Academy Awards answer calls for change

The first film to have obtained 14 Academy Award nominations—a record at the Academy—was “All About Eve” (1950), a movie about actors (Hollywood loves rewarding itself). That record wasn’t tied until the blockbuster “Titanic” (1997) came along. Now, with the recent announcement of the 2016 Oscar nominations this past Tuesday, Jan. 24, “La La Land” (2016) has joined this selective group.

“La La Land,” a jazz-infused musical, is a grand spectacle that speaks to the hard-working people who have taken the risk to venture into show business in an attempt to break through into Hollywood. Moreover, the musical production numbers impress and dazzle. However, the picture is not perfect; it is flawed, mainly for its lack of characterization. Mia, Emma Stone’s character, is filled with Stone’s grace and personality, but she is otherwise more of a symbol of success in Hollywood than a fully developed character.

In terms of being an eye-candy film, its production and score is superb. Nonetheless, it does not have the merits to earn Best Picture at the Oscars, despite the odds. Firstly, the Academy has rewarded enough films about show business, the most recent being “Birdman” (2014). “Argo,” winning in 2012, is about Hollywood saving the day, rescuing six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980. The year before, it was “The Artist” (2011), a silent film about the old Hollywood. And the list extends throughout the 89 years of the Oscars.

It should be noted that “The Artist” and “La La Land” have something in common: Both films’ Oscar campaigns have been about bringing the old Hollywood back, specifically the silent era and the old musicals from the ’50s and ’60s. That nostalgic sense has influenced Academy voters, who are mostly older adults.

Notwithstanding, the Academy’s record of constantly awarding films about Hollywood is getting egocentric already. But if not “La La Land,” what film should take Best Picture?

“Moonlight” (2016) is another film that has garnered momentum, taking home several accolades, including Best Picture in numerous film critics’ circles and the Golden Globe for Best Drama. It is a story about self-discovery that chronicles the life of a young gay black man from childhood to adulthood. If the Academy voters were to vote for a film besides “La La Land,” “Moonlight” should win the major prize, not only because of its quality storytelling, but also because it would be a refreshing redemption.
The last time that a film regarding LGBTQ issues was close to winning the Best Picture award was just over a decade ago, with “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). After “Brokeback Mountain” swept major awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Critics’ Choice Awards, it was the top contender for the Best Picture award of that season. In fact, “Crash” (2004) shockingly took the award that year. While “Brokeback Mountain” did take Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score, many claim it failed to win the main award because of homophobia from the older voters.

After two consecutive years of the controversial #OscarsSoWhite, last year the academy revalued their membership qualifications as well as inviting more people to join. The voters are now 40 percent people of color and 40 percent women, and this change seems to have caused a fairer game this year. For the first time, six black actors are nominated in the four different acting categories: Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis and Naomie Harris for “Moonlight,” Ruth Negga for “Loving,” Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures” and Denzel Washington for “Fences.” Furthermore, Barry Jenkins made history as only the fourth African-American director to be nominated for the Best Director award. If he wins, he would be the first African-American director to actually win the award.

There were not many surprises this year, yet one big surprise, proving that Hollywood can forgive, is Mel Gibson’s nomination after his career nearly ended in 2006 when he uttered anti-Semitic slurs while being arrested for drunk driving. Gibson got a nomination for Best Director for his work in “Hacksaw Ridge,” which overall earned six nominations, including Best Picture.

One of the few disappointments this year was that “Deadpool” (2016) was not nominated, either for Best Picture or Best Screenplay, despite getting several important nominations at the SAG Awards and Golden Globes. “Elle” (2016) was not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, although Isabelle Huppert did get a nomination for Best Actress. Another letdown was Amy Adams’ snub as Best Actress for her film “Arrival” (2016), which managed to get eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Overall, there were many positive highlights that demonstrate a change, especially compared to recent years. Joi McMillon became the first African-American woman film editor to receive a nomination in Best Film Editing for “Moonlight.” Ava DuVernay became the first African-American woman director to earn a nomination in Best Documentary Feature for her work in “13th” (2016), a redemption after being snubbed back in 2014 for her work as director for “Selma.”

In a new era in which many people would say that our society is going backwards, the Academy Awards proves to us that change, if demanded, will continue unfolding.

Menu Title