Ongoing discussion of diversity and the Oscars

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#OscarsSoWhite dominated the discussion around the ceremony last year, speaking volumes not only about the state of the Academy Awards, but the sad state of diversity in Hollywood.

While the nominations that do end up at the Oscars deserve their spot, it became clear the films and actors being snubbed for specific award positions had one glaring similarity—they were starring or made by people of color.

Great films like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed with African American directors and thespians were recognized by the Academy, merely for roles that were held by white men, which for “Compton” meant its screenwriters were nominated, not the films director or any member of the cast. The backlash was so severe the Oscar broadcast suffered, calling on comedian Chris Rock to riff on it for the night.

This years crop of films, while still showing the tropes of the typical Academy Award selection, are a bit more diverse, with nominations for the casts of “Fences” and “Hidden Figures,” both containing predominately African American leads, along with African American director Barry Jenkins up for Best Director for “Moonlight.”

These films are important in showcasing the increase in nomination diversity for this year’s awards when compared to last year’s. Whether or not their inclusion is reactionary; representative of a new attitude from the Academy remains to be seen in the years to come, but for the time being this is a sign of mild improvement. There are still strides to be made in having this diversity in categories aside from the major ones.

Each film up for Best Picture is so radically different from one another, that there is no confusion amongst them. The drama “Moonlight” is a down to earth, gritty and heartbreaking story about a young black man coming to terms with his homosexuality and true identity, while “La La Land,” a musical romantic comedy, is a colorful, flamboyant throwback to Hollywood musicals such as “Singing in the Rain” done in similar style with modern sensibilities. These two films above any others are being looked at with the most curiosity for their unique styles, tones, and executions being neck and neck for the coveted Best Picture award. Films like these being the top contenders personifies the idea of Hollywood making one step forward, but still being stuck in their ways, of what constitutes an “Oscar worthy” film.

Though there are signs of diversity this year, the Academy Awards still has a ways to go in its inclusion efforts.

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