBT filmmakers, the record still shows that stories of gay men receive disproportionately more acceptance than similar stories about gay women. “Carol” (2015), “Notes on a Scandal” (2006) and “The Kids Are Alright” (2010) — all contemporary, critically-acclaimed films focused on lesbian narratives — had a combined 14 award nominations and zero wins. Comparatively, 2006’s groundbreaking “Brokeback Mountain” was nominated for eight Oscars and won three of them.
A similar pattern of non-inclusion can be found in other historically underrepresented groups in film. In both 2016 and 2017, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was used to call out the blatant lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominees, particularly in 2016 when no people of color were nominated for Best Actor or Actress for the second year in a row. 2018 has shown some improvement in this sense, with “Get Out” receiving four nominations and Latino filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” receiving a whopping 13. But a lot of progress is still needed. This year, the mere inclusion of Kelly Marie Tran in “The Last Jedi” was applauded as the first time a woman of Asian descent was included in a Star Wars film. Clearly, there is still work to be done.
To the Academy’s credit, they have made some effort to increase diversity in the nomination process. In 2016, the Academy announced a plan to “double [its] diversity” by 2020. We will see what comes of this. In the meantime, I implore moviegoers to seek out unique and challenging cinema on their own, because it is glaringly obvious that in recent years the Academy Awards have failed to showcase the best of what modern filmmaking has to offer.