A round of applause for Jordan Peele (Us), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Wead al-Kateab (For Sama), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Joe Talbot (The Last Black Man In San Francisco) – for the Oscar nominees that could have been.
By far the most exciting nod is Bong Joon-ho, who received the nomination for his capitalism-damning film Parasite, whilst the other four Oscar nominees for best director this year are snooze-worthy choices.
Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Joon-ho, Sam Mendes, Todd Phillips.
Five men, four of them white. These are the Oscar nominees for best director in 2019/20.
Scorsese, Mendes and Phillips at least released films of note; Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood nomination seems to be just a default shrug at this point. By far his most underwhelming work, it’s awkward, cumbersome and misogynistic – all problems that the Oscars itself is contending with.
In 2016, the #OscarsSoWhite campaign emphasised the lack of diversity among the acting nominations, with zero people of colour nominated. Now, four years on, there is an improvement of one: the sole POC nominated for an acting award in 2020 was Cynthia Erivo for her performance in Harriet – where she played a slave.
Granted, Harriet Tubman is an incredibly powerful figure, who’s story deserves telling. But the uncomfortable truth remains that when people of colour are nominated for acting Oscars, it’s often for roles involving slavery or racism – see 12 Years A Slave, Fences or, indeed, Harriet for proof.
Denzel Washington, Viola Davies, Daniel Kaluuya, Marina de Tavira, Dev Patel, Yalitza Aparicio and Mahershala Ali are the handful of non-white actors to have been nominated (and won) for roles since 2016.
Overlooked films by black or non-white creators include Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Beasts Of No Nation, Hustlers, Waves, The Big Sick, Sorry To Bother You and more.
Indeed, films like Sorry To Bother You, Get Out and The Last Black Man In San Fransisco show some of the brightest sparks of original film-making in recent years.
After that came the #MeToo moment, with horror stories emerging across Hollywood accusing male directors, producers and actors of predatory behaviour. Yet, last years Best Director category remained entirely male. The year before that, Greta Gerwig picked up a sole female nomination in the category. In 2017, the list was all male again.
Overlooked films include The Nightingale, Loving Vincent, Detroit, Can You Ever Forgive Me, Booksmart – the list is endless.
Because talent in film making isn’t deigned by the Academy. It isn’t allocated based on your race, gender or the studio you can get to distribute your work.
If the Oscars won’t adapt, we need to – and we need a new way of recognising talent across class, race and gender – the Oscars need a reboot.